Posts tagged mental illness
Posts tagged mental illness
[Article of Interest] Mental Illness a Frequent Cell Mate for Those Behind Bars
By Amanda Gardner
Former inmate describes efforts to stay emotionally healthy after his release
Eugene King ran away from home at the age of 16, the start of a lifelong pattern of drug abuse, crime and incarceration.
In retrospect, King said, he realizes he was using illicit drugs at least in part to self-medicate a variety of psychiatric conditions. But he also realizes that prison, with its lack of adequate medical treatment and what he called a generally abusive environment, only made his problems worse.
“It exacerbated [the mental illness] without a doubt,” said King, now 62.
That King’s mental health, already precarious, only worsened in prison is not an unusual story.
According to a recent study published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, the link between prison time and mental illness is a two-way street. Although many incarcerated people exhibit such problems as impulse control disorders — which normally first appear in childhood or adolescence — before they enter the correctional system, incarceration itself seems to cause major depression.
And this may help explain why so many inmates have trouble re-entering society when they are released, said the authors of the study.
“Prison made them depressed and that depression undermined their ability to re-enter — made it hard to find a job, hard to be motivated — and this is precisely the time they need to be motivated,” said lead author Jason Schnittker, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. “We think that mood disorders are an important barrier to re-entry.”
According to background information included in the study, about 16 million people — or 7.5 percent of the U.S. population — are felons or ex-felons.
Meanwhile, people in prison have up to six times the rate of significant mental illness as the general population, said Dr. Spencer Eth, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. Eth also treats inmates at a local jail.
And although it has long been suspected that prison aggravates pre-existing psychiatric problems, experts have had trouble untangling this chicken-and-egg question, especially given that early childhood experiences are linked to both incarceration and mental illness.
For the study, Schnittker and his co-authors looked at a national database of nearly 5,700 men and women to assess both the prevalence of psychiatric disorders and any time spent in jail or prison.
Their conclusion? Incarceration was associated with a 45 percent increase in the risk of having depression.
The findings did have some limitations, namely that the authors couldn’t control for all other factors that might affect the incidence of depression. And because it’s so difficult to conduct studies in prison populations, it’s possible that the data did not pick up on worsening of conditions other than depression, said Eth, who was not involved with the study.
The data were also at least a decade old, Eth said, even though “it’s likely that if the study were to be repeated now there would be similar findings.”
Although the study authors advocate for more treatment while people are in prison and before being let out onto the streets, in reality conditions in correctional facilities are often pitiful, said Eth, echoing King’s sentiments.
“There’s very, very little treatment available to people who are in jails and prisons. At most, it’s medication, and for many conditions it’s nothing at all. It’s terrible,” Eth said. “If you didn’t have a serious mental illness going in, the conditions of jails and prisons are so deplorable, you’d have to be a hardy soul not to be depressed or worse.”
Unfortunately, psychiatric treatment for ex-offenders “on the outside” is also limited, said JoAnne Page, president and CEO of the Fortune Society in New York City, which helps individuals re-enter society after prison.
“We couldn’t get people into mental-health treatment in the community when it was available, and it’s less available than it used to be,” Page said.
In 2011, the Fortune Society, which already provided housing and other services for ex-offenders, opened its Better Living Center, which they said is the first agency in New York City to cater exclusively to individuals with a criminal history.
“Most of our people come to us after their release when we have a window of time,” Page said. “There’s a hopefulness that things could be different. It’s a wonderful time to work with people if you give them a fighting chance.”
It is through this Better Living Center that King got his chance. He now takes medication every day and sees a therapist weekly for bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.
“I have access to excellent mental-health treatment now and I’m also mindful of the fact that there are [many] prison inmates who could benefit from the same level of care, or something close to it,” King said. “Last week was my last day on parole. Over 25 years, I have been living on this cloud either in prison or on supervision. I am no longer. I am totally free.”
[Article of Interest] “Stigma” of Mental Illness a Setback for Patients, Society
As posted on CBSnews.com
We don’t know what drove the gunman in Newtown to kill, and the fact is 95 percent of violence is committed by people who are not mentally ill. Even so, the shooting has put a spotlight on mental illness. All too often, the stigma attached to it keeps people from getting diagnosed and treated.
Four years ago, Zac Pogliano was a fun-loving teenager. He had plenty of friends and played in a rock band. His mother Laura remembers when he suddenly became paranoid.
“I would come home and bang on my own door after work every day, ‘Please let me in. It’s your mom. It’s your mom.’ And finally, I would crawl through my window,” she says.
“He would lock me out. And then one day, horribly, literally, he opened the door to me and I could tell by the look on his face that he did not know who I was.”
Eventually, Zac made a confession.
“He said, ‘Did you know I’ve been hearing voices for a year?’ … I said ‘My darling, why would you not tell your own mother? I would never turn away from you.’ He said, ‘Because no one wants a crazy person.’”
Zac’s fear of telling anyone about the voices delayed his diagnosis. He had schizophrenia. He still loves music, but the disease has forced him to put his life on hold. He’s been hospitalized several times.
Zac says the voices were criticizing him. “I can tell you it was a man voice and woman voice, picking on me,” he says.
