TALK ABOUT IT. YOUR STORY COULD CHANGE A LIFE.
Follow the link below to learn about mental health awareness month.
The organization Self-Injury Support has published it's April e-bulletin and featured "9 Facts I Wish I'd Known When I Discovered My Son was Cutting." Follow the links below to check out their site and e-bulletin.
Are you Afraid that your Child will be a Killer?
By Theresa Larsen, author of Cutting the Soul: A journey into the mental illness of a teenager through the eyes of his mother
I was volunteering at a mental health event recently, talking to people and handing out leaflets. A woman approached the booth and I explained the art project we were promoting and its focus on mental illness. She then told me about her twenty-four year old son, who was experiencing anger, isolative tendencies, and psychosis.
The mother looked at me and said, “I am afraid my son will do a Sandy Hook.”
My eyes widened and my pulse quickened, as I racked my brain for a helpful response to her statement. The first thought that popped into my head was, I’m so glad this is not me. I know this thought was selfish and insensitive, but it was honest. After struggling with my son’s illness for many years, I was relieved that he was finally on a positive path.
The mother’s words reminded me of the book by Liza Long called, The Price of Silence. In her book Liza tells the readers her first thought when she heard about the Sandy Hook shooting, “What if that’s my son someday?” Liza’s words were fresh in my mind, because I had recently stumbled across her writing and like so many other mothers I connected with the words she wrote.
On Tuesday, March 6, 2012 a text message came through on my phone from my then fifteen year old daughter.
“Mom I’m scared, the school is on lock-down. I have been on the floor in the library for almost an hour. Someone has been shot.”
My first reaction to this message was panic and fear, and I did not think of anything else until my daughter was safely in the car. But as I drove home and listened to her describe how her Spanish teacher had brought an AK-47 into school and killed the principal and then himself, my thoughts drifted to her brother who had been coping with serious mental illness and self-harm for years and who, at that moment, was in a psychiatric hospital following a suicide attempt.
My thoughts on that day were similar to Liza Long’s, What if my son kills someone one day? It wasn’t the first time I had wondered this, but it was the first time that it had bubbled to the surface. And here I was more than three years later being confronted with this same thought and still I did not have an answer.
The mother at the mental health event was someone I had never met, yet she was so desperate for help that she uttered her fears to a complete stranger. Maybe it was easier to say this to a stranger than to someone she knew. She was clearly looking for guidance.
I empathized with her worry and loneliness. I encouraged her to communicate with her son, to convince him to see a counselor or go to a support group. I handed her a leaflet from the National Alliance on Mental Illness that provided information about programs and groups in her area, but I felt like it wasn’t enough. I felt like I was giving her a metaphoric pat on the back and sending her away.
What do we have to offer this mother?
There has been a lot of movement to reduce stigma, obtain support, and acquire medical care for those with mental illness, but there is still a great deal of work left to do. We shouldn’t have to wait until our youth commit crimes in order for them to receive the help they so desperately need.
Continue to talk about mental illness, push for medical treatment and appropriate care--fight for the rights you and your children deserve.
Do not think this does not affect you; it affects everyone, because children who have a mental illness are my children, they are your children, they are the nation’s children, and they need everyone’s help.
As a parent I wanted to protect my child from all the bad things that might come into his life, but how could I protect him from himself? I discovered my son’s self-injurious behavior when he was fourteen. I knew practically nothing about self-harm then, but as the years went on I learned a great deal.
Here is what I wish I had known.
1. It's not attention seeking behavior, but rather a cry for help.
I thought cutting was a way to get attention, sort of a rebellious teenage “badge.” I quickly learned that my child was not trying to get attention, he was screaming for help. Self-harm was the only way he knew how to communicate his intense pain. By cutting his own skin he was releasing endorphins into his brain. These endorphins helped to relieve some of his emotional trauma and actually made him feel better. However the feeling doesn’t last, and then the self-harmer is left with physical scars and a feeling of shame.
2. It's not a suicide attempt; it is a coping skill for dealing with intense and overwhelming emotions.
It’s called non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) and is most commonly displayed as cutting or burning. NSSI is used as a coping skill to deal with an emotional overload. My son often said he self-harmed to stop himself from completing suicide. This is a prevalent method used for those dealing with suicidal ideation; it is an attempt to alleviate the feeling of wanting to die. The big difference here is intent. The intent of NSSI is to escape the severe emotional pain, but still remain alive. Unfortunately this doesn’t always work. Many self-harmers have attempted suicide and even intentionally or accidently completed suicide.
One of the other dangers of NSSI is that it can become obsessive, compulsive, and even addictive. Stopping once you have experienced the endorphin release can be difficult and take years to overcome.
3. Talking about self-harm with your child will not put the idea in their head.
If you have a reason to believe your child is thinking about self-harming, talking to them will not give them the idea. Most likely they have heard about it from friends, classmates or online, and if they have already self-harmed discussing it won’t make it worse.
Talking about self-injury is important. Do this privately, with compassion, and without judgment. Chances are your child already feels ashamed. Knowing that they can come to you and talk, without being judged, can make all the difference in what choices they make in the future.
4. Ignoring it will not make it go away.
When things get difficult in our lives we often want to bury our heads in the sand, hoping that the problem will go away. This does not work. Do not ignore your child’s self-injurious behavior! It will not go away on its own. Be the parent you need to need to be for your child. You can help them through this difficult time in their lives and both of you can come out on the other side stronger than you were before.
5. Going to the hospital or doctor every time is not necessary.
This is a time when you need to be objective as a parent. If you think your child’s self-injury is out of control and they are in danger of completing suicide, take them to the hospital. If your child has hurt themselves severely, take them to the hospital. Beyond this there is no right or wrong answer as to when you should take your child to the doctor or the hospital after an episode of self-injury. You must use your best parental judgment and decide what is best for your child in that moment. No two situations are the same and nobody can make that decision for you.
6. Getting angry at your child does not help.
Oh, I have been there. After years of helping my son overcome his desire to cut, when I thought he had “beaten” the addiction, he did it again. Oh yeah, I was angry, but it didn’t help. It didn’t even make me feel better, I only suffered remorse later. How could I be angry at my boy who was suffering from intense pain? Getting angry doesn’t help anyone.
7. Validate your child's feelings instead of trying to fix the problem.
As parents we want to “fix” problems. Often the best thing to do in this situation is to validate their feelings. Validation does not mean you agree with their choice of self-harm, instead it’s telling them that it is okay to have these feelings and that you still love them. This will help your child feel accepted, understood, and heard.
8. Finding the right therapist is imperative.
This is truly a tough one. Can you even find the right therapist? Some people say no, but I do believe there are competent therapists out there. Don’t be afraid to interview them in advance and ask questions about their therapeutic process. A parent alone cannot do everything for their child, especially if that child is unwell. There comes a time when you have to relinquish control and realize that you do not have all the skills needed to help your child move to a healthy place.
9. It's not your fault.
There is a propensity in society to blame the parents for the “faults” of their children. In a few small cases this may be appropriate, but they are few. When it comes to self-harm and mental illness, it’s not your fault. Do not blame yourself. You did not want this for your child, nobody does.
The majority of parents are giving their children the best care and opportunities they can. Do not judge others in their parenting, instead, offer empathy and compassion. You never know when you might find yourself in a similar situation.
Is your child self-harming or do you have experience with self-harm? Please leave a comment or email me privately at the email link above.
I have been asked to do some guest blog posts recently. Here is one I did for 1 in 5 minds. Please follow the link to read it.
Theresa Larsen, author of "Cutting the Soul: A journey into the mental illness of a teenager through the eyes of his mother," shares her perspective and personal insight in this special guest blog post titled "Why are We Afraid to Talk About Mental Illness?" Thank you Theresa Larsen!
Thank you Sarah Fader at Stigma Fighters for asking me to guest blog on your site. Please read my post by following the link http://stigmafighters.com/stigma-fighters-theresa-larsen/
Have a look at all the wonderful work Sarah and her team are doing to reduce the stigma of mental illness at http://stigmafighters.com/
Do Not Become a Servant to Self-Harm
I was horrified to hear about young girls cutting themselves because “One Direction” band member, Zayn Malik, was leaving the group. Self-harm should not be taken lightly or used as a method of manipulation and control.
