Tuesday, November 30, 2010

NAMI 2011 Convention

Blockbuster Line Up Of Convention Symposia

NAMI is pleased to announce an exciting line up of symposia for our 2011 Convention.

Health Care Reform.

Part I will offer a Washington,D.C., focus on how the health care reform bill is likely to be handled by the new Congress.

Part II will offer "take aways," or what to do with this information when you return home.

Veterans. How NAMI is working to help veterans, the National Guard and reservists in need of mental health and readjustment services post-deployment.

Employment. Why, after all the work to develop supported employment, are 80 percent of adults living with mental illness unemployed? What can local NAMI State Organizations and Affiliates do?

Disciplinary Confinement. Isolation and confinement exacerbate psychiatric symptoms. Efforts underway to respond--including legislation, litigation and voluntary initiatives--will be examined.

Disparities and Cultural Competence. These issues will be addressed in the context of health care reform, supports and treatment availability and strategies for input and action.

Faith, Spirituality and Mental Illness. Dr. Nancy Kehoe returns to further explore the impact of religious and spiritual beliefs on recovery.

Emerging Creativity in Diagnosis and Treatment. Cutting-edge ideas to push the boundaries of our understanding of mental illness and further the effectiveness of diagnosis and treatment.

Federal Special Education Laws. Understanding IDEA, knowing your child's rights and getting effective services.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Change of environment needed

In the car on the week-end, listening to the same radio show. This time the interview was with a management somebody, who was making the same point as the sports psychologist. He said that people are sent on management courses all the time, yet they usually come back to the same dysfunctional office environment that they left. Very quickly they slide back into the same way of thinking and acting.

Here we go again. The same is true with mental health. The patient is released from the hospital (not necessarily improved, just patched over, I may point out) back into the same environment. It could be the family, it could be social housing, it could be living alone. Often, the person regresses because the environment has not changed. It needs to in order to begin or sustain recovery.

I have yet to have a psychiatrist tell me this simple truth or suggest books to me that would help me see how this works because it goes against the disease model of mental illness. Honesty is needed here, even if it means suggesting things people have trouble accepting.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Athletes and mental health sufferers unite!

I was listening in the car this morning to a radio interview with a sports psychologist. He was discussing the case of an internationally competitive skier who had suffered extensive head trauma. The psychologist mentioned that after major accidents like these there is often Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as well as the actual physical trauma.

The sports psychologist treats his athletes using visualizations and other psychological techniques. It occurred to me while he was talking that with professional athletes, the focus is always on getting them back to their former level of fitness and ability to compete. It seems to be universally expected. Athletes are considered society's "winners." All kinds of "right thinking" behavior is credited to them, from being exceptionally focused and mature, to being "intrinsically better" than the next guy, who is roundly criticized for quitting athletics early despite obvious talent.

You probably can tell that I have limited tolerance for putting jocks on Mount Olympus. What irks me is that positive expectations are lavished on jocks and the same cannot be said for those suffering from mental illness. Where are the sports psychologists for our relatives? Our relatives, too, have to get back in the game.

The radio interview discussed the long term prognosis for returning to the sport for the worst kinds of injuries, and the psychologist said that it can be done. He made it sound like it wasn't even such a big deal. In several cases he cited, athletes even managed to surpass their previous records. The psychologist mentioned that PTSD and subsequent recovery can be delayed by people around the athlete, who, in their worried state, actually make the athlete doubt his ability to get back in the game. (That would be the high expressed emotion that I have referred to elsewhere on this blog.)

The sports psychologist discussed the importance of allowing time to heal, and not rushing back too soon because, thinking you are well before you actually are is not a good strategy. I have heard that, too, from psychiatrists, but the difference is that they were coming from a place of pessimism, not positivism. They believe schizophrenia is chronic and, of course, the medications treat everybody as if they were chronic.

So, the psychiatric patient is not getting the kind of treatment that star athletes get. The typical psychiatric patient gets lowered expectations, no hope of full recovery and ability to surpass the previous self. Nobody clues in the family that being worried hinders the individual's recovery.

What's so special about athletes that we can't apply the same treatment to those suffering from mental health problems?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

NAMI loves consumers

A festive newsletter from NAMI, exhorting the consumer mentality. You don't even have to get dressed up and go out.

This year, as you recover from your "turkey hangover," start your holiday shopping from the comfort of your own computer by shopping at Amazon.com.

The best part? By shopping Amazon.com NAMI will receive a portion of the proceeds generated by the sale.

Those dollars will go directly to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Time to practice what I preach

The teenage son of a colleague of mine has just been committed to a psychiatric hospital. He's fourteen years old. He's been receiving psychiatric help for years, but the situation was taking a new turn and becoming dangerous. His father feels all the psychiatry his son has had to date hasn't prevented what is happening now.

Here's an excellent opportunity for me to rush in and give my friend the benefit of all my experience, and yet, I don't. At least, I don't very much.

