Monday, February 23, 2009

After Abuse, Changes in the Brain

An article published in today's edition of The New York Times:
By Benedict Carey

For years, psychiatrists have known that children who are abused or neglected run a high risk of developing mental problems later in life, from anxiety and depression to substance abuse and suicide.

The connection is not surprising, but it raises a crucial scientific question: Does the abuse cause biological changes that may increase the risk for these problems?

Over the past decade or so, researchers at McGill University in Montreal, led by Michael Meaney [pictured], have shown that affectionate mothering alters the expression of genes in animals, allowing them to dampen their physiological response to stress. These biological buffers are then passed on to the next generation: rodents and nonhuman primates biologically primed to handle stress tend to be more nurturing to their own offspring, Dr. Meaney and other researchers have found.

Now, for the first time, they have direct evidence that the same system is at work in humans. In a study of people who committed suicide published Sunday in the journal Nature Neuroscience, researchers in Montreal report that people who were abused or neglected as children showed genetic alterations that likely made them more biologically sensitive to stress.

The findings help clarify the biology behind the wounds of a difficult childhood and hint at what constitutes resilience in those able to shake off such wounds.

The study “extends the animal work on the regulation of stress to humans in a dramatic way,” Jaak Panksepp, an adjunct professor at Washington State University who was not involved in the research, wrote in an e-mail message.

He added that the study “suggests pathways that have promoted the psychic pain that makes life intolerable,” and continued, “It’s a wonderful example of how the study of animal models of emotional resilience can lead the way to understanding human vicissitudes.”

In the study, scientists at McGill and the Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences compared the brains of 12 people who had committed suicide and who had had difficult childhoods with 12 people who had committed suicide and who had not suffered abuse or neglect as children.

The scientists determined the nature of the subjects’ upbringing by doing extensive interviews with next of kin, as well as investigating medical records. The brains are preserved at Douglas Hospital in Montreal as part of the Quebec Suicide Brain Bank, a program founded by McGill researchers to promote suicide studies that receives brain donations from around the province.

When people are under stress, the hormone cortisol circulates widely, putting the body on high alert. One way the brain reduces this physical anxiety is to make receptors on brain cells that help clear the cortisol, inhibiting the distress and protecting neurons from extended exposure to the hormone, which can be damaging.

The researchers found that the genes that code for these receptors were about 40 percent less active in people who had been abused as children than in those who had not. The scientists found the same striking differences between the abused group and the brains of 12 control subjects, who had not been abused and who died from causes other than suicide. “It is good evidence that the same systems are at work in humans that we have seen in other animals,” said Patrick McGowan, a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Meaney’s lab at McGill and the lead author of the study.

His co-authors, along with Dr. Meaney, were Aya Sasaki, Ana C. D’Alessio, Sergiy Dymov, Benoît Labonté and Moshe Szyf, all of McGill, and Dr. Gustavo Turecki, a McGill researcher who leads the Brain Bank.

Because of individual differences in the genetic machinery that regulates stress response, experts say, many people manage their distress despite awful childhoods. Others may find solace in other people, which helps them regulate the inevitable pain of living a full life.

“The bottom line is that this is a terrific line of work, but there is a very long way to go either to understand the effects of early experience or the causes of mental disorders,” Dr. Steven Hyman, a professor of neurobiology at Harvard, wrote in an e-mail message.
Posting of this article is for the purposes of research into suicide.

Also see:

Epigenetic regulation of the glucocorticoid receptor in human brain associates with childhood abuse

Childhood trauma has life-long effects on genes and the brain

Image and photograph courtesy of the Douglas Mental Health University Institute.

Margaret Clark Morgan Foundation grants $5 million to treatment center

An article published in the February 22nd edition of the Hudson Hub-Times:
The Northeastern Ohio Universities Colleges of Medicine [NEOUCOM] and Pharmacy announced Feb. 19 it received a $5 million grant from The Hudson-based Margaret Clark Morgan Foundation to establish The Best Practices in Schizophrenia Treatment Center at NEOUCOM.

"This important grant from The Margaret Clark Morgan Foundation will help identify best practices in schizophrenia treatment; this will fundamentally change the lives of people with schizophrenia in a very positive way," said Lois Margaret Nora, NEOUCOM president and dean, College of Medicine. "We are excited and proud to partner with The Margaret Clark Morgan Foundation in making this announcement. This initiative will further our mission of improving the health of Northeast Ohio."

The mission of The Best Practices in Schizophrenia Treatment (BeST) Center at NEOUCOM is to ensure that people with schizophrenia and related disorders maximize their ability to achieve recovery by receiving treatments shown to be best practices.

"The Margaret Clark Morgan Foundation seeks to raise the standards of prevention, treatment and recovery of mental illness in northeast Ohio," said Foundation President Rick Kellar. "We do this by investing in progressive organizations and innovative initiatives with the potential to transform mental health practices. Today, through the creation of the BeST Center at NEOUCOM, we are advancing our mission in a very significant and exciting way."

NEOUCOM is a community-based, public institution offering both a doctor of medicine and a doctor of pharmacy degree.

The Margaret Clark Morgan Foundation, with assets near $75 million, supports mental health endeavors and the arts in Northeast Ohio through grants.

Also see:

NEOUCOM gets $5M grant for schizophrenia center

Sunday, February 22, 2009

No, Please, That's Not Me

Posted on February 20th by Ashley on her blog, Overcoming Schizophrenia:
Prior to my diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia I did some things that I am not proud of. Now that I look back on things I blame my illness for my poor judgment. I am by no means condoning the behavior I carried out, and will share with you here. I will provide a few instances where my behavior was unlike me and caused an uproar. This post shows how schizophrenia affects other people. This post is for the family members and friends of people with schizophrenia, or showing bizarre behaviors.
To read the entire posting, please click here.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Outlook brighter for China's mentally ill

Posted on February 20th by
By Nick Miller

There are almost as many Chinese with psychotic mental illness as there are people in Australia.

In that enormous country, where in some areas the mentally ill are still chained to the wall awaiting the local witch doctor, one man bears the load of reforming China's mental health service. And he's using Victoria as the model.

Professor Yu Xin [pictured] grew up in Beijing but spent some post-graduate study time at Melbourne University.

Now, as executive director of Peking University's Institute of Mental Health and president of the Chinese Psychiatric Association, he regularly returns to Melbourne for support in building a new mental health service for one-fifth of the world's population.

To read the entire article, click here.

Photograph courtesy of The University of Melbourne.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Loss of Brain Protein in Mice Leads to Schizophrenia-Like Behavior

Posted on February 19th by Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News:
Disrupting the function of a key cranial molecule leads to microscopic brain abnormalities and schizophrenia in mice, according to a team from The Scripps Research Institute. Neuregulin is an important developmental protein that helps the brain form its distinct structures early in development.

They also found that the schizophrenic mice could recover normal behavior when treated with clozapine, a decades-old drug sometimes used to treat schizophrenia in people. They thus suggest that these mice might provide researchers with a good model for studying the disease. This study also provides support for the schizophrenia hypothesis that implicates glutamatergic neurons, because the mice had problems with their glutamatergic synapses.

The abnormalities found the mouse brains were similar to those seen in the autopsied brains of people who were diagnosed with schizophrenia, the scientists note. Also, genetic studies have linked inherited forms of this protein and its receptors to schizophrenia and numerous other mental health problems, they add.

In the study, the team effectively removed the function of neuregulin by eliminating the receptor to which it binds. Because this is such an important developmental protein, they expected that eliminating its receptor would severely impact the development of the mouse’s brain. As it turns out, the brains were normal overall, but the loss of neuregulin did affect the brain on a microscopic level.

Investigators revealed that when mice are deprived of neuregulin, their dendritic spines start to form but do not completely mature. Instead they fall apart while the brain itself matures. The effect of this loss is evident in behavior tests, where mice display hallmarks of schizophrenia, such as social interaction problems and reduced anxiety.

Loss of the spines also kept mice from adapting to and anticipating a startling noise, which is a classic sign of a schizophrenia-like state, the Scripps team explains.

The findings were published this week in the early edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Also see:

Scripps Research Study Shows How Microscopic Changes to Brain Cause Schizophrenic Behavior in Mice

Schizophrenia symptom linked to gene mutation

Impaired maturation of dendritic spines without disorganization of cortical cell layers in mice lacking NRG1/ErbB signaling in the central nervous system

Photograph by Rasbak.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Looking for answers

From today's edition of The Chronicle Herald:
Fatality inquiry opens into death of man who collapsed in jail 30 hours after Tasering

Philip McLean [pictured] went to the first day of an inquiry into Howard Hyde’s death with one thing on his mind — a call for a total ban on the use of stun guns.

"I knew Howard and to me he wasn't a violent person and I feel like the use of the Taser is the wrong thing for anyone in general, really I’m against it," Mr. McLean told reporters at Halifax provincial court, where the inquiry opened Wednesday morning.

Mr. Hyde died on Nov. 22, 2007, shortly after collapsing at the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility in Dartmouth. The 45-year-old, who had schizophrenia, had been shocked with a stun gun some 30 hours earlier during a disturbance at the booking desk at Halifax Regional Police headquarters.

Mr. Hyde had been arrested and charged with assault stemming from a domestic dispute. His girlfriend, Karen Ellet, said at the time that he had stopped taking his medication.

Mr. McLean remembered Mr. Hyde as a friendly and intelligent gentleman and "an all-around nice guy."

The Halifax man said he had known Mr. Hyde for two years, after the pair met at a social club they both frequented.

Mr. McLean said the province needs to ban the use of stun guns before another tragedy occurs.

"It’s too late to bring Howard and other people back alive, but I just hope that the Justice (Department) will get rid of the Taser.

"Unfortunately, I think it can and will happen again unless the law is changed."

Also see:

Family, friends hope inquiry will shed light on death of mentally ill man (The Canadian Press)

Nine groups will have legal standing at Taser death inquiry (Metro Halifax)

Inquiry opens into death of mentally ill man shot with Taser (National Post)

Photographic of Philip McLean courtesy of The Chronicle Herald.

Pathways to schizophrenia. A new wave of prevention and early intervention strategies

From The Medical Journal of Australia:

Characterising novel pathways to schizophrenia
Ian B Hickie and Patrick D McGorry — Med J Aust 2009; 190 (4): S5-S6.

New directions in the epidemiology of schizophrenia
John J McGrath and Ezra S Susser — Med J Aust 2009; 190 (4): S7-S9.

Brain changes during the onset of schizophrenia: implications for neurodevelopmental theories
Stephen J Wood, Christos Pantelis, Alison R Yung, Dennis Velakoulis and Patrick D McGorry — Med J Aust 2009; 190 (4): S10-S13.

Synapse formation and regression in the cortex during adolescence and in schizophrenia
Maxwell R Bennett — Med J Aust 2009; 190 (4): S14-S16.

Are common childhood or adolescent infections risk factors for schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders?
Ian B Hickie, Richard Banati, Catherine H Stewart and Andrew R Lloyd — Med J Aust 2009; 190 (4): S17-S21.

Amphetamine psychosis: a model for studying the onset and course of psychosis
Daniel F Hermens, Dan I Lubman, Philip B Ward, Sharon L Naismith and Ian B Hickie — Med J Aust 2009; 190 (4): S22-S25.

Therapeutic signposts: using biomarkers to guide better treatment of schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders
Richard Banati and Ian B Hickie — Med J Aust 2009; 190 (4): S26-S32.

A clinical trials agenda for testing interventions in earlier stages of psychotic disorders
Patrick D McGorry, Alison R Yung, Christos Pantelis and Ian B Hickie — Med J Aust 2009; 190 (4): S33-S36.

Oestrogen — a new treatment approach for schizophrenia?
Jayashri Kulkarni — Med J Aust 2009; 190 (4): S37-S38.

Are the cardiometabolic complications of schizophrenia still neglected? Barriers to care
Tim J R Lambert and John W Newcomer — Med J Aust 2009; 190 (4): S39-S42.

Mental health policy — stumbling in the dark?
David W Crosbie — Med J Aust 2009; 190 (4): S43-S45.

Also see:

Schizophrenia: It's Not Just "in The Genes"; The Environment May Also Matter

Thursday, February 12, 2009

New RCMP policy says Tasers potentially lethal, limits use

Posted today on

The RCMP is restricting how officers can use Tasers through a new policy that recognizes the stun guns can cause death, especially when fired on "acutely agitated" individuals, the head of the Mounties said Thursday.

RCMP Commissioner William Elliott outlined the policy shift on the devices known as conductive energy weapons, or CEWs, as he spoke to the House of Commons public safety committee in Ottawa.

"The RCMP's revised CEW policy underscores that there are risks associated with the deployment of the device and emphasizes that those risks include the risk of death particularly for acutely agitated individuals," Elliott told the committee.

To read the entire article, click here.


Terry Milewski reports: Tasers potentially lethal, RCMP head tells MPs(RealPlayer, Runs: 2:13)


Listen to RCMP commissioner William Elliott's testimony before Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, as well as the subsequent question and answer session, by clicking here (Windows Media Player; be patient, there is one minute and ten seconds of silence before the testimony starts in the English audio provided).

Also see:

RCMP commissioner William Elliott's remarks on changes to taser policy

New RCMP policy says Tasers potentially lethal

Photograph courtesy of

Community college hosts youth forum on mental health

Posted on February 10th by

Singer-songwriter Joe Leger related the story of his battle with mental illness in song during a youth forum held at the Nova Scotia Community College - Lunenburg Campus January 28.

By Robert Hirtle

BRIDGEWATER - It may be hard to believe, but statistics show that one in five Canadians will experience mental illness in their lifetime, with a large portion of those individuals being in the age range of 15 to 24 years.

That is the message Jean Covert, executive director of the Lunenburg County branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), brought to a youth forum on the subject that was held at the Nova Scotia Community College - Lunenburg Campus, January 28.

The gathering, which attracted over 100 participants, was designed to explore ways of reaching out to young people with mental illness.

Jan House, past president of the Lunenburg County chapter of the Nova Scotia Schizophrenia Society, said the forum was organized by South Shore Mental Health Services, South Shore Health, CMHA and the Schizophrenia Society.

The morning session was spent meeting with service providers whose goal was to develop an action plan to provide services they feel are needed by youth in the community.

"We've formed a committee that is going on a fact-finding mission to find out what services are out there that we don't know about, so that we can co-ordinate things and use all the facilities that we have in Lunenburg County to the fullest, and then approach government for the things we don't have," she explained.

Joining Ms. Covert as speakers at the afternoon portion of the event were Peter Duke, a co-ordinator at Laing House, a community support centre in Halifax for people ages 15 to 29 who live with mood, anxiety and psychotic disorders, as well as three young persons who utilize the facility, Ruthmarie Adams, Michael Smith and Joe Leger.

While adolescents and young adults are more prone to mental illness, particularly when it is caused by drug or alcohol addiction, it is not exclusively a problem of youth.

"Eight per cent of adults will suffer major depression sometime during their lives, [and] one per cent will experience bipolar disorder," Ms Covert explained, adding that, in terms of Nova Scotia, one per cent of the population is about 9,000 people.

She said, however, that the risk of suicide involving young people experiencing mood disorders is highest and, at 24 per cent, represents the second-leading cause of death among youth ages 15 to 24 in Canada.

"Onset of mood disorders usually occurs during adolescence," she said. "Hospitalization rates for bipolar disorder are increasing among youth."

Ms. Covert said schizophrenia affects about one per cent of the population worldwide, and is "the greatest disabler of youth because it commonly strikes at a time when they are just graduating high school, just going to university and just deciding what their career choices are going to be."

She said 12 per cent of the population live with anxiety disorders and 6.9 per cent suffer from some form of personality disorder.

