Life, death, the mental illness label, and Minnesota

Minnesota is one among a number of states giving lip service to doing something about the high mortality rate among people in Mental Health treatment. This concern grew in part out the stir caused by a 16 state study published in 2006 showing that people with serious mental illness diagnoses are dying on average 25 years earlier than the general population. A new initiative in the state of Minnesota was designed to help deal with this disparity in death rates.

Minnesota Medicine covers this initiative in an article, Minnesota 10 by 10.

The National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors’ 2006 report “Morbidity and Mortality in People with Serious Mental Illness” highlights the fact that people with schizophrenia are 2.3 times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease than people in the general population, 2.7 times more likely to die from diabetes, 3.2 times more likely to die from respiratory disease, and 3.4 times more likely to die of infectious diseases. The report states that people with serious mental illnesses die 25 years earlier on average than members of the general population. The report also highlights the fact that the increasing use of second-generation antipsychotic medications, which are associated with weight gain, diabetes, dyslipidemia, insulin resistance, and metabolic syndrome, is adversely affecting lifespan.

This effort grew out of a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) summit to address the issue. The participants in this summit recommended the measuring of 10 health indicators and 2 process indicators for all people labeled “mentally ill” served by the mental health/illness system. Members of the groups participating in this summit have pledged to reduce early mortality by 10 years within 10 years time.

Not surprisingly statistics in Minnesota showed people dying at earlier ages in mental health treatment than people not receiving mental health treatment.

Consistent with the findings in other states, people with serious mental illnesses in Minnesota die much earlier than the general population on average. The median age at death for the general MHCP population was 82 years. The median age of death for people on MHCP plans with serious mental illnesses was 58. Our results showed the trend was consistent regardless of the patient’s gender.

Heart disease in Minnesota was the number 1 cause of death amongst people receiving mental health treatment there. People labeled “mentally ill” were found to be dying of heart disease on average 27 years earlier than the rest of the population who died of heart disease.

What surprised our work group was the fact that persons with bipolar affective disorder and schizoaffective disorder die significantly younger than those with schizophrenia alone; the median age of death for those with bipolar affective disorder and schizoaffective disorder was 51; for those with schizophrenia it was 62.

My immediate thoughts on the subject are that the culprit here is likely to be polypharmacy. Bipolar disorder is thought to involve bouts with depression and mania, two disorders in their own right, while schizoaffective disorder is seen as a state between schizophrenia and a mood disorder, such as bipolar disorder. Psychiatrists confronted with this kind of dilemma could be prescribing drugs for each of these conditions and, with psychiatric drugs, studies have been done showing that people die earlier for every psychiatric drug they are prescribed.

While it is good that Minnesota is making an effort, however meager, to do something about the problem, I have my doubts as to whether anything substantial is being accomplished here at all. Healthier diets, and quitting smoking can’t hurt, but the real problem that lies behind these deaths is the use of psychiatric drugs. Reduce deaths by 10 years in 10 years and you’re still 10 to 15 years behind the general population. The easiest way to improve a person’s chances of living longer is by getting that person out of, and away from, the mental health/illness system entirely. We have a word for getting a person out of the mental health/illness system completely, and that word is recovery. People need to be rescued from such a system when it is hell bent, however unintentionally, on their own destruction.

6 Responses

  1. Do you know anybody with bipolar disorder? Is there anything that could help that person? Find out.

    • Well, some people have a lot of questions regarding the legitimacy of the bipolar label to start out with, but using a search engine will give you much of the prevalent conventional view on the subject.

      I have known a number of people who have received a label of bipolar disorder in my life. I, in fact, have been called schizoaffective (somewhere between schizophrenic and bipolar) at more than one point. At other points, I have been called other things. I also know of a number of people who have completely recovered from whatever condition they were said to be suffering from. I include myself among them.

      The bipolar disorder label has undergone an extreme rise in popularity as a result of its popularity among mental health professionals. The rise in the use of antidepressants and stimulants have also, being a source of psychosis (mania), been a factor in this rise of the diagnosis. This rise in diagnoses flies in the face of the theory that bipolar disorder is genetically based. There’s just too much of it. Its now a more popular diagnosis than schizophrenia. Recreational drug use (or substance abuse) is often thought to have something to do with the development of what we often refer to as bipolar disorder. Not being an inherited matter, the chances of a person a making complete recovery are usually quite good.

      I would suggest a person read up on whatever psychiatric drugs a person is taking for the matter, and I would suggest he or she consider reducing the dosage, little by little, as perhaps the drugs he or she are taking have something to do with his or her perception that he or she may have any such condition in the first place.

  2. […] Originally posted here: Life, death, the mental illness label, and Minnesota « Lunatic Fringe […]

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  4. They certainly need rescuing. But you’d just about need a team of commandos to get them out of the system. The closest that many people ever get that could momentarily resemble support is, “Never mind, take your pills.”

    • Yep, & things are getting worse unfortunately. Now, what with the selling of mental illness, you’ve got more people with psychiatric labels. Perhaps they are being treated in the community rather than in the looney bin, but the community in most cases is often the mental health ghetto, or the extended looney bin. The only treatment offered, outside of jail and the street, is often psychiatric drugs. The newer psychiatric drugs may make people feel better than the older drugs but they also kill people earlier. People get gulled, seduced, into the labeled and doped up mode, and then there’s no getting them out of it except via a casket, and this years earlier than under more natural conditions.

      I feel that there is a real cover up going on here when it comes to the iatrogenic conditions psychiatric drugs cause. The simple fact of the matter is that if doctors stopped prescribing psychiatric drugs tomorrow they would be saving lives. There may be some question as to how many lives would be saved, but undoubtably they’d be saving some lives. I distrust the folks that say their lives have been saved by psychiatric drugs (there are a few), as much as I’d distrust anybody who claimed his or her life had been destroyed by breathing fresh air. All you have to do is try any number of other things, and see what the result is, salvation or ruin. Its just those other things aren’t being tried so much, are they?

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