My advice wouldn't be understood because it's too soon for most people in crisis mode to absorb its simple and, at the same time, complicated message. Mental illness is so personal that it seems that nobody else can possibly have the answers for your own relative. And, of course that's true to some extent. It seems all of us are fated to learn about how to get over mental illness the hard way.

It shouldn't have to be this hard, but it is, because, unfortunately, most psychiatrists aren't willing to embrace alternatives. Right now my friend's son is in isolation, so early empathetic intervention à la Soteria or Open Dialogue isn't being considered. Even if it's not Soteria, doctors should get in there early and tell the parents it's their job to be non-judgmental, low expressed emotion and unafraid. They should but they don't. As long as the parents are scared stiff and worried, doctors can count on being in control.

In our own case, Chris's psychiatrists have, at various times, rejected vitamins, second opinions, sound therapy, and ideas coming from us. Had Chris's psychiatrist known about the Assemblage Point shift, well, I never even proposed it because I knew it would be rejected.  Most psychiatrists, even the ones I think have been helpful for Chris, don't appreciate hearing about add-on therapies. I can understand that to a point. But it often looks more like they want to control the entire process, even if it means that recovery will never happen or be delayed.

So, what did I say to my colleague? Not much, but I tried to interject optimism and a positive attitude about his son's future. I suggested that psychiatrists don't have most of the answers and a healthy amount of skepticism is needed. I mentioned that the Internet is full of different views about mental health. It's far too early to confide in him that one of the best therapies for Chris was for his parents to decide to change the family dynamics by changing ourselves, rather than our thinking that Chris was the problem in need of changing.

It's too bad that psychiatry doesn't share these insights with the family. If it did, recovery would be quicker than it actually is.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Chandra Levy verdict

I am probably stretching it, but here goes.

You may ask what's the recent verdict in the Chandra Levy case got to do with a diagnosis of schizophrenia?

Chandra Levy was an intern in Washington, D.C. who went out for a run one day in 2001 and never returned. Her body was discovered about a year later in a forested area off a jogging path.

On Monday Ingmar Guandique was convicted of her murder. Astonishingly, he was convicted despite the fact that there was no forensic evidence linking him to the crime, no murder weapon, no knowledge of what actually killed Chandra, no witnesses, and no confession on his part. Other lawyers declined the case because they felt it would be impossible to convict.
There was, however, testimony from a cell mate who claimed that Guandique "confessed" to the crime and from two female joggers who were molested by Guandique around the time that Chandra went missing.

It is astonishing that a conviction could be obtained based on lack of evidence and speculation. It looks like the jury based its verdict on what they would like to believe about the accused, and in doing so blithely overturned centuries of the common law principle of reasonable doubt. Other prosecution lawyers declined the case because they felt it was unwinnable.
A diagnosis of schizophrenia or other mental illness  is arrived at through similar leaps of faith. There is no scientific evidence that schizophrenia is a pathological disease, many people will not confess to being "sick," and yet they will be "convicted" anyway, based on their appearance and of acting outside of social norms.

Is it so astonishing that the Chandra Levy verdict is being heavily criticized for its lack of scientific evidence when those of us in the trenches see lack of scientific evidence guiding most of the legal and policy decisions governing mental health treatment?

Monday, November 22, 2010

What's it like for other people?

It is well-known that no two people labelled "schizophrenic" are alike. One of the hardest things for me at the beginning of this crisis was comparing how Chris was stacking up against "the competition." The competition were the people who were doing better than Chris at the moment or the people who were much older and fully recovered. I was frightened that Chris would be part of the group that wouldn't make it.

Well, I shouldn't have been so worried (and neither should you be about your own relative) because Chris is making it and far surpassing the expectations of the psychiatrists who labelled him in the first place. Even though Chris is not like your son or daughter in the way the crisis unfolded in him it doesn't mean that the remedies are different.  

The point I'm trying to make is that when I report progress with Chris, it may not at all ressemble anything that you are experiencing. When I write that I am pleased that Chris seems utterly bored these days, it may bear absolutely no relation to what's happening with your relative. Yet, I wonder if boredom (or some other under-exercised emotion) is a significant sign of progress that can be applied to anybody in this situation, especially if your relative is the type who never expressed much discontent one way or the other. To be discontented means that something will eventually change. A light may go on. The trick here for me is not to leap in with all kinds of ideas to alleviate boredom. He needs to take sustained action himself.

Let him be bored.

Friday, November 19, 2010


I often get long e-mails from someone or something called ben.merhav@gmail.com which I would normally ignore because the source of his messages refer back to blogs with multicolored font on the perennial black background, ABUNDANT USE OF CAPITAL LETTERS, large bold font and cut and paste as the rantings of CONSPIRACY NUTS. They are pushing their luck with me.  This is the print equivalent to me of the rantings of Herbert W. (dubblya) Armstrong, founder of the World Wide Church of God.  Herbert, through the evangelical radio show that he hosted, was always "just back from speaking with WORLD GOVERNMENTS!"  I assume Herbert was a little more focused in his younger days.

Problem is, sometimes these messages are just too interesting to ignore.

So it is with today's message from Ben (is it a person?), who gets most of his material from a blog entitled THE 18TH BLOG FOR THE OUTLAW OF PSYCHIATRY NOW ! This blog appears to be written by Evelyn Pringle, who I had banished to my spam box, only because while I liked her investigative journalism re pharmaceutical interests, I ended up getting her opinion pieces on just about anything, No, I don't want to hear from her about Obama, the war in Afganistan, or gun control, and I certainly don't want to read colored type on a black background. My interests are quite narrow, really.

Today's message is about Ablechild

Ablechild (Parents for A Label and Drug-Free Education), is a national non-profit founded in 2001, by these two mothers who each had personal experiences with being coerced by the public school system to label and drug their children for ADHD. Patty and Sheila went from being victims to become national advocates for the fundamental rights of all parents and children in the US.
Here's the link to the original blog. It's definitely worth a read. I wrote a post about my own experiences with my youngest son Taylor, when the school psychologist, in cahoots with the middle school principal, took on the role of diagnosing psychiatrists. ADD, ADHD, Schizophrenia - where's the medical evidence?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Books on my wish list

Here is a list of just some of the books I want to read, beginning with the most recently published. I plucked the reviews by readers from amazon.co.uk.

Doctoring the Mind: Why psychiatric treatments fail
Author: Richard P. Bentall
Published: June 2010

Richard Bentall pieces together evidence from an impressive array of sources to provide a critical yet accessible evaluation of the current state of psychiatry. This book is not a scathing anti-psychiatry rant. Bentall lucidly examines the mental health literature, before concluding that a) mental health practitioners often fail their patients - he is self-critical and modest about his own treatment successes and failures and b) this failure is often borne out of rigid adherence to the neo-kraeplinian, biomedical school of psychopathology; an approach which is underpinned by pharmaceutical companies and their marketing strategies. Psychiatric diagnosis is a difficult process, the author - who favours a symptom-focused model - believes these difficulites arise from the inefficiencies, limitations and unsuitability of the disorder-based, biomedical paradigm of mental health. The efficacy of both pharmacological and psychosocial treatments is also comprehensively challenged - alongside the chapters on psychiatric diagnosis, these topics form large sections of the book.

See also Why antipsychotics aren't sold on street corners

Author: John Donoghue 
Published Dec. 2008

A well plotted tale, intriguing and atmospheric, beautifully written by a fine story teller.

A vivid picture which keeps the pages turning, explores the currents of possession and mental illness with a backdrop of a sizzling romance, hospital life and Catholicism. Notably, the parallel descriptions of exorcism and the clinical situation are spine-tingling.

A very enjoyable, thought -provoking read; a must for anyone interested in mental health issues.

The Drama of the Gifted Child: The Search for the True Self
Author: Alice Miller
First published 1979

Miller's book is concise and straightforward, asserting that parental expectations for children--however benign or well-meaning--inevitably suppress the child's real self, leading to the ongoing "dramatic" performance of an identity throughout the child's life that is not driven by his/her own feelings. The lists of common behaviors that might be signs of this drama are helpful, and provoke moments of self-recognition that can be both painful and illuminating. My one reservation about Miller's argument is that this suppression of children's true selves is often demonstrated using examples of truly abusive parents, including several accounts of incest and violence. This undermines her overall understanding of the drama tendency as an almost universal property of family life.

See also This week's obituaries

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Heroic GSK debunks own medication for a non-existent market

Omega-3 fish oil has been debunked as helpful for atrial fibrillation by a study sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline. Oddly, GSK sells the prescription omega-3 medication that was tested in the study. Lovaza is the only FDA approved medication made from omega-3 fish oil that is effective in lowering very high triglycerides.

The study's leader, Dr. Peter Kowey, cardiology chief at Main Line Health Hospital System near Philadelphia, said many people take supplements and vitamins that have not been well tested.
"People are spending an enormous amount of money on stuff that doesn't work," he said.

Results were reported Monday at an American Heart Association conference in Chicago and published online by the Journal of the American Medical Association. . . . . The capsules used in the study are sold as Lovaza in the United States and as Zodin in Europe by GlaxoSmithKline PLC, which paid for the research.

You might well puzzle over this one. Why would GSK pay for a study that shows its own product to be not helpful for a certain condition? Well, one possibility is that GSK hopes that by doing this it will demonstrate to its critics that it is open and transparent. They will begin to see GSK as not just another company that buries data found unfavorable to it.

There's always more to the story, especially when it involves those dastardly profit seekers.