Schizophrenia usually strikes young adults between the ages of 16 and 30. Not only can they hear voices, they may also suffer from visual hallucinations, delusions and extreme paranoia.
Zac can appear robotic and emotionless. Those are symptoms of the disease. The medication he takes can worsen those symptoms and also cause weight gain.
Zac agrees that there is a stigma attached to mental illness. “People will judge you, especially after someone gets assaulted by a crazy guy. I could be that crazy guy,” he says. Zac has never been violent.
While about 95 percent of violence is committed by people with no serious mental illness, those with schizophrenia are two to four more times more likely to commit violence than the average person. Studies have shown that proper treatment significantly lowers that risk.
Five days a week, Zac goes to an outpatient treatment program at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore.
“We need to look at Zac every single day, we need to make sure that he’s taking medicine because that makes him think clearly,” says Krista Baker, his therapist. “The longer that we can get Zac to be doing well, the better the prognosis he has.”
Zac says he feels like he’s on the right track.
”I’m a 21-year-old man and I would like to have a steady life with a job and maybe a family some day.”
His mother, Laura, says her biggest misconception was that she could “fix it. That if I tried hard enough, he would regain his health. And he would be exactly like he was; and that’s very hard to accept.”
The stigma attached to mental illness continues to be a huge barrier and delay to early diagnosis and treatment.
[Article of Interest] Death with Honors: Suicide among Gifted Adolescents
By James R. Delisle, Ph.D.
Department of Teacher Development and Curriculum Studies, Kent State University, Kent, Ohio.
Abstract: The incidence of suicide and suicide attempts among adolescents has increased markedly during the past two decades. Gifted adolescents, often perceived by others as being immune from problems of depression and emotional upheaval because of their high intelligence, have also shown increases in suicidal behaviors. On the basis of current research, the author contends that gifted young people are especially susceptible to suicide attempts.
Excerpt from the Washington Post article: In our increasingly psychiatrized world, the first course is often to classify anything but routine happiness as a mental disorder, assume it is based on a broken brain or a chemical imbalance, and prescribe drugs or hospitalization; even electroshock is still performed.
Various discussion groups made available for individuals whose lives are touched by psychosis, directed by The International Society for the Psychological Treatments of the Schizophrenias and Other Psychoses.
From the Blog’s description: A place for schizophrenics to vent, get advice and write confessions.
Researchers argue that the treatment of schizophrenia addresses the phenotype and not the cause; that the causes may not be treatable even if identifiable; that secondary prevention approaches involving treating the phenotype before full-fledged illness develops have, so far, not yielded promising results; and that shifting the focus of treatment from dopamine to other neurotransmitter systems is merely a tertiary prevention approach which will not reverse the extensive structural and functional pathology of schizophrenia.
Evidence suggests that adverse experiences in childhood are associated with psychosis. To examine the association between childhood adversity and trauma (sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional/psychological abuse, neglect, parental death, and bullying) and psychosis outcome, MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsychINFO, and Web of Science were searched from January 1980 through November 2011.
A recent news story reported on the creation of a room that can mute 99.99% of all sound. It was designed partly to see how humans exposed to the quiet of outer space might react. Not well, it turns out. It is reported that the longest anyone has been able to endure being alone in the room in the dark has been 45 minutes. The reason? Everyone – not just those “genetically prone to psychosis” – starts to hallucinate.
A list of past SMI events can now be found in the SMI Flyers section.
40 percent of the successful creative people [researcher Nancy Andreasen] investigated had [bipolar] disorder, a rate that’s approximately twenty times higher than it is in the general population.
Testimony by Peter Hawes, a genuine hero of the Hearing Voices movement
“So a couple of years ago before I got control of my voices and became this public speaking guy, back when I was still very much scared of my voices, I was having a lot of trouble with them and I remember all of them screaming at me to kill myself and I was going to do it. I picked up a razor blade and was lying there on the floor crying as they yelled at me to kill myself - I was going to do it for real. I raised the blade to end my life but then through my tears I noticed the blade had stainless steel written on it.”
“Suddenly my mind kicked into gear and I remembered reading an article about stainless steel’s melting point being above 1200c, already a glass artist at that stage, I started thinking I only ever take the kiln up to 900c tops for my glass. I got up and grabbed my visual diary and started calculating the idea of putting the razor blade in glass.”
“I spent 4 hours that night working out kiln schedules and possibilities and designs and for those 4 hours I was so distracted the voices didn’t bother me. I come up with the metaphor for life that night and I live by it to this day.”
“Like glass life can be broken
But if you sit and think about it
And rearrange the pieces
You can still create something beautiful.”
“I later found out the voices telling me to kill myself was actually a metaphor for that I needed to change my life and stop being a victim and start working on a few of my issues such as my anger problem.”
“I have now recovered and all my voices speak respectfully to me and I do writing and public speaking on recovery and run my own business and have set up my own mental health center for voices hearers where I teach them glass and implement HVN’s powerful methods of recovery as well as my own.”
Dr. Danielle Knafo, coordinator of the SMI Specialty Concentration, interviewed by Daniel Mackler in the film “Take These Broken Wings,” on recovery from schizophrenia without medication.
Dr. Danielle Knafo, coordinator of the SMI Specialty Concentration, discusses it at Long Island University’s Post Campus Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program.