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Today is World Human Rights Day and in honor of that I thought I would share a bit about the current state of America’s mental health system, both the good and the bad.

United Nations Human Rights Council logo.

United Nations Human Rights Council logo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Good News

In many areas there is great improvement, particularly in the area of self-help support groups and community peer-run mental health centers funded by the government. I am especially proud of my home state of California, where we passed The Mental Health Services Act, a 1% tax on personal incomes more than a million dollars a year. This has funded existing and new peer-run community centers, plus other comprehensive program to help mental health consumers in the community. It is a guaranteed source of funding so that they do not have to depend on the state general fund anymore.  The wonderful thing is that we are getting great results which can be quantified, more of the mentally ill are living independently as a result of this Act:

Here is a run-down on how this funding is being used and the outcome so far:

One unqualified success story from the MHSA thus far involves the implementation of Full Service Partnerships (FSPs) demonstrating the “whatever it takes” commitment to assist in individualized recovery whether it is housing, “integrated services, flexible funding [such as for childcare], intensive case management, access to care.”FSP interventions are based upon evidence from such programs as Assertive community treatment (ACT), which has effectively reduced homelessness and hospitalizations while bettering outcomes. But the FSP model looks more like that of the also-popular MHA Village in Long Beach, which is a center that offers more comprehensive services besides those specifically mental health-related. Beyond these guiding principles, however, there has not been much consensus over unifying strategies to define and implement an FSP – resulting in varying FSP structures across counties.

Overall, though, the Petris Center, funded by the DMH and California HealthCare Foundation to evaluate the MHSA, has reported quantifiable improvements in many areas:

  • Homelessness rates
  • Entry rates into the criminal justice system
  • Suffering from illness
  • Daily functioning
  • Education rates
  • Employment rates
  • General satisfaction with FSP

But there is room for improvement:

According to the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, the 2007 and 2009 California Health Interview Surveys (CHIS) demonstrate continued mental health needs of almost two million Californians, about half of which were unmet in 2011. In spite of steady tax revenue ($7.4 billion raised as of September 2011) earmarked for the MHSA, the unremittingly high numbers of mentally ill who lack treatment contrast starkly with the implementation of new programs like the FSPs, which may cost tens of thousands of dollars annually per person. The MHA Village program, for example, averages around $18,000 annually per person. One of the major growing concerns regarding MHSA implementation is its unintentional but worrying tendency to create silos of care. As directed by the DMH, counties search for “unserved” mentally ill or at-risk individuals to enroll in their new programs, while keeping existing and perhaps underserved clients in old programs that are usually underfunded, but cannot take MHSA funds. Ironically, while the MHSA was established in part to address racial/ethnic disparities in health care, it may be perpetuating the disparity in services delivery between underfunded and well-funded, new programs.

Although these are significant problems, the law was amended in 2012 to address many of these issues. Click here for more information on the Mental Health Services Act. and the amended 2012 Act.

The Bad News, But With a Smidgen of Hope

 As with other states, California’s biggest “Mental Institutions” are unfortunately, jails and prisons. It is unlikely that we are going to get any more mental hospitals anytime soon. All across the nation, the mentally ill in prisons are denied treatment and often are kept in solitary confinement for extended periods of time. Studies have shown that even people without any history of mental illness can develop serious mental problems from being confined with barely any contact with other people. It is a form of torture.

The problem is that prisons have very few people trained in mental health care.  They may have a doctor who authorizes medication and someone who infrequently checks up on the patient, but that is it. No counseling. There may be times when the person has an acute episode and is transferred to a mental health facility for short-term stabilization, but then is transferred back to the prison, living with the same unhealthy conditions as before.

Even for some jails that have mental health facilities, it still is not an ideal place to get treatment.

Things have gotten so bad in the Los Angeles County prison system that the DOJ has stepped into the fray:

In June, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a 36-page statement and accompanying two-page letter criticizing the county for deplorable and unconstitutional jail conditions, and for inadequate suicide prevention practices, as it sought federal court oversight. DOJ acknowledged that “the delivery of mental health services in the corrections environment is difficult and presents unique challenges.”

This is giving impetus for L.A. county to come up with a new way of doing things. No there won’t be any more hospitals, but thanks to the to the new Third District Diversion and Alternative Sentencing Program, many low level offenders are going to be diverted to community mental health programs. This was made possible by the state’s Public Safety Realignment Act, aimed at reducing crowding in state prisons. Implemented in 2011, the act shifts responsibility from the state to county level for supervising people convicted of certain crimes.

Here are some of the changes being made:

Designed for adults who are chronically homeless, seriously mentally ill, and who commit specific misdemeanor and low-level felony crimes, the demonstration project could help reduce recidivism by as much as two-thirds, Third District Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said.

Similar diversion programs have produced promising results in other metropolitan areas — Bexar County (San Antonio), Texas andMiami-Dade County in Florida, for example — fueling hopes for change here, according to L.A. program supporters.

“Clearly, treating mental illness in jail does not produce the best results,” Yaroslavsky said. “At present we put offenders into the mental health unit of the jail — it’s the largest mental health facility in the state. We provide mental health treatment and custodial care for approximately 3,500 people each day.”

The program will divert adults from the traditional fines, probation and incarceration typically imposed, and instead place them on a path to secure permanent, supportive housing and treatment, the MOU says.

Up to 50 adults — including as many as 20 U.S. military veterans — who elect to participate in the program will be released to San Fernando Valley Community Mental Health Center. The diversion program provides bridge and permanent supportive housing, health and mental health care, group and individual treatment and support, and employment and vocational services, said Yaroslavsky.

