Happiness studies may offer relief to people suffering from depression

The story is found in the UPI.com Health News section under the heading Happiness research may help depressed.

First, who is behind this research:

Kristin Layous and Joseph Chancellor, graduate students at University of California, Riverside; Sonja Lyubomirsky, professor of psychology and director of the Positive Psychology Laboratory at UC Riverside; and Dr. Lihong Wang and P. Murali Doraiswamy of Duke University conducted a review of previous studies of Positive Activity Interventions.

Second, Positive Activity Interventions? What exactly are Positive Activity Interventions?:

Positive Activity Interventions are intentional activities such as performing acts of kindness, practicing optimism and counting one’s blessings taken from decades of research into how happy and unhappy people are different, the researchers say.

Such positive activity interventions can apparently have an uplifting effect on one’s level of overall happiness and contentment.

“Over the last several decades, social psychology studies of flourishing individuals who are happy, optimistic and grateful have produced a lot of new information about the benefits of positive activity interventions on mood and well-being,” Lyubomirsky says in a statement.

It is thought that the 60 % (ha ha ha) of people labeled depressed who don’t respond to pharmacology (no mention is made of their response to sugar pills) might respond better to this PAI form of treatment.

I think this is a very encouraging development as it doesn’t necessarily involve altering a person’s natural chemistry through the intervention of any drug. Unfortunately, as the article explains, psychiatrists don’t tend to peruse the journals of social scientists. This negligence makes it imperative for people outside of the psychiatric field to make these studies known to psychiatrists in the interests of promoting safer, and more effective, health care.

Make news, not silence

There is something blatantly and unabashedly exhibitionistic about all success. If you don’t make the news, you make the silence. This is all the more true given the equation “mental illness” = dysfunction = failure = wrongness = obscurity. If you let them, they will bury you under a load of rubbish and lies. I do not buy the myth that “adult ‘children” should be seen and not heard’ any more than I buy the myth that infant ‘children should be seen and not heard’. Success is often a matter of digging your way out of the trash and falsehoods. The fashion of the runway isn’t the only fashion in the world when you can make the fashion yourself.

I recently participated in 2 demonstrations connected with the psychOUT 2011 conference in New York City. The first was an anniversary demonstration and vigil at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn over the death of Mrs. Esmin Green, and the second was an impromptu march on the New York Office of Mental Health against forced mental health treatment. Psychiatric survivor activist Lauren Tenney, an organizer of psychOUT 2011, did get a moment of glory on local television in the first action. The second came and went with hardly a murmur of mention. There was a reason for this silence. The first psychOUT conference in Toronto last year was covered atrociously by the press. The press couldn’t cover the event without trying to drown it out. The views of people opposing the conference were seen, by the local press, as more important than the conference itself. You get what I’m saying, don’t you? We don’t have a receptive or a friendly ear in the mainstream press as a rule.

This is one of the reasons why I want to bring Mad Pride to Florida. Mad Pride was just celebrated successfully in Toronto Canada. Mad Pride has been celebrated in Toronto since about 1993 when Mad Pride celebrations were first launched. Toronto devotes a whole week to celebrating Mad Pride. Now Mad Pride is celebrated in places as diverse as Ireland, Great Britain, South America, Africa, and Australia. There are annual Mad Pride celebrations in many locations throughout the USA as well. Mad Pride is one way of telling the world we may be crazy, but we are not wrong, we are not bad, and we are not “mentally ill”. We are, in fact, alright. Mad Pride is a way of celebrating difference. It may be easy to lock up one different person alone, but just try locking up 10, 20, or 1,000 different people who have banded together to help one another. That’s not such an easy prospect, is it? Not so long as there are laws to protect people. It’s easy to forget 1 person alone is a human being; it’s not so easy to forget that a thousand people standing together are human beings.

The world has been slow to learn about Mad Pride, but the more we get the word out there, the more the world will know of us. This is why we must become the producers of our own media. This is why we have to tell the world that we exist. We must explain that there are bigger causes for celebration than Charlie Sheen, Paris Hilton, or even Glenn West, and that we are one of those bigger causes. There is numero uno when numero uno is numero infinitismal to the world at large. This is the same world that is quick to recognize that madness in the street, it is slow to recognize in the mirror. If we are vocal and flamboyant enough about the matter, perhaps that realization might begin to dawn upon this world after all. If we do nothing, we will be devoured by obscurity and silence, and we will leave that task to another people at another time. I say it is better to take up the banner that belongs to us, and to make Mad Pride a cause for our era, than it is to leave this task to some future generation. I hope that future generation feels the same way I do.

One drug better than many according to study

You gotta wonder about some articles coming out these days. Take the article Antipsychotic Monotherapy Worth a Try in Medscape Today, for instance.

Adult outpatients with schizophrenia who are receiving antipsychotic polypharmacy can be safely tried on monotherapy, according to new research published in the July issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.

Well, to be more truthful about the matter, one drug is apt to harm a patient less than the use of multiple drugs. Drug cocktails, just like with mixed drinks, can prove more potent than even a higher dose of a single drug alone.

The rate of polypharmacy ranges from 10% to 30% and is increasing, despite lack of studies, Dr. Covell said. “We wanted to take a closer look because there are added risks to taking more than 1 medication. You’re exposed to the side effects from both, there’s extra cost, all without any evidence as to whether polypharmacy is more effective.”

My understanding of the matter is that the evidence from research shows polypharmacy is less effective than what this article calls “antipsychotic monotherapy”, and that not introducing neuroleptic drugs at all works more effectively than both polypharmacy and “antipsychotic monotherapy”, long term anyway.

Switching from polypharmacy to “monotherapy” was associated with weight loss in this study; patients who continued in polypharmacy gained weight.

Some of these psychiatrists unfortunately have the mistaken belief that treatment noncompliance is a good justification for the practice of polypharmacy.

They [Dr. Donald C. Goff and Dr. Lisa Dixon] note that relatively few patients continue to receive a single antipsychotic agent for long, and adherence is often poor, even with monotherapy.

It should be remembered that the ultimate aim of such therapy should be mental health recovery, or no drug use. I think doctors have a way of forgetting this fact.

Once you reach the bottom of the page you find Dr. Susan M. Essock, one of the lead researchers in this study, and Dr. Nancy H. Covell, the author quoted in the article, have no disclosed to ties to drug companies. The case of Professors Dr. Donald C. Goff and Dr. Lisa Dixon, the two doctors who against all reason defend polypharmacy, is a little more muddy. Fully 25 pharmaceutical companies are listed after Professor Goff’s name while Dr. Dixon had ties with one drug manufacturer listed after her name. I suspect you could say, in this instance, the record speaks for itself.

Has The Time Come For A Coalition of Progressives and Libertarians?

Psychologist Bruce Levine has reported in his blog most recently on a notion by Ron Paul and Ralph Nader that a populist coalition of progressives and libertarians could be forged in the interests of fighting corporate government. The article in question is called, pointedly enough, Populist Alliances or Senseless Wars and Corporate Welfare.

Whether or not Nader and Paul can pull off such a coalition, their conversation can promote a useful dialogue among populists and anti-authoritarians across the political spectrum. We Americans are routinely grouped as Democrats, Republicans and Independents and divided into left-liberal, right-conservative and center-moderate camps, but these categories tell us little about where we stand on two historically important questions: (1) Do you favor some fashion of elite rule, or are you a populist who believes in government that is genuinely of, by and for the people? (2) And if you believe that a ruling elite exists, who exactly are they?

Levine takes much of his philosophical inspiration from the under appreciated and much abused founding father, Thomas Paine, the author of Common Sense and Rights of Man.

Real-deal populists are emotionally fueled by their contempt for illegitimate authority. Anti-authoritarians – be they Thomas Paine, Mark Twain, Ralph Nader or Ron Paul – have historically energized young people who have not yet been socialized into abandoning their rebelliousness against illegitimate authority. While authoritarians accept a standard schooling and a government that demands compliance to authority by virtue of rank and position, anti-authoritarians consider whether that authority is or is not legitimate before accepting it.

His feeling seems to be that that a government bought and controlled by large corporations is an illegitimate government.

When populists such as Nader and Paul both use the terms corporatists and corporate government, this greatly improves the possibility of coalitions and alliances among populists. While it is more comfortable for many libertarian populists to rail only against “government tyranny” and for many progressive populists to rail only against “corporate tyranny,” what can unify populists is a recognition that elite rule consists of a “corporatocracy tyranny” – rule by a corporate-governmental partnership.

This anti-authoritarian populism, as I see it, also represents a politico-philosophic way for psychiatric survivors and mental health consumers to break out of what has come to be called the mental health ghetto, a ghetto created largely by corporate government and bureaucracy. The liberation I am speaking of comes with the consciousness that there is more to life than diagnostic tags, “community treatment programs”, “medication management”, and disability payments. People who know the mental health system intimately have, in most cases, not entirely lost their right to vote, and one way to express this right is to use it to wrest control of government back from the corporate interests that have stolen it (or, bought it with money stolen from the people). Government by, for, and of a rich minority is not going to be good government for the vast majority of citizens. By building alliances and coalitions of this sort, it just might be possible for us to eventually end this tyranny of the rich.

4 Personality Disorders Potentially Axed

Personality disorders are up on the chopping block for the revised DSM-V slated for release in 2013. The committee selecting them is paring down their numbers from the present 10 to 6. This is the situation anyway according to a report in the La Times, Personality disorders category is likely to be dramatically revised for next psychiatry textbook.

Initially there was talk of dropping narcissistic personality disorder until committee members thought better of the idea. The demonizing of suspects in criminal court cases must go on, and we can’t manage compound such demonizing without the narcissistic personality disorder designation. Ditto the pathologizing of vain and self-absorbed people in general.

The committee working on the personality disorders chapter of the DSM-5, which is due to be published in 2013, has proposed six types of disorders: antisocial, avoidant, borderline, narcissistic, obsessive/compulsive and schizotypal. They have proposed dropping paranoid, histrionic, schizoid and dependent personality disorders.

In a recent post we encountered a Georgia Supreme Court case where it was determined that personality disorders were real “mental disorders” because they were listed in the DSM. This decision flies in the face of a federal Supreme Court decision releasing a man from “hospitalization” because the federal Supreme Court bought the opposite argument, personality disorders are not real “mental illnesses”. Well, now you can worry…

However, to qualify for a diagnosis, a patient would have to have a high level of impairment in two areas of personality functioning — self and interpersonal. Patients would be assessed for how they view themselves and how they pursue their goals in life, for example, as well as how they get along with other people and whether they think about the consequences of their actions. The new model is less rigid than the existing diagnostic model. It is designed to reflect that behavior can change over time while personality traits tend to remain stable.

It’s a good thing our Georgia defendent didn’t have one of the excised personality disorders, or then we’d be right back in court, wouldn’t we?

Acquire 2 levels of dysfunction, and you’ve got your advanced degree in a personality disorder. If personality traits are consistent, they won’t wash off, will they?

“In the past, we viewed personality disorders as binary. You either had one or you didn’t,” said Dr. Andrew Skodol, chairman of the DSM work group on personality disorders, in a news release. “But now we understand that personality pathology is a matter of degree.”

What was I saying? Oh, yeah, this puts personality disorders back on a continuum. Step over a certain line, and you can be certified, or receive a degree. This is sort of like saying that personality disorders are merely a matter of excess. Everybody has a personality disorder, but everybody hasn’t gone onto recieve a degree in disturbing behaviors. Next question, is Dr. Skodol trying to say that personality disorders are not actually “mental illnesses”?

Riding out major recessive disorder

It’s psychiatry. Naw, it’s the economy, dummy. It’s still the economy. This, at any rate, is my response to an opinion piece appearing in The Milford Daily News with the heading Mental illness and the economy.

There can be a lot to be depressed about in this economy. Depressive disorders affect approximately 18.8 million American adults or about 9.5 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year. This includes major depressive disorder, dysthymic disorder, and bipolar disorder.

Perhaps it would be better if we changed the name of this class of disorder to recessive disorders. In the confusion, some peculiarly mischievious and lucky major recessives might be able to affect a quick turn around, and make off with a bundle.

The author, one John Griffin, claims a 9.5 % rate for major recessive disorder in this country. We’ve got a 9 % jobless rate in many parts of this country now. I wonder how many of this 9 % are deeply recessed?

The author of this piece points to a 15 % suicide rate among recessives for which he blames that bug-a-boo of bug-a-boos, the will o’ the wisp, “stigma”.

This is a tragedy. In a country with as much medical care available as we have, you have to wonder why this happens. It has to rest with a stigma still attached. To those who are in depression, there seems nowhere to go for help. Not wanting to attach a stigma to themselves, they hide their depression until it worsens. What kind of nation do we have when those truly suffering among us have to risk a stigma for something that falls beyond their control?

“Stigma”, in this case, sounds an awfully lot like a housing crisis and shortage. The author claims that there are places without “stigma”. I’m hoping that what he means is that there are places that provide safe and affordable housing for all.

