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Archive for the ‘News’ Category

BBC News (3/2) reports that a study from Oxford University in the British Journal of Psychiatry suggested “cases of self-harm were on the rise” for those in the military, and that they “need more support to address mental health problems.” The researchers found 166 cases “involving armed services personnel attending a local hospital from 1989 to 2003,” and data suggested that “the problem was getting worse.” The BBC notes that the “most common method used was overdosing on painkillers, sedatives and anti-depressants.”

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The Wall Street Journal (2/24, Dorman) reported, “Pfizer Inc. has ended development of two late-stage drugs, as part of its previously stated strategy to allocate resources to higher-potential efforts, including pursuing additional uses for its blockbuster fibromyalgia drug Lyrica [pregabalin].” One of the medications, esreboxetine, “was…developed to treat fibromyalgia and the other [known as PD 332,334] was one for generalized anxiety disorder.” Pfizer “will continue to pursue Lyrica as a treatment for generalized anxiety disorder.” According to the AP (2/25, Johnson), “Neither compound had been seen as a likely blockbuster because other drugs to treat those conditions already are on the market.” The company “said it reviewed results from the first late-stage study for PD 332,334 and all the data for esreboxetine, ‘along with current market dynamics,’ before making the decision.” Pedro Lichtinger, president and general manager of Pfizer’s Primary Care Business Unit, said that “‘while confident in the safety of these compounds, we don’t believe that they provide significant benefit over other therapies’ on the market.”

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In the Wall Street Journal (2/19) Health Blog, Vanessa Fuhrmans wrote, “Demand for free prescription drugs continues to skyrocket after already big increases in 2008, drug assistance programs around the country report.” And, much “of the new business is from people recently laid off who have lost their health coverage along with their jobs.” According to the Dispensary of Hope, “the number of patients coming to its dispensing sites in Tennessee and several other states jumped 40 percent to 60 percent in the fourth quarter of last year.” And “the Partnership for Prescription Drug Assistance…reports long lines at every stop for help finding free medications or subsidies as its promotional vans currently tour Texas and New Jersey.” Additionally, mail-order pharmacy Welvista “says the patient-assistance applications it gets from clinics around the state nearly doubled in January.”

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Florida’s St. Petersburg Times (2/13) editorializes, “The number of soldiers who killed themselves rose to 128 in 2008, the highest number in a single year since the invasion of Iraq in 2003.” Now, some “advocates for military personnel argue that not enough is being done, and some top Army officials agree.” The Army plans “to conduct a ‘stand-down,’ a day focused on recognizing suicidal tendencies and removing obstacles” preventing “soldiers from getting help.” In addition, “personnel will be trained to spot signs of suicidal behavior, and chaplains will become directly involved for the first time.” The Army is also “collaborating with the National Institute of Mental Health in a five-year project to identify the causes of suicide.” Despite these efforts, “many serious problems remain,” foremost of which is the Army’s “warrior culture.” Therefore, “President Obama and Congress should help convince the Army’s top brass that soldiers’ mental health should be a top priority.”

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The Boston Globe (2/9, Anthes) reports that last year, psychiatrist Robert Salo, M.D., of the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, Australia, documented “the first known instance of ‘climate change delusion'” in a 17-year-old boy who refused “to drink water” for fear of causing “millions of people” to die. Since then, Dr. Salo has “seen several more patients with psychosis or anxiety disorders focused on climate change.” Already, “there is evidence that extreme weather events, such as droughts, floods, cyclones, and hurricanes, can lead to emotional distress, which can trigger such things as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder, in which the body’s fear and arousal system kicks into overdrive.” According to Joshua Miller, Ph.D., of Smith College, “After a disaster, people can feel…like outside forces are taking control of their lives.” He explained that “severe disasters also destroy the infrastructure needed to provide mental healthcare, and forcibly displace people, severing social connections when people need them most.”

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The New York Times (1/28, A24, Feuer) reports that “the psychiatric world is trying to decide whether compulsive buying…should actually be considered a disease.” Currently, the American Psychiatric Association’s “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)…does not list the condition as a technical disease,” but psychologist April L. Benson, Ph.D., suggests “that day is almost certain to arrive.” Conversely, “Jack Drescher, M.D., a Manhattan psychiatrist and former president of the New York County chapter of the American Psychiatric Association,” notes “that the condition may not have much of a ‘cross-cultural effect.'” Dr. Drescher said, “The question is, is there a pure strain of social behavior that leads people to shopping and nothing else?”

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The Chicago Tribune (1/29, Black) reported that recently, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) “has been branded as sociopathic, delusional, narcissistic, grandiose, and psychotic, as well as cuckoo, crazy, wacko, and off his rocker. And, mental health advocates are upset about it.” They say that the “language offends many and blames mental illness for alleged criminal behavior.” In fact, according to Fran McClain, program director for the Josselyn Center for Mental Health in Northfield, IL, “statistics show that people suffering from mental illness are more likely to be victims of crime than they are to be perpetrators.” Barb Maier, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness chapter in northern Cook County, IL, added that “a true diagnosis should be left to a professional,” saying, “No one should be slinging around pejorative terms, let alone diagnosing someone they have never met.”

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On its front page, the New York Times (1/8, A1, Alvarez, Eckholm) reports that the Department of Defense (DOD) “has decided that it will not award the Purple Heart, the hallowed medal given to those wounded or killed by enemy action, to war veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), because it is not a physical wound.” The decision, which was “made public on Tuesday, for now ends the hope of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans” suffering from PTSD who “believed that the Purple Hearts could honor their sacrifice,” as well as “help remove some of the stigma associated with the condition.” A Department of Defense “advisory group decided against the award because, it said, the condition had not been intentionally caused by enemy action, like a bomb or bullet, and because it remained difficult to diagnose and quantify.”
        In its statement announcing the decision, the DOD said that “the Purple Heart has never been awarded for mental disorders or psychological conditions,” the AP (jan 8th) explains. According to DOD spokeswoman Eileen Lainez, “PTSD is an anxiety disorder caused by witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event,” and “not ‘a wound intentionally caused by the enemy from an outside force or agent.'” She added that “veterans diagnosed with PTSD ‘still warrant appropriate medical care and disability compensation,” and the Pentagon “is working hard to encourage service members and their families to seek care for PTSD by reducing the stigma, and urging them to seek professional care.” CNN (1/7, 1:18 p.m. ET) also broadcasted the story

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NBC Nightly News (1/8, story 8, 0:35, Williams) reported that “this week, the Pentagon said no” to the idea of awarding “the Purple Heart…for the mental scars of war.” The Purple Heart “has been given out only to those wounded or killed in action.” Lately, however, “some have argued” that veterans “with post-traumatic combat stress should also qualify.” In their announcement, Defense Department officials “were careful to say” that “they take combat stress seriously, but…said it is not the same as a physical wound.”

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Many clients have recently asked me how they can achieve their New Year’s resolution of improving their mental health in 2009.  With the stress of a struggling economy and growing demands from their jobs and families it can be quite difficult.   There are several things you can do on a daily basis to find that balance, but self awareness and prioritizing are key.   It’s important to learn to recognize your stressful feelings and emotions, so you can quickly find effective ways of dealing with and preventing them.

Stress may often trigger anxiety.  Anxious people often feel tense or on edge.  If people are anxious they may find themselves worrying excessively, not sleeping well, feeling distracted, and irritable.  Life stressors may also lead to symptoms of depression including sadness, crying spells, lack of pleasure in life, sleep and appetite disturbances, as well as feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness or even suicidal thoughts.

There are several things you can do proactively to prevent depression and anxiety from developing or worsening.  Some techniques are very easy to implement.

1.  Maintain a regular sleep schedule.  Going to bed at the same time and waking  up at the same time.  Avoid naps longer than thirty minutes as they may disrupt your nighttime sleep.

2.  Eat a healthy, balanced diet and get thirty minutes of cardiovascular exercise three times a week through something as simple as going for a walk.  The malls can be a good place to walk on cold, winter days.

3.  Journal or blog to have an outlet for your feelings or emotions.  You can even throw the paper away when you’re done writing if you are a private person.  The important part is getting it out.

4.  If you are unemployed (or even if you are not) find somewhere to volunteer between interviews and searching.  This helps your self esteem and also helps to maintain some structure and purpose in your life.

5.  Participate in religious or spiritual practices, preferably with others, to foster a sense of fellowship and hope.

6.  Communicate to your family and friends that you are feeling “sad”, “stressed” or “anxious” so they can reach out a helping hand.  If family or friends are not around consider a support group either online or in person.

7.  Refrain from drug and alcohol use as this can exacerbate or cause depression and anxiety.  Also avoid excessive amounts of caffeine as it can contribute to anxiety.

8.  Find a new hobby or interest.  Especially one that involves socialization to help foster new relationships.

9.  Adopt a pet (only if you are able to care for it).  Their unconditional love and daily needs provide reassurance and structure to your life.

10.  Consult a mental health professional when in doubt!  Meet with a psychiatrist and a therapist. 

It has become more common and socially acceptable to utilize mental health services. No matter how hard some people try to stay positive and be proactive they still may feel depressed and anxious.  Some folks are already suffering so much that they do not have the energy or motivation to help themselves.  These people may have a chemical imbalance that requires psychiatric medication, but only a physician and preferably a board certified psychiatrist can determine that.

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