Misdemeanor offenders will receive a post-filing of criminal charges option and the pre-plea diversion program. Once they’ve completed the 90-day program, they can continue to earn permanent, supportive housing, as well as have charges against them dismissed. For felons who successfully complete the program, the court will consider whether to terminate probation early and or dismiss the case. The program for felons runs at least 18 months, and begins with a court order of 36 months of formal probation.

Let us hope that the pressure to change things continues:

By every measure of public policy, I’d give what the county (Los Angeles) had been doing an ‘F’ grade,” said Peter Eliasberg, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. “This is a very positive step. What I hope is that it is not just a pilot program that ends up being a feel-good measure. It would be criminal if the county doesn’t take this pilot and build upon it county-wide for every criminal court.”

Read more on this issue here.

This of course barely even touches on all the issues regarding mental health care in this country. But I do see hope, although changes come more slowly than I would like!

 

A new theory for why Buddhist meditation makes us feel good

Meditation

Booze. Cigarettes. Gambling. The human brain is vulnerable to all sorts of addictions. And thinking might be one of them. That’s right – in many Buddhist texts, the endless stream of rumination that runs through the mind of the average person isn’t merely a distracting habit, but a genuine addiction that befuddles the intellect and inhibits spiritual development. In a new article, a leading neuropsychologist makes the same claim – that we’re all addicted to daydreaming, and that the neurology of our addictions is the same as that of addiction to drugs. What’s more, certain forms of Buddhist meditation may release the brain’s chemical hold on itself, releasing us from our addictive daydreams.

The article, published this fall in Religion, Brain & Behavior, outlines a novel model for how meditation works. As such, it doesn’t present any new empirical research, and only reviews prior studies. But its author, Bowling Green State University psychologist Patricia Sharp, is deeply read in the neurophysiology of reward, addiction, and meditation, and her synthesis of material across related disciplines is both rich and compelling.

Sharp’s argument hinges on the claim that, as Buddhist scriptures teach, life’s rewards tend to lose their sweetness over time. For example, people who get rich tend to enjoy a quick spike in happiness – but that spike doesn’t last very long. Pretty soon, their happiness levels tend to return back to where they were. Their new riches don’t make them any happier than they were before. Thus, the pleasures of the world are inherently, well…disappointing.

What’s innovative is Sharp’s claim that thought itself – particularly the ruminative, daydreaming style of thought that consumes nearly half our waking hours – fits this same pattern. Each individual daydream might offer a little internal reward, such as when we fantasize about accepting a trophy or scoring a date with the office bombshell. But over time, the constant barrage of imagined experiences begins to lose its luster, to become unrewarding – and maybe even to inhibit our ability to feel pleasure in general.

Sharp doesn’t mention the First Noble Truth of Buddhism in her paper, but she’s referring to something pretty close to what it calls dukkha, or suffering – the fundamental unsatisfactoriness of life. Dukkha means that all the things we crave and become attached to can’t actually deliver on their glorious promises. Whether it’s rich food, sex, alcohol, wealth, or mere fantasies, the objects of our cravings always leave us feeling dissatisfied after we attain them.

Offering a neurobiological description of this basic unsatisfactoriness, Sharp points out that the nucleus accumbens – a part of the brain that plays a central role in reward and motivation – receives dopamine inputs from other regions such as the ventral tegmental area and the medial substantia nigra. Together, these regions form a circuit that enables reward-based learning, or conditioned responses. Think Pavlov: train a dog to understand that the sound of a bell is always followed by dinner, and pretty soon the dog learns to salivate when he hears the ringing. Inside his brain, dopamine projections into the nucleus accumbens (yes, dogs have them too) have learned to fire in in response to the predicted reward. The dog literally gets a little burst of happy chemicals when he hears the bell, because the conditioned responses have worn grooves into his reward circuitry.

The problem? “Overlearning.” If you fire the same circuits often enough, their reward value starts to decline. The job of the nucleus accumbens, in this model, is to reinforce adaptive associations between stimuli and behavior. Dopamine in the nucleus accumbens may serve as a “biochemical stamp” that marks connections between stimuli and behavioral responses. Once the right pattern has been established, the brain doesn’t necessarily need that dopamine signal anymore – the pathway is already there. So the reward signals fade away, suppressed by inhibitor cells that project from the nucleus accumbens back into the midbrain, where they down-regulate dopamine release. The reward pathway is still there, entrenched in the brain through a network of strong, habit-worn connections. But the reward itself – dopamine – is gone. This process may explain the “hedonic treadmill” effect so unpleasantly familiar to us all, in which initially pleasurable or exciting stimuli lose their appeal over time.

One particularly nasty result of this hedonic treadmill effect can be compulsive, addictive behavior. Think about a rat obsessively pulling a lever to deliver cocaine – or a glassy-eyed casino-goer stuffing quarters into a slot machine. These compulsive behaviors arise from long-established reward pathways, now devoid of dopamine but still connective and active. Sharp argues that both chemical addiction and simple habituation to everyday rewards result from this gradual down-regulation of dopamine projections to the nucleus accumbens.

What’s more, our habitual fantasies and daydreams may follow the same pattern. Each time our minds wander, we start to fantasize, plan, and construct imaginative scenarios. Many of these imaginative scenarios come with their own little pulses of reward, as the hippocampus and other limbic regions carry excitable signals into the accumbens. Over time, our brains crystallize patterns of thought that repeat the same types of thoughts and daydreams over and over. Initially, these crystallizations were motivated by dopamine flushes in the reward system. But eventually, the dopamine rewards taper off – even though the thought patterns are still there. We’re left with a compulsive, clinging re-running of the same old thoughts, a repeating of the same mental scenarios obsessively. Worse, the holistic effect may be a general drop-off in happiness, because we’re indulging in lots of mental activity that offers no rewards. Our daydreams may be literally inhibiting pleasure. In Sharp’s words,

our constant engagement in compulsive, repetitive thought patterns tends to cause an ongoing, powerfully conditioned decrease in dopamine release, so that dopamine is chronically below what would be expected in the absence of these ongoing mental patterns.

