Say it Forward Campaign: September 30th – October 10th

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In Honor of Bipolar Awareness Day

Truth has the power to affect change. IBPF and DBSA invite all to join us by taking a simple step—visit sayitforwardcampaign  beginning September 30th through October 10th and share the myths and facts of mental illness by email, Facebook, and/or Twitter.

When it comes to mental health conditions, silence is not golden. Silence breeds stigma, and stigma hurts: it prevents people from seeking life-saving treatment and support. That’s why the International Bipolar Foundation (IBPF) and the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) have joined forces to promote Say It Forward 2013, an email and social media anti-stigma campaign that educates people about the reality of mental health conditions.

“Although much progress has been made to change attitudes about mental health conditions, many still acknowledge discomfort towards people with mental illnesses,” explains Scott Suckow, Executive Director of the International Bipolar Foundation.  “These perceptions lag behind those of other health conditions, such as diabetes and cancer.  Through campaigns like Say it Forward, we can separate myth from fact and help those facing mental health issues feel comfortable seeking care and support.”

The World Health Organization reports that 1 in every 4 people, or 25% of individuals, develops one or more mental health disorders at some stage in life. Yet only 1 in 3 Americans gets treatment. Among individuals with bipolar disorder, 25–50% attempt suicide at least once, and suicide is a leading cause of death in this group. This is a preventable tragedy because with proper treatment, individuals with mental health conditions can—and do—achieve their dreams and lead full, rewarding lives.

Say It Forward, established by IBPF, reached more than 10,000 people last year. In 2013, Say It Forward has a goal of expanding its reach to 20,000 individuals. The campaign will begin September 30, and run up to and include International Bipolar Awareness Day, October 10, 2013.

DBSA President Allen Doederlein shares, “The work DBSA and IBF do to educate and support people living with mood disorders is important and impactful—but it’s only the beginning. The Say It Forward 2013 campaign provides a vital next step, with a user-friendly and simple way to connect with a much broader audience, made up of people who may or may not have mental health concerns themselves. All of us, across the globe, need to be reminded that these conditions are serious and life-threatening, but also highly treatable. The first step to wellness is speaking up, and that’s what Say It Forward is all about!”

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Depression and bipolar support alliance logo

A Police Officer Who Did the Right Thing: Helped My Son When I Couldn’t

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My 22-year-old son, Zac, has schizophrenia, the paranoid type. Since February, he has phoned emergency services five times to ask for help for problems that he’s imagining. Sometimes it’s a heart attack, sometimes his throat is closing, and yesterday, it was to report a gunshot wound to his head.

He was certain he had been shot because earlier in the day, he’d heard a leader in his psychiatric rehab program say, “Who wants directions to Zac’s house?”  That comment upset him and by night time, it had translated into him thinking that he’d been shot in the head.

He phoned 911 to report it.

I was worried when I found out what he’d done. The police have weapons and there is no shortage of news articles about tragic encounters when police are called to intervene during a psychiatric crisis.

Calling the police should not be the route that severely mentally ill individuals have to take to get to decent care, but it seems to be much more common. The new mental health page posted on the White House website advises you to call 911 if you have a mental illness and need help. That is its official recommendation — as bizarre and sickening as that seems.

We waited together for the police to arrive although my son asked me to let him do the talking. He didn’t want them to know he had a mental illness.

A female officer arrived. Her name-tag identified her as Officer Kim. My son met her outside on the sidewalk. She asked his name, shook his hand politely and asked him what was wrong. He told her he wanted to report being shot in the head.

“Where were you shot,” she asked. “Can you show me?”

He pointed to both temples. There was nothing there, of course.

She said, “I see what you mean. I do see a little spot right there.”

He told her that he was worried about losing brain cells. She asked him if he’d seen the weapon. He thought it was a pistol but he wasn’t sure. She asked when he’d been wounded; he wasn’t sure. He just wanted to report his gunshot wound.

She said, “Do you mind if I check your pockets? Do you have anything sharp on you that could hurt me?”

He gave her permission so she gently patted his pockets and then thanked him for letting her check.

She took a few steps toward me and I whispered: “My son has schizophrenia.”

Another officer arrived as backup. Before he could approach my son, Officer Kim called him over and whispered something. The officer approached me and softly asked, “Is your son taking medicine?”

I said, “Yes, faithfully.”

This second officer handed me a note with a hotline number to call in case of crisis. I asked him to introduce himself to my son since I feel it is important for us to know the police in our area (unfortunately). They shook hands and the officer introduced himself  before leaving on another call.

What Officer Kim did next was miraculous.

Zac told her that a group leader at the hospital had given out his address. He was sure that he heard the leader say: “ Hey, who wants Zac’s address?”

Officer Langford said, “I’m going to go to the car now, and I’m going to check all our databases and see what it says. You wait right here while I find out who’s responsible, ok? I will check for you to see how this happened.”

My son agreed to wait.

When she looked at me, I said quietly, “There’s nothing wrong. What are you doing?”

She said, “I know, I’m just going to pretend to check…Ok?”

When she returned from her squad car, she told him: “I checked all the databases. We have a lot of them. I checked every single one, and I didn’t find anything at all. No one can get your address. Nobody can get your address, not your friends or people at the school, nobody. OK? You are safe now.”

When he told her that he was certain people were giving out his address, Officer Langford said, “You know sometimes people at school or your friends–they just like playing with you. They just tease or say things to cause trouble. I have kids at home, and I know how kids can be, they just like to say things and cause a little trouble. But you don’t have to worry about that. I just checked the databases for you, all of them, and nobody can get your address except us, and we are the police. Now you can laugh if that happens again. You can laugh because you know, they’re playing you. The police told you nobody can get your information. It can’t happen ok?”

He smiled and nodded.

Officer Kim then asked if there was anything else she could do to make my son feel better.

After a moment, he said, “Well, no. But should I get my head wound checked out?”

She looked at him carefully and said, “I don’t think so. I’ve seen gunshot wounds lots of times.” Reaching up, she rubbed the spot on his temple where he said the bullet had entered.

“Yep, I’ve seen that before, it should clear up by itself in a couple days. You will be fine, Ok?” she said.

He nodded but it was obvious that he was still worried so she repeated it a few more times: “I’ve seen that before, it should be ok, it’ll be fine in 4 or 5 days at the most.”

She told him that she had another call but she was absolutely certain that he would be fully recovered in a couple days.

I had braced myself for the worst when I learned that he had called the police. What I had just witnessed was the best. I’m not certain if Officer Kim had received Crisis Intervention Team Training but she was undoubtedly the most compassionate police officer who I’ve ever met and very skilled in handling psychiatric patients.

She was professional, she validated his concerns, she had an immediate solution for calming him, she asked how she could make him feel better, she addressed every worry he presented and she did that without once asking if he were sick and if he was taking his medicine. She did not ridicule him or make fun of his delusion or get angry because he was wasting her time.

This morning, I took great pleasure in phoning the Towson, Maryland precinct and asking that someone tell her sergeant, or captain, or whoever supervised her, to thank her. I have friends whose children with psychiatric illnesses have been tasered, beaten, even shot at… Officer Langford treated my son with respect, with incredible skill, with patience and compassion.

She made a fearful young man feel better, something I often cannot do.

My son came in the house after that experience, drank some juice, and got ready for bed. He knocked on my bedroom door. He had his pills in his hand and a glass of water. He took them in front of me, said good night, then lay down to sleep.

There are myriad ways the police visit could have gone wrong. But it didn’t because a police officer was willing to do whatever she had to, to make a scared and worried young man feel better, and she did.

She did it right!

by Laura Pogliano, Treatment Advocacy Center

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When Your Friends Don’t Understand Your Mental Health Condition

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You have just been diagnosed with a mental health condition such as depression, bipolar disorder, panic disorder, addiction, OCD, or some other mental health disorder. You go see a counselor to get help. Eventually your relatives and closest friends find out your condition. The problem is that some of them get on your case and do not understand what you are going through. Here are four ways to deal with this situation.

1. Listen To The Professionals And Not Your Friends–Your friends may mean well, but when it comes down to it, the professionals know your situation more than anyone. They know what you are going through and are trained to deal with your situation. Your friends do not have the answers to your medical problems. When you have questions about your mental health situation consult with your counselor or other mental health professional. Listen to them and follow their advice and not your friends.

2. Your Goal Is To Get Better–Your goal is to get better, period. Don’t waste your time arguing with your friends or relatives who are giving you a difficult time. This isn’t a public relations event where you need to get everyone’s approval. This is your life and you’re the one suffering. Your main focus is for you to get better. This is the number one thing.

3. Tell Your Friends To Learn About Your Condition–Tell your friends and relatives that the best way for them to help you is to learn about your condition. They could talk to a counselor, they could do family therapy, they could read some good books or join you at a support group to learn about your condition. They won’t completely understand the pain you’re suffering but they will have some idea of what you are going through. If some of your friends won’t do this, then stay away from them. They will only make things worse.

4. Distance Yourself From People Who Give You A Hard Time–This may seem cruel but if some of your friends or relatives are hindering your progress in getting better, then kindly tell them to follow Step Three or else tell them to stay away and go bother someone else. Distance yourself from those people who won’t make an effort to help understand what you are going through. You need to surround yourself with positive and supportive people. Again, if you have problems or issues with a particular person, you can always ask your counselor for advice on how to deal with them.

Take advantage of the help that is available around you. If possible, talk to a professional who can help you manage your depression and anxieties. They will be able to provide you with additional advice and insights on how to deal with your current problem. By talking to a professional, a person will be helping themselves in the long run because they will become better able to deal with their problems in the future.

Remember, your goal is to get better. Treat your mental health issues as a medical condition. If you have a medical condition, you go see a doctor to help treat it. Same thing applies to your mental health issues. Go see a professional and focus on getting better. Don’t try to get everyone’s approval.

BIOGRAPHY:
Stan Popovich is the author of “A Layman’s Guide to Managing Fear Using Psychology, Christianity and Non Resistant Methods” – an easy to read book that presents a general overview of techniques that are effective in managing persistent fears and anxieties. For additional information go to: http://www.managingfear.com/

Autism Spectrum Disorder: Uncovering Clues to a Complicated Condition

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Autism is a complex brain disorder that first appears during early childhood. It affects how a person behaves and interacts with others. People with autism might not look you in the eye when talking. They may spend a lot of time lining up toys or other objects. Or they may say the same sentence over and over.

The disorder is so variable—affecting each person in very different ways—that it can be difficult to diagnose and treat. This variability is why autism is called a “spectrum” disorder. It spans the spectrum from mild to severe and includes a wide range of symptoms.

NIH-funded scientists have been working to uncover the secrets of autism. They’ve identified genes that may boost the risk for autism. They’ve developed therapies that can help many of those affected. And they’ve found that starting treatment as early as possible can lead to better outcomes. Still, there’s much more we need to learn about this complicated condition.

–NIH News in Health

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Executive Director Linda Stalters Represents SARDAA at NIMH Alliance for Research Progress Meeting

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Meeting Summary (Outreach): July 12, 2013
Bethesda, Maryland

OVERVIEW

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) convened the nineteenth meeting of the NIMH Alliance for Research Progress (Alliance) on Friday, July 12, 2013 in Bethesda, MD; this document provides an overview of the proceedings. At Alliance meetings, leaders from national organizations focused on mental illness hear about projects and activities at NIMH and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). They also hear about and discuss advances in mental health and mental illness research, network with colleagues, and interact directly with NIMH Director, Thomas Insel, M.D. and senior NIMH staff. At the July 12 meeting, participants heard an update on the State of the NIMH from Dr. Insel and listened to presentations about a behavioral weight loss intervention for persons with serious mental illness; patient empowerment; brain imaging as a potential biomarker for personalized medicine; and prospects for novel diagnostics and therapeutics.

For more information on the speakers, please see the attached agenda and participant list.

MAJOR THEMES

Welcome and State of the NIMH

Dr Thomas Insel NIMHDr. Insel’s presentation focused on three topics: genetics, diagnostics, and the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) initiative, which was announced at a White House Conference on April 2. He noted a significant increase in news coverage of mental health-related topics over the last seven months. He also talked briefly about the White House National Conference on Mental Health on June 3, the MentalHealth.gov online resource and the National Dialogue on Mental Health, and the proposed National Research Action Plan for the continuing challenge of military suicide. Dr. Insel told participants that several mental illnesses are highly heritable (e.g., schizophrenia, bipolar disorder), but genetic research has not revealed specific causal genes; rather, some mental illnesses are likely the result of spontaneous mutations. Dr. Insel highlighted advances in other areas, such as cancer and cystic fibrosis—wherein researchers are able to develop precise medical interventions (precision medicine) based on an individual’s genetic profile—as examples of the direction in which research on mental disorders is headed. Regarding advances in diagnostics, Dr. Insel discussed the Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) project, which is still in the early stages. He noted that many disorders have similar symptoms and that, while diagnosis based on clinical symptoms is not always scientifically valid, the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) and the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) are currently the best tools available for diagnosis and subsequent reimbursement by payers. Parenthetically, he noted that much work is needed to combat public distrust of mental health providers. He concluded with a description of the public-private BRAIN Initiative partnership, which will increase knowledge about the brain through the development and application of tools that will enable scientists to view dynamic images of individual cells and neural circuits in the brain.

Alliance members voiced their support for NIMH, saying that the patients they represent want cures. One participant asked if NIMH is funding the right mix of basic and translational science. Dr. Insel said that we could only know the answer to that question in retrospect, but NIMH works hard to achieve that balance. Another participant discussed the lack of comprehensive information on the MentalHealth.gov website, and asked how Alliance members could contribute to the information and review of the site. Dr. Insel asked every Alliance member to look over the website and encouraged them to submit feedback.

A Behavioral Weight Loss Intervention in Persons with Serious Mental Illness

Dr. Gail DaumitGail L. Daumit, M.D., M.H.S., Associate Professor of Medicine, Psychiatry, Epidemiology, Health Policy and Management and Mental Health at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions discussed the ACHIEVE trial, a modified lifestyle intervention for overweight or obese individuals with serious mental illnesses (SMI). Alliance members are well aware that people with SMI die prematurely at a higher rate than that of the general population. Despite many calls to action, there is insufficient data on the prevalence of several of the contributing cardiovascular risk factors among people with SMI, including obesity. Dr. Daumit noted that in her research, 85% of the SMI population was overweight or obese and taking an average of three psychotropic drugs. As every class of psychotropic drugs causes weight gain, the goal of the ACHIEVE trial was to develop behavioral interventions that promote weight loss. Dr. Daumit explained how researchers brought fitness instructors and experts in nutrition to places most frequented by patients with SMI, such as psychiatric rehabilitation outpatient programs. Participants were successful in weight loss and in maintaining their behavior changes. This study ushered in new weight loss interventions for people with SMI, as participants engaged Dr. Daumit and colleagues in conversations about eating disorders and related behaviors. On average, participants lost seven pounds, which decreased their risk for other health problems, including cardiovascular disease.

When questioned whether the average weight loss of seven pounds was significant enough to benefit participants, and Dr. Daumit said that even just five to ten pounds of weight loss can improve health and decrease heart disease risk. In closing, she emphasized the significance of the trial by highlighting the fact that all of “the large clinical trials that have looked at weight loss for the overall U.S. population systematically exclude most mental health consumers;” thus, the ACHIEVE trial uniquely targeted a population that is susceptible to weight gain and has additional challenges losing weight due to the nature of SMI. Dr. Daumit hopes to see additional research on the long-term benefits of the trial and other lifestyle interventions targeted to this population.

Empowered Patients Live Longer: The Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation

Scott Santarella,  Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer FoundationScott Santarella, President and CEO of the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation (BJALCF) talked with Alliance members about issues that are common to both lung cancer and mental illnesses, such as stigma, inadequate research funding, and disparity in treatments. He discussed the high mortality rates associated with lung cancer and the “shame” often associated with the disease. The BJALCF was created to increase survivability of lung cancer and is working to categorize it as a chronically managed disease by 2023. He insisted that a lot can be learned from patients and caregivers, and noted that the BJALCF advocates for treating people on a personalized basis and for improving treatment at the community level where most receive care—often sub-optimally. The Foundation developed ALCMI (Addario Lung Cancer Medical Institute and pronounced “al-ka-me” ), an international consortium of leading medical institutions and community hospitals dedicated to working together to catalyze and accelerate discovery, development, and delivery of new and more effective treatment options. Mr. Santarella discussed how the BJALCF has developed patient-focused tools and resources to educate and empower patients and families, such as the Guide to Navigating Lung Cancer, which will soon be available as a mobile application. He also described how a 21-year-old patient inspired the creation of a young adult advisory board focused on social media, education, stigma reduction, and motivating advocates and researchers. Mr. Santarella said the BJAFCF is a model that can be adapted to mental illnesses.

Alliance participants were very interested in the presentation, and engaged in significant dialogue with Mr. Santarella about smoking cessation and other comorbid conditions shared between mental illness and lung cancer. Mr. Santarella talked about the Patient 360 Community Hospital Program, a unique multidisciplinary approach that coordinates the standard of care for patients individually. In closing, he suggested partnerships with the multiple myeloma and cystic fibrosis communities as resources to learn how to “harness the outrage” to overcome denial and blame. Mr. Santarella also noted that the high morbidity in mental illness needs wider appreciation.

Predictive Medicine for Psychiatry: Optimizing Treatment for Depression Using Brain Imaging

Dr Helen S. MaybergHelen S. Mayberg, M.D., Professor of Psychiatry, Neurology and Radiology and Dorothy C. Fuqua Chair in Psychiatric Neuroimaging and Therapeutics at Emory University School of Medicine told Alliance members that it is the suffering associated with depression that brings people to treatment. She opened her talk by asking: What does it mean to have psychic pain? What does it mean to be “paralyzed” when you don’t have a spinal cord injury? What is brain illness and where is it in the brain? These are the questions that she is tasked with answering as a neuroscientist when evaluating which treatments work, developing metrics and biomarkers, and constructing treatment interventions. She explained that current treatments for depression are inadequate, and that over time, depression can undergo a malignant transformation causing treatments that once worked to become ineffective. She noted that there are real consequences if patients get the wrong treatment, including harmful side effects and the risk of suicide. Dr. Mayberg explained that when treating patients she focuses on two goals: addressing the episode as fast as possible; and matching the patient to his/her optimal treatment while avoiding those interventions that are likely to be unhelpful. She discussed her work to develop brain-based biomarkers to guide treatment for depression based on a “brain-type.” Her research demonstrated how pre-treatment scans of brain activity were used to predict whether depressed patients would best achieve remission with an antidepressant medication (escitalopram) or psychotherapy (cognitive behavioral therapy, CBT). Among several sites of brain activity related to outcome, activity in the anterior insula best predicted response and non-response to both treatments. If a patient’s pre-treatment resting brain activity was low in the front part of the insula, on the right side of the brain, this signaled a significantly higher likelihood of remission with CBT and a poor response to escitalopram. Conversely, high activity in the insula predicted remission with escitalopram and a poor response to CBT.

Dr. Mayberg also discussed her work involving deep brain stimulation for treatment-resistant depression. In a proof-of-principle pilot safety study, she found that 4 out of 6 patients improved after their first treatment. Dr. Mayberg responded to concerns about the size of the test group and discussed other studies with more participants that yielded a positive long-term response rate to treatment. She noted that not all of the study participants got well. In an effort to understand why patients did and did not respond favorably, she searched for the sources of variability, and discovered that small differences in surgical location of electrodes implanted in the brain benefited non-responsive patients. She concluded her presentation by discussing the importance of helping people to get “unstuck” from their depression, and strengthening their ability to keep aberrant behaviors like eating disorders or OCD in check when the depression is lifted.

Neural Circuits: The New Frontier of Neuropsychiatric Diagnostics and Therapeutics

Dr Kafui DzirasaKafui Dzirasa, M.D., Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Center for Neuroengineering at Duke University Medical Center began his presentation by recounting the story of a family whose son was experiencing a psychotic break. Dr. Dzirasa explained how their confusion, denial, and search for answers served as a backdrop for the data and findings in his talk. He described the challenges he’s encountered as a young scientist and clinician. He connected with Alliance members by noting his personal experiences with family members and friends who have neuropsychiatric disorders, described his fascination with neurocircuitry, and said that we must do better to understand how the brain functions and translate research into treatment and treatment into cures. He compared current methods for understanding brain function to the approaches Aristotle, Socrates, and Plato might try to understand a computer. They would take it apart to see the underlying mechanics, but doing so couldn’t inform them about software, or the Internet, or the bigger picture of computer functionality and use.

Dr. Dzirasa broadly described our current understanding of mental disorders and how one of the challenges faced by clinicians when trying to cure people is to understand what is “normal,” while another is explaining the labels used for diagnosis. For example, two people may exhibit completely different sets of symptoms, but have the same disorder. He noted that RDoC is a framework for reclassifying mental illnesses that will allow clinicians and scientists to investigate the roles played by brain circuits and genetics. He described his research using animal models to create an animal analog of human post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In his research, mice were implanted with electrodes and exposed to a version of the fearful faces test—i.e., exposing and stressing smaller mice by introducing them into an environment with larger, aggressive mice. The stressed mice went on to develop an aggravated fear response, which is an analog of PTSD behaviors and symptoms. He explained that they were able to extinguish the fear behavior by using viruses to target a specific receptor that was introduced into the mouse brain, turning off the fear response. Dr. Dzirasa discussed the possible implications of this research on the field and potential benefits to individuals with PTSD. His laboratory is now looking for the common circuits to treat “disorders of synchrony.” To do this, his research team has built a prototype “external brain pacemaker” to encourage different parts of the brain to work together, thereby restoring behavioral function. While additional research is necessary, this neural circuit research could lead to the development of new models and new frameworks for study.

DISCUSSION

Alliance members during discussion - part 1During the discussion periods, Alliance members shared their views on the presentations and asked questions of speakers. Alliance members applauded the exciting research developments presented, especially the opportunity to reverse behaviors by understanding and modifying circuits. They noted that the idea of going to a doctor to have him/her tell you what is wrong with you is antiquated. Instead, patients today often figure out what is wrong and link with others to determine what will work best for them. However, with mental illnesses, many patients may not know, may be too impaired, or may actively deny that they have a disorder, and may therefore not be able to advocate for themselves. Alliance members expressed concern about what psychiatrists are being taught today. Members said that many mental health providers with professional degrees have no knowledge of neurobiology or evidence-based treatments. There is a disconnection between what is being taught and what research is teaching us. Many mental health specialists feel that “the new science” won’t help in their clinics. Alliance members stated that many institutions use an apprenticeship model of teaching; therefore, if teachers are not proficient in the scientific model, it will not be taught. The burden is on the scientific community to move the field forward. Clinicians and advocates must work to together on the critical need to get better diagnostics and treatments to patients. They stated that the need for better science and better data does not end with new treatments only, as understanding why some high risk people recover from or avoid mental illness is critical. However, the discussion continued to note that studying resilience is difficult, because well and recovered people are not volunteering, and the science must be concise and complex enough to tease out the subtle differences in people.

Alliance members during discussion - part 3Alliance members commented that language is a big problem for the field, as there are many different ways to talk about brain disorders: mental health, mental disorders, mental illness, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, neuropsychiatric disorder—yet none of these words address the earliest symptoms such as the isolation, which can help to identify people in need of help long before a clinical diagnosis. Alliance members discussed the recent White House Conference and language used by President Obama when describing “Mental Health Disorders,” and noted that without agreement on something as small as language, progress will be difficult.

 

Meeting Summary provided by NIMH

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Protein May Predict Development of Late-Onset Schizophrenia

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In a large prospective study, researchers found that elevated blood levels of a major factor in the body’s immune system—C-reactive protein—were associated with a six- to 11-fold increased risk of developing late-onset schizophrenia.

….assuming that C-reactive protein is actually contributing to schizophrenia risk, he indicated, then it helps support the “inflammatory pathophysiology hypothesis in schizophrenia”—a hypothesis that “is opening new opportunities for etiology and therapeutic discovery.”

–Psychiatric News Alert

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NIH Approves High-Priority Research Within BRAIN Initiative

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National Institutes of Health Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., today approved initial areas of high-priority brain research to guide $40 million of NIH fiscal year 2014 funding within the BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) Initiative.  The initiative aims to accelerate work on technologies that give a dynamic picture of how individual cells and complex neural circuits interact. The ultimate goal is to enhance understanding of the brain and improve prevention, diagnosis and treatment of brain diseases.

The initiative was announced in April by President Obama. He called for a total of $110 million in the 2014 fiscal year budget to support the effort, of which $40 million is expected to be allocated by NIH.

“The time is right to exploit recent advances in neuroscience research and technologies to advance our understanding of the brain’s functions and processes and what causes them to go wrong in disease,” said Dr. Collins. ”The BRAIN Working Group has been on a fast track to identify key areas of research for funding.  This group of visionary neuroscientists has provided an excellent set of recommendations, and I am eager to move these areas forward.”

NIH’s fiscal 2014 investment will focus on nine areas of research.  The vision for the initiative is to combine these areas of research into a coherent, integrated science of cells, circuits, brain and behavior.

– Generate a census of brain cell types
– Create structural maps of the brain
– Develop new, large-scale neural network recording capabilities
– Develop a suite of tools for neural circuit manipulation
– Link neuronal activity to behavior
– Integrate theory, modeling, statistics and computation with neuroscience
experiments
– Delineate mechanisms underlying human brain imaging technologies
– Create mechanisms to enable collection of human data for scientific
research
– Disseminate knowledge and training

Following President Obama’s announcement, Dr. Collins tasked a working group of his Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD) to identify high priority areas of research for fiscal 2014 funding and to develop a long-term scientific plan. The BRAIN Working Group today presented the high priority research areas to the ACD. The ACD fully endorsed the report and recommended that the NIH director accept them in full, which he did. The working group will continue to work over the course of the next eight to nine months to develop the longer term scientific plan, which is expected to be delivered to the ACD in June 2014.

The BRAIN Initiative is jointly led by NIH, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency of the U.S. Department of Defense, and the National Science Foundation. Private partners-including the Allen Institute for Brain Science, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and Kavli Foundation-are also committed to ensuring success through investment in the initiative.

For more information about the BRAIN Initiative and the ACD working group:
NIH BRAIN Initiative website <http://www.nih.gov/science/brain/index.htm>
NIH BRAIN Initiative Feedback website <http://brainfeedback.nih.gov/>

NIH Advisory Committee to the Director BRAIN Working Group website <http://acd.od.nih.gov/brain.htm>

This NIH News Release is available online at: <http://www.nih.gov/news/health/sep2013/od-16.htm>.

September is National Preparedness Month

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September is National Preparedness Month and the Federal Emergency Management Agency invites everyone to join the NATIONAL PREPAREDNESS COMMUNITY and download the 2013 National Preparedness Month Toolkit. The National Preparedness Community is where more than 32,000 people connect and collaborate on emergency preparedness. Use the community and the Toolkit to prepare and coordinate preparedness activities with family, neighbors, and communities of worship.

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Mental Health America Produces Comprehensive, Objective Resource Describing Complementary and Alternative Treatments

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Contact: Steve Vetzner, (703) 797-2588 or svetzner@mentalhealthamerica.net

ALEXANDRIA, VA. (September 16, 2013)—Mental Health America today is publishing a new web resource that provides a comparative, research-based approach on complementary and alternative treatments for mental health conditions (http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/go/mentalhealthandcam).

While some activities, like exercise, are good for everyone who is physically able to do them and have no uncontrollable side effects, most decisions about mental health treatment options, and especially the decisions faced by people coping with serious mental health conditions, involve trade-offs. Nonetheless, 40 percent or more of Americans self-treat themselves without professional supervision, often without disclosing it to their psychiatrist or primary care provider.

In particular, many people who use herbs and food supplements also take prescription antidepressants, risking potentially dangerous adverse herb/drug interactions. While most natural psychotropics are generally considered safe, they are not risk free, and the common public misconception that natural products are inherently safe has been refuted by toxic reactions from these agents, which may be due to intrinsic toxicity, contamination, or interaction with other herbs or drugs.

“People considering using complementary or alternative treatments need to make an informed decision, just as they would with any synthetic medication or other treatment, weighing the evidence about effectiveness, drug interactions, side effects, and less dangerous options, to come up with a risk/benefit assessment,” said Wayne W. Lindstrom, Ph.D., president and CEO of Mental Health America.

“These are the issues that any physician must consider, and that anyone considering complementary or alternative treatment should consider. But the blizzard of competing claims poses a real challenge to getting efficient access to reliable evidence about safety and efficacy. We have produced this resource to fill that void.”

Mental Health America enlisted the help of David Mischoulon, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, to review the material. But the information was compiled from many published sources by Mental Health America.

The website is a “meta-review” of the ten most prominent objective sources, including Dr. Mischoulon’s own book, Natural Medications for Psychiatric Disorders: Considering the Alternatives, co-edited with Jerrold F. Rosenbaum, M.D. (also of Harvard Medical School) (2002/2008). By putting all of the recommendations not tied to product advertising in one place, side-by-side, Mental Health America hopes to help consumers, advocates, physicians and other health care practitioners be better informed about the principal non-traditional options available and the evidence that supports them.

Mental Health America and other large mental health advocacy groups have never previously provided systematic information on supplements, which have been used extensively by consumers based on word of mouth recommendations, in the absence of reliable advice about risks or efficacy. With the publication of this web resource, Mental Health America hopes to remedy this oversight.

Mental Health America (www.mentalhealthamerica.net), founded in 1909, is the nation’s leading community-based network dedicated to helping all Americans achieve wellness by living mentally healthier lives. With our 240 affiliates across the country, we touch the lives of millions—Advocating for changes in mental health and wellness policy; Educating the public & providing critical information; and Delivering urgently needed mental health and wellness Programs and Services.

VA Focuses National Attention on Suicide Prevention Month 2013

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…Even one suicide is one too many,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “va is a leader in providing high-quality mental health care that improves and saves Veterans’ lives.  We know that treatment works, and there is hope for Veterans who seek mental health care.”

This year’s theme, “It Matters,” emphasizes the people, relationships and experiences that matter to Veterans and their loved ones, reinforcing their personal connections and giving their lives hope and meaning.  To spark conversation about the difficult topics of suicide risk and prevention, VA will unveil a photo-sharing campaign, “Show Us What Matters,” and will invite Veterans and their loved ones to upload photos of the special people in their lives to VeteransCrisisLine.net/ItMatters.

“When a Veteran is in crisis, even one small act can make a lifesaving difference,” said Dr. Robert A. Petzel, VA’s Under Secretary for Health.  “It’s up to all of us to understand the signs of crisis and look out for the Veterans in our lives.  And when we are concerned, we need to reach out and tell someone.”

–U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs

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