Articles Posted in Mental Illness

cdc-3suicide-300x117Uncle Sam’s sobering new report about suicide rates rising in all but one state between 1999 and 2016, with fatal increases across age, gender, race and ethnicity, became even more somber and urgent with the shock and grief expressed widely over the self-inflicted deaths of chef-raconteur Anthony Bourdain in France and fashion designer-entrepreneur Kate Spade in Manhattan.

Suicide no longer should be viewed solely as a personal mental health problem but also now as a public health crisis, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned.  Anne Schuchat, the CDC’s principal deputy director, told the Washington Post: “The data are disturbing. The widespread nature of the [suicide rate] increase, in every state but one, really suggests that this is a national problem hitting most communities.”

The suicides of Bourdain, 61, and Spade, 55, hit many hard, as was reflected in the extensive media coverage and social media reactions. Both Bourdain and Spade rose from modest circumstances, with abundant hard work, talent, personality, and ambition, to lead lives in the spotlight, and with an economic comfort that others would envy and consider glamorous. They were “successes.”

mentalnyt-300x142Although Americans keep making progress toward ending the stigma associated with mental disorders, including trying to put public funding for the diseases’ treatment on a more even footing, patients with serious mental illness suffer unfairly and harshly still due to their conditions.

Dhruv Khullar, a doctor at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and a researcher at the Weill Cornell Department of Healthcare Policy and Research, has written a painful piece for the “Upshot,” an evidence-based column for the New York Times. His article, “The Largest Health Disparity We Don’t Talk About,” reports that:

Americans with depression, bipolar disorder or other serious mental illnesses die 15 to 30 years younger than those without mental illness — a disparity larger than for race, ethnicity, geography or socioeconomic status. It’s a gap, unlike many others, that has been growing, but it receives considerably less academic study or public attention. The extraordinary life expectancy gains of the past half-century [for most in this country] have left these patients behind, with the result that Americans with serious mental illness live shorter lives than those in many of the world’s poorest countries.

Kevin_Love-215x300DeMar_DeRozan_Nov_2016_cropped-163x300With all the excesses, abuses, and nonsense that pro athletes and pop stars can get into these days, it’s gotten rarer that commentators can point to positive actions these influential personalities can take. But a growing number of them deserve credit for publicly discussing their struggles with mental health issues, helping to reduce widespread stigma about them and to better the lives of their young fans.

The list of outspoken and helpful athletes and performers includes:  Olympic legend Michael Phelps, National Basketball Association All-Star DeMar DeRozan of the Toronto Raptors, and NBA Cleveland Cavaliers superstar Kevin Love, as well as five-time Grammy winner Mariah Carey and actresses Catherine Zeta-Jones and Demi Lovato, and the late Hollywood icon Carrie Fisher.

Phelps and DeRozan bravely have discussed their problems with depression, which affects an estimated 16 million Americans annually and may be one of the most common mental health disorders negatively affecting the nation.

suicide-300x154Moms, dads, grandparents, teachers, and coaches all may need to increase even more the attention and concern they devote to teen-agers, especially young women, as hospitals and emergency rooms report dramatic increases in their treatment of youthful suicides.

Multiple news organizations reported that, as the New York Times noted, “the proportion of emergency room and hospital encounters for …  suicide-related diagnoses almost tripled, from 0.66 percent in 2008 to 1.82 percent in 2015. And the rate of increase was highest among adolescent girls.”

NPR reported: “Children ages 5 to 17 visited children’s hospitals for suicidal thoughts or attempts about twice as often in 2015 as in 2008.”

mom-300x171Big Medicine can paper over its troubles with basic fairness by slapping fancy terms on them: take “health and gender disparities,” for instance. But doctors, hospitals, and the rest of us can’t make medical care more equitable, accessible, safe, and affordable without looking at inequities, square on.

That’s why the New York Times, Washington Post, and Associated Press deserve credit for recent deep digs into the struggles of women, poor women, and especially black women with modern medicine:

antidepressant-300x225Even as the nation enters an even scarier phase in its battle against the raging opioid abuse epidemic, new and sterner warnings are flying about antidepressants. The costs of these powerful drugs add up, as does the toll of depression and its care. Users say antidepressants are a nightmare to get off of. And medical experts cast growing doubt about whether their benefits outweigh their risks.

The New York Times deserves credit for detailing the worrisome plight of an estimated 15.5 million Americans who have been taking antidepressants — sold as brand drugs like Zoloft, Effexor, Paxil, Prozac, and Cymbalta — for at least five years. The rate of the psychiatric medications’ use “has almost doubled since 2010, and more than tripled since 2000,” the newspaper reported, adding that “nearly 25 million adults … have been on antidepressants for at least two years, a 60 percent increase since 2010.”

Users who try to wean themselves from the drugs find themselves, fast, in nasty situations with “dizziness, nausea, headache and paresthesia — electric-shock sensations in the brain that many people call brain zaps,” patients told the New York Times.

AR-15_Sporter_SP1_Carbine-300x120When partisans refuse to deal with deadly gun violence as a public health crisis and to support and fund rigorous research to guide  law-making, it’s unsurprising that extreme and outlandish notions rush to occupy a noxious space in public discussions — a condition one think tank has labeled “truth decay.”

Let’s not stoop, though, to useless bickering about our respective “thoughts” on guns, but rather stick to facts and credible evidence to figure how the nation can better prevent mass shootings.

Exhibit A:  A South Florida radiologist’s essay on the lethal results of wounds inflicted by high-powered battlefield weapons like the AR-15 used in the recent mass shooting at a Florida high school.

dexter-300x282All critters great and small may be adorable and adored, but some extreme and unsupported claims for the mental health benefits that pets bring may be launching a needed correction in how so-called emotional support animals get accommodated in public spaces.

It would be tough to make up this story, much less explain why a recent United Airlines passenger, a performance artist, thought it appropriate to try to fly with her pet peacock (he’s shown in a photo taken by his owner and posted on his public Instagram account). She claimed it was an emotional support animal, protected under disability law, and she said she had purchased a separate seat for the hefty bird.

United, which hasn’t endeared itself to the public with its customer service, said it thrice had told this passenger in advance that her peacock wasn’t getting on its jet.

As the science keeps getting deeper, the news keeps getting worse about the harms that can be inflicted by repeated blows to the head in sports — and in life.

The path-breaking medical scientists at Boston University and elsewhere, who have helped to establish how concussions, notably in football, may lead to the onset of the neurodegenerative disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE, have told the Washington Post that their latest study may show that, “It’s really the hit that counts.”

oprah1-go-225x300Oprah Winfrey’s recent rousing broadcast speech — both in accepting an entertainment industry group’s lifetime achievement award and denouncing sexism and sexual harassment in Hollywood — also opened the door to a reconsideration of how this talented, smart, accomplished, powerful, and wealthy celebrity icon long has helped to foster a barrage of health and medical humbug, spreading it far and wide in popular culture.

As Stat, a health and information site, recapped about Winfrey:

She connected a cancer patient to ‘junk science,’ a Washington Post analysis says. She promoted charlatans on her show, according to Slate. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee put out a statement … attacking Winfrey for ‘giving a platform to anti-vaccination campaigners and other dangerous health quackery.’

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