The solution? Meditation! In particular, Buddhist samatha, or shamatta, meditation entails intense mental absorption and the cessation of thoughts. Sharp suggests that such meditative states, while difficult to achieve, may serve to break up established patterns of connectivity within the brain. These patterns, or “attractor networks,” are sort of like long-established wrinkles in your favorite shirt. You might put the shirt through the wash, but if you leave the shirt draped carelessly over a chair…well, the same crease shows back up again. Likewise, our habitual patterns of neural connectivity – in which the same clusters of neurons are activated synchronously – are always waiting to reappear.

In contrast, previous research has shown that intense meditative states synchronize activity across networks in the brain. These whole-brain patterns of synchronization are structurally similar to certain epileptic seizure states, in which normal, localized patterns of connectivity are suppressed and global synchrony takes over instead. These epileptic states, Sharp suggests, flood the brain with acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that can boost signal connections between cells from widely separated regions in the brain. In an acetylcholine-soaked brain, established knots of habit-bound connectivity may be temporarily relaxed, replaced with more general, dynamic connectivity across the entire cortex.

The overall effect of samatha meditation, then, may be what Sharp calls a “general loosening of the existent attractor networks in the brain.” Importantly, this loosening may be exactly what we need in order to experience bliss. Attractor networks in the brain are tight knots of connections. When the nucleus accumbens is activated by a long-established circuit, it sends signals back to the midbrain to inhibit dopamine production. Thus, when long-established knots of connection are suppressed, these inhibitory signals go silent. The dopamine can start pumping again. And we start to feel good. This, Sharp suggests, is how meditation works its magic: by releasing our brains’ constrictive holds on our reward systems, and allowing the normal flow of dopamine to start up once more.

Sharp’s model is speculative and theoretical. It appears in print alongside with a half-dozen response commentaries from experts, many of which are critical. It doesn’t offer any new empirical data. But it’s fascinating. And it suggests exciting new possibilities for research, and for thinking about how the brain works. Nowhere else has the time-honored Buddhist claim that our daily obsessive thoughts and mind-wandering are actual addictions been so forcefully presented in modern biological terms. Sometimes, speculative science is the most interesting – and the most groundbreaking.

Now for a confession: recently, I’ve nursed curmudgeonly concerns about our growing American enthusiasm for Buddhism and “mindfulness” training. I’m nervous that claiming Buddhist identity has become a marker of upper-middle class bourgeois sensibility, set against the hopelessly uncool Christianity or Judaism of the establishment. (Bizarrely, the bourgeoisie in the United States suffers from the chronic, and dangerous, delusion that it is somehow not the establishment – as evidenced by how canny companies sell their goods by showing off how countercultural and rebellious they are.) And I’m wary of the assumption that all mind-wandering is necessarily bad. We don’t all need to be “mindful” all the time. In fact, as recent research has shown, lack of daydreaming can even hurt us.

So Buddhism may be a little trendy these days, and our conversations about mindfulness could use more depth. But just because something is trendy doesn’t mean it’s bad. Buddhism has produced some of the most powerful psychology the world has ever seen, and its practices and insights are, frankly, invaluable. Sharp’s fascinating model gives us another useful insight into why.

 
Read more: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/scienceonreligion/2014/12/a-new-theory-for-why-buddhist-meditation-makes-us-feel-good/#ixzz3LF18zTu4

I went into therapy so I could learn to do my own laundry.

English: Wall post with love in different lang...

English: Wall post with love in different languages. Taken in Las Vegas. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of course it wasn’t just that, but it really was part of it. My mother did everything for us kids. In addition to doing the laundry, she washed our hair for us even into our teenage years and neither my sister nor I learned how to cook because she always chased us out of the kitchen. I was told that I might burn myself.

I guess my sister and I were both lucky that she trusted us with washing the dishes!

One day when I was sixteen I decided I wanted to do my own laundry and asked my mother to show me how to do it. Her reaction was to scream at me and call me “selfish.”

As  with so much of my mother’s behavior, I found that inexplicable and hurtful. I had stored hurt in my heart from my earliest childhood memories. The biggest problem in our family was lack of good communication skills and I was never allowed to speak up for myself and ask my mother to explain her behavior. If there is only one piece of advice I can give to parents, it is to keep the lines of communication open with your children, as it will keep misunderstandings from turning into estrangement.

And that was all this was, a stupid misunderstanding on top of other stupid misunderstandings that at least in part contributed to my first suicidal breakdown at age 16. My thought processes were of course skewed and magnified by my bipolar disorder, but the fact that I had never felt loved by my mother and that I did not feel like I was a good person was the driving force behind it.

My parents got me into therapy, which helped some. The therapist counseled us separately. It certainly helped loosen my mother’s controlling grip on me and after the first appointment with my mother she never called me “spoiled” again. That was her favorite epithet for me.

But the therapist made a big mistake. He never counseled us together. What I needed was not just for my mother to back off, I needed closure. I needed to know why she was so angry with me. Being used to not being able to speak up for myself, I never asked that crucial question from my therapist. He was the authority figure and he ran the show.

The closest he ever came to explaining my mother’s behavior was to say “Your mother loves you but all you feel is her fear.”

The problem was is that it wasn’t fear that I felt from my mother, it was rage and hatred. The statement confused the hell out of me. Again I did not speak up and ask him what he meant by that. If I had he most likely would have told me what I know now, anger is a secondary emotion. It is a cover for hurt and/or fear.

