Depression may occur at any time of the year, but the stress and anxiety of the holiday season—especially during the months of November and December (and, to a lesser extent, just before Valentine's Day)—may cause even those who are usually content to experience loneliness and a lack of fulfillment.
"[People] may start to question the quality of their own relationships," he says.
According to one 1999 Canadian study of patients treated by emergency psychiatric services during the Christmas season, the most common stressors were feelings of loneliness and "being without a family."
Facts & Statistics: The Truth About the Holiday Suicide Myth
The myth has been repeated so many times, most people consider it common knowledge: more people commit suicide between Thanksgiving and Christmas than at any other time of the year. Although it sounds reasonable, it simply isn't true.
Contrary to popular belief, December actually has the fewest suicide attempts of any month of the year. The facts, while seemingly encouraging, may be more complicated, however.
While it's true that suicide attempts tend to drop off just before and during the holidays, there is a significant uptick in suicide rates following Christmas—a 40 percent uptick, according to one large Danish study. Christmas itself seems to have a protective effect with regard to certain types of psychopathology, say researchers, but there is a significant rebound effect immediately following the holiday.
Although fewer people utilize emergency services or attempt suicide during December, there is an increase in certain other kinds of psychopathology, including mood disorders such as dysphoria and substance abuse.
by Pete Earley
“Why won’t you just take your medication? I take pills for my cholesterol every night and its no big deal?”
“Every psychiatrist we’ve seen has said you have a mental illness. Why won’t you accept it? Why would the doctors tell you that you’re sick, if it weren’t true?”
“Let’s look at when you were doing well and when you got into trouble. What was the difference? Medication. It was the difference. When you were on your meds, you were fine. And when you weren’t, you got into trouble. Can’t you see that?”
These quotes may sound familiar to you if you are a parent and have a a son or daughter with a severe mental illness. I’ve said everyone of them to my son, Mike.
It often is frustrating for us – parents — to understand why our children will not take anti-psychotic medication or take it only until they get better and then stop. The remedy seems so clear-cut to us, so simple - and watching them experience the mania, depression, and delusions that happen when they become psychotic is heartbreaking and horrific.
Early on, I tried every trick out there to get Mike to take his pills. Those of you who have read my book know that during one of his first breakdowns, I crushed his pills and mixed them into his breakfast cereal only to be caught by him. I snuck into his room and counted his pills too one day and when I discovered that he had stopped taking them, I followed the advice of a therapist who had told me that I needed to practice “tough love.” I told Mike that if he didn’t take his medication, he had to move out of my house. He did – that very same day.
Another time, I offered to pay him to take his medication — a $1 per pill.
It was my friend, Xavier Amador, author of the book, “I’m Not Sick, I Don’t Need Help” who finally convinced me to back off. “I can promise you, Pete,” he said, “your son knows exactly how you feel about medication. You don’t need to ever mention it to him again.”
And since that day, I haven’t. Not a word.
So why do persons with mental illnesses refuse to take their medication or stop taking them as soon as they become stable?
I am asked that question more than any other after I give a speech.
Let’s skip the obvious reasons –that some anti-psychotic medications can dull a person, make them feel physically lousy, kill their sex drive, cause them to gain weight or send them to bed exhausted even though they are already sleeping for 16 hours a day. Let’s ignore the fact that no one really knows the long term health impact that medication can cause on a person’s body.
Instead, let’s dig deeper.
One day, I asked Mike to explain to me in writing why he had struggled so much when it came to taking his medication.
The Ebola Drug Pipeline
The World Health Organization has said that it is ethical to use unproven drugs in the current epidemic. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration has granted expanded access to several experimental drugs for use on Ebola patients. The drugs prevent replication of Ebola virus and the vaccines work by triggering an immune response. The drugs and vaccines listed here are in clinical trials and have received support for further development, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Andeonia Patients Restors the Ability to Experience PleasureWithin Minutes in Depressed Patients Within Minutes with Ketamine
There are many faces to depression: sadness, hopelessness, trouble sleeping, lack of motivation, an inability to experience pleasure.
That last one has a medical name—anhedonia—and people experiencing it often no longer enjoy activities that used to bring happiness. Anhedonia is not found just in depression; it can be an important part of other disorders, including schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder and addiction.
In a study published this month in Translational Psychiatry, researchers have found that a drug called ketamine can help quickly reverse anhedonia in patients with treatment-resistant bipolar depression (also known as manic-depression or bipolar disorder).
Ketamine has previously been shown to help rapidly reverse other aspects of depression in a number of studies; doctors use the drug to treat patients at several hospitals around the country, although it remains illegal to possess without a prescription and hasn’t yet been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for psychiatric purposes. On the party drug circuit it’s sometimes called “Special K” and is abused for its anaesthetic and hallucinogenic effects.
The researchers found that a single injection of ketamine led to a significant improvement in normal pleasure-seeking behavior in as little as 40 minutes, and this dramatic improvement lasted as long as two weeks for some of the 36 participants.
You've seen the TV commercials, the person in black and white and sad while they watch their friends and family in color happy as can be? Then the sad individual gets help, sees the world in color and has a dog run into frame to play with them, or they are suddenly on the couch petting their beloved cat. Well, there's a reason for that, pets can help individuals with depression/illnesses/anxiety.
"Pets offer an unconditional love that can be very helpful to people with depression," says Ian Cook, MD, a psychiatrist and director of the Depression Research and Clinic Program at UCLA.
Depression affects millions of individuals in the USA alone. A lot of people reading this suffer from some form or know someone who does. A pet might not be right for everyone, so don't just show up with a pet one day for someone you know with depression.
Study finds it might be safer alternative to standard antipsychotics
TUESDAY, Feb. 18, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- The antidepressant Celexa shows promise in easing the agitation people with Alzheimer's disease often suffer, and may offer a safer alternative to antipsychotic drugs, a new study finds.
"Agitation is one of the worst symptoms for patients and their families: it puts the Alzheimer's patient at risk for other system overloads (cardiac, infection), wears them out physically, and exhausts caregivers and families," noted one expert, Dr. Alan Manevitz, a clinical psychiatrist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
He said that while antipsychotic drugs are typically used to help ease the agitation, they are also associated with a higher risk of death for Alzheimer's patients, so safer alternatives would be welcome.
The new study was led by Dr. Constantine Lyketsos, director of the Johns Hopkins Memory and Alzheimer's Treatment Center in Baltimore. It included 186 Alzheimer's patients with agitation symptoms such as emotional distress, aggression, irritability, and excessive movem
The diagnosis of bipolar disorder in her 20s came as a relief to Hope Richardson. There was finally a name for what she felt and something that could be done, she said. Because mental illness is a lifelong condition, staying well takes effort, and she's mindful of that every day.
Once afraid of others not liking her and unable to stand up for herself, Richardson said she often walked around with her head down and hair covering her face. She went through bouts of depression and struggled with anger, manic episodes and suicidal thoughts.
Early on, she was hesitant to talk about her condition.
"I didn't want people to know. I was kind of embarrassed and ashamed," said Richardson, 44, of Des Moines.
Through therapy and support, she has learned to "live with," rather than "suffer," mental illness and says the only way to end stigma is to educate others.
She's part of a group of trained speakers who open up about their disorders through In Our Own Voice, a public awareness program sponsored by the National Alliance for Mental Illness Greater Des Moines. The local chapter began offering the program last fall.
Sharing their stories serves as a type of ongoing therapy for the speakers and a chance to paint a realistic picture of mental illness, which affects one in four adults — about 61.5 million Americans every year. One in 17, or 13.6 million Americans, live with a serious mental condition such as schizophrenia, major depression or bipolar disorder.
Eating-disorder patients battle insurers over care
Victoria Colliver, Chronicle Staff Writer
September 10, 2011
When Jeanene Harlick's weight dropped to 65 percent of normal, her doctors recommended the San Mateo woman go into an intensive residential treatment facility that specialized in treating anorexia and other eating disorders.
But her health insurer, Blue Shield of California, refused to cover her care - not because it wasn't considered medically necessary, but because her plan excluded coverage for residential treatment programs. Harlick spent almost 10 months in residential treatment, while her parents went hundreds of thousands of dollars into debt to cover the cost.
Harlick, now 37, later sued the insurer.
Getting treatment covered for eating disorders has long been a struggle for many of the 24 million Americans diagnosed with anorexia, bulimia and binge-eating disorder. Intensive residential treatment for eating disorders typically costs $900 to $1,200 per day.
In a significant ruling for those seeking residential treatment for mental health conditions, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco sided with Harlick last month. The three-judge panel ruled Blue Shield's policy excluding residential treatment violates the state's 2000 Mental Health Parity Law, which requires certain serious mental health diagnoses, including eating disorders, to be covered at the same level as physical health.