"So, mental disorders are not rare."

It was during his adolescent years that Mr. Smith, now 28, first began experiencing bipolar 1 disorder, the result of alcohol and marijuana abuse, which led to numerous hospitalizations.

"That means I either get real manic, like a maniac, or I get so depressed all I can do is just drool on the couch," he said. "I take 12 pills, mood-stabilizing, anti-psychotic medication, every night before I go to bed and I regularly see a psychiatrist."

He said the biggest key to recovering from mental illness is recognizing that you have an affliction.

"Laing House is great because I have friends who are always supportive and nice to me, but they can never understand talking about mania or depression," he explained. "They may have studied it in school … but they can never understand it. At Laing House, if you're going through something, you can connect with people right there, automatically, who say 'oh yeah, I understand,' so your experience is much more validated."

Mr. Leger, who relates his struggles with mental illness in song, agreed, saying the peer support mental illness sufferers receive at Laing House is very important.

"You talk about mental illness, but it's really more about mental health. We all need to work on maintaining it," he said.

In dealing with youth, he believes the biggest challenge is explaining their illness to them on a level which they can understand, and to get them to accept the fact that they need medication.

"And by far, the best way to do that is through peer support," he added.

Photograph of Joe Leger by Robert Hirtle

To view the above article as it appeared in the Bridgewater Bulletin, click here.

Judy Bell (left, Laing House), Jan House (middle, Lunenburg County Chapter of the Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia). and Peter Duke (right, Laing House)

Ruthmarie Adams (left) and Michael Smith - Youth speakers from Laing House

Click on the images above to enlarge them.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Mental Health Commission of Canada seeks input from Canadians with new Framework Document

A news release from the Mental Health Commission of Canada:

CALGARY, February 11, 2009

The Mental Health Commission of Canada today released a draft framework for the development of a mental health strategy for Canada. It is also asking for input from Canadians. Toward Recovery and Well-Being is the first document to be released for public discussion by the Commission since its creation in 2007.

Howard Chodos, Director of the Commission’s Mental Health Strategy initiative explains that the Draft Framework Document details eight broad goals that will guide the development of the strategy. “We are excited at the prospect of engaging Canadians in a dialogue about transforming the mental health system in our country,” he said.

The draft framework sets out a vision for WHAT a transformed mental health system should look like. It proposes a comprehensive approach to mental health, one that both fosters recovery for people living with mental health problems and illnesses, and promotes the mental health and well-being of all Canadians.

“We have decided to release the document in draft form so that we can gather feedback on the framework from people from coast to coast to coast,” said Chodos. “Once we finalize the framework with the help of the mental health community and interested Canadians, we will be able to move on to the second phase – producing a roadmap for HOW to achieve the eight goals for transforming the mental health system in our country.”

Beginning immediately, Canadians are being invited to comment on the eight goals contained in the draft document. A special on-line workbook will guide members of the public through the document, and invite them to share their views.

Chodos is also taking the draft Framework Document on the road. The Commission will host small working meetings with mental health stakeholders in eleven communities across the country. These consultations began February 3 in St. John’s, Newfoundland and have so far taken place in Halifax and Ottawa. During February and March, Chodos and the Mental Health Strategy team will also visit Thunder Bay, Toronto, Regina, Vancouver, Montreal, Yellowknife, Edmonton and Iqaluit.

Following these consultations the Framework Document will be revised and a final version will be released in the late spring.

“I am looking forward to the input we receive through this collaborative process,” says Chodos. ”Judging by the many signs of growing public interest in mental health issues, the momentum for change is building. Working together, we will be able to transform our current mental health system and enhance the mental health and well-being of all Canadians.”

To complete the workbook and take part in the on-line feedback, go to:

The Mental Health Commission of Canada was established by the Government of Canada in response to the final report on mental health and mental illness by the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, Out of the Shadows At Last. The report called for a profound transformation of Canada’s mental health system and recommended that the Commission lead the development of a mental health strategy to accomplish this objective. The Senate Committee was chaired by Senator Michael Kirby, who now chairs the Mental Health Commission. Howard Chodos served as the Research Director for the Senate Committee during the time the report was prepared. In addition to producing a mental health strategy, the Commission is currently pursuing four other strategic initiatives: a ten-year effort to combat stigma and discrimination; building a pan-Canadian mental health knowledge exchange infrastructure; creating a broadly-based organization of mental health volunteers; and conducting research demonstration projects on homelessness and mental illness in five cities.

For more information, please contact: Micheal Pietrus, Director of Communications, Mental Health Commission of Canada: 403-385-4040

Derrick named to stun gun death inquiry

From the February edition of The Chronicle Herald:
A Nova Scotia judge who presided over a controversial case involving the use of a police stun gun on a teen in Dartmouth will conduct a public inquiry into the sudden death of Howard Hyde.

Mr. Hyde is the mentally ill man who died in 2007 about 30 hours after Halifax police used a similar weapon on him.

Judge Anne Derrick will conduct the government-ordered hearing, which is to open in Halifax provincial court Feb. 18. The bulk of the fatality inquiry is set for April 22 to Aug. 14, a release Thursday said.

Cape Breton chief Crown attorney Dan MacRury has been appointed counsel for the inquiry, it said.

Mr. Hyde, 45, had schizophrenia and died not long after collapsing in jail in Dartmouth. He’d been arrested during a domestic dispute and was shocked with a stun gun after a fracas with police at the booking desk at Halifax Regional Police’s headquarters.

The province’s chief medical examiner has said being shocked with the device didn’t kill Mr. Hyde. His death was ruled accidental.

Judge Derrick will make recommendations about "circumstances surrounding (the death), cause and manner of death and on anything else that may arise out of the hearings," the release said.

The inquiry was ordered in September by Justice Minister Cecil Clarke.

Last month, Justice Heather Robertson of Nova Scotia Supreme Court overturned an earlier decision by Judge Derrick, who acquitted a teenaged girl in January 2008 in Halifax youth court. The teen had been charged with assaulting police and resisting arrest. Judge Derrick ruled the girl, whose identity is protected under law, was justified in resisting arrest during a dispute at a townhouse because officers overstepped their authority. The girl was Tasered by police.

The 17-year-old was angry with her sister, who’d taken her purse without asking, and the girl was threatening to damage the house, court heard during the trial.

Mental illness alone no trigger for violence

An article published in the February 7th edition of The Chronicle Herald:
By Carla K. Johnson, The Associated Press

CHICAGO — A new large study challenges the idea that mental illness alone is a leading cause of violence.

Researchers instead blame a combination of factors, specifi­cally substance abuse and a his­tory of violent acts, that drives up the danger when combined with mental illness in what they call an “intricate link."

People with serious mental ill­ness, without other big risk fac­tors, are no more violent than most people, according to the study of more than 34,000 U.S. adults.

“Mental illness can provide the knee-jerk explanation for the Virginia Tech shootings," but it’s not a strong predictor of violence by itself, said author Eric Elbo­gen [pictured] of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine.

Elbogen compiled a “top 10" list of things that predict violent behaviour, based on the analysis. Younger age topped the list. History of violence came next, followed by male gender, history of juvenile detention, divorce or separation in the past year, histo­ry of physical abuse, parental criminal history and unemploy­ment in the past year. Rounding out the list were severe mental illness with substance abuse and being a crime victim in the past year.

After the 2007 Virginia Tech killings by a student ordered to get psychiatric treatment, some states considered laws adding mental health questions to back­ground checks for gun buyers or denying weapons to people who’ve been involuntarily com­mitted for mental health treat­ment.

The new research, which bol­sters other similar findings, rais­es questions about such laws, ex­perts said. Such legislation may be both ineffective and discour­age people who need help from getting treatment.“We are being misled by our own fears," said Columbia Uni­versity psychiatry professor Dr. Paul Appelbaum, who wasn’t in­volved in the new study. “We ought to be concerned about pro­viding good treatment and help­ing people lead fulfilling lives, not obsessed with protecting ourselves from phantom threats that appear to be unrelated to mental illness."

