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July 2005

Human caring is best medicine for psychotic disorders

In the Monday, June 27, 2005 issue of the Washington Post, there is a fascinating article about a three decade study done by the World Health Organization on psychotic disorders. The study found that people in third world countries do better with what are considered debilitating psychiatric illnesses like Schizophrenia than people in first world countries. Conclusions are that the social networks, and the care of families are more important to recovery than fancy drugs and institutionalized care.

"Devi is a living reminder of a remarkable three-decade-long study by the World Health Organization -- one that many Western doctors initially refused to believe: People with schizophrenia, a deadly illness characterized by hallucinations, disorganized thinking and social withdrawal, typically do far better in poorer nations such as India, Nigeria and Colombia than in Denmark, England and the United States.

The astounding result calls into question one of the central tenets of modern psychiatry: that a "brain disease" such as schizophrenia is best treated by hospitals, drugs and biomedical interventions."

In the United States in the late 1800s and early 1900s "moral therapy" got very good results, as good as, if not better than, modern treatment of psychotic disorders. Patients were sent to asylums where there was a bucolic, caring therapeutic community that treated psychotic patients with dignity, respect, and included them in the ongoing daily life of the running of the asylum working on the farm, in the laundry, and doing housekeeping chores.

As a Psychiatric Social Worker I have always believed, and found to be true, the idea that it is the human connection, the helping relationships, that are more important than the drugs, the ECT, the incarceration in psychiatric institutions.

"Is it possible that a mental health system which is poor, deprived, with no resources, no drugs is providing better and more humane and sensible service to the population rather than in rich countries?" WHO's Saraceno asked. "Good mental health service doesn't require big technologies but human technologies. Sometimes, you get better human technologies in the streets of Rio than in the center of Rome."

The pharmaceutical companies and their minions who push pills hate these kind of findings because there is no money in human caring and yet, as we all instinctively know, it is the best "medicine" of all.

The article is well worth reading. Click on the link below.

Link: Social Network's Healing Power Is Borne Out in Poorer Nations.

Quote of the day

"Sometimes the best map will not guide you
You can't see what's round the bend
Sometimes the road leads through dark places
Sometimes the darkness is your friend."

Bruce Cockburn, Pacing The Cage

Media contributes to structural stigma towards mental illness

How is mental illness portrayed in the news?

A study was published in the May, 2005 issue of Psychiatric Services which was reported on in the June 17, 2005 issue of the Psychiatric News which found that there is "structural stigma" based on how mental illness is talked about in the media but that it is improving.


Like any other topic, being well informed and having correct information leads to a more accurate understanding. As I keep pointing out on this blog, media literacy is a skill in short supply in our technological age where slogans like "fair and balance" have become ironic jokes.

Those of us in the mental health field have the constant obligation to educate the public and the media about mental health issues so that accurate information and not distortions is disseminated.

Link: When Mental Illness Makes News, Facts Often Missing in Action -- Levin 40 (12): 18 -- Psychiatric News.

Does asking teens about suicidal thoughts push them over the edge? No. Ask.

Counseling_teens Does asking teens or anyone for that matter whether they are thinking about suicide increase the risk of suicidal behavior? In other words, does asking someone about it push them "over the edge" into actually doing it?

This belief has long been understood in the mental health field as a myth and actually the opposite seems to be true, that is, asking people about their suicidal ideas seems to decrease the risk of suicidal behavior.

A study published in the April 6, 2005 issue of the JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, reports that inquiring about suicidal thinking in teens does not increase the risk of suicidal behavior. To use the professional jargon, screening for suicidal thoughts among teenagers does not have an iatrogenic effect.

Best thing to do if you are worried about whether someone is thinking suicidal thoughts is to ask them. If they are and there seems to be risk in the person acting on those thoughts assist them in getting professional help. If the risk is high, call the police. They will transport the person to an emergency room for a psychiatric evaluaton.

Link: JAMA -- Abstract: Evaluating Iatrogenic Risk of Youth Suicide Screening Programs: A Randomized Controlled Trial, April 6, 2005, Gould et al. 293 (13): 1635.

Boomers drug use in 1960s on increase in boomer's 60s

I remember making jokes about grandma and grandpa getting into "their cups" and about their drinking wine, beer, and whiskey. It was cute.

"Let them have their fun they are going to die soon anyway."

"They have so little else to enjoy, their drinks won't hurt them."

Our society has been very tolerant of alcohol abuse by older people and drug abuse as well.

The boomers are turning sixty next year and there are signs that generational habits have not died out, but the drug use of the 1960s may carry on into the boomers sixties. The pun IS intended.

While there has been a slight decrease in the abuse of alcohol, there has been an increase in opiates. Where's my Vicodin?

Link: Drug Abuse, Misuse Increasing Among Americans Aged 50 and Older -- Moran 40 (12): 21 -- Psychiatric News.

House Restores Funding for Public Broadcasting

One of the few decent, informative, substantive, worthwhile things on TV and radio is public broadcasting. Because it really is "fair and balanced", unlike other cable networks that claim they are, it has been under right wing attack. Thank goodness the moderates prevailed and funding was restored after 100 million dollars in grants to local PBS stations were threatened to be cut.

Local knowledge and local control over the TV and radio airwaves is important for the health of our democracy. The corporate media giants which control the airwaves amounts to propaganda machines which manipulate the public mind by feeding it only what the corporate and political rulers want it to see and hear and thus think.

Support your local PBS TV station and NPR radio station. I do.

Link: House Restores Funding for Public Broadcasting (6/23/2005).

Christian Peacemaker Conference coming up in September

God knows that there are enough people in world who either want war and/or are willing to support it, but how about peace? We talk about "making war" or "waging war", how about talking about "waging peace"?

From September 8 - 11, 2005 there will be a conference in Indianapolis, Indiana on "Seeking peace: the courage to be nonviolent" sponsored by the Christain Peacemaker Teams and the Plowshares Peace Studies Collaborative.

Want to go?

Link: Christian Peacemaker Congress VIII - CPTweb.