Self-injurious behavior is often the result of suppressing an intense emotional overload. When these feelings become more than the individual is able to bear they can spill out as self-harm. This behavior is used as a coping skill, but certainly not a healthy one, and definitely not one that should be promoted to young, vulnerable people.
My son self-harmed for years. It became obsessive and addicting. He described it in his journals. “A single drop makes even the strongest shudder. My own suffering caused from a powerless action. A desperate plea for the sight of my own blood. Striking the match of simple pleasures, leading myself to failure.” He calls it “a powerless action” because he did not gain any power in self-harm. He, in essence, became its servant and it was leading him on a road to failure.
If you haven’t self-harmed, but are thinking about it, don’t do it! Cutting is not the answer to your problems. It will only bring more emotional pain in the long run.
There are many other activities out there instead of self-harm and they do work. These are the ones that worked for my son:
Remember there is always hope. My son has found his way out of the darkness that consumed him time and time again. He works hard to maintain a healthy life. This is what he wrote after years of fighting depression and struggling to break free of the clutches of cutting.
“A single reason to continue on this path I have made for such a long time has left me completely. Now I find myself searching for what used to be, instead of what should be. Lost and confused, I stagger back and forth for a while, trying to find my balance. The initial shock has kicked in and a life with this, this lack of what I depended on, is flashing before my eyes. At first glance I yearn for my satisfaction once again. I want to cradle my obsession and love my obsession, but leaving impulse behind requires me to think forwardly and consequentially. The potential my life now holds is not fathomable. I am slowly beginning to realize what this has held me from becoming, that I am capable of achieving all my aspirations. That the monster that has festered for, it seems like an eternity, inside of me can be tamed, and being held back from the true self will only cause me to bask in the reality that is me. Relishing every moment I succeed.”
I was asked to write a guest blog for a wonderful person in my area who is working to minimize the stigma of mental illness. She created the site "I Still Matter" and has held monthly art groups for the community. The world's largest crowd funding festival "One Spark" is held in Jacksonville, FL and I Still Matter will be launching it's exhibit titled Inside Out. "Inside Out is an exploration of self. It’s a journey into the inside of mental illness and it encourages people to 'come out' about their diagnosis in hope that others will feel comfortable doing the same. It encourages a sense of togetherness which is exactly what one needs when one feels utterly alone."
Please visit and explore the "I Still Matter" website, and read my blog.
My son, “Matthew,” plays guitar, piano, and loves to draw. He is sensitive and kind, but easily offended and emotionally vulnerable. He is intelligent and often has high expectations and unrealistic goals that he can’t always achieve. Not reaching those goals makes him angry and ashamed.
Matthew mentioned depression when he was eleven years old, saying there was no point in living. I did not give this statement the attention it deserved. I did not realize it was depression. I discovered the slices on my son’s arms in January of 2009, just four months after his fourteenth birthday. Cutting himself wasn’t the first mark of troubled emotions. He didn’t want to go to school, or complete his homework. He was irritable and didn’t want to participate in family activities. He often isolated in his room listening to questionable music. I equated his attitude to “being a teenager.” Physically hurting himself was new. Matthew’s depression wasn’t always outwardly noticeable, there were signs, if I had known what to look for and had thought to look.
Once I discovered Matthew’s self-harm, I did everything I could to help him deal with his emotions. Unfortunately what I was able to give him was not enough. For several months I watched my son struggle with an intense emotional burden that threatened to overwhelm him. He saw psychiatrists and counselors. He took medication and learned therapeutic skills. Despite this, he would come to me again and again with shame and remorse after cutting. Nothing released his pain like self-harm.
After an episode of self-injury the suicidal sadness and anger we saw in Matthew was suppressed, an emerging pattern. Cutting apparently gave him a release from his emotional turmoil, and then he could cope with life. It was weirdly logical, but dangerous. My son spent many months in full-time psychiatric facilities learning healthy skills to apply to his major depressive disorder. During his time in one facility he stated, “Death is my only option out of my emotional pain.” He truly believed that life at times simply was not worth living.