Major victory for patients
"It's a landmark victory for those suffering with eating disorders," said Lara Gregorio, legislative policy program director for the National Eating Disorders Association. "So many families go bankrupt fighting this and still don't win. It sets a precedent for other states to follow suit."
But the legal battle is not over. On Friday, Blue Shield, which is based in San Francisco, filed a petition for a rehearing in front of the same appellate court panel. A lower court had ruled in favor of the insurer.
Blue Shield spokesman Stephen Shivinsky said the petition is based on "several significant errors in the opinion." According to court documents filed Friday, the insurer argued that state law does not require coverage for all medically necessary treatments and allows plans to set coverage limits.
Harlick's attorney, Lisa Kantor, described the appeal as "desperate" and is convinced the appellate court decision will prevail.
"The point of this decision is (insurers) have to provide all medically necessary treatments for severe mental illnesses," Kantor said. "When you exclude a critical modality of treatment such a residential treatment, you're not providing parity."
California has one of the strongest mental health parity laws in the country, but some argue that anorexia and other mental health conditions are still not treated as comprehensively as physical health, often because they are misunderstood.
While many patients with eating disorders can be treated on an outpatient basis, some patients need hospitalization or the constant supervision of a residential treatment center.
"Residential treatment is a key component of working on eating disorders," said Victoria Green, clinical director of New Dawn Eating Disorders Recovery Centers, which has a residential treatment center in San Francisco.
"You have hospitalization, which only stabilizes somebody medically, and we're the next level of treatment. We treat highly acute people who cannot function in the world," she said, adding that insurers either don't cover the care or authorize just a few days of treatment at a time.
Insurance dictates care
Dr. Neal Anzai, medical director of the eating disorders program at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Berkeley, said his patients have to be "literally on the verge of death" to get hospitalized and then their insurance coverage often dictates how much care or what kind of care comes next.
"It's hard to get people into the hospital, but once they're there, there's a battle whether we can get them down to residential care or partial hospitalization," he said.
In Harlick's case, her insurer would cover hospitalization but not residential care.
Harlick had been battling anorexia and obsessive-compulsive disorder for more than 20 years when her doctors recommended a residential center in 2006. Harlick finally found a suitable inpatient facility in Missouri, where she stayed almost 10 months - from April 2006 to January 2007.
"The treatment I received helped me have a lot more compassion for myself. I do still struggle and am still working on it," said Harlick, who continues to battle with issues of weight and is on disability, but is working to finish her master's in social work at San Francisco State University.
"I'll keep on fighting, but I know if I haven't received the treatment I did, I would most likely be dead," she said.
Harlick said she wants her case to be successful to help other people receive the treatment they need. She also hopes it will legitimize anorexia as a mental illness, and not an obsession with weight and appearance as some people believe.
"It would just be extremely rewarding to think something a little good came out from my struggle because I still feel enormous guilt and shame," said Harlick, referring to her continuing condition as well as the unspecified amount of money her family spent for her treatment.
More than money involved
For Harlick's mother, Robin Watson, the money was the last thing on her mind.
"We were so desperate, we thought we were going to lose our daughter," said Watson, who lives in Burlingame. "We had to move and deal with the consequences later."
While Watson hopes to recoup the treatment costs, she said the three-year court battle has become about more than money. "It's about the discrimination insurance companies put on mental illnesses and the very little understanding they have about eating disorders," she said.
Kantor, Harlick's attorney, filed a petition last week in state Superior Court in Los Angeles for a class-action suit against Blue Shield on similar grounds.
"Jeanene was lucky. Her family knew they needed to take care of her," Kantor said. "I'm scared to find out what will happen to a lot of young women who had this policy and didn't have a family to support them. I don't know how many lives we've lost."
U.s. toll of eating disorders
-- About 24 million Americans have anorexia, bulimia and compulsive overeating disorders. .
-- Anorexia is characterized by self-starvation and weight loss. Binge eating and bulimia can involve behaviors such as vomiting, use of laxatives and excessive exercise.
-- More than 90 percent of sufferers are female, with most being diagnosed as teenagers.
-- Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of all mental health diagnoses.
-- Health effects include fatigue, blood pressure problems, osteoporosis, electrolyte and chemical imbalances, and death.
-- Twenty-three states, including California, have enacted mental health parity laws that require insurers to cover eating disorders, but coverage requirements vary greatly.
Source: National Eating Disorders Association.
This article appeared on page A - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle