Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Lunenburg County Chapter's Annual Christmas Party

The Lunenburg County Chapter of the Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia's Annual Christmas Party was held on December 16th, 2009. A total of 46 members and guests enjoyed a meal FIT for the Lunenburg County Chapter as prepared its members.

The winning ticket from the raffle of an original painting by Richard Balser, held in support of the Lunenburg County Chapter's Education and Community Access Fund, was drawn by Cassidy Eisnor. The holder of the winning ticket was Sandy Conrad, one of the guests at the Annual Christmas Party.

Richard Balser, a member of the Lunenburg County Chapter, presenting his artwork to Sandy Conrad.

Rita and Jennifer, winners the Best Elf Contest.

Kaye Joudrey, Santa's favourite elf, helps Santa (a.k.a. Linda Dagley) hand out some early Christmas gifts.

Jean Covert and Denton Conrad elfing it up!

Please click on any photograph to enlarge it.

All photographs by Jan House.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Self-stigma and the “why try” effect: impact on life goals and evidence-based practices

The abstract of an article published in the June 2009 edition of World Psychiatry:
By Patrick W. Corrigan, Jonathon E. Larson, and Nicolas Rüsch

Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, IL 60616, USA

Many individuals with mental illnesses are troubled by self-stigma and the subsequent processes that accompany this stigma: low self-esteem and self-efficacy. “Why try” is the overarching phenomenon of interest here, encompassing self-stigma, mediating processes, and their effect on goal-related behavior. In this paper, the literature that explains “why try” is reviewed, with special focus on social psychological models. Self-stigma comprises three steps: awareness of the stereotype, agreement with it, and applying it to one’s self. As a result of these processes, people suffer reduced self-esteem and self-efficacy. People are dissuaded from pursuing the kind of opportunities that are fundamental to achieving life goals because of diminished self-esteem and self-efficacy. People may also avoid accessing and using evidence-based practices that help achieve these goals. The effects of self-stigma and the “why try” effect can be diminished by services that promote consumer empowerment.

Keywords: Self-stigma, mental illness, public stigma, self-esteem, self-efficacy, empowerment

To download the entire article (PDF), please click here.

Posting of this abstract is for the purposes of research into mental illness and self-stigma.

Friday, December 18, 2009

NAMI Applauds New Report on Caregiving

A December 17th news release from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI):
Arlington, VA — The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) praises a new report, Caregiving in the U.S. 2009, which offers a revealing portrait of the nearly one-in-three American adults who serve as a family caregiver.

The study is based on interviews with 1,480 caregivers chosen at random and offers a national profile of people caring for adults, the elderly and children with special needs. It follows similar studies conducted in 2004 and 1997, but for the first time, caregivers for children, as well as those caring for adults over the age of 18, were surveyed.

The report echoes the findings of NAMI’s own depression survey and schizophrenia survey, which include the perspective of caregivers for people living with these serious mental illnesses. All these reports suggest that caregivers face daily stresses that can impact their own health and other relationships. For example, NAMI’s depression survey, released in November, found that while almost one-half (48 percent) of caregivers for people with depression have been diagnosed with depression themselves, only about 25 percent were engaged in treatment at the time of the survey.

“We know from our own studies that caregivers make significant sacrifices to care for their loved ones living with mental illness,” said Michael Fitzpatrick, NAMI executive director. “The findings of this new report will help us anticipate the needs of caregivers so that we can improve NAMI’s education and support programs.”

NAMI offers a variety of peer education and support programs, including those specifically for caregivers.

Family-to-Family is a free, twelve-week course for family caregivers of individuals with severe mental illnesses. The course is taught by trained family members and more than 115,000 family members have graduated from this national program. The course is also available in Spanish.

NAMI Basics is an education program for parents and other caregivers of children and adolescents living with mental illnesses. The course is taught by trained teachers who are the parent or other caregivers of individuals who developed the symptoms of mental illness prior to the age of 13 years.

About NAMI:

The National Alliance on Mental Illness is a non-partisan organization with 1100 state and local affiliates, dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness. Dedication, steadfast commitment and unceasing belief in NAMI's mission by grassroots advocates have produced profound changes.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Putting the sibling back into the family

A December 8th news story from the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine:
By Laurie Wang

The role of brothers and sisters is often overlooked when it comes to family support for those with mental illness.

“When people think of family, they often think of the parents, not the siblings,” said Liz Taylor, professor of occupational therapy at the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine. “There’s a lifelong impact on the healthy sibling living with the ill sibling—something we often forget.”

The researcher conducted a narrative study on women who had a sibling with schizophrenia. She also spoke on the topic at the University of Alberta Calgary Centre Rehabilitation Seminar Series in mid November.

“The siblings wanted to be involved, but never got to be. Perhaps the parents were trying to protect them, but they told me they felt left out of the medical education the parents received,” Taylor said. “And then when they’re older, their parents are aging so they are the ones being asked to be caregivers, but they don’t have all the information.”

It is also common for the parents to focus on the child with mental illness over the others. Taylor explained that from the people she interviewed, a majority reported that they would feel left out so they’d cope by having achievements outside the home.

“Leisurely activities became a form of escape. The women in the study were highly successful and well-educated. They perceived themselves as helpers—some were health-care professionals themselves,” Taylor said. “But they always felt they had to be even more successful and needed to achieve more.”

An underlying theme was the inability to enjoy time with family.

“They felt they were unable to celebrate and that they had to put on an act that they were happy. One woman said to me, ‘I feel like a fraud with my own children,’” she explained.

All of the women in the study were willing to accept that they would need to be caregivers to their siblings. “It wasn’t a matter of ‘I don’t want to’; it was a matter of ‘I don’t know how to.’ They just felt like they were doing it without any information,” said Taylor.
She stressed the importance of letting the healthy sibling be involved early on, even at a young age.

“Health-care professionals need to know that family is more than just mom and dad. Everyone in the family needs to learn how to give support,” she said. “As an occupational therapist working with families, I need to remind myself to include the siblings when I talk to families too.”

Taylor is teaching her occupational therapy students how to be more inclusive in their future practice and get the whole family involved.

“I’d also like to see the future generation of parents demanding that all their children are involved. Teachers should also encourage healthy siblings to take part in being part of the support and solution,” she continued.

Taylor says that the Schizophrenia Society of Canada and other organizations have played a positive role in educating people and providing information, but that teachers, parents, health-care workers and friends need to provide support for the sibling too.

“There needs to be more support groups for the siblings. We need to encourage them to get the information and education they need,” Taylor said. “The more you understand, the more you can give support and be a part of the team.”


About the University of Alberta Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine

As the only free standing faculty of rehabilitation in Canada, the University of Alberta Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine balances its activities among learning, discovery and citizenship (including clinical practice). A research leader in musculoskeletal health, spinal cord injuries and common spinal disorders (back pain), the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine aims to improve the quality of life of citizens in our community. The three departments, Occupational Therapy (OT), Physical Therapy (PT) and Speech Pathology and Audiology (SPA) offer professional entry programs. The Faculty offers thesis-based MSc and PhD programs in Rehabilitation Science, attracting students from a variety of disciplines including OT, PT, SLP, psychology, physical education, medicine and engineering.

Photo credit

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Research shows schizophrenia most stigmatised

A December 10th media release from SANE Australia:
New research by SANE Australia finds that schizophrenia is the most stigmatised mental illness.

An analysis of complaints made by the public to SANE’s StigmaWatch program about media reporting of mental illness has found that nearly 1 in 4 relate to schizophrenia. By comparison, only 1 in 50 complaints are about the irresponsible media reporting of depression.

‘We are beginning to see the positive impact of depression awareness campaigns in the media, which is very encouraging. Unfortunately, schizophrenia continues to be one of the most misrepresented and misunderstood illnesses in the community,’ says SANE Australia Executive Director Barbara Hocking.

The report, SANE Research Bulletin 10: Stigma, the media and mental illness, found that 23 per cent of the complaints made about schizophrenia involved sensationalised media reporting. Many of these complaints related to media reports that perpetuate violent or dangerous stereotypes, or incite community fear about the illness.

The number of media reports about schizophrenia that emphasise violence or threatening behaviour misrepresent the actual statistics: one in one hundred people will experience schizophrenia but the lifetime risk of someone with schizophrenia seriously harming or killing another person is calculated to be just .005%.

‘It is certainly alarming that many media representations of schizophrenia are sensationalised, suggesting the risk is far greater than in reality,’ Ms Hocking said. ‘Such irresponsible media reporting causes unnecessary distress to the majority of people with schizophrenia who lead peaceful lives, having a negative effect on how they feel about themselves and how well they are accepted by others.

‘SANE would like to see more stories about the real, every day experience of living with schizophrenia and less sensationalised reporting positioning those affected as violent or incompetent outcasts.’

Encouragingly, there has been a significant increase in responsible and accurate media reporting of depression, with nearly 1 in 3 nominations for positive media coverage focussing on the illness. According to Ms Hocking, the ‘coming out’ of many high profile figures experiencing depression has had a large role to play in community understanding and acceptance of the illness.

‘The combination of awareness campaigns and responsible media reporting of depression has encouraged people to start talking, seek help and feel less excluded.’ Ms Hocking said.

‘SANE encourages the media to extend responsible reporting to all mental illnesses; the sad reality for people living with schizophrenia is that the stigma they experience can be just as distressing as the symptoms themselves. Media have a major role to play in helping to improve this situation so that any person with a mental illness feels understood and accepted by the community.’

Kylie’s story

‘I was diagnosed with schizophrenia a decade ago and in my search to understand my new illness, the media offered me a skewed vantage point where it appeared schizophrenia was simply a licence for bad behaviour. Now, on the inside looking out, I recognise what an inaccurate portrayal this is, the exception rather than the rule. Like many living with schizophrenia, I was a victim of violence and abuse rather than the perpetrator.

There are so many people like me out there succeeding, living, working, raising families and contributing. Stigma stops these same people from putting their hand up to say they are living meaningful, purposeful lives. This is to the detriment of those newly diagnosed with schizophrenia seeking hope for recovery and society at large. The media’s power to do good becomes evident when we see community attitudes towards depression improve through proper reporting and education.’

Kylie Griffin was diagnosed with schizophrenia at 28. Kylie is a mother of two and works as a client support worker in mental health and lives in West Wodonga.

Cameron’s story

‘Much of the pain that I suffered from schizophrenia resulted not from the illness itself, but from the fear that I felt once I was diagnosed. I was afraid to tell people what I was dealing with because I was scared of being painted with the same brush as those I saw in the media. It was this fear of being outcast, of being labelled, and of being seen as a psychopath, that stopped me from seeking the help that I needed.

The media plays a pivotal role in improving the lives of those suffering from a mental illness, and hold the key to changing community attitudes. If the media will take the initiative and tell the real stories, present the real people, and show the community that people living with mental illness are just like everyone else, then the change we seek is not far away.’

Cameron was diagnosed with schizophrenia when he was 24. He is a PhD academic at Melbourne University and runs his own website and Foundation for young people affected by mental illness - peoplelikeyou.com.au

Jo’s story

‘As a carer, I get hurt when I see remarks that label people who are mentally ill with names such as 'fruitcake', 'nutter' or 'psycho.' Don't they realise that this is my son they are talking about? There are times when carers feel forced to lie to avoid facing the possibility of demeaning reactions or remarks. This is degrading, especially when as a general rule in life, you make it a point not to lie. As if it's not bad enough for someone to have a mental illness, to be punished for it by being the victim of stigmatising comments is like kicking a man when he's down.

I believe editors and producers have a moral responsibility to avoid cruel discriminatory words. They hold the power to influence children as well as adults. It would be great if the media made conscious decisions to use their power to promote compassion, understanding and education about mental illness. This would help to eliminate fear which, along with ignorance, is one of the primary causes of stigma.’

Jo Buchanan is a published author and mother of three living in Melbourne. Her son Miles has been living with bipolar disorder for 20 years.

SANE’s StigmaWatch program monitors the Australian media to ensure accurate and respectful representation of mental illness. Complaints are submitted by community members concerned about media reports which stigmatise mental illness or promote self-harm and suicide. The program also provides positive feedback to the media about accurate and responsible portrayals of mental illness, based on nominations from the public.

Note to editors

SANE media contact

Briony Walker
03 9682 5933
0414 427 291

All photographs courtesy of SANE Australia.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Phase III Study Demonstrates INVEGA® SUSTENNA(TM) Statistically Similar to RISPERDAL® CONSTA® Long-Acting Injection

A December 10th news release from PR Newswire:
TITUSVILLE, N.J., Dec. 10 /PRNewswire/ -- Treatment with once-monthly INVEGA® SUSTENNA(TM) is not inferior to treatment with bi-weekly RISPERDAL® CONSTA®, according to new data from a comparative study of both treatments in patients with schizophrenia. Results of the 13-week clinical trial were released this week.

To read the entire news release, please click here

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

In From the Margins: A Call to Action on Poverty, Housing and Homelessness

A December 8th media release from the Senate of Canada:

Ottawa (December 8, 2009) – A major Senate report tabled today is declaring that Canada’s system for lifting people out of poverty is substantially broken and must be overhauled.

“We began this study by focusing on the most vulnerable city-dwellers in the country, those whose lives are marginalized by poverty, housing challenges and homelessness.” stated Senator Art Eggleton, Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology’s Subcommittee on Cities. “As our research evolved, so too did our frustration and concern as we repeatedly heard accounts of policies and programs only making living in poverty more manageable – which essentially entraps people."

The recommendations in the report, In From the Margins: A Call to Action on Poverty, Housing and Homelessness, are the summation of a two-year cross-country study. Committee members heard testimony from more than 170 witnesses, including people living in poverty, several of them homeless, as well as universities, think tanks, provincial and local governments and community organizations.

Based on the findings of this extensive study, the Committee’s first and fundamental recommendation is that Canada and all provinces and territories adopt the goal of lifting people out of poverty. Included among the vast range of measures recommended by the Committee to realize this core goal are the coordination of a nationwide federal-provincial initiative on early childhood education; the development of a national housing and homelessness strategy; and the creation of a basic income floor for all Canadians who are severely disabled.

The Working Income Tax Benefit (WITB) is an existing government program that the report highlights as bearing real promise because it gives people the pure incentive to get a job. To strengthen the WITB’s capacity to help Canada’s poor, the report recommends that the federal government commit to a schedule of long-term planned increases to bring recipients to the Low Income Cut-off line – as opposed to managing in poverty.

“According to 2007 numbers from Statistics Canada, we spend $150 billion dollars each year in federal and provincial transfer payments to individuals, excluding education and health care costs. So how is it that there are still millions of Canadians weighed down by poverty?” asked Senator Hugh Segal, Deputy Chair of the Subcommittee. “The Committee’s recommendations demonstrate the crucial difference between spending, and spending wisely. By breaking the cycle of poverty once and for all, we will be investing in human empowerment – which will drive the health and prosperity of our cities and yield benefits for all of us.”

The report and more information about the Committee is available at: http://senate-senat.ca/cities-villes-e.asp.

Contact Information

Elizabeth La Forest
Media Relations
Toll-free: 1-800-267-7362

Keli Hogan
Committee Clerk
Toll-free: 1-800-267-7362

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Hidden Business Cost of Mental Illness

An article posted December 3rd on blogs.harvardbusiness.org:

By Stew Friedman (pictured)

It's hard to focus on your work when your child is hallucinating.

One of the least discussed yet quite salient issues for American business in this year of health care reform is an important yet hidden cost associated with mental illness: the drain on productive work endured by family members struggling to support loved ones who suffer from such diseases. The good news for business leaders is that it's not hard to do something to help and thus feel good while improving company culture and morale, as well as your bottom line.

Mental illness comes in a staggering array of forms, and affects a broad swath of our general population. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an "estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older — about one in four adults — suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year."

Awareness and understanding of mental illness has grown in recent years; still, it's often not taken seriously or treated as a legitimate medical disease either by businesses, by the health care system, or by our society. Indeed, too many people remain reluctant to get the help they need because of the stigma associated with mental illness. The website bringchange2mind.org (with a powerful new public service video by film director Ron Howard) asserts that "for many, the stigma associated with the illness can be as great a challenge as the disease itself."

This stigma extends beyond those directly stricken to family members. Parents of children with mental illness are often viewed as guilty by association, unfairly perceived as the cause of the illness — the source of harmful child-rearing practices — when the origin is mainly biological. Parents and other family members feel shame and a sense of failure. I know because one of my adult children suffers from a toxic combination of schizophrenia (a thought disorder) and bipolar illness (a mood disorder).

There are real costs associated with employees having to carry this heavy weight of worry and responsibility, especially if they feel they must do so without the understanding and support of their organization. There is stress, unwanted social isolation in the workplace, and the feeling that they must find clandestine ways of responding to urgent demands for their attention. All of this undermines productivity by causing burn-out, unplanned absences, distractions from focused effort on tasks, and poor confidence in being able to contribute to the team.

As a leader in your organization, you can reduce these costs and inspire greater performance from valued employees. You can enable them to feel freer to ask for the help they need in supporting their families by changing how you think , how you talk, and how you act. In turn, they are bound to repay you with extraordinary effort and commitment to your goals and to your company.

Mind your attitude. Changing your attitude toward one of greater understanding and acceptance requires education (see, for example, this recent Harris survey on schizophrenia). If an employee with dependent care responsibilities born of a physical abnormality or illness needs to bring a loved one to a doctor's visit, no one judges him harshly. Indeed, this is likely to evoke sympathy. On the other hand, if he has to disrupt his work schedule to care for a family member, who — for reasons difficult to grasp and explain — cannot be left alone for fear of hearing voices or of some other dread psychological symptom, then he might well be reluctant to risk letting others know why he needs the time because they might look askance or even question his own mental stability. Your attitude can make all the difference. By taking mental illness as seriously as any physical illness, you convey emotional support and encourage employees to get the help they need to cope with the strains of caring for their sick loved one.

Watch your words. The words you use, and the way you use them, convey your attitude. Here's a tip from bringchange2mind.org: "Refrain from using terms like 'crazy,' 'nuts,' 'psycho' and 'lunatic.' While there may be times when it is too challenging or simply not possible to politely correct someone else's insensitive use of language, you can always try to watch your own." To combat harmful stereotypes and demonstrate understanding, it's better to say, for example, that someone "has schizophrenia" than to call that person a "schizophrenic" — the illness is not the person.

Model behavior. The kinds of actions that show genuine support are the same ones you'd want to show all your employees in treating them as whole people, with important aspects of life playing out beyond the bounds of work: Initiate and encourage dialogue with an open mind, address the individual needs of each employee, respect confidentiality, and be flexible and willing to engage in joint problem-solving while focusing on results that matter to you and to them.

Change the culture. As a business leader you are in a position to have a positive influence on the culture of your organization which, in turn affects all your employees as well as other stakeholders — clients and customers, suppliers, community members, and so on. Your supportive attitude about those who are forced to live with mental illness — with the words and deeds to reinforce it — can shape your company's values and the behavior in it that determine whether or not all your people get the help they need to both contribute fully to your business and lead productive lives.

What else can be done to make it easier for parents and other loved ones of those who live with mental illness to perform well at work? Please comment and share your stories, advice, and resources.

Stewart D. Friedman is Practice Professor of Management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School in Philadelphia. He is the founding director of Wharton’s Leadership Program and of its Work/Life Integration Project, and the former head of Ford Motor’s Leadership Development Center. He is the author of numerous books and articles on leadership development, work/life integration, and the dynamics of change, including the bestselling Total Leadership: Be a Better Leader, Have a Richer Life, from Harvard Business Press. For more, please visit www.totalleadership.org.

Photo credit

Also see:

Work, Recovery and Inclusion: Employment support for people in contact with secondary mental health services (U.K.)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

What would it take to destigmatize schizophrenia?

Posted December 2nd on the blog Shrink Rap:

The current podcast in Radio 4’s great series ‘All in the Mind’ looks at whether a new name would be the solution for destigmatizing schizophrenia.

Listen to podcast (30 minutes)

Source: BBC Radio 4

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Skunk users face greater risk of psychosis, researchers warn

An article published in today's edition of The Guardian:
By Sarah Boseley, health editor

Skunk, the powerful form of cannabis dominating the street drug market, is seven times more likely to cause psychosis than ordinary cannabis, scientists say.

Dr Marta Di Forti and Prof Robin Murray, who are among the authors of today's paper published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, say skunk is now the same price as ordinary cannabis on the streets of south London, where the study was carried out, and is now the one that is easiest for young people to obtain.

The researchers at the Institute of Psychiatry in London analysed the cannabis consumption of 280 people who were admitted with a first episode of psychosis to the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, and compared them with 174 healthy people from the area. Those who used skunk were almost seven times more likely than ordinary cannabis users to develop psychotic illnesses such as schizophrenia, they found.

"In the last five to six years it has been established that there is a link between heavy cannabis consumption and psychosis, but there is a lot of argument about how important it is," said Murray.

Most cannabis users remain healthy, he said, but he pointed to the growing takeover in the street markets of skunk, which contain 18% THC, the substance thought to trigger psychosis, compared with about 4% in cannabis resin (hash).

Forti said 80% of the cannabis sold on the streets of south-east London was now skunk. People who use skunk do not necessarily appreciate its toxicity, she said.

Those in the study had an average age of 25. Those who had psychotic attacks heard voices and had paranoid illusions, such as a conviction that neighbours or family were conspiring against them.

About 1% of the population suffer psychosis at some time in their life. Studies have shown the risk of psychosis doubles in those who use cannabis a few times.

Photograph: Floris Leeuwenberg/Corbis