The poor grow poorer. Foreclosures continue. Personal tragedies and wars surround us. No wonder 18.8 million suffer from depression.

Correction: recession. I thought we’d resolved that one.

The negative effects of captivity and air pollution on mental health

Captivity in zoos increases the chances that a chimp will behave bizarrely. This is the situation described in a report to Global Animal, Captivity Fatal To Chimps’ Mental Health?

The documented behaviors, which included self-mutilation, repetitive rocking, and consumption of feces, are symptoms of compromised mental health in humans, and are not seen in wild chimpanzees, the authors say. The study found that even chimps at very well regarded zoos displayed the disturbing behaviors.

This study has to make one wonder as imprisonment in a mental hospital is seen as an antidote for bizarre behavior in humans. The evidence, as exhibited by chimpanzees, our closest relatives in the animal kingdom, is that such is not necessarily the case.

He (Nicolas Fisher-Newton) and co-author Lucy Birkett used both direct observations and published sources to document the behaviors of 40 chimpanzees at six zoos in the U.S. and the U.K. The collected data, covering a two-year period, was then compared to observations made of wild chimpanzees, such as 1023 hours of documentation on wild chimps in Uganda.

Where the wild is, as far as the human species are concerned, is a good question. Captivity in mental hospitals is, on the other hand, probably much less conducive to good “mental health” than residence in a community.

A recent study also found that zoo visits boost a child’s science and conservation education more than books or classroom teaching alone. Over 50 percent of all school children aged between 7 and 14 showed improvements in their knowledge of animals, habitat and conservation after just a single zoo visit.

Out of this observation naturally arises the question, would chimpanzee intelligence and conservation consciousness be increased by having chimpanzees visit human mental hospitals to observe and study the inmates?

In another online story, air pollution has been found to have an adverse effect on the mental health of mice: Air pollution linked to mental problems. I would suspect that the imbibing of polluted or poisoned water would not be the greatest thing for a mouse’s mental health either.

Ohio State University researchers said the cognitive problems were observed in mice exposed to polluted air. The researchers said in a statement that this is one of the first studies to look at pollution’s impact on mental health and ability.

Mice are not chimpanzees, or human beings, but if dirty air affects mice so drastically it must certainly affect chimpanzees and humans as well.

The mice in the study were exposed to either filtered air or polluted air for six hours a day, five days a week for 10 months, which is about half the rodents’ lifespan.

Now it is my contention that if we were to appropriate the wealth and resources of * robber barons, and if we were to reverse the green house effect created by those * robber barons, then these actions would have a correspondingly positive effect on the present and future mental and physical health of mice, chimpanzees, and human beings.

* Note: I’m expanding the currently archaic definition of robber baron, in this instance, from the large industrialist of the 19th century, and heirs, to include technological, corporate, investment, and entertainment moguls (think glutton oink oink) operating in the world of the present.

‘Mental Illness’ According To The Georgia Supreme Court

One particular headline in The August Chronicle caught my eye today: Courts, doctors may disagree on definition of mental illness. This is troubling as sometimes the courts use the mental health system to inflict cruel and unusual sentences on people who otherwise would have been released long ago.

The case comes from the appeal of a man who pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to an assault charge and has spent the last six years in the Northwest Georgia Regional Hospital in Rome. The state is closing that hospital in September, and Ladale Alexander Dupree is just one of a dozen remaining patients.

Unfortunately I was unable to find any particulars regarding this assault Ladale Dupree is accused of having made. I don’t know whether anybody was actually hurt, and if so, to what extent. In Florida it is assault to touch a police officer for instance. People sometimes, as Ladale seems to have done here, plead NGRI to get out of prison sentences only to find more of their time wasted in a state hospital than would have been wasted in a jail.

There are many people in the psychiatric survivor and mental health consumer movement who argue against the use of the NGRI plea, and chiefly because it is prejudicial to people who have done time in mental hospitals. It also represents a blurring of the distinction between medical science and police science. The argument goes that criminals, alleged to be possessed of a “mentally illness”, should be “treated” in criminal justice facilities instead.

The hospital’s director of the program that treats patients under court order testified at the hearing Dupree requested that he suffered from schizo-affective disorder, antisocial personality disorder and paranoid personality disorder. Dr. Julie Oliver said the schizo-affective disorder was a mental illness being successfully treated by medication and that he no longer presents a risk to himself or others.

