One of our Linden Lodge residents, Emily, who started our Bear Hugs program received this thank you card from the students in the Exceptional Family Member Program at Pinecrest High School where she volunteers. As we always say, “a little kindness and thoughtfulness” and caring about others, goes a long way in this world!
Chester Bennington, the lead singer of the band Linkin Park, was found dead on Thursday in his home near Los Angeles. The coroner’s office has confirmed that the 41-year-old died of suicide. That’s something I — and so many millions of other Americans suffering from mental illness — have considered.
The platinum-selling lead singer was open about his depression and anxiety. In Linkin Park’s single “Heavy,” Bennington sings: “I don’t like my mind right now / Stacking up problems that are so unnecessary / Wish I could slow things down.” And the lyrics in their hit single “Crawling,” deal with substance abuse: “There’s something inside me that pulls beneath the surface / Consuming, confusing.”
Bennington suffered, but he was not alone. In the United States, nearly one in five adults have some form of mental illness in a given year. That means that 43.8 million adults, nearly twice the population of Australia, experience a mental health disorder every year.
Yet more often than not, we don’t talk about mental health. And shows like Netflix’s “13 Reasons Why” or artists like indie pop singer Lana Del Rey have sensationalized or glamorized mental illness and suicide rather than taking it seriously.
Worldwide, 350 million people (that’s 5 percent of the population) suffer from depression every day. And they are suffering – and sometimes dying – in silence because we can’t seem to talk openly about mental health. Middle and high school health classes are the perfect place to begin the dialogue but mental health education in the classroom is essentially nonexistent.
When I began self-harming I was in sixth grade. In my middle school health class we learned about nocturnal ejaculations and how pubic hair would soon be growing all over our bodies but we never talked about our mental health. In high school, as I was becoming more withdrawn, we learned how to put condoms on a banana, we discussed alcohol and drugs while watching a few episodes of “Freaks and Geeks” but we never defined illnesses like depression, anxiety, personality disorders, suicide or PTSD, or learned that 50 percent of lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14.
In college, I became even more depressed. I would cry myself to sleep. My weight fluctuated by 10 to 20 pounds each semester. I would drink to forget and in my drunken blurs I leaned far too heavily and unfairly on friends who were just as lost and scared as I was. During what felt like the worst period of my depression, I took a health and wellness class my junior year. In that class, we discussed nutrition, healthy relationships and conflict resolution skills. We even had a unit on “stress management and resiliency.” But we never talked about mental illness or how to recognize or treat it.
And the truth is that everyone can benefit from learning about mental health. It shouldn’t scare us; it should light a fire under us to ensure that people across the United States and the world can recognize these illnesses like they would high cholesterol or asthma or any other health condition.
We should not be afraid to put a name to these illnesses. Chester Bennington wasn’t. We should not be afraid to come forward or tell our stories about our struggles with these issues. We should be open to learning the symptoms and the signs of mental health disorders. We should encourage everyone (not just those with mental health issues) to seek therapy because therapy is good for your mind just as exercise is good for your body.
If it was not for my family and friends, who knows what would have happened to me. But I do know that if I had learned about depression and anxiety, or even that therapy is an option, when I was 11, I wouldn’t be staring at my faded scars as I write this. We must push the conversation about mental illness forward whether it be in the classrooms of public schools or with our families and friends. These issues are real and lethal, and the first means of prevention is acknowledging their existence.
More than a third aren’t getting help, federal study says
WebMD News from HealthDay
By Steven Reinberg
MONDAY, June 12, 2017 (HealthDay News) — Nearly 10 million American adults have a serious mental illness, and a similar number have considered suicide during the past year, according to a new government report on the nation’s behavioral ills.
The report also said that 15.7 million Americans abuse alcohol and 7.7 million abuse illicit drugs.
The nation’s growing opioid epidemic was also a focus in the report. The researchers found that 12.5 million people are estimated to have misused prescription painkillers such as oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet) or hydrocodone (Vicoprofen).
Despite the growing number of Americans with mental health problems, about a third of those who need help aren’t getting it, said researcher Dr. Beth Han. She’s from the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality at the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
“These are real increases,” Han said. The reasons people aren’t getting the help they need are varied. They include not having health insurance and not knowing where to go for help, she said.
Han believes that stigma continues to play a part in why people with mental health problems don’t seek help. “They are afraid that other people may find out,” she said.
Among teens, marijuana use has gone down slightly, from nearly 8 percent in 2011 to 7 percent in 2015, though with more states legalizing its use, more people continue to accept the drug as safe and discount its potential harms, the researchers said.
“For teens, marijuana is a substitute for other behaviors like binge drinking,” said Dr. Scott Krakower. He’s the assistant unit chief of psychiatry at Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, N.Y.
On the bright side, fewer teens are smoking cigarettes. And fewer teens started using marijuana, drugs or alcohol in 2015 than in previous years, the researchers said.
Mental illness is a growing problem among adolescents. Three million teens from 12 to 17 had major depression in 2015. The problem is particularly acute among girls, the researchers found.
Among teens, depression increased from 2 million in 2011 to 3 million in 2015, Han said.
Among adults, 9.8 million Americans reported having serious thoughts about suicide in the past year. This continued an upward trend that started in 2012. In 2011, 9 million adults reported thoughts of suicide, Han said.
These numbers are rising along with the opioid epidemic, she said.
In addition, 9.8 million adults have a serious mental illness. That number has remained about the same since 2011, Han said.
Despite this, only about two-thirds of those who need it are getting treatment for mental health problems.
Poor people have less opportunity for treatment, Krakower said.
People who are uninsured or who have insurance with large deductibles may be more likely to deal with a physical problem rather than a mental problem, he said.
In addition, wait times for treatment can be very long — up to a year, Krakower said. That’s because of the lack of trained staff and resources.
“The country needs to figure out a better model so people get the mental health care they need,” he said.
The prescription drug abuse epidemic also continues, Han said.
Many of these people get their drugs from a friend or relative or from a doctor, the researchers said.
People without health insurance were nearly twice as likely to have misused a prescription painkiller as those with insurance in the past year, according to the report.
In 2015, more than 1 million Americans were being treated for substance abuse. From 2011 to 2015, the number of people receiving medication-assisted therapy, mostly methadone, as part of a narcotic treatment program has increased about 16 percent.
Looking for an explanation for the behavioral health problems in the country, Krakower speculated that the mood of America is feeding mental health and drug issues.
“The morale of the country has been down,” he said. “The economy drives a lot of people’s mood. I don’t think people feel comfortable in this country. When that kind of morale happens, it has an effect on people’s psychology,” Krakower said.
The findings are published in the Behavioral Health Barometer — United States, 2016, which was released June 12 by SAMHSA.
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Three groups of collaborating researchers discovered that the thalamus, an egg-shaped structure in the brain, is involved with thinking circuitry. Previously, the structure was thought to only relay information, but has been observed to help distinguish categories and keep thoughts in the mind, according to new study published by Nature and Nature Neuroscience.
The authors manipulated neurons in the thalamus to control an animal’s ability to remember how to receive a reward. These findings could lead to a targeted treatment to reduce cognitive problems associated with various psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia.
“If the brain works like an orchestra, our results suggest the thalamus may be its conductor,” said researcher Michael Halassa, MD, PhD. “It helps ensembles play in-sync by boosting their functional connectivity.”
Previous studies have suggested that the thalamus had a relay-like role in the brain due to its connections to portions of the brain that process sensory input. However, the authors of the new study state that the thalamus has connections to many other parts of the brain.
Specifically, the authors investigated the circuit that connects the mediodorsal thalamus with the prefrontal cortex (PFC), which controls thinking and decision making. Brain imaging has suggested that patients with schizophrenia often have decreased connectivity in this circuit.
The authors discovered that neurons in the thalamus and PFC communicated back and forth in mice, according to the study. Then, they monitored neural activity in mice performing an activity requiring working memory – the mice were tasked to follow cues to determine which door had a reward behind it.
Interestingly, when the neuronal activity in the thalamus was suppressed, mice were unable to choose the correct door, but when neuronal activity was stimulated, the mice had improved performance, according to the study.
These findings confirm previous notions about the role for the thalamus and also demonstrated a specific role in maintaining information in working memory.
The authors noted that sets of PFC neurons held memory regarding information about the correct door choice. The thalamus did not relay this information, but increased functional connectivity of PFC neurons, which was deemed vital for sustaining memory of the category, according to the study.
“Our study may have uncovered the key circuit elements underlying how the brain represents categories,” Dr Halassa said.
The second group of investigators found similar results when testing mice’s ability to find a reward in a maze. The authors also discovered the differentiated roles for subgroups of PFC neurons and how they communicate with the hippocampus.
They found that thalamus input to the PFC maintained working memory by stabilizing activity during a delay before the mice received the reward. Signals from the PFC to the thalamus sustained memory retrieval and action, according to the study.
These findings confirm that input from the hippocampus was required to encode the reward location in PFC neurons, according to the study.
“Strikingly, we found 2 separate populations of neurons in the PFC. One encoded for spatial location and required hippocampal input; the other was active during memory maintenance and required thalamic input,” said researcher Joshua Gordon, MD. “Our findings should have translational relevance, particularly to schizophrenia. Further study of how this circuit might go awry and cause working memory deficits holds promise for improved diagnosis and more targeted therapeutic approaches.”
The third group of investigators observed that the thalamus plays a role in short-term memory as well. The authors found that the thalamus cooperates with the cortex through bi-directional interactions, according to the study.
There was electrical activity in both structures during this time, which indicates that they work together to sustain information predicting the movement of the mice. An additional analysis revealed that the activity of the cortex and thalamus was dependent on one another, according to the study.
“Our results show that cortex circuits alone can’t sustain the neural activity required to prepare for movement,” said researcher Charles Gerfen, PhD. “It also requires reciprocal participation across multiple brain areas, including the thalamus as a critical hub in the circuit.”
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Shattering the Silence Posted by Linden Lodge Foundation, Inc. on Saturday, May 20, 2017 Today Linden Lodge Foundation participated in a gathering, at Linden Lodge, to draw attention to mental illness issues, how they are addressed (or not!) in our … Continue reading
(5-1-17) Given the ongoing dispute about who will be the first Assistant Secretary for mental health and substance abuse, it seems a fitting time to discuss D.J. Jaffe’s new book, Insane Consequences: How the Mental Health Industry Fails The Mentally Ill.
For the past thirty years, Jaffe has been deeply involved in advocating for better care for the seriously mentally ill and his book provides a roadmap for what he is convinced needs to be done to rescue and reform our current system.
Jaffe became an advocate because of a family member. In his case, it was his wife’s younger sister, Lynn. What happened to Jaffe, his wife, Rose, and to Lynn has become an all too common story.
She started becoming paranoid, convinced that conversations taking place across the street involved plots to kill her…We took her to the emergency room. She was admitted, diagnosed, medicated, and provided rehabilitative therapy. But to “protect her privacy,” her doctor wouldn’t tell us her diagnosis, what medication she’d given Lynn, or what would happen when her hospitalization ended. Lynn returned home to us and stopped taking the antipsychotic medications we didn’t even know she’d been prescribed…”
Thus, Jaffe was thrust into our baffling mental health care system which he quickly found to be both frustrating and lacking. Determined to help change it, he began by knocking on the door of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, raising money for its New York City chapter and eventually joining its board. From there, he moved to the Treatment Advocacy Center where he became a strong advocate for Assisted Outpatient Treatment and a dedicated admirer of Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, one of TAC’s founders. More recently, he has launched his own organization, Mental Illness Policy. Org, which he describes as “a nonpartisan think tank that creates detailed policy analyses for legislators, the media and advocates.” Continue reading
Liz Szabo of USA Today continues with her excellent series of articles profiling America’s failing mental health system. This is a worthy read!
- Stigma against the mentally ill is so powerful that it’s been codified for 50 years into federal law, and few outside the mental health system even realize it.
This systemic discrimination, embedded in Medicaid and Medicare laws, has accelerated the emptying of state psychiatric hospitals, leaving many of the sickest and most vulnerable patients with nowhere to turn.
Advocates and experts who spoke with USA TODAY describe a system in shambles, starved of funding while neglecting millions of people across the country each year.
The failure to provide treatment and supportive services to people with mental illness – both in the community and in hospitals – has overburdened emergency rooms, crowded state and local jails and left untreated patients to fend for themselves on city streets, says Patrick Kennedy, a former congressman from Rhode Island who has fought to provide better care for the mentally ill.
The USA routinely fails to provide the most basic services for people with mental illness — something the country would never tolerate for patients with cancer or other physical disorders, Kennedy says.
– See more at: http://www.cmhnetwork.org/news/cost-of-not-caring-stigma-set-in-stone#sthash.PEacUE5q.dpuf
Moore County Leadership Institute
MCLI is a yearlong program offered by the Moore County Chamber of Commerce. Individuals accepted into the program spend one day a month learning about a different aspect of Moore County — touching on education, government, agriculture, tourism, business, and health care. Each individual also works within a team on a project to help a nonprofit organization or fill an unmet need in the community. Developed in 1989, MCLI has had more than 500 graduates to date.
This year is filled with many speical dates devoted to raising awareness about important mental health, substance use disorder, and overall health issues. To make it easier for you here is an awareness calendar to highlight these important days, weeks, and months. Be sure to mark the dates on your calendar so you can join with Linden Lodge to help reduce the stigma and create a positive impact!
[pdf-embedder url=”http://lindenlodgenc.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Stamp-Out-Stigma-2017-Awareness-Calendar.pdf” title=”Stamp Out Stigma 2017 Awareness Calendar”]
At last success! Dean is preparing breakfast with the first of the fresh eggs laid by our very own Linden Lodge chickens. We can’t wait for them all to start laying so we have all the fresh eggs we need. All our residents are REALLY looking forward to their turn at collecting them each day!