Both emotions were at play in my mother’s behavior.

She did not have a mental illness, I am quite certain of that by comparing my behavior with bipolar disorder with hers. However that does not mean that she wasn’t royally messed up, like 99% of mankind.

It is only at the age of 50 that I have finally gotten a glimpse into my mother’s world with the help of the best therapist I ever had. Unfortunately he has left the county mental health facility that I go to for another job, but I am eternally grateful for what he has given me. I hope someday he may go into private practice and then maybe I can arrange to see him again.

What he told me makes perfect sense. The only way she felt competent as a mother was to do things for us, and when I asked her to show me how to do my laundry what she heard was this: “Mom, I don’t think you are doing a good job, so I want to do it myself. I don’t appreciate anything you do for me.”

Of course that wasn’t what I meant. I was just trying to assert my independence which is normal and healthy. While other kids were doing that by getting into sex and drugs, I just wanted some extra responsibility.

This helps explain many other things she said and did, such as saying to me that she wished she were “like other mothers, who don’t take care of their kids.” Perhaps I was being a bit of a brat, I complained that she was pulling my hair while combing it. After she said that she went to take a bath, and I was so devastated because I thought she meant that she didn’t love me or want me around. That statement seemed to confirm my worst fears. I wanted to walk out of the house and never come back, but I had nowhere to go. I was only 14. Inexplicably, after her bath she was smiling and relaxed, while I was still hurting from the worst thing she had ever said to me.

She passed on in 1997, and I never got to resolve things with her. But I think I finally understand. My therapist referred to the book, The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. I have not read it yet but he did give me a good run down on it. Literally people have different languages or rather ways of doing things to demonstrate their love for others. It seems that we all have a preferred style. Her language was to take care of us. What I needed was a completely foreign language for her, to praise me and tell me that I was a good daughter. I could not speak her language and she could not speak mine.

I think this is a great lesson for any kind of relationship. We always assume that others know what it is that we need from them and they think the same thing about us. Then we think the other is deliberately withholding what we need from them and vise-versa.

My therapist also explained that she likely had a limited repertoire to draw from. He feels that she felt incompetent as a mother and so this was all she knew how to do.

The fact is of course that if my mother had not loved me she would not have gotten me therapy when I needed it. But to me our relationship was a confused mess of contradictions. She would say the most horrible things to me and then in the next breath say, “I love you.” I couldn’t process it.

I wish she were around so I could ask her about these things, but I am certain that this is the truth. She wasn’t a bad mother, she was a confused mother.

I hope I have given people some food for thought. There are other things about my mother’s behavior that my insightful therapist has helped me with and I will share those in future posts,

Mary Rogers:

These are wonderful uplifting quotes to help keep you going ;)

Originally posted on Bipolar Bandit:

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10 lessons from einstein

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a23 jamolina.blogspot

http://jamolina.blogspot.com/2012/06/life-puzzles.html

Most of these quotes/sayings were created by me. However, some were found on Facebook. It is not my intention to use someone else’s quote and/or picture without their permission. However, it was hard to figure out who was the original poster.

Therefore, if you see a quote that is yours, please email me at bipolarbandit@gmail.com and let me know. Put in subject line Claiming Saying. Also, most pictures of my sayings/quotes are mine or ones I found on sites where pics are supposed to be free. If you find your picture and want credit, please email me at the same place and put in subject line “Claiming Picture”  Thanks!

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 Here is truly a great list of principles for recovery that I have found, adapted from the work of Mary Ellen Copeland, PhD, whose self-help workbooks and programs such as the Wellness Recovery Action Plan have been used in Mental Health programs nationwide, including at Mental Health America, where I used to work. I highly  recommend her work! ;)

The Foundational
Principles of Recovery
A VISION OF RECOVERY
THE FOUNDATIONAL PRINCIPLES
Adapted from M.E. Copeland
Nanette V. Larson, B.A.

 EDUCATION
Learning all there is to know about
one’s health, wellness, symptoms
and treatment, in order to be
equipped to make good decisions.
Being open to, and seeking out,
new information.

SPIRITUALITY
Finding meaning and purpose in one’s
life. Gaining a sense of identity, based
on one’s own values and beliefs, which
may include one’s relationship with the
divine or a power greater than oneself.

SELF-ADVOCACY
“Going for it” with courage,
persistence and determination.
Expressing oneself clearly and
calmly in order to get
one’s needs met.

PERSONAL
RESPONSIBILITY
Relying on oneself, with help from
others, while working to control
one’s life and one’s symptoms.
Making choices which reflect
one’s life priorities.

SUPPORT
Recognizing that recovery
is not a journey that anyone walks
alone. Drawing on support from
friends, family and healthcare
professionals.

HOPE
Having a vision that includes hopes
and dreams! Setting goals, while
refraining from negative predictions.
Fearing ‘false despair’, not ‘false hope’.

Nanette V. Larson, B.A. CRSS., Director of Recovery Support Services at the Illinois Department of Human Services /Division of Mental Health. Ms. Larson has spent the last few years developing and directing statewide recovery programs, including Illinois’ Wellness Recovery Action Planning Initiative. Ms. Larson’s passion for recovery stems in part from her personal experiences with bipolar illness. She is a nationally recognized leader in the mental health consumer recovery movement and has provided numerous presentations to diverse audiences on recovery, spirituality, and related topics.

Mary Ellen Copeland, PhD, is an author, educator, mental health advocate, and mental illness survivor. Copeland’s work is based on the study of the coping and wellness strategies of people who have experienced mental health challenges. She is the author and designer of the Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP), a self-help mental health recovery program. She is also the author of numerous self-help workbooks for Bipolar Disorder.