In one week Matthew could waver on the precipice of death and self-destruction and the next week he could stay positive and shift forward. Little by little, and after an enormous amount of work and pain, he was able to see that maybe there was something better than hurting himself to deal with his illness. During group therapy in Matthew’s final day at a treatment center, he told his peers “Hang in there and have hope. It does get better.”
Before full-time treatment, my son was not able to share his emotional pain because of the stigma associated with his illness. He blamed himself. He felt ashamed and embarrassed. So instead of talking, he cut. Not everyone who self-harms is depressed; they may be dealing with another emotional pain, but everyone who self-harms is pleading for help.
I can look back now after a great deal of progress, and after hearing stories of young people killing themselves when the parents were not even aware that there child was depressed, and say that I am grateful my son self-harmed. I would never have thought those words could come out of my mouth, but I know that the alternative is my worst nightmare.
I don’t condone self-injurious behavior; I think it is addictive and destructive. But, I am thankful that my son chose this outward display of his emotional pain, instead of burying it deep within himself, only to carry out the ultimate release.
I am reminded of the story of Corrie Ten Boom who wrote the best-selling book, The Hiding Place. Corrie tells the story of her family and their work to help Jews escape the Nazi holocaust during WWII. The family was discovered and imprisoned, after saving over 800 lives. Corrie and her sister managed to sneak a Bible into the concentration camp, a crime punishable by death. In their horrific living conditions, Corrie and her sister Betsie, continued to “be thankful in all things.” They lived in barracks infested with fleas and found a way to be thankful for the fleas. They soon discovered that it was the fleas that keep the guards from coming in to harass the prisoners and it was the fleas that keep the guards from searching their barracks and finding their Bible.
For many years I was not thankful for my son’s actions to overcome his depression. In fact I was angry and embarrassed. When I was able to step back and see his behavior objectively, I understood that the self-injury saved his life.
If Matthew had not felt the shame of depression, maybe he would have discussed it with me, instead of hurting himself. If he had not felt alone, maybe he would have been able to seek out helpful coping skills from his parents, teachers or friends instead of having to carry the burden of depression all on his own.
I am grateful for my son’s self-harming behavior. He silently screamed for help. He is alive today and doing well, having overcome the addiction of cutting and the stigma of self-harm and depression. He is no longer afraid to ask for help.
LOOK: For the signs of depression.
LISTEN: To your child and yourself, and don’t be afraid to talk about it.
GO: Find the help you need.
For more information visit my resources page
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has launched "Say It Out Loud," a program for faith communities and civic organizations to use in reaching out to youth, ages 14 to 18, to start conversations about mental health. "One in five teens live with mental health conditions. Less than half get help and more than 4,000 teens die from suicide every year," said NAMI executive director Mary Giliberti. "Faith communities and other organizations that sponsor youth groups are in unique positions to encourage teen conversations."
"It's time to end the silence. It's time to talk constructively about mental health with young people. It's time to say it out loud."
The "Say It Out Loud" tool-kit is free to download: www.nami.org/sayitoutloud.
The 10 Warning Signs
"We need to reach out to teens who are looking for guidance or who themselves are leaders among their peers."
NAMI is the nation's largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness through research, education, support and advocacy.
Please follow the link below and check out what NAMI is doing for your community. Do not be afraid to #sayitoutloud
Perception, according to Wikipedia, "Is the organization, identification, and interpretation of sensory information in order to represent and understand the environment."
Your perception is dissimilar to mine. The sensory information you process is unlike mine, so our perception of what we see and feel is different. If you have a mental illness, perception can be distorted. People who are experiencing a mental illness often feel locked in a world without a key to their future. They see their life disappear or remain stagnant, while those around them move toward a fulfilling life.
"Life awaits. Meaningful friendships, inspiring work, independence, your place in the world. They’re all just waiting outside your door. Now imagine if that door was locked. No key, no side exit, you’re trapped , while everybody else blossoms around you. That’s what it feels like growing up with a mental illness." Daniel Pierce, Perception.
We as a society, as a nation, as a world need to break down the barriers that lock the door to independence, progress, and hope for anyone who has a history of mental illness. Listen, talk, and listen some more. Sometimes being heard is all someone needs to move in a positive and healthy direction. Be the light in the darkness for your one in four.
Thank you to the local paper, The Resident, for sharing my memoir and website information.
Go to page 25 to read about "Avondale woman writes of experience with child's illness."
I love the quote by Martin Luther King Jr. that says, "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." This phrase is applicable to many things. Dr. King was referring to speaking out against racial injustice, but this quote can apply to anything that requires us to step up and speak out.
When I starting writing my memoir, Cutting the Soul, I was afraid to talk about my son’s mental illness, but I knew if I was going to put it out there in the world that I would have to learn to talk about it. So, like most things in life, I started with one small, timid step. Over time I became comfortable approaching people I did not know and telling them about my son’s illness. And do you know what happened? People actually listened and then they told me about their child, friend, or relative who was experiencing a similar issue. I learned that people actually do want to talk about mental illness. They want to know that they are not alone and that there are others who can offer insight, support, and guidance. Mother’s especially want to know that other mother’s are not perfect and that their children are not perfect and that it is okay. One of the worst feelings in the world is to feel alone. If you know that you are not enduring something alone it gives you hope.
Do not be afraid to talk about mental illness. Talking about it will bring our nation out of the dark times and into the light of acceptance and understanding. Knowing that they are not alone will bring hope to those who experience mental illness.
My book club read my book Cutting the Soul for our reading material this month. I felt honored to have them want to read it. The book and topic of mental health brought up some amazing discussions. One of which was that we don't treat mental illness the same way that we treat a physical illness.
I read a fantastic article in an online Texas magazine called mySA by Frederick W. Hines. In the article Hines says:
"Imagine: 11-year-old Johnny falls during a game and breaks his arm. An ambulance rushes him to the emergency room, where the broken bone is set and a cast applied.
Johnny takes a selfie and posts to Instagram, while Mom checks-in on Facebook, thanking friends and family for their calls and support. Johnny attends school the next day where his accident is replayed over and over, each time with a little more bravado as kids line up to sign the cast and offer encouragement.
Neighbors bring over a casserole that evening and a batch of cookies to show their support.
Now imagine that Johnny was instead suffering from depression and anxiety. His circle of friends seems to be changing, he feels hopeless, and his parents are bewildered by what’s going on.
A routine visit to the pediatrician focuses on physical health, leaving Johnny feeling isolated.
Mom doesn’t know where to turn — after all, no one talks about mental, emotional or behavioral disorders. In fact, most parents feel blamed for their child’s mental illness, and worse, the child is often told to 'snap out of it.'
In desperation, Mom takes Johnny to the local ER after he expresses thoughts of harming himself. She has no idea that psychiatric services are not available at most area hospitals. They will spend hours and hours waiting, only to be told that the resources they need don’t exist in the ER.
As a community, we would never allow a child with a broken arm to go untreated, or wait three months for care. We would expose the issues and work together to resolve the system of care. We certainly wouldn’t blame the child or their parents for the situation. But we do it every day for children and families suffering from mental illness."
These are powerful words. Why do we allow mental illness to take a backseat to other illnesses? Are we afraid of those who have a mental illness? If we are afraid, wouldn't it be smarter to make sure treatment was received, without stigma, before the person became overwhelmed and did something dangerous?
We need to take this out of the shadows and talk about it.
This article goes on to tell us about a sight to get involved in to support children in need. Please have a look at it and #talkaboutit.
"The subject of suicide is not something we see all too often in films, and even fewer of these films where this is a central theme are prevalent at the Oscars. This year in the Best Documentary Short Award category, Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1 took home the Oscar gold. The film takes a look at the work of several Veteran’s Crisis Line employees who work the phones in a 24-hour hotline service. They provide both active and retired servicemen and women guidance, support, and hope during times of emotional, physical or financial troubles.
This is not the first time that Dana Perry has tackled the subject of suicide. In 2009, she spoke to Huffington Post about her film Boy Interrupted, a documentary where viewers learn about her son who committed suicide at 15.
“This is a movie one wishes one did not have to make. Maybe it will break down walls, and stigmas about talking openly about mental illness, to free people to do so without shame. The film asks a lot of questions in a public fashion and stirs up discussion about why we as a society are ashamed about mental illness. Educating people is a real challenge. And, education and treatment is the only suicide prevention. Let’s get the word out.”
During her Oscar acceptance speech last night, Perry mentioned that “we need to talk about suicide out loud.”
It wouldn’t be the last time that suicide was mentioned throughout the Oscars last night. When writer Graham Moore accepted his Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for his work with The Imitation Game, he gave a speech that left some celebrities teary eyed, insisting that it’s alright to be different.
“Alan Turing never got to stand on a stage like this and look out on all these disconcertingly attractive faces. And I do. And that’s the most unfair thing I think I’ve ever heard. And so in this brief time here what I want to use it to do is say this. When I was 16 years old I tried to kill myself, because I felt weird, and I felt different, and I felt like I did not belong. And now I’m standing here. And so I would like for this moment to be for that kid out there who feels like she’s weird or she’s different or she doesn’t fit in anywhere: Yes you do. I promise you do. Stay weird, and then when it’s your turn, and you are the one standing on this stage, please pass this message on.”
There were many incredible speeches made by the winners of the 2015 Oscars, however these two in particular did what others hadn’t: raised awareness of an illness that grips both young and old."
Read more at http://www.inquisitr.com/1868139/oscars-2015-brings-suicide-awareness-to-the-stage/#HbVFxVKRdVRrdMRf.99
I started this blog a week or so ago, didn't finish it, and put it in my draft pile. I found it fascinating that when I looked at Yahoo mail today there was an article on the same topic.
This article on Yahoo is based more on psychiatric symptoms being indicative of a serious illness like cancer, it still links mental health to physical health.
"In the January 2015 edition of Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, a group of Italian researchers explored whether depression, anxiety, and other psychiatric mood disorders might be early symptoms of medical disorders, as opposed to being 'just' psychological symptoms."--Jennifer Gerson Uffalussy
Another article in The Guardian by Caroline Williams says, "George Slavich, a clinical psychologist at the University of California in Los Angeles, has spent years studying depression, and has come to the conclusion that it has as much to do with the body as the mind. 'I don’t even talk about it as a psychiatric condition anymore,' he says. 'It does involve psychology, but it also involves equal parts of biology and physical health.'
The basis of this new view is blindingly obvious once it is pointed out: everyone feels miserable when they are ill. That feeling of being too tired, bored and fed up to move off the sofa and get on with life is known among psychologists as sickness behaviour. It happens for a good reason, helping us avoid doing more damage or spreading an infection any further.
It also looks a lot like depression. So if people with depression show classic sickness behaviour and sick people feel a lot like people with depression – might there be a common cause that accounts for both?
The answer to that seems to be yes, and the best candidate so far is inflammation – a part of the immune system that acts as a burglar alarm to close wounds and call other parts of the immune system into action. A family of proteins called cytokines sets off inflammation in the body, and switches the brain into sickness mode.
In between five to 10 years, says Carmine Pariante, a psychiatrist at Kings College London, there may be a blood test that can measure inflammation in people with depression so that they can be treated accordingly."
Is this something new that has just been discovered? The answer to that is NO. An article in the Psychiatric Times stated that, "Numerous studies document that infections, such as pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcal infections, syphilis, hepatitis C, and zoonotic (animal) diseases, can cause mental illness. The same syndrome may be caused by different infections in different individuals, and the same infection can cause different syndromes in different individuals."
This article wasn't written last week or even last year. It was posted in December 2007. This is not something doctors and researchers have just discovered. Could there really be an eventual end to mental illness? A cure? Maybe, only time will tell.
I was given some interesting information a few weeks ago about Lyme disease and its ability to mimic mental illness. I found the research fascinating and thought it was worth more investigation.
According to Dr. Richard Horowitz, "Lyme disease is a major cause of psychiatric symptoms. Psychiatric case reports, as reported by psychiatrist Dr Brian Fallon, have linked Lyme disease to paranoia, thought disorders, delusions with psychosis, schizophrenia, with or without visual, auditory or olfactory hallucinations, depression, panic attacks and anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, anorexia, mood lability with violent outbursts, mania, personality changes, catatonia and dementia. Other psychiatric disorders in adults due to Lyme disease include atypical bipolar disorder, depersonalization/derealization, conversion disorders, somatization disorders, atypical psychoses, schizoaffective disorder and intermittent explosive disorders. In children and adolescents, Lyme disease can also mimic Specific or Pervasive Developmental Delays, Attention-Deficit Disorder (Inattentive subtype), oppositional defiant disorder and mood disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), anorexia, Tourette’s syndrome, and pseudo-psychotic disorders. The take home message: Lyme is the “great imitator”. Don’t exclude Lyme disease and associated infections as a possible underlying cause of psychiatric symptoms, and don’t assume that a positive response to an antibiotic like minocycline is not treating an underlying infection."
The Psychiatric Times also reported on tick borne diseases and neuropsychiatric disorders. It stated that Lyme disease can present itself in a multitude of manifestations, including psychiatric complaints. The article goes on to say that a patient who goes to a doctor with physical symptoms "...sees multiple specialists, each of whom restricts the examination to his area of expertise. Nothing is resolved, and the patient is frustrated that his symptoms cannot be explained. In view of the growing list of unexplained symptoms, including psychiatric symptoms, the patient is treated with tranquilizers and antidepressants with some benefit, but gradual decline persists."
When general medical explanations are exhausted "...the patient may be referred to a psychiatrist for 3 reasons: the unexplained medical symptoms give the appearance of a psychosomatic or somatoform condition; complex mental symptoms are thought to require psychiatric assessment; and a psychiatrist is thought to be needed to more effectively manage psychiatric treatments."
A lot of people can relate to the example above. How often do you go to a doctor and they send you to a specialist? If that person can't find anything wrong they send you to another, and so on. Then you become frustrated and depressed that no one can figure out what is wrong. Well what if it was Lyme disease or another inflammatory disease?
"When should we suspect Lyme disease as a potential etiological co-factor in psychiatric symptoms? Lyme disease is a multisystemic illness. If a patient presents with a symptom complex that comes and goes with good and bad days, with associated fevers, sweats and chills, fatigue, migratory joint and muscle pain, migratory neuralgias with tingling, numbness and burning sensations, a stiff neck and headache, memory and concentration problems, a sleep disorder and associated psychiatric symptoms (that may or may not be of recent onset), then we should suspect Lyme disease and associated co-infections."--www.psychologytoday.com
If you are having unexplained illness and/or psychiatric symptoms have a look at these articles and make sure you are armed with the ammunition you need to steer your doctor toward helping you find the right tests and treatments.
Can all psychiatric symptoms be explained away with a physical illness? No, but it's nice to have options. And when medications are not working, maybe looking for an alternative issue is a good idea.
I received the following email from the stamp out stigma group for mental illness. I think it is so important to talk about this.
HELP STAMP OUT STIGMA IN
As the New Year begins, Stamp Out Stigma would like to take a minute to thank you for supporting our campaign and taking the pledge to Stamp Out Stigma surrounding mental illness and addiction. You are helping to change perceptions and reduce stigma by encouraging people to talk openly about mental health and substance use disorders and share their stories. In 2014, we reached over 20 million individuals through social media and other publicity, and we couldn’t have done it without you! We want to start the New Year by sharing our 2015 goals with you:
Most importantly, our goal for all of us remains: TALK ABOUT IT. YOUR STORY COULD CHANGE A LIFE.
Let's talk about mental health. Why? Because the more we talk about how to help people who are diagnosed with a mental illness, the easier it will be to talk about it, and then the easier it will be to make changes, reduce stigma, and allow everyone to acquire the treatment for their illness that they need.
There was an excellent article in the Providence Journal by G. Wayne Miller about the language we use when talking about mