Posts Tagged "mental illness"

Half the battle: My story of bipolar disorder in an already sober world

April 2011. It’s late afternoon, and my second day of the Partial Program at Beverly Hospital has wrapped up.

I’m plowing down Route 128 with a song on the radio that I don’t remember. Everything has changed, but I’m not totally sure if that’s a good or bad thing.

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Helping Students with Asperger’s Take the Stage

When I started teaching at a high school for students with learning differences, my first goal was to make my communication as clear as possible.

I streamlined my presentations, tried to wipe out any sarcasm that could be taken literally, and crafted obnoxiously clear assignment instructions. These tactics proved apt, but little did I know that my most effective communication would involve neither instruction nor planning.

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Asking the Right Questions About Gun Violence

In the wake of the recent nightclub shooting in Orlando, there are voices that are again loudly touting mental illness as a key target for preventing the repetition of such horrors.

Yet, as we wrote last year, researchers have already debunked the link between mental illness and gun violence. Instead, we found access to guns increases rates of suicide, but not of homicide. However, what most people don’t know is that, underlying all of this, there is policy prohibiting research from delving further into the issue and discovering where the evidence leads us.

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Zero Suicide: Aspirational or Reality?

It turns out that almost everything I was taught about suicide during my clinical training is not true.

Contrary to what most clinicians are taught, there is clinical protocol we can follow to prevent suicide attempts – apart from locking people up. Very little of this new knowledge about detecting and treating suicidality has translated into practice.

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Solving the Riddle of Schizophrenia, Several Pieces at a Time

“A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma” was how Winston Churchill described Russia’s position at the outset of World War II.

A statement that still rings true about our understanding of schizophrenia after more than 100 hundred years of research. While hints have appeared from time to time – autoimmunity, brain connectivity, genetics, age of onset – they seem to elude a synthesis that could help us make sense of this devastating psychiatric disorder.

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Looking to the Past for the Future of Psychiatry

What it means to be a psychiatrist invites many questions. Can psychiatrists go beyond controlling symptoms and managing maladaptive behavior, helping patients become happier rather than just less depressed? Today, can we do better than Freud who promised patients “much will be gained if we succeed in transforming your hysterical misery into everyday unhappiness”? The answer is more nuanced than expected, but exploring the teachings of ancient philosophers can help us understand its ancient roots. Positive Psychology is proactive in that it helps people to have happy and meaningful lives as opposed to treating just dysfunction or mental illness. As a medical specialty, psychiatry has excelled in disease identification (diagnosis); treatment and management of symptoms (therapeutics); and definition of long-term…

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Myth-busting the Relationship Between Mental Illness and Violence

Last week’s on-air shooting in Virginia of a reporter and cameraman re-poses a question that simply won’t let go. What is the connection between mental illness and violence, if any? Columbine, Newtown, Washington Navy Yard, and now Roanoke, Virginia, are all names that force the question to bubble to the surface. Unfortunately, it won’t be the last time we confront it. Fact vs. fiction The proliferation of today’s media makes it too easy to draw conclusions that aren’t necessarily based in the evidence, often blurring the line between fact and fiction, a view supported by research. For example, news stories on mental illness either focus on the condition’s negative aspects or medical treatments, yet they don’t cover the many positive…

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The Sweet Spot for Peer Support

Many of us have experienced some traumatic event in our lives when a friend, close relation, spiritual leader or therapist has been very helpful. With their help, we’re often able to bounce back from life’s many traumatic events. That’s the essence of resilience. However, for those living with mental illness, sometimes it’s not that simple. Often, they need someone who has been there, which is where peer supports come in. Let me tell you my story to illustrate. There is a saying I later learned: seduced by the illness. I could actually see myself being magnificent in my defeat. At one point in my life, I considered myself a proud warrior. An officer in the world’s finest navy. The first…

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Beware a Brave New World: The Risks of Medicating Social Issues

Behavioral health is the least evidence-based area of health care today. The reality being there just isn’t a robust evidence base for much of what we deliver in behavioral health care, least of all for children and adolescents. A case in point is an article published by The New York Times several weeks ago. The article cites statistics suggesting one in four women in America now takes a psychiatric medication, compared to one in seven men. The most common antidepressants prescribed in the US are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which enhance serotonin transmission and thus modulate mood. Such medication is not without side effects, including feeling agitated and/or experiencing gastrointestinal discomfort. While sadness and anxiety are undeniably common, it…

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