In 2005, Copeland’s work led to the creation of the non-profit, the Copeland Center for Wellness and Recovery which continues her work through trainings around the world.

Copeland was awarded the United States Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association’s USPRA John Beard Award for outstanding contributions to the field of psychosocial rehabilitation in 2006.  She received Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration‘s Lifetime Achievement Voice Award in 2009.

Are We Too Sensitive?

Being sensitive is a double-edged sword, for sure. But without that sensitivity we would not have empathy for others and also would not have the capacity for introspection. Both are necessary qualities for a spiritual path.

Pressure Sensitive

Pressure Sensitive (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The key is not taking on that as a harsh judgment against ourselves. It can be difficult. For me it started in childhood with a verbally abusive mother. Every time I am rejected or perceive rejection it takes me right back to that vulnerable place. I have to remind myself that the situation is not the same and that I am not powerless like I was before. And that my mother was screwed up and her judgments of me were not correct.

Therapy is very helpful in this process. At the same time of course I have made mistakes and hurt people so I have to face that and see what changes I need to make. Frankly at this point the best way I can differentiate between situations that are my fault and those that are not is to talk to my therapist. He is very good at helping me to understand other people’s points of view. That in no way means that other people are always right, but they are not always wrong either.

Ironically, sensitive people can come across as uncaring, even when we care a great deal. That is because of defensiveness. We are afraid that what we have done is an indictment against the core of our being.

In order to face the things I have done wrong and not be defensive I have to remind myself that I am a Child of God and that despite what I have been taught I am not evil, I only make mistakes. There is that part of me that is Divine and wholly good and that will never change. I simply need to align myself with that part of me.

I found this great article by Christian author Rev. Dr. Sarah Griffith

Rethink Mental Illness

Rethink Mental Illness (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lund addressing common very bad and hurtful advice given to Christians who suffer from mental illness.  This is not to bash Christians, who are generally well-meaning in their advice. But their arguments come from ignorance and this article refutes them very well. It also gives great spiritual resources at the end of the article:

Reblogged from the Patheos Progressive Christian Blog Post Traumatic Church Syndrome:

5 Lies Christians Tell About Mental Illness

In honor of National Mental Illness Awareness Week (October 5-11), I invited minister and social worker Rev. Dr. Sarah Griffith Lund to write this post about some of harmful lies told in Christian communities about mental illness and faith. She is the author of Blessed are the Crazy: breaking the silence about mental illness, family & church (Chalice Press), which is both a memoir of her own family’s struggle with mental illness and a resource for faith-based organizations to provide healing and comfort for those who suffer.  

Lie #1: God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.

This statement echoes across the Christian landscape. Intended to comfort the afflicted, it actually lays an ugly guilt trip on the person suffering. To say that mental illness is something that “God gave you” implies that God wants you to suffer. “Mental illness is part of God’s will, and you are supposed to be strong enough to handle it.” FALSE!

Lie #2: Daily prayer and bible reading alone cures mental illness.

According to a recent LifeWay poll, nearly half of Evangelical Christians between the ages of 18-30 believe that prayer and bible study alone can cure mental illness. This belief is in direct opposition to medical research that confirms that many types of mental illness are best treated by a combination of cognitive, behavioral and pharmaceutical treatment plans supervised by mental health professionals. To say that mental illness can be cured by spiritual practices alone discourages Christians from getting the mental healthcare they need to treat and recover from mental illness.“God cannot use scientific advances to heal the human body.” FALSE!

Lie #3: Depression is a sin, a curse, or demon possession.

It’s true that we do not yet fully understand all of the environmental and biological causes of mental illness. Yet to state that mental illness is only caused by things in the “spiritual realm” denies what we know to be true: mental illness is a brain disease. While there are certainly spiritual aspects to both the cause and the treatment of mental illness, mental illness is not simply a spiritual disease, curse or demon possession. To talk of a person’s mental illness as a result of a sin, curse, or demon possession is to further stigmatize, shame, and isolate the person. “Mental illness is the result of a sin, curse or demon possession.” FALSE!

Lie #4:If you loved Jesus more you would be happier. 

This is a Christian twist on the “just try harder” lecture. If only you just loved Jesus more. If only you just believed more. If only you just let Jesus all the way into your heart, then you would be happier. This belief denies the reality of clinical depression that is not a matter of simply trying harder. Jesus loves all people, including people who have mental illness. Loving Jesus more is something we strive for as Christians, but not because it will make us happier. “Mental illness is a result of not loving Jesus enough.” FALSE!

Lie #5: You can’t be a Christian if you have a mental illness.

This is an old one, something that saints in the church have struggled with for centuries. We think that perhaps we are not deserving of God’s love because we have a mental illness. We do not know how God could accept us or love us because we are not perfect. So we think that a person with mental illness cannot be a Christian, cannot be a leader in the church, cannot be an ordained minister. Ministers, especially, are not supposed to have mental illness. But the truth is that Christians are humans, just as sick, broken, and in need of healing and wholeness as everyone else. As a person with mental illness, being a Christian can be a way to find compassion, support and love from a community of faith.“True Christians are immune from mental illness.” FALSE!

Sarah’s recommendations for healthy, faith-based mental health resources are as follows:

NAMI Faithnet: www.nami.org/FaithNet

Pathways to Promise: www.pathways2promise.org

Mental Health Ministries: www.mentalhealthministries.net

Interfaith Network on Mental Illness: www.inmi.us

United Church of Christ Mental Health Network: www.mhn-ucc.blogspot.com

 Follow Reba Riley on Facebook and Twitter

Read more: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rebariley/2014/10/5-lies-christians-tell-about-mental-illness/#ixzz3FySQchp9

 

Anyone out there who loves taking meds? What? The silence is deafening!