Here's my thinking on it. Atrial fibrillation, as far as I know, since I've got it myself, has no known cause and is not considered life-threatening.  I have never heard that it is associated with high triglycerides and the associated risk of stroke, for which this medication has FDA approval. I'll admit I haven't spent any time researching this one, and so this is the first time I have read about the horrible fate that awaits. (Hint: GSK is planting the idea by this study that atrial fibrillation is damn serious and something ought to be done about it.)

If people are taking omega-3 for atrial fibrillation, they are using it off-label. GSK knows that it is an elusive market. Plenty of smart people can by-pass the doctor's office in favor of the health food store to stock up on their non-prescription omega-3s to cure whatever it is that they think needs curing. Waste of money? Only to doctors who would prefer that you get your prescriptions through them.

(GlaxoSmithKlein (Mighty Mouse) willing to take the hit) 

This is one GSK market can afford to lose, because it's not its market in the first place. By cleverly allowing this one to escape, it's building the new idea that atrial fibrillation is life-threatening. The market it wants from this study is me, and millions more like me, who once happily went about their lives unconcerned with the occasional flutter, and soon will be breaking down the doors of the doctor's office to get whatever GSK has in its pipeline for atrial fibrillation.

And the moral of today's story? "Beware a wolf in sheep's clothing."

Friday, November 12, 2010

Beliefs governing the universe

I have fallen in love with a book called Holy Spirit for Healing: Merging Ancient Wisdom with Modern Medicine, by Ron Roth, PhD. (available from Hay House). What I love about it is that the author, a former Catholic priest, is open-minded to all religious belief systems. He is especially interested in discovering the original meaning behind the Biblical words used today that so often obscure rather than clarify Jesus' message. Jesus, like Buddha, Mohammed, and others, had what is called "cosmic consciousness." He applied in his day to day teachings the laws governing the universe.

Roth has written an astonishing treatise on healing that shows that energy is the basis for healing, and love is the greatest healer of all. I'll be writing more about this book later, but for now here is an excerpt below from an interview with Ron Roth in The Share Guide.

Ron: I began to meditate on these various concepts many years ago. I don't take the scriptures dogmatically and doctrinally as many people do. In all my studies of the sacred scriptures, I look for understanding in the original Greek and Aramaic, the language of the original text. When we translate it into English, it is always a poor substitute. When I looked at the original text, the first thing I noticed was that the Greek word that is used, dynamis--which we took "dynamite" and "dynamic"--that word actually means energy. In the Phillips translation, the words for Holy Spirit are "that divine energy that raised Jesus from the dead." He uses the term energy because it is the closest to the Greek. In the old testament and the new testament, it says "great balls of fire" came flying out of the sky when people were praying. I think it was their way of saying that there is an energy that is unexplainable. This energy is really an aspect of the Divine Spirit. I don't believe that anybody has to belong to a certain religion to be healed or to be loved by God. I studied Christianity because that was my background. But there were a lot of things I did not like, and I could not see Jesus as being a promoter of those things.

The Share Guide: So you were seeking the original languages in which these holy books were written so as to get closer to the source, rather than working with thousands of years of interpretations?

Ron: That's correct. I had a scripture professor who had PhD's in Scripture, Aramaic and Sanskrit. He would say to us, "Gentlemen, whenever you are looking at passages, don't look at the English because you have to understand what the situation was at the time that the scripture was written." In other words, what did they mean by a particular phrase 2,000 years ago, which could mean something entirely different today? The word "awful" comes to mind. The word used to mean full of awe, respect, and reverence. Today it means something terrible. In the original context it still means "full of awe." So if you read a passage that says our God is an awful God, it is a clear example.

The Share Guide: Are you saying that the phrase "Energy Medicine" is really tied with the Holy Spirit, the original healing energy of God?
Ron: When you get an understanding of what a true authentic prayer means and is, it is an "energy prayer." It is not something we do; it is something the Spirit of God at the center of our being does. That divine connection keeps coming up from the spirit essence. So when you put prayer and spirit together and understand what they truly mean, you can define it as a tangible energy that people feel.

The Share Guide: Is this the same energy which in India is called prana or in the Orient called chi, the life essence?

Ron: Yes.

Second chances

I have to admit, in May 2009 I was not looking forward to having Alex, our middle son back living at home. He had graduated from university in the United States and decided to return to the country where we live to seek employment and to gain eventual citizenship. Ian and I were feeling quite closed in. Chris had just emerged from the psych hospital after a three month stay. We wondered how we would cope.

We are typical North American parents in our mentality. We expected our children to do what we did, which is to be independent -  fast.  Independence means to most North Americans, living away from home. That hadn't worked out exactly as we planned with Chris, and here was Alex arriving on the doorstep.