U.S. systems to treat mental ill­ness and substance abuse are separate, uncoordinated and could do a better job treating peo­ple with both problems, Appel­baum said.

Also see:

The Intricate Link Between Violence and Mental Disorder: Results From the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions

Photograph of Eric Elbo­gen courtesy of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Nursing students complete community placement

Angela Sawler (right) and Brett Sinclair (middle), two fourth-year nursing students at Dalhousie University, have completed a six-month, one-day-per-week community nursing placement at the provincial office of the Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia. To read a summary of the work they completed, click here (PDF).

Also present in the photograph is Stephen Ayer (left), executive director of the Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia.

Click on the photograph to magnify it.

How is psychosis a problem?

To read five five vignettes based on actual experiences (somewhat altered to protect confidentiality), and posted by David Whitehorn (pictured) on his weblog Coming Back to Reality, click here.

Also see:

How does psychosis arise (part 1)

How does psychosis arise (part 2)

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Schizophrenia is the modern leprosy

From the February 5th edition of The Times:
A well-intentioned campaign risks creating a dangerous myth: that all mental illness is the same

By Sathnam Sanghera (pictured)

Three charities have teamed up to tackle what they call “the social justice issue of the 21st century” - mental illness. About time too.

Some might sneer at the multimillion-pound Time to Change campaign for using celebrities - such as Stephen Fry, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 37, but in my view anything, up to and including the use of Alastair Campbell in advertising material (“I said to Tony Blair, you do know about my breakdown, don't you?”), is welcome if it encourages more open discussion of mental ill health.

However, as someone with a parent and sibling who suffer from schizophrenia, the most severe of all psychiatric illnesses, I am concerned about the campaign. In its glitzy efforts to show that mental illness need be no bar to becoming rich and famous, and in its enthusiasm to tackle some of the myths surrounding the subject, it glosses over the harrowing effects of more serious psychiatric conditions and creates a myth of its own - that all mental illness is the same.

At the heart of this problem lies the claim that “mental health problems affect one in four people”, a statistic that encompasses conditions ranging from anxiety to depression and schizophrenia. Each of these conditions can, of course, destroy lives. But what do anxiety or mild depression have in common with schizophrenia? Not much, I would argue. Three of the six generalisations in Time to Change's “myth-busting” Tube adverts don't apply to schizophrenia.

To read the entire article, click here.

Also see:

Schizophrenia is not a trivial issue

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Drop-in centre to open in Kentville

From today's edition of The Chronicle Herald:
Former theatre building to offer support for those in need

KENTVILLE — A new drop-in centre for the homeless and people in crisis will soon open in downtown Kentville.

The Open Arms Drop-In Centre is expected to be ready early next week, offering needy people a warm place to go, a hot drink or bowl of soup.

"We have invited other groups, including local churches, to come in and try to keep the door open and keep the lights and coffee pot on so that people have a place to go," said John Andrew, pastor with the Open Arms ministry.

The drop-in centre, at the old Paramount theatre building on Main Street, will be open at least a couple of days a week, rotating with other programs like the local soup kitchen.
To read the entire article, click here.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The New York Times, worst quote of the year (so far):

Boron is a truly schizophrenic element,” Dr. Oganov [pictured] said. “It’s an element of complete frustration. It doesn’t know what it wants to do. The outcome is something horribly complicated.”

Dr. Oganov, what exactly do you mean?

It you really care to read it, the full article can be accessed by clicking here.

Photograph of Dr. Oganov courtesy of The State University of New York.

New Chief Operating Officer named to Mental Health Commission

From the Mental Health Commission of Canada:


For immediate release


Calgary, AB January 30, 2009Louise Bradley has been named Chief Operating Officer of the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC). “Louise brings with her a wealth of experience in the mental health field and I am very pleased to welcome her to help lead our team,” says MHCC President and CEO Michael Howlett.

Ms. Bradley is currently Vice President and COO of Regional Mental Health for Capital Health in Edmonton. In that capacity she manages a broad continuum of services including both in-patient and community programs. She plays a lead role in policy development and in the design and implementation of mental health strategies in the region.

Prior to her appointment, Ms. Bradley was a member of the MHCC’s Service Systems advisory committee. During her career she has been actively involved in providing professional mental health advice and support, leading the integration of provincial health programs, and managing the needs of a wide variety of stakeholders in both Eastern and Western Canada.

“The Commission is the most important thing to happen to mental health in the country,” says Ms. Bradley. “I believe the work of the Commission can make a real difference in many lives and I am delighted and honored to become a formal part of this great initiative." Ms. Bradley is a registered nurse and also holds a Master of Science degree with a specialty in mental health. She will be based out of the Commission’s Calgary office and begins her new role on February 9th.

The MHCC is a non-profit organization created to focus national attention on mental health issues. It is funded by the federal government but operates at arm’s length from all levels of government. The Commission’s objective is to enhance the health and social outcomes for Canadians living with mental health problems and illnesses.


For further information and interview requests contact:
Micheal Pietrus, Director of Communications

Can suicide be prevented?

Posted on February 1st by Amber Christian Osterhout on her weblog, Gaining Insight:
A mother once emailed me, after viewing my exhibit, and told me that her son had died from suicide. She refused to say he "commit[ted]" suicide. She viewed her son's death as a direct result of his mental illness. I agree with her because my own brother has attempted suicide, thankfully he has not succeeded. These attempts were made in order to escape psychosis, the pain and a lower quality of life. This is sad since life can improve with the help of medicine, therapy and family support. Another woman I know (who lost her sister to suicide), was not allowed to talk about her feelings with her family. Her mother called it an accident. Her father never mentioned his deceased daughter's name again. Very sad.
To read the entire article, click here.

Image courtesy of Amber Christian Osterhout.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Book review in the Los Angeles Times

Published February 1st:
By Susan Salter Reynolds

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden
A Novel
By Joanne Greenberg
Holt: 304 pp., $15 paper

Since its initial publication in 1964, this classic story of a young girl's diagnosis and treatment for schizophrenia has sold millions of copies and inspired similar ventures like Susanna Kaysen's "Girl, Interrupted" and Augusten Burroughs' "Running With Scissors."

This paperback edition has a new afterword by the author, an essay that reveals just how painful the stigma of schizophrenia was in those days. Joanne Greenberg was institutionalized from age 15 to 19; she left the hospital in 1951 and has returned only once, in 1953. Many years were spent lying about her past; Greenberg was forced to show "sanity papers" before she could take classes at a local college -- there was no guarantee her privacy would be respected.

"I did not write 'Rose Garden' as therapy," Greenberg writes. "I wanted to show what being mentally ill felt like, how it felt to be so deeply estranged from the world." It's a pioneering, unforgettable and generous book.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Recovering from psychosis: Personal learning, strategies and experiences

The abstract of an article published in the February 2009 issue of Psychosis:
By Ian Sparrowhawk

This paper is about the experience of recovering from psychotic breakdown over a 10-year period. This period saw the author gradually rebuilding a functioning life and identity. This had led to him establishing a strong professional reputation and career in the field of economic regeneration. This paper emphasises the active recovery strategies, psychological techniques and conceptual understandings of mental illness which have been found helpful in rebuilding a functioning life and identity after psychosis. The author was sectioned and hospitalised in 1996, suffering from acute paranoid delusions. There then followed a long-term “recovery period”, which is the focus of this paper. It outlines an approach to recovery which emphasises:
  • waiting;
  • avoidance if necessary;
  • cumulative desensitisation;
  • gradual expansion of the comfort zone;
  • the insufficiency of reason; and
  • respecting the integrity of unusual ideas.
The paper is meant to be of value to those suffering mental distress (with practical strategies), whilst also advancing the general understanding of psychotic breakdown from the survivor's perspective.

Keywords: first-person account; interpersonal relationships; paranoia; philosophical issues; prognosis

Posting of this abstract is for the purposes of research into psychosis.