Most of us have a love/hate relationship with our pharmaceuticals. Here is a wonderful satirical piece from the Onion illustrating a innovative way to increase patient compliance. I’ll let you guys read this while I search for my medication, Damnitall:

Wonder Drug Inspires Deep, Unwavering Love Of Pharmaceutical Companies

NewsScience & TechnologyproductshealthISSUE 42•10Mar 6, 2006
 

NEW YORK—The Food and Drug Administration today approved the sale of the drug PharmAmorin, a prescription tablet developed by Pfizer to treat chronic distrust of large prescription-drug manufacturers.

Pfizer executives characterized the FDA’s approval as a “godsend” for sufferers of independent-thinking-related mental-health disorders.

PharmAmorin, now relieving distrust of large pharmaceutical conglomerates in pharmacies nationwide.“Many individuals today lack the deep, abiding affection for drug makers that is found in healthy people, such as myself,” Pfizer CEO Hank McKinnell said. “These tragic disorders are reaching epidemic levels, and as a company dedicated to promoting the health, well-being, and long life of our company’s public image, it was imperative that we did something to combat them.”

Although many psychotropic drugs impart a generalized feeling of well-being, PharmAmorin is the first to induce and focus intense feelings of affection externally, toward for-profit drug makers. Pfizer representatives say that, if taken regularly, PharmAmorin can increase affection for and trust in its developers by as much as 96.5 percent.

“Out of a test group of 180, 172 study participants reported a dramatic rise in their passion for pharmaceutical companies,” said Pfizer director of clinical research Suzanne Frost. “And 167 asked their doctors about a variety of prescription medications they had seen on TV.”

Frost said a small percentage of test subjects showed an interest in becoming lobbyists for one of the top five pharmaceutical companies, and several browsed eBay for drug-company apparel.

PharmAmorin, available in 100-, 200-, and 400-mg tablets, is classified as a critical-thinking inhibitor, a family of drugs that holds great promise for the estimated 20 million Americans who suffer from Free-Thinking Disorder.

Pfizer will also promote PharmAmorin in an aggressive, $34.6 million print and televised ad campaign.

One TV ad, set to debut during next Sunday’s 60 Minutes telecast, shows a woman relaxing in her living room and reading a newspaper headlined “Newest Drug Company Scandal Undermines Public Trust.” The camera zooms into the tangled neural matter of her brain, revealing a sticky black substance and a purplish gas.

The narrator says, “She may show no symptoms, but in her brain, irrational fear and dislike of global pharmaceutical manufacturers is overwhelming her very peace of mind.”

After a brief summary of PharmAmorin’s benefits, the commercial concludes with the woman flying a kite across a sunny green meadow, the Pfizer headquarters gleaming in the background.

PharmAmorin is the first drug of its kind, but Pfizer will soon face competition from rival pharmaceutical giant Bristol-Myers Squibb. The company is developing its own pro-pharmaceutical-company medication, Brismysquibicin, which will induce warm feelings not just for drug corporations in general, but solely for Bristol-Myers Squibb.

“A PharmAmorin user could find himself gravitating toward the products of a GlaxoSmithKline or Eli Lilly,” BMS spokesman Andrew Fike said. “This could seriously impede the patient’s prescription-drug-market acceptance, or worse, Pfizer’s profits in the long run.”

“Brismysquibicin will be cheaper to produce and therefore far more affordable to those on fixed incomes,” Fike added.

The news of an affordable skepticism-inhibitor was welcomed by New York physician Christine Blake-Mann, who runs a free clinic in Spanish Harlem.

“A lot of my patients are very leery of the medical establishment,” Blake-Mann said. “This will help them feel better about it, and save money at the same time.”

PharmAmorin’s side effects include nausea, upset stomach, and ignoring the side effects of prescription drug medication.

Go to the original article.

Laughter is great medicine so get your fix at The Onion.

Heh, heh…I remember when the allergy drug Allegra came out, the ads never got around to telling you what it was for. They just showed a very happy woman surfing across a wheat field. I kept thinking I want what she is having…

Alas, I still can’t find that damn prescription Damnitall, damn it all!   :(

 

Another great article from Tiny Buddha and Bill Lee, whose article from Om Times I posted recently. This is more than a simple instruction on mindfulness, but also a story his profound struggle with mental illness and learning to manage his symptoms of bipolar disorder and PTSD.  Even more than that it is a inspirational story of survival and triumph over the odds.

Calm Your Mind Without Sitting to Meditate

Hiking

“Our way to practice is one step at a time, one breath at a time.” ~Shunryu Suzuki

Sitting meditation has always been challenging for me; practicing mindfulness, even harder.

As a self-confessed worrywart who has contended with constant ruminations, flashbacks, and nightmares for most of my life (more on this later), all prior attempts at being fully present and not thinking merely served as reminders of how little control I had over my mind. Then I took up hiking and stumbled upon a form of meditation that literally transformed my life.

Initially, just being out in nature on scenic trails cultivated calmness and cleared my head. Almost immediately, I realized that hiking provided a respite from intrusive thoughts that have plagued me since I was a tyke.

They include flashbacks of my mother’s numerous suicide attempts in our decrepit Chinatown apartment, my father’s drunken rages, and recurring images of shootings, savage beatings, and other gory crime scenes from my gangbanging days.

Ruminations include the sound of gunfire along with the replaying in my head of toxic utterances in Cantonese that translate to “Giving birth to you was my biggest mistake,” “I wish you were never born,” and my own father yelling “You bastard!”

Somehow, walking in nature enabled my mind to slow down and rest, which felt liberating.

Unfortunately, the novelty soon wore out. Merely walking and hiking wasn’t enough to prevent symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress from returning. I reverted to rehashing the past and worrying obsessively about the future.

However, I had gotten a taste of the benefits of mindfulness meditation and discovered that it can be practiced while engaging in an activity I enjoyed. These revelations motivated me to keep at it.

After reading what was available on walking meditation, which typically advise focusing on the flow of our “in” and “out” breaths, I developed my own techniques for practicing mindful walking and hiking.

My favorite is to look ahead and select a destination point or object and stay focused on it. It can be a shadow on the ground, boulder, bush, tree, manhole cover, light pole, store awning, mailbox, and so on. Once I reached it, I chose another landmark or object, usually a little further away.

Rough or uneven trails forced me to concentrate on each step for safety reasons. My brain automatically blocked out discursive thoughts; otherwise I could slip, trip, or fall. Other techniques I came up with include fully feeling the ground of each step, following the flight pattern of birds and insects, observing cloud patterns, and being conscious of sounds and scents—moment to moment.

Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh, often called “Thay,” which means “teacher” in Vietnamese, is revered throughout the world for his teachings and writings on mindfulness and peace.

He has brought the practice into institutions, including maximum-security prisons, helping inmates attain calmness and inner peace while being confined up to twenty-four hours daily. Many of them have professed that mindfulness meditation is the most difficult endeavor they have ever engaged in.

We live in a culture where many of us want quick results with as little effort as possible. This applies to how we approach our work, health, pastimes, social interactions, and problems. This mindset is the antithesis of mindfulness.

In my opinion, it is virtually impossible to tackle mindfulness meditation without patience and discipline. Fortunately, these attributes can be enhanced by engaging in the art itself.

When I started mindful walking and hiking, my ability to stay present was measured in feet and seconds.

As a highly competitive, emotionally undisciplined, and impatient person, I could have easily succumbed to my frustrations and given up. But the short periods of calmness and inner peace I attained—supplemented by my stubbornness—provided the necessary resolve for me to stick with the program.

As I continued my mindfulness “training,” catching my mind when it wandered occurred sooner, and the ability to refocus took less effort. Using kind, positive messages such as “rest” and “focus” was more effective than phrases such as “don’t wander” and “don’t think.”

Insight and mindfulness meditation are usually practiced separately. Personally, when I am procrastinating about something or seeking a solution to a problem, ideas and answers usually emerge effortlessly during or immediately following my walks and hikes.

These epiphanies and aha moments tend to be inspired by kindness and compassion, as opposed to ego.

I was severely beaten by a rival gang member as a teen. For over forty years, I suffered nightmares, flashbacks, and ruminations of the attack. Both conventional and unconventional modalities of therapy failed to provide much relief.

One morning, I was enjoying a relaxing hike when the familiar image of my attacker suddenly appeared. For the very first time, I remained calm and found myself viewing my lifelong enemy as a kindred spirit. I saw him as someone like me, most likely abused as a child, who desperately sought empowerment by joining gangs.

This awakening, along with my spiritual practice, enabled me to cultivate compassion and forgiveness. The nightmares and flashes of the attack ceased at that point and have not returned.

Mindfulness can be practiced pretty much anywhere and at any time. I do it first thing in the morning when I wake up while still lying in bed, in the kitchen, in the shower, at my desk, and most recently while getting dental work done.

Whether I devote a few seconds by pausing and taking a deep belly breath—or hiking for several hours—benefits are reaped.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, practicing mindfulness has transformed my life. With a family history of mental illness and a violent upbringing, I have been diagnosed and treated for multiple mood disorders, including manic depression, post-traumatic stress, addiction, and rage.

My mindfulness practice has empowered me to rest and calm my mind, as well as intercept and suppress negative thoughts. It serves as a powerful coping mechanism for me.

For the majority of my life, I was at the mercy of gambling urges and other cravings. When I encounter them now, I pause, acknowledge what is happening, take a few deep breaths, focus on my surroundings, and allow the urges to pass.

Staying relaxed enables me to respond instead of react, which places me in a better position to reflect and gain insight into the underlying issues that triggered the desire to self-medicate.

My mood is much more stable and I have better control of my emotions. The benefits I received from mindful walking and hiking has inspired me to practice it throughout the day.

I used to loathe driving because of my road rage. I was terrified of myself, often wondering when I left the house if I would end up in jail or the morgue. My level of stress rose in proportion to the amount of traffic I encountered.

Practicing mindfulness meditation in the car keeps me mellow as well as alert. I have become a patient and compassionate driver, smiling at other motorists and limiting use of the horn for safety purposes. Another insight I gained is that my past aggressive behavior on and off the road attracted like-minded people.

The mental discipline I gained also enabled me to embrace Buddhism, which has interested, yet eluded me for many years. All of this empowers me to attain and maintain equanimity. Now, I can even sit and meditate for long periods without feeling restless or irritable.

So for those who find sitting meditation challenging, or for individuals seeking different ways to practice mindfulness, I recommend mindful walking and hiking.

Not only is it a fun way to quiet the mind while getting some exercise, but it can be life-changing—helping us let go of worries, stress, tension, and even the most painful memories from the past.

Hiking man image via Shutterstock

Avatar of Bill Lee

About Bill Lee

Bill Lee is a second-generation Chinese American who grew up in the Chinese underworld. He is the author of three memoirs. In his new book, Born-Again Buddhist: My Path to Living Mindfully and Compassionately with Mood Disorders, he describes in detail the positive impact that mindful walking and hiking has made in his life. Visit facebook.com/Bill.Lee.author.

See original article here.

Please visit Tiny Buddha for more inspiring stories!

See my reblog of Bill Lee’s article Living Mindfully With Mood Disorders.

 

 

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Oh man, nothing makes me so angry as when people peddle misinformation as being fact, especially when it comes to psychiatric medications. While I acknowledge that not all people are helped by them and that some have bad reactions to them, the anti-medication movement is often riddled with ridiculous statements such as “Antidepressants damage the brain and cause people to become sociopaths.”  My conscience is very much intact, thank you very much. And that goes for others I know who take antidepressants as well.

I am focusing in this post on antidepressant medications, although the same principles apply to many other psychiatric medications as well. But I hear antidepressants being brought up more often than others, and I have studied them more than others as well.  I want to say upfront that I am not a medical professional. I am a mental health consumer who believes knowledge is power, so I have done my own research on this.

There are more subtle charges about antidepressants than what I posted above, that are more believable to people who don’t know the facts.

“Antidepressants work no better than a placebo”

Partly true. The end should say “For mild to moderate depression.”  But for major clinical depression and bipolar depression they do work. The logical conclusion is that many if not most of mild to moderate cases of depression are situational, rather than biological. Antidepressants are not designed to treat non-biological depression.  Unfortunately the overprescribing of antidepressants to those who don’t need them has resulted in a backlash from the public and the media is not always reporting the entire story.

Another charge is this:

“It says right in the antidepressant drug information that they don’t know how it works so the hypothesis that it corrects a chemical imbalance must be wrong.”

Again, partly true. It does say that it is “thought to work” by correcting a chemical imbalance in the brain. But there are many non-psychiatric medications that have the same type of caveat. Just because they don’t always know exactly how a medication works does not mean that it is a useless medication. It is results that matter. Some research has shown that perhaps it causes an increase in neurons which might account for why it may take up to a few weeks to become effective. It may also be a case of multiple effects that are in play as well. Perhaps the medication affects both the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain AND increases neurons. It has to be pointed out that until recently it was thought that the brain could not regenerate and produce new cells. That has been proven wrong with the new science of neuroplasticity or neurogenesis.  My next post is going to go into how the hypothesis of the chemical imbalance came about. It was not an unreasonable idea in light of the knowledge of the brain they had at the time, in the 1950’s. But I want to point out that the “chemical imbalance” hypothesis, while it is being challenged, has not been disproven either. It is up in the air at the moment.

One thing that many people don’t understand is that science progresses in stages and it is self-correcting as well. No scientist will ever claim that they understand everything perfectly. When  I debate people on scientific research, I point out this as an example of how science works. While Isaac Newton was a brilliant man, he never actually understood what gravity is. He was the one who discovered the principle or the theory of gravity and described its mathematical qualities but he didn’t know what it was or the cause of it. Others built upon his discovery so that we have a more complete view now.  But even now there are mysteries because Newtonian physics and Quantum physics should not be able to exist side by side as they contradict each other. Yet they do, not because either one of them is wrong, but because our understanding is incomplete.

And gravity works, whether you understand it or not. The same principle applies with medications.

This is just something to keep in mind when people claim that “such and such research” has been “disproven”, many times based on only one study. Studies have to be replicated in order to have any validity at all. And the human brain is a rather difficult organ to do research on. Lab animals can be subjected to medications and also be controlled for variables. Then they are killed and their brains dissected. You can’t do that with people. So studies have to be based on effectiveness, not on a complete understanding of the pathology of the mentally ill brain.

But the one that really “Grinds my gears” is when people compare psychiatric medications to addictive illegal drugs.

“Antidepressants change the levels of neurotransmitters and alter receptors. Cocaine also changes the levels of both dopamine and serotonin, as well as noradrenaline, and alters receptors.”

This is one of the most insidious charges around. The fact is that many medications affect the levels of neurotransmitters and possibly receptors as well.  That does not automatically mean that they are bad for you or are addictive. Many migraine medications, and drugs for Parkinson’s disease for example. In fact any medication that can cross the blood-brain barrier is likely to affect the brain in some manner, such as with older antihistamine medications that cause drowsiness and are still a popular ingredient in over-the-counter sleep medications.

The difference between a horrendously addictive and destructive drug  and an antidepressant is HOW it works in the brain. Cocaine does raise the “feel-good” chemicals in the brain, temporarily, by causing them all to be released at once. That is what causes people to feel high. When you come down though, those chemicals are depleted and then you become depressed and your body craves another high.

On the other hand, antidepressant medication does not cause a high and is thought to work by conserving the levels of neurotransmitters by inhibiting the re-uptake into the cells. It essentially is recycling the chemicals that would otherwise be broken down by the body, meaning more of it is available for use in the brain.

Those are two completely different processes and in fact antidepressants do exactly the opposite of what cocaine does! Cocaine depletes, antidepressants conserve!

If anyone challenges you on taking “happy pills” ask them what the street value for these things are. The answer is zero.

The only psychiatric medications that you need to watch out for are tranquilizers and sleeping pills. Some people do end up abusing them. You and your doctor need to watch out for signs of tolerance, needing more to have the same effect. If you are uncomfortable taking these medications, ask your doctor for non-addictive medications or other ways to manage your symptoms. And please do not get the term ‘major tranquilizers” confused with the term “tranquilizers” as the former is an old-fashioned term for antipsychotics, which are not addictive.

The answer to all this insanity is to educate yourself and others (if they are open to that). Learn what your medications are and how they work. All the information I have supplied here is readily available online and you can also ask your doctor. Read the drug information from the pharmacy too and ask the pharmacist questions as well. Knowledge is power!  ;)

 

 

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