Alex and I have always had a volatile relationship. He's the type of kid who immediately introduces an electric charge into the room.  I could feel the jangle. Outsiders would term him engaging and lively, which he is. It's the everyday that wears you down. Every family seems to have one like our Alex.  We argue a lot. He doesn't back down, neither do I. We got under each other's skin because there must be truth to the saying that the person most like you is the one with whom you have the most disagreements.

Things turned out differently than I imagined. We're delighted that Alex is at home. He got a job; he's been a great brother to Chris and good company at the end of the day. I decided before Alex came home that I was no longer going to go head to head with him. It was time to repair the damage from our long years of discord. The less I rise to the occasion, the less I quibble about this or that, the less he grumbles and the closer we are becoming. I'm consciously trying to help him with his own hot temper and we have the luxury of being able to have the occasional quiet chat where I try to introduce some healing words.

In the language of energy healing, our family is becoming in synch because our vibrations are aligning. Our children are no longer children and yet it has taken us this long to live together in harmony. We may not be that different from other families in this regard. Yet, here we are, after 28 years of marriage, three children, and we are just getting to this point.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The little things

Since Chris was released from his third hospitalization in May, 2009, Ian and I have been keeping a low profile around Chris. We made a conscious effort to practice low Expressed Emotion. This means for us, not asking Chris how his day was, not asking him about his night course or whether he thought he might be ready to tackle something big. We don't ask, he doesn't tell. In the past, our showing "friendly interest" can also be interpreted as "concern," and this is high Expressed Emotion. We don't ask his psychiatrist for meetings and we have given up trying to figure out if Chris is in his right mind. Ian and I don't discuss Chris between us. We don't comment to each other about whether Chris seems happy or sad, and we never discuss our future hopes and plans for Chris.

The result is that things are going along swimmingly. Chris has always had a tendency to be too honest and would tell you, if asked, all about his self-doubt and would share subtle things that made one despair he would ever pass his course. We don't want to hear this (too nerve-wracking), and now we don't.

Last night I was just about to turn in when Chris knocked at the bedroom door. He popped in to tell me how much he was enjoying his computer technician night course, and that it was a bit challenging because of the language difference, but all in all, he thought it was going well.

In the past, I might have gotten all enthused and interested and probed him a bit more and then launched into some ideas about where he could go with this course. Instead, all I said was, "that's great. See you in the morning."

This is something little that is also something big.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Adding trauma while combatting stigma

Kris Ulland recently wrote at Borderline Families about her feelings of apprehension when invited to attend a conference, the venue which was directly opposite the treatment facility her daughter had once attended. Many of us feel the same way. We do not like to be even in the vicinity of the psychiatric care facilities that our relatives attended. These days I only get mildly stressed when I pass the outpatient facility that Chris attended for two years. It's hard to avoid because it's on a well-travelled route within walking distance of our home.

Kris brings up a little discussed aspect of mental health care. It is traumatizing for the patients and families to revisit the "scene of the crime." I assume that mental health care is aware of this and tries to stage events away from the hospital or clinic when at all possible. I attended one such event as a service to an older woman friend whose nephew had been released years ago from the US marines after his schizophrenia diagnosis.  The military would not reveal to the family what had happened to him during his time in the marines. His aunt is still grieving and bewildered.

The event was sponsored by a local family support group for schizophrenia and was held in a meeting hall unconnected to the hospital. The guest speaker was none other than Dr. Rx, an eminent psychopharmacologist and overall head of Chris's treatment program. There he was, still wearing the same navy blazer and not looking a day older than when I had last seen him four years earlier. I slunk to our seats well in the back of the room and kept my head down, not wanting to make eye contact. This was already becoming a traumatizing experience.

If I recall correctly, the purpose of the meeting was to "end the stigma" surrounding schizophrenia. So, what did we watch? A French Canadian documentary entitled "Schizo," if you can believe it. It was all the dreary stuff associated with schizophrenia, camera slightly out of focus, sad music, a feeling of impending doom. One of the psychiatrists interviewed in the film had a long grey beard. He  looked far crazier than his patients. The mother of Marc Lépine, the young man who massacred fourteen female engineering students at the University of Montreal in 1989, was interviewed, thus reinforcing schizophrenia with mass murder. All very sad, a downer really and what was I doing there? Oh, yes, to support my friend.

After watching a film about stigma that was stigmatizing, questions were taken from the floor by Dr. Rx and his assistant. A tall, well dressed man who appeared to be in his fifties stood up to ask a question. It was apparent by the rather enigmatic way he posed his question that he was a one time consumer of mental health services. Without my remembering the specifics, there was a challenge imbedded in his question to the doctors. Dr. Rx and his assistant, remember, they were there to stop the stigma, ignored him. They looked at each other when the question was posed, and appeared rather embarrassed that a consumer of their services had challenged them, even obliquely. The man sat down after getting nowhere with the two onstage. He tried again later, and got the same result. (The definition of insanity?)