The hospital’s director apparently had serious issues, one might even call it a grudge against him, with this individual.

His doctor, Julie Oliver, explained that the two personality disorders are not mental illnesses and cannot be treated with “medications”.

The Supreme Court concluded the personality disorders were indeed mental illnesses. Justice David Nahmias, writing for the majority, pointed to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual used by medical professionals, which he said characterizes the personality disorders as mental illnesses.

Psychiatrists aren’t apparently the only idiots, excuse me, intellectually challenged people, who take the DSM for their bible. It’s seems to be way up there on the shelf of supreme court judges as well. Let’s hope they can still manage to give a little more weight to the US Constitution and it’s Bill of Rights. I seriously doubt that this particular judge has managed to do so in this case.

Ladale Dupree is one of only a dozen patients still held at a state hospital that is slated for closure. The state of Georgia will apparently move Ladale to another institution when it closes in order that he may serve out the duration of his continuing “illnesses”, according to the court, an indeterminate sentence.

Three Harvard Psychiatrists Reprimanded

I have a bit of good news to relay. Dr. Joseph Biederman, a man who was largely responsible for the recent bipolar baby boom we have yet to marginally recover from, and two of his Harvard cronies, has been sanctioned for having violated conflict of interests rules. This action was covered by the Boston Globe in a story, Harvard doctors punished over pay.

Concluding a three-year investigation, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School sanctioned renowned child psychiatrist Dr. Joseph Biederman and two colleagues after finding they violated conflict of interest rules.

The other two violators in this matter are Dr. Thomas Spencer and Dr. Timothy Wilens. The doctors have responded to the sanctions by sending out a letter of apolegy. This letter offers some details into their punishment.

They said the institutions imposed remedial actions, requiring them to refrain from all paid industry-sponsored outside activities for one year, with an additional two-year monitoring period during which they must obtain approval before engaging in paid activities. They were also required to undergo unspecified additional training and suffer “a delay of consideration for promotion or advancement.’’

The bad news is that this punishment may not amount to all that much.

“It’s hard for me to make that judgment, but this all sounds like a little slap on the wrist,’’ said Dr. Jerome Kassirer, a Tufts University School of Medicine professor and outspoken critic of close ties between the drug industry and physicians. He pointed out that Biederman is a full professor at Harvard Medical School, so it’s unclear how a delay in promotion or advancement would affect him. Also, Biederman severed his industry ties soon after Mass. General and Harvard began their separate but coordinated investigations.

Adding to the good news, on the other hand, this decision also sends a clear message to professors of psychiatry that it is not alright to lie to institutions of higher learning about the extent of their financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry. It is hoped that this decision will help doctors put human health considerations back, in a hierarchy of values, above drug company kick backs, investments, and favors, where they belong.

Ways In Which the Human Rights of Mental Patients Are Violated

    1. They are silenced while strangers presume to speak for them
    2. They are lied to and about
    3. They are given inadequate legal counsel
    4. They are harassed by the police and locked up for piddling offenses
    5. They are subjected to kangaroo hearings and rigged court proceedings
    6. They are prevented from voting or holding elected office
    7. They are removed from environments they are familiar with
    8. They are expected to fail at every task they take on
    9. They are treated like children beyond the age of consent
    10. They are harmed by people who claim to be helping them
    11. They are mistaken for the symptoms of “disease”
    12. They are expected to work for nothing and this slavery is called rehab
    13. They are officially stigmatized through the records kept of their hospital stays
    14. They are the victims of violent crime more often than they are the perpetuators
    15. They are not allowed weapons with which to defend themselves
    16. They are discriminated against by employers, educators, and the general public
    17. They are stereotyped in the media
    18. They are humiliated and disrespected as a rule
    19. They are criticized for showing any pride or self-respect, and for telling the truth
    20. They are rewarded for lying, for betrayal, and for parroting the words and deeds of their oppressors
    21. They are deprived of opportunities most people take for granted
    22. They are ostracized, segregated and isolated
    23. They are imprisoned in state hospitals
    24. They are restrained to beds and chairs by leather straps
    25. They are placed in solitary confinement (seclusion or quiet rooms)
    26. They are sexually and physically abused, and the perpetuators of this abuse get off with little more than a knuckle rap
    27. They are shocked
    28. They are drugged
    29. They are injured by shock, drugging, restraint, and physical abuse
    30. They are killed