Schizophrenia Treatment: How does your state rank?

Clozapine is an antipsychotic medication used to treat the 20 to 30 percent of Schizophrenic patients who do not respond to other medications. This medication is referred to as the “gold standard” of Schizophrenia medications and, according to an expert on Schizophrenia, should be prescribed to at least 10% of people with Schizophrenia. A report by the Treatment Advocacy Center’s Office of Research & Public Affairs  shows how each state in the U.S. ranks for Clozapine subscriptions. States with the highest percentage of prescriptions for Clozapine include South Dakota, Connecticut, and Colorado, while the states with the lowest percentages include Oregon, Nevada, and Arizona. The report suggests that the reason psychiatrists are not prescribing the medication is due to the blood tests and monitoring required with use of the drug. Similarly, patients are reluctant to agree to ongoing blood tests and monitoring associated with the drug. Compared to the recommended 10%, less than half of US States prescribe Clozapine 10% of the time or more.

How does your state rank? Click here to view the full report.

Can playing video games improve your health?

A new study posted in Psychiatric Services has linked playing video games to better health. In the study patients with Schizophrenia participated in a 12 week program where they exercised for 1 hour, three times a week. The study found that the patients, who were given multiple choices of aerobic exercise options, chose active-play video games more than any other option. The study also reported that patients’ heart rates while playing the games was similar to other aerobic exercises. The patients reported that they enjoyed the games and were willing to recommend them to others. People with Schizophrenia are more likely to be sedentary than most of the population. The study shows promising evidence that active-play video games, such as Xbox 360 with Kinect are a good way to get schizophrenic patients to be more active and may improve neurocognition.

To learn more, click here to read the study.

What Does Schizophrenia Feel Like?

“Olfactory hallucinations have to do with smelling things that aren’t there. I frequently smell things my husband can’t smell and if it is a chemical smell I will develop some paranoia about it. I may even think I have accidently eaten it and that I am dying.”

What is it like to experience the symptoms of Schizophrenia? What is it like to experience visual and auditory hallucinations? What is psychosis like? Read about what Schizophrenia looks like in a blog by “A Journey with You,” a person living with Schizophrenia.

To read the rest of the blog click here

Amazing Triumph for the Most Seriously Ill

“After nearly 12 hours in markup, the bill was moved to the Energy and Commerce Committee with a bipartisan vote of 18 ayes and 12 nays,” said the Treatment Advocacy Center. “All provisions to help the most severely mentally ill remain.”

Treatment Advocacy Center captures the victory:

ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA – The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act (HR 2646) made it out of the health subcommittee markup yesterday with all provisions intact to help the most severely mentally ill.

Introduced by Representatives Tim Murphy (R-PA) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), this landmark bill has the tremendous bipartisan support of 162 Representatives, and focuses on mental health reform for those with severe mental illness and their families who are struggling to get necessary care for their loved one.

“The whole point of advancing mental health reform is to help people most in need — the severely mentally ill, particularly people who may not understand they have an illness,” said Treatment Advocacy Center Executive Director John Snook. “Keeping these vital provisions intact means that for the first time, evidence-based mental health services will be targeted to help those with severe mental illness and the families who care for them.”

Key provisions for the most severely ill that will remain in the bill as it advances include:

  • Creates an Assistant Secretary of Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders to coordinate efforts and elevate the importance of mental health and severe mental illness in the federal government;
  • Awards funding to states and local jurisdictions to implement lifesaving, evidence-based treatment programs, called “assisted outpatient treatment” (AOT) laws for people who are too sick to maintain treatment themselves;
  • Reforms the IMD exclusion to increase the availability of psychiatric inpatient beds; and
  • Clarifies HIPAA to ensure mental health professionals are legally permitted to share critical diagnostic criteria and treatment information with parents or caregivers of patients with serious mental illness.

At yesterday’s markup, lawmakers heard from an audience of families who have felt powerless to prevent their loved ones’ deterioration.

Mothers of children battling mental illness were among those who attended the committee markup to show their support for the bill, wearing neon pink stickers that said “Show Compassion Not Politics” urging members to keep provisions that would protect their loved ones.

Tanya Shuy, a Maryland resident who lost her 26-year-old daughter, Caitlyn, to suicide this year said she is determined to see a change in the system that sent her daughter to the grave.

Maintaining the bill’s focus on severe mental illness during the markup process was one of the most important steps toward meaningful mental health reform. After nearly 12 hours, the bill moved to the Energy and Commerce Committee with a bipartisan vote of 18 ayes and 12 nays.

To become law, the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act also requires approval by the Energy and Commerce Committee, the House of Representatives, the Senate, and President Obama.

[Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America] and The Treatment Advocacy Center are among the many groups who applaud Representatives Murphy and Johnson. We also applaud the mental health advocates and families affected by serious mental illness for rallying together during this watershed moment for mental health reform and giving a voice to the voiceless.

Can Prenatal Choline Cut Schizophrenia Risk in Kids?

New research shows what is proving to be a promising link between pregnant mothers taking supplements containing Choline and reduced risk of Schizophrenia in their children. Choline is an essential nutrient that can be made in the liver, and is naturally found in such foods as liver, fish, nuts, beans, peas, spinach, wheat germ, and eggs. In the study, children whose mothers had taken supplements containing Choline while during their second and third trimesters showed fewer early signs of Schizophrenia. The children were determined to be at risk of developing Schizophrenia based on their mothers being diagnosed with anxiety, depression, or psychosis.

Researchers believe that the Choline may help block certain signals in nerve cells which may make it easier for them to focus their attention. It isn’t yet clear whether prenatal Choline will prevent Schizophrenia diagnosis later in life, but researchers believe that it may allow healthy cells to develop that will alleviate symptoms.

Read more about it here

A STORY OF RECOVERY by Brian D.

On May 15, 1980, I graduated from The University of Connecticut School of Law. I had no worries, except my studies, as my parents paid virtually all my bills until I was 25 years
old. In college at Miami University, in Oxford, Ohio, I had a work study job, and for one year of law school, I worked at the West Hartford Public Library. The second year of law
school I did title searches for a real estate attorney. After graduating from law school, I spent that summer studying for the Connecticut Bar exam.

Back on April 14TH of 1980, I was involved in a head on car crash, which happened while I was in an alcohol induced blackout. I tell you this now because it might have contributed
to my suspicious thinking, which eventually led to fullblown paranoia. I quit that job in February of 1981 without having another job. Eventually I went to live with my parents who suggested that I see a psychiatrist. I met with the doctor for no more than one half hour, and he prescribed 10 milligrams of Stelazine. This was a shock to my body and in February of 1984, I signed myself into the John Dempsey hospital in Farmington, Connecticut. For the first week there I was not well. The doctor recommended Thorazine. This med worked well enough to have me discharged from the hospital to a transitional living facility in Hartford, Connecticut.

For the next 8-9 years. I repeated what would become a pattern. I would do well on a new med, then decompensate and have to be hospitalized. Throughout this time I was also drinking beer, off and on. I had a total of 19 admissions, with stays lasting 2 months to 2 years. In 1992, while at the Norwich State Hospital, a doctor suggested that I try a new med called Clozaril. With an adjustment to take it all at bedtime, that turn out to be my last hospitalization until a 4day stay for anxiety in 2013.

During that same hospital stay at Norwich State, I stopped drinking beer. I continue to be a recovering alcoholic with 23 years of sobriety. In March of 1995 I secured a full time position with the Western Connecticut Mental Health Network (WCMHN) in Torrington, Connecticut. I continued to work there until my disability retirement in December of 2014.

I was introduced to Schizophrenics Anonymous by Jim Cronin. I refer to Jim as my SA mentor as he helped me to start the Torrington area SA meeting in 2004. Today it is a closed meeting. It is a class within the Recovery & Wellness program at WCMHN. I have been involved as the paid staff person from 2004 until December 2014, when I retired. Along with Jim Cronin, I was one of the first moderators of the SA group calls. In 2014 I was elected to the SARDAA Board of Directors. SA has been a very important part of my life and recovery.

(this post is an excerpt from the October 2015 SARDAA Newsletter)

ABC Re-Airs Offensive Episode with Misrepresentation of Neurological Illness

ABC’s plans to re-air last year’s Modern Family Halloween episode, entitled AwesomeLand. This is a despicable, disgusting, offensive misrepresentation of neurological illnesses and treatment. The discrimination and harm that this brings to our community via the media is beyond appalling. Here is a trailer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2fD2pSLSyKc – ABC refuses to cease airing this show and incites my anger and frustration. They also are in violation of their own standards: Corporate Citizenship and Social Responsibility.

There are more than 9 million Americans living with serious psychiatric neurological disorders and millions more are affected – parents, siblings, colleagues, neighbors, the entire community. We as a community MUST provide respect, compassion and TREATMENT as we do with other illnesses NOW! Stop engaging in discriminatory, harmful spread of denigrations based on falsehoods.

Linda Stalters, Exec. Dir. Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America

Lucy: A portrait of Schizophrenia

In a post in the New York Times Psychoanalyst Christopher Bollas writes about his conversations with Lucy, a person living with Schizophrenia. As Bollas describes it, Lucy’s mind is an highly active mind filled with reworked memories and hallucinations. In the piece he paints a picture of what a conversation with a person living with Schizophrenia is like, describing it as feeling like a conversation with a person who seems to be existing on the edge of human perception:

Lucy was a schizophrenic. Most people I know who have talked with schizophrenics have noticed that it feels like a conversation not with someone whose ailment is derived from the fog of symptomatic preoccupation, or the dulling repetition of character patterns, but with a person who seems to be existing on the edge of human perception. Take LSD and you see things you would ordinarily never perceive. Become schizophrenic and you see these things without the aid of drugs.

To read the full article, visit the New York Times site.

Study shows positive outcomes of early intervention for first episode psychosis

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has announced the results of a study designed to measure the impact of early intervention for youth and young adults experiencing first episode psychosis. The research initiative overseen by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has studied first episode psychosis in 36 geographically diverse community clinics across 22 states. The study found that “Compared to patients who received usual care, participants in a Coordinated Specialty Care program (CSC) experienced significantly greater improvements in total symptoms, social functioning, work or school involvement, and overall quality of life.” The study states that, if left untreated, psychosis can lead to a host of negative physical and psychological outcomes and goes on to say that early intervention “can enable individuals experiencing first episode psychosis to live in community settings and participate fully in family and community life.” The CMS has released an accompanying guide to assist states in providing support for intervention services for first episode psychosis. To read the bulletin and learn more about study, click to visit the Medicaid.gov website.

New link found between brain immune response and Schizophrenia symptom severity

A new study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry shows a link between the brain’s response to inflammation and Schizophrenia symptom severity. The study, conducted by researchers at the Medical Research Council’s Clinical Sciences Centre, based at Imperial College London, in collaboration with colleagues at King’s College London, measured levels of microglial cells in the brain. Microglial cells are the immune cells of the brain and their presence indicates inflammation of the brain. The study showed higher levels of these cells in the brains of people with Schizophrenia and people at high risk of developing Schizophrenia. The levels of the cells also correlated with Schizophrenia symptom severity, specifically psychotic-like symptoms.  The findings of the study suggest that Schizophrenia may be caused by inflammation of the brain; the next step, says study author Oliver Howes, M.D., Ph.D., is to test whether anti-inflammatory drugs can treat or prevent the disorder altogether.

To read more about the study, visit the American Psychiatric Association website.