Now, if I were a psychiatrist and that were me on stage, I would have welcomed an intervention from someone who had been there. (Remember, Dr. Rx was there to combat the stigma.) I would have tried a lot harder to bridge the gap. Dr. Rx and his assistant came across to me as wanting to retain their authority and overly afraid of exposure.

I was glad when it was finally over. Never again.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Laughter is the best medicine

I need more laughs in my life, I've decided. Let me put this in context. In the city where I live, I notice that nobody smiles. It's not just me who has noticed this. Life is very serious here, apparently. I have lived in the same apartment block for thirteen years and only nod to the neighbours when we meet in the elevator. They give me a wan smile in return.

Now that Chris is well on the road to full recovery, ironically I am feeling sicker. I have spent the past few years reading, almost exclusively, psychiatric literature. Not many laughs there. I need a break.

For my birthday, Chris gave me Adrian Mole: The Prostrate Years. I've been a big fan of Adrian since he was aged 13 3/4. I laughed my way through the latest book in two sittings.

What tickles your funny bone?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Thoughts on sychronicity from science fiction writer Philip K. Dick

For a schizophrenic, any method by which a synchronicity can be coped with means possible survival; for us, it would be a great assist in the job of temporarily surviving . . . we both could use such a beat-the-house system.

This is what the I Ching, for the three thousand years, has been and still is. It works (roughtly 80 percent of the time, according to those such as Pauli who have analyzed it on a statistical basis). John Cage, the composer, uses it to derive chord progressions. Several physicists use it to plot the behavior of subatomic particles - thus getting around Heisenberg's unfortunate principle. I've used it to develop the direction of a novel (please reserve your comments for Yandro, if you will). Jung used it with patients to get around their psychological blind spots. Leibnitz based his binary . . . . . .read more here

from Schizophrenia & the Book of Changes, an essay by Philip K. Dick, 1965

Friday, November 5, 2010

When money meets schizophrenia

There is no shortage of glitzy events by the Napa Valley’s wine elite, but the annual music festival sponsored by Garen and Shari Staglin may be the most poignant.

When money meets schizophrenia (e.g. the Stanley Medical Research Institute), the condition becomes sad and chronic. Here is a supposedly feel good story about winery owners and their son. It doesn't buck me, up, however. Where is the good news here about the person? The good news is in the glitz and the charitable do-gooderism. Why is the word "poignant" used in this article in reference to schizophrenia? It needlessly provokes, since so many others have recovered and moved on in their lives. The public is continously fed these kind of stories in relation to schizophrenia, much more so than with depression and bipolar.

Money can't solve everything, it just confuses the issue when it comes to schizophrenia. Entrepreneurs are a class of individuals who feel that they can apply the same gung ho logic to human emotions, as if the human mind were a business plan or a balance sheet. The article is full of references to genetics, medications, and, unfortunately, resignation. Heaven help us if the Gates Foundation got involved with schizophrenia.

“Most people chose to bury or run away from the problem,” Garen Staglin said. “We chose to run toward it.”

Did you, really?

What medications do to the super healthy

We've all heard the news that psychiatric patients die, on average, twenty-five years earlier than the average life expectancy. There appears to be no empirical evidence as to why this is so. Most of us know the answer is tied up with the alarming insistence by the medical profession on medications to treat these conditions. In addition to causing diabetes, blood disorders and heart conditions, there can be fatal drug interactions. The statistic presumably include the rare person who kills himself, and the rarer person who starves to death.

I believe that people who end up with a diagnosis of schizophrenia are physically healthier than most people, so there is no reason related to just having a diagnosis of schizophrenia that should case premature death. Many are like Chris. My son has, to my recollection, never suffered from a cold, a fever, a cavity, or an ear infection. He has never spent a day in bed due to an illness. . . until he ended up with a diagnosis and went on medications. Dr. Abram Hoffer observed that his schizophrenia patients tended to be the super healthy.

Since being on the medications, Chris has suffered dizziness, weight gain, tiredness. He has had to have his heart regularly monitored. While he was on clozapine he had to go for a monthly blood test. Despite all this, he has still has never had a cold, a fever, a cavity or an earache.

If you are naturally super-healthy (you have received a diagnosis of schizophrenia), there is absolutely no way that you should be dying twenty-five years early. If anything, you should be living twenty-five years longer than the average life expectancy. If people with a diagnosis of schizophrenia are supposedly dying twenty-five years early, it must be the medications that are causing this in the majority of cases. Getting off or substantially reducing the medications, even if you have been on them for years, should be something worth thinking about.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Invite journalist Robert Whitaker to speak at World Health Organization

The excerpt below* is from a recent address given by Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization, at the Mental Health Gap Action Programme Forum.

If you read the mhGap Action Programme guide, mental health care is seen as the domain of the medical profession. Antipsychotic medications are also the first line of treatment for psychosis and for bipolar disorder. This runs contrary to what consumers want. People who actually suffer from these and other mental health conditions often say that the person who made the difference in their recovery was a caring relative, a friend, or more rarely, someone in a clinical setting who actually took the time to talk to them in a caring, empathetic way. This kind of intervention early on has greate potential to help the patient recover quicker.

Running contrary to the consumer's position, the mhGap Action Programme places the emphasis firmly on interventions that can be undertaken by busy doctors, nurses, and medical assistants. Well, how is a busy doctor or nurse going to fulfill the needed empathetic role in a crisis situation? They're not. The guide directs the patient to» Encourage involvement in self-help and family support.

What positive, encouraging attitude does the guide promote about the prospects for full recovery?

» Inform the person of the expected duration of treatment, potential side-effects of the intervention, any alternative treatment options, the importance of adherence to the treatment plan, and of the likely prognosis. (Rossa's comment: This is purely "clinicalese," very off-putting to patients and family. Will non-drug approaches be considered as alternative treatments? The term "likely prognosis" sounds bad, very bad to me. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy for a dismal prognosis. Also, how is a medical assistant, a nurse or a doctor qualified or even capable of predicting the "likely" prognosis?)

» Address the person’s questions and concerns about treatment, and communicate realistic hope for better functioning and recovery.
(Rossa's comment: Again, who are the staff to tell us what is realistic? What's this talk about "functioning?" We demand and expect better than this.)
Robert Whitaker, author of Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America, should be invited to speak at the World Health Organization. He can talk about how the use of medications actually prolongues mental illness and, more importantly, in the context of the Mental Health Gap Action Programme, he can talk about the success of the Open Dialogue program in Finland. The Open Dialogue program is purposely staffed by non-medical professionals and resists drug treatment if at all possible.


With publication of the mhGAP Intervention guide, we now have a simple technical tool for detecting, diagnosing, and managing the most common, and burdensome, mental, neurological, and substance use disorders, in any resource setting.

The emphasis is firmly placed on interventions that can be undertaken by busy doctors, nurses, and medical assistants working, with limited resources, at first- and second-level facilities. Mental health problems, whether depression, epilepsy, dementia, or alcohol dependence, are real disorders. They cause death and disability. They cause suffering. They have symptoms. And they can be managed, in any resource setting.

This is the message we can now communicate with confidence.

No matter how weak the health system or how constrained the resources, something can always be done.

In a key achievement, the Intervention guide transforms a world of expertise and clinical experience, contributed by hundreds of experts, into less than 100 pages of clinical wisdom and succinct practical advice.
The guide, in effect, extends competence in diagnosis and management to the non-specialist, while respecting their busy schedules.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

From the NAMI Newsletter

On a Mission: NAMI's Outreach to Veterans and Their Families

Educators bringing NAMI Family-to-Family program to the Veterans Administration have already touched veterans and their families across the country with NAMI's unique brand of education and support.

"The military needs someone who can tell families how it is," says Char Cate, an Air Force veteran, NAMI advocate and co-teacher at one of the classes in Virginia. "The first thing my students say is, 'Why did it take so long for us to find something geared towards families?'"

Sheila Boone leads Family-to-Family classes made up of veteran and community families in Michigan. "The mixed classes work because the program is so well organized. Families do a wonderful job identifying with each other and bonding." She has noticed some themes common among veteran families: "They're starved for information. They're not getting the support they need because some feel they must hide their family member's mental illness."

Brenda Piper, an instructor with NAMI North Carolina, says Family-to-Family's well rounded program is uniquely suited for outreach to veterans' families. "Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is not the only issue in these communities. A lot of military families are finding that the veterans contend with depression, bipolar disorder, substance abuse or a combination along with PTSD."

Family-to-Family is not the only NAMI educational program reaching out to veterans. Samuel Hargrove, who served both in the U.S. Army and the National Guard, says he used to hide his mental illness behind a mask. Now on full disability because of his mental and physical issues, he wishes he was able to return to active duty but has found a second calling in NAMI programs like In Our Own Voice and Peer-to-Peer. "I'm on a mission," he says. "I can help NAMI reach out to veterans, and NAMI has been so honest and welcoming with me."

Our successes within the veteran community are just the beginning of our work with the many military families who are now touched by mental illness. Help NAMI fulfill its mission--donate today and help fund NAMI educational programs, outreach and support.

A Kundalini explanation

A Kundalini emergency can mimic schizophrenia and other health issues. While Eastern mystics and yogis and many Western holistic practitioners believe in it, mainstream Western medicine does not. Whether you call it an aroused Kundalini or an energy imbalance or a spiritual emergency, it doesn't really matter, because it's a health emergency.

Western medicine was not able to provide an answer as to why Chris experienced intense piercing pain over his eyebrow as our plane landed. He screamed in pain, and then it was gone just as quickly as it came, except for the lingering headaches over the next few days. The nurse at the airport had no explanation. I took him to our family doctor, who offered no explanation and didn't recommend any tests. Chris continue to feel sensitive (inward inversion of pressure) in that area for the next six months. He then began experiencing the first of many symptoms which medicine labels the "prodromal signs. When I brought the head pain to the attention of the doctors after Chris was hospitalized, they simply shrugged their shoulders. They had never heard of intense head pain as a symptom of schizophrenia.

Western medicine had no explanation, but Kundalini arousal offers one. A friend alerted me to this* article on the symptoms of Kundalini. One of the many possible symptoms is headaches or pressures in the skull.

The Kundalini-Network in Denmark has a site that documents seventy-six cases of Kundalini arousal.

Else Johansen writes:

- Kundalini arousal especially occurs as an unintentional side effect of yoga, meditation, healing or body-and psychotherapy. Some of the other releasing factors can be: Births, unrequited love, celibacy, intense studies, physical traumas, deep sorrow, high fever and drug intake. But Kundalini arousal can also occur suddenly without apparent course.

- When the process of Kundalini had lasted in me for about ten years, I was too tired out to be able to earn a living on my own. I went to a doctor and said: "It is completely crazy, my Kundalini has been aroused. What shall I do?" And then I told him about my state.
 - "You are deeply psychotic", he said. "I will send you to a good psychiatrist. The energy you are talking about does not exist. You have serious misconceptions".

- I got sick pay and later disability pension, diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic, without first having been taken in for a mental examination. No doctor that I spoke to concerning my pension believed my talk about Kundalini.

- But in the yoga literature I got a reasonable explanation of what had happened to me. Yes, I understood that the secret purpose of yoga and meditation actually is to release the kundalini force. When Kundalini reaches the brain, it is said to be stimulating the brain cells that are normally not used, so that a higher state of consciousness is reached.

Else Johansen continues and says that the doctors' ignorance of Kundalini has led to diagnoses like hypochondria, escapism, inflammation of the brain, and calcification of the brain.

- In a radio program, in which I participated, a psychiatrist said that Kundalini is just an idea, imported from the East through yoga. People hear or read about it, and therefore they think they have Kundalini arousal.

- But that reasoning does not hold, Else Johansen continues. I have met 250 (1996) people who have had a well-defined kundalini process, and about half of them did not know about Kundalini beforehand. It was a shock to them when the process started. They have been helped a lot, knowing what actually happened to them, because in any case it is an advantage to know what is going on. That they later found an explanation to the odd thing that happened to them, has helped them enormously, because it is in any case an advantage to know what is going on."

The addition of, or withdrawal from, drugs (legal or illegal,) exacerbates the physical and mental symptoms.

An earlier post of mine discussed correcting energy imbalances by shifting the assemblage point.

In Castaneda’s The Fire from Within, Don Juan repeatedly warns about the health dangers that come from an assemblage point that has been knocked off center. Both legal and illicit drug use can knock an assemblage point off center. Don Juan uses peyote and other medicinal plants to induce a hallucinatory state in Castaneda. To bring him back to a balanced state afterwards, Jon Whale observes that Don Juan surreptitiously gave the author a quick sharp blow to the shoulder blade, popularly referred to as the shaman’s blow.

Dr. Whale has observed that psychiatric drugs do a poor job of moving the assemblage point back into position. According to him, psychiatric drugs do not take into account the complexities of the endocrine system and leave the patient in a chronic depressed state rather than correcting the situation.

*Mudrashram Institute of Spiritual Studies webpage

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Don't worry, they'll find it

Where was it I read recently that science always eventually turns up with what it's looking for? Science has the uncanny ability to postulate the existence of a certain black hole or a particle, for example, and by golly, prove it right. Human beings are the same. We will eventually find what we're looking for.

Here's what's happening over the Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire (CERN.) It developed a Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in part to prove the existence of the Higgs Boson field. This theory has become popularly known as the search for the God particle.

From exploratorium.edu This clustering effect is the Higgs mechanism, postulated by British physicist Peter Higgs in the 1960s. The theory hypothesizes that a sort of lattice, referred to as the Higgs field, fills the universe. This is something like an electromagnetic field, in that it affects the particles that move through it, but it is also related to the physics of solid materials. Scientists know that when an electron passes through a positively charged crystal lattice of atoms (a solid), the electron's mass can increase as much as 40 times. The same might be true in the Higgs field: a particle moving through it creates a little bit of distortion -- like the crowd around the star at the party -- and that lends mass to the particle.

Today's NY Times article is found here.

By the time it shuts down in 2011, the CERN collider should have amassed about 20 times as much data as it now has, enough to make a dent in the Higgs hunt.

John Ellis, a CERN theorist, said the future looked bright.
“The vise is closing in inexorably,” he said of the Higgs. As for dark matter, he said the CERN collider would soon exceed the Tevatron in exploring for new particles: “I can hardly contain my enthusiasm.”