Sunday, February 26, 2012

Stereotypes of mental disorders differ in competence and warmth

A February 21st posting by Neuroskeptic:

Please click on the image to magnify it.

Fighting "the stigma of mental illness" is big business at the moment. But does "the stigma" really exist?

As I said back in 2010:
There is a stigma of schizophrenia, and there's a stigma of depression, etc. but they're not the same stigma. We're told it's a myth that "the mentally ill are violent" - [but] no-one thinks depressed or anorexic people are violent. They think (roughly) that people with psychosis are. They have other equally silly opinions about each diagnosis, but there's no monolithic "stigma of mental illness".
Now a paper has come out which explores this idea in some detail: Stereotypes of mental disorders differ in competence and warmth. The title says it all : people have stereotypical views of people suffering from different mental disorders, but these stereotypes vary substantially.
To read the entire post, please click here.

Image credit

Also see:

Stereotypes of mental disorders differ in competence and warmth

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Assisted Outpatient Treatment: The Data and the Controversy

A November 17th, 2011, presentation by Marvin S. Schwartz, MD, Services Effectiveness Research Program, Duke University Medical Center, at New York University Langone Medical Center, New York, NY.

Also see:

Community Treatment Order (PDF, Nova Scotia)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Landlords pitch in to help people with mental illness find housing

From the February 22nd edition of Information Morning:
The CBC's Rob North tells us about a new initiative that might make things better. [Note, the segment begins after a short advertisement for a podcast.]

Also see:

250 Homes

Community Living Initiative: The Bungalows

Monday, February 20, 2012

Amanda Tetrault speaks at a Media Symposium

From the YouTube posting:
Amanda Tetrault, photographer, shares her personal experience with mental illness at the King's College media symposium.

Amanda Tetrault created a photographic book about her relationship with her father called Phil and Me. She shares her story from a lifetime with a father who lives with severe schizophrenia through captivating photographs.

Also see:

Phil and Me

Monday, February 13, 2012

Canadians Need Better Access to Psychological Services

A February 6th media release from the Canadian Psychological Association:
OTTAWA, Feb. 6, 2012 /CNW/ - Today in honour of Psychology Month, the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), the Mood Disorders Society of Canada (MDSC) and the Canadian Psychological Association (CPA) joined forces to highlight the need to enhance access to mental health services in Canada.

Mental disorders are a leading cause of disability in Canada and represent a significant burden on the economy. It estimated to cost the Canadian economy $51-billion annually. Psychologists are the largest group of regulated and specialized mental health care providers in Canada. Yet Canadians, in particular those in lower and middle income levels, face significant barriers when it comes to accessing psychological services due to their cost.

"The services of psychologists are not funded by provincial health insurance plans which make them inaccessible to Canadians with modest incomes or no insurance" said Peter Coleridge, National Chief Executive Officer, of the CMHA. This is in spite of the fact that some of the most effective treatments for common mental disorders - depression and anxiety - are psychological ones like cognitive behaviour therapy".

The U.K. has invested 400 million pounds over four years to make psychological therapies more accessible, and Australia has also enhanced access to psychologists through its publicly funded health insurance plans" adds Coleridge. "Canada must do the same."

"It is vitally important that we look to the needs of the community when it comes to mental disorders and health promotion and that we respond to those in ways that are effective" said Dave Gallson, Associate National Executive Director of MDSC. "Our research has found that the lack of insured services prevents a majority of individuals with mental illnesses from seeking the support they need."

Next week the Government of Manitoba is hosting a mental health summit with a focus on children and youth. Seventy percent of adults living with a mental disorders experience the causes or onset of their disorders before age 18. Early intervention can make a dramatic difference in the course of a disorder and, ultimately in a person's life.

"Psychological services are proven effective in helping Canadians to manage and overcome psychological problems and disorders," added Dr Karen Cohen, Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Psychological Association. "Canada's private health care insurance plans and publicly funded programs don't do enough to ensure Canadians have equal and adequate access to needed psychological service. Canada's governments and employers must do more to ensure all Canadians - regardless of income - can access the psychological care they need."
For further information:

Tyler Stacey-Holmes, Manager, Association Development, Membership and Public Relations
Canadian Psychological Association
613-237-2144, ext. 325 |

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Bell Let’s Talk 2012: Join the conversation to support Canadian mental health!

On February 8th, 2012, for every text message sent and every long distance call made by Bell and Bell Aliant customers, Bell plans to donate 5 cents to Canadian mental health programs.

A video made in Halifax on January 28th, 2012:

Friday, February 3, 2012

Canadian Mental Health Association - Nova Scotia Division -- February 2012 Newsletter

Please click on the image to magnify it.

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

Also see:

Canadian Mental Health Association - Nova Scotia Division

Wellbeing: The continuing struggle to raise awareness for mental illness

An article published in the January 30th edition of the National Post:

By Melody Lau

In its first year, the Bell Let’s Talk campaign managed to rally more phone traffic than the 2010 Olympics moment when Sidney Crosby scored his famous game-winning goal, a previous Bell volume record. Now entering its second year, the campaign is bigger than ever.

The extensive five-year initiative aims to get people across the country talking about mental health, in order to create awareness and raise money to fund programs. This year, Bell will donate 5¢ to mental health for every text and long distance call made by a Bell customer on Feb. 8. Last year alone generated more than $3-million. Not with Bell? Then just hop on Twitter; every retweet about the campaign also contributes 5¢ to the cause.

“We’ve had incredible support from so many places, from our advertising partners but also from our competitors,” says Mary Deacon, chair of the project. “Just in terms of getting involved and supporting this initiative, we don’t know how big it can get, but all we want to do is do better than last year, and we’ve added so many new dimensions.”

Such forms of expansion include a heavier focus on local stories and experts, a more comprehensive website to help inform people about mental health and the addition of two new spokespeople. Joining national spokeswoman and Olympian Clara Hughes [pictured] will be actor-comedian Michel Mpambara and author, composer and performer Stefie Shock.

“Clara came forward herself and said this is something she wanted to be part of, which is remarkable for somebody obviously as busy as she is,” says Deacon, about Hughes’ role in the campaign. “She’s a remarkable human being and we’re excited to have two more spokespeople this year.”

“We wanted to ensure that the messages that we’re sending were going to resonate with our various audiences,” Deacon adds. “What we want to do is help bring a voice to mental health that it maybe hasn’t had before.”

At least one in five Canadians will suffer from mental illness in their lifetimes and Bell hopes this initiative will shine a light on the underfunded and highly stigmatized subject.

“We really felt that it was an area where we could make a difference,” says Deacon about the impetus behind Bell’s decision to back this cause.

Deacon has spent the past 25 years in the business of not-for-profits and 10 years specifically focusing on mental health issues. She is proud of Bell’s efforts, adding that, “it was really refreshing, for me, to see a company apply the same kind of talents and strengths to something that was charitable.

“At the end of the day what this means is more money for mental health programs all across the country which we really want to help.”

For more information on the initiative, visit
Photo credit

Statistics provided by Bell Canada:
  • At least 1 in 5 Canadians experiences a form of mental illness at some point in their lives – every one of us has a family member, friend or colleague who will experience mental illness
  • Mental health funding is modest relative to other health care issues – mental illness represents 15% of Canada’s health care burden but receives only 5% of health care funding
  • Just one-third of Canadians who need mental health services actually receive them
  • Mental illness is the number one cause of workplace disability in Canada – accounting for 30% of disability claims and 70% of disability costs
  • Mental illness costs the Canadian economy $51 billion each year in lost productivity – every day, 500,000 Canadians are absent from work due to a form of mental illness.

Also see:

Bell Media Fuels the Conversation About Mental Health in Support of Bell Let's Talk Day, Feb. 8

Stefie Shock and Michel Mpambara join Clara Hughes for second annual Bell Let's Talk Day on February 8, 2012.

Healthy Minds Cooperative Newsletter - February 2012

Please click on the image to magnify it.

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

Also see:

Healthy Minds Cooperative

Colorado Voices: Harness the fear of schizophrenia

An opinion piece posted online on today by The Denver Post:
By Jean Trester

For four consecutive days, The Denver Post published pictures of Gabrielle Giffords and informed us that she is resigning from her office of U.S. Representative to focus on her recovery. If I were a U.S. visitor, I might wonder, "from what is she recovering?" Rereading the articles provides two hints: "massacre in Tuscon" and "shooting in January, 2011."

On day five, January 27, The Denver Post printed an "opinion" that had originated in The Washington Post. Gabby was wounded "allegedly by a deranged young man."

I know the culprits in the "massacre" are a gun, a young man, and a disease, schizophrenia.

In 1981, when President Reagan was wounded in an eerily similar act, the culprits were a gun, a young man, and a disease, schizophrenia.

The gun issue has been addressed (albeit ineffectively) through legislation and ongoing public discourse. (Please refer to The Washington Post "opinion.")

Young men, and women, too are to be nurtured.

What have we done with the disease schizophrenia?

We mimic brain addled cowards, hide in fear, and use euphemisms to describe the consequences of untreated schizophrenia. Please appreciate my arduous effort to restrain my cynicism.

I wish Gabby Giffords the epitome of medical treatment and Godspeed.

What I really wish is that the "shooting" had never occurred.

In the 1970s, we dismantled our state run mental hospitals, preferring community mental health care. We neglected to educate ourselves about major mental illnesses.

We need a comprehensive and concerted Public Health Policy to promote education for our entire population. Anyone who has contacts with adolescents or young adults should know the signs and symptoms of schizophrenia, should be comfortable with discussing these symptoms and assisting in find treatment. We teach sex education and heart health to middle school and high school students. Provide the same fact based information about major mental illnesses.

Schizophrenia signs and symptoms first exhibited are insidious and mild. Withdrawal from family and social contacts, confusion, inability to concentrate and insomnia, appear before florid hallucinations and dangerous delusions. If a college student, experiencing hallucinations, had been educated about major mental illnesses in middle school, he may be less likely to hide in shame and denial and more amenable to seeking treatment.

Anyone in our society should be able to say the word schizophrenia with the same ease and equanimity that we say poppycock, democracy, cancer, apology, Islam, Caucasian, AIDS, mulatto, thank you, etc. Accessing mental health care should be as socially acceptable and as readily available as seeing an orthopedist for a fracture.

I urge anyone who has experienced schizophrenia, has a family member or friend living with this disease, or earns a living caring for those afflicted to speak out, hold hands with our naive neighbors, harness our well-founded fears, and focus our energies on 21st century effective treatments and cures.

Demand science-based information, education, and research for better diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of schizophrenia. Like cancer, early diagnosis and treatment can thwart sickness and death.

Do it for our communities, our youth, and for Gabby.

Jean Trester ( of Centennial is a retired nurse.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is an online-only column and has not been edited.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

How antipsychotic medications cause metabolic side effects such as obesity and diabetes

An media release posted today by EurekAlert!:
Sanford-Burnham study suggests that many antipsychotics affect metabolism because they activate the TGFbeta pathway -- a finding that could lead to safer therapeutics for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia patients

LA JOLLA, Calif. -- In 2008, roughly 14.3 million Americans were taking antipsychotics — typically prescribed for bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or a number of other behavioral disorders — making them among the most prescribed drugs in the U.S. Almost all of these medications are known to cause the metabolic side effects of obesity and diabetes, leaving patients with a difficult choice between improving their mental health and damaging their physical health. In a paper published January 31 in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, researchers at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute (Sanford-Burnham) reveal how antipsychotic drugs interfere with normal metabolism by activating a protein called SMAD3, an important part of the transforming growth factor beta (TGFbeta) pathway.

The TGFbeta pathway is a cellular mechanism that regulates many biological processes, including cell growth, inflammation, and insulin signaling. In this study, all antipsychotics that cause metabolic side effects activated SMAD3, while antipsychotics free from these side effects did not. What's more, SMAD3 activation by antipsychotics was completely independent from their neurological effects, raising the possibility that antipsychotics could be designed that retain beneficial therapeutic effects in the brain, but lack the negative metabolic side effects.

"We now believe that many antipsychotics cause obesity and diabetes because they trigger the TGFbeta pathway. Of all the drugs we tested, the only two that didn't activate the pathway were the ones that are known not to cause metabolic side effects," said Fred Levine, M.D., Ph.D. [pictured], director of the Sanford Children's Health Research Center at Sanford-Burnham and senior author of the study.

In a previous study aimed at developing new insights into diabetes, Dr. Levine and his team used Sanford-Burnham's high-throughput screening capabilities to search a collection of known drugs for those that alter the body's ability to generate insulin, the pancreatic hormone that helps regulate glucose. That's when they first noticed that many antipsychotics alter the activity of the insulin gene. In this current study, the researchers set out to connect the dots between antipsychotics and insulin. In doing so, experiments in laboratory cell-lines showed that antipsychotics known to cause metabolic side effects also activated the TGFbeta pathway—a mechanism that controls many cellular functions, including the production of insulin—while the drugs without these side effects did not.

Wondering whether their initial laboratory observations were relevant to the human experience, the researchers reanalyzed previously published gene expression patterns in brain tissue from schizophrenic patients treated with antipsychotics. What they found supported their earlier findings—TGFbeta signaling was activated only in those patients receiving antipsychotic treatment. Looking further, they found that the extent to which each antipsychotic drug activated the TGFbeta pathway in human brains correlated very closely with the extent to which those same drugs activated SMAD3 and affected the insulin promoter in their cell culture experiments.

The TGFbeta pathway also plays an important role in metabolic disease in people who don't take antipsychotic medications. "It's known that people who have elevated TGFbeta levels are more prone to diabetes. So having a dysregulated TGFbeta pathway—whether caused by antipsychotics or through some other mechanism—is clearly a very bad thing," said Dr. Levine. "The fact that antipsychotics activate this pathway should be a big concern to pharmaceutical companies. We hope this new information will lead to the development of improved drugs."


This study was funded by a gift from Mr. T. Denny Sanford to the Sanford Children's Health Research Center at Sanford-Burnham. Co-authors include Thomas Cohen, Sanford-Burnham and University of California, San Diego; S. Sundaresh, NextBio; and Fred Levine, Sanford-Burnham.

About Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute

Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute is dedicated to discovering the fundamental molecular causes of disease and devising the innovative therapies of tomorrow. The Institute consistently ranks among the top five organizations worldwide for its scientific impact in the fields of biology and biochemistry (defined by citations per publication) and currently ranks third in the nation in NIH funding among all laboratory-based research institutes. Sanford-Burnham is a highly innovative organization, currently ranking second nationally among all organizations in capital efficiency of generating patents, defined by the number of patents issued per grant dollars awarded, according to government statistics.

Sanford-Burnham utilizes a unique, collaborative approach to medical research and has established major research programs in cancer, neurodegeneration, diabetes, and infectious, inflammatory, and childhood diseases. The Institute is especially known for its world-class capabilities in stem cell research and drug discovery technologies. Sanford-Burnham is a U.S.-based, non-profit public benefit corporation, with operations in San Diego (La Jolla), Santa Barbara, and Orlando (Lake Nona). For more information, please visit our website ( or blog ( You can also receive updates by following us on Facebook and Twitter.


Heather Buschman, Ph.D.
Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute
Image credit

Also see:

Antipsychotics activate the TGFβ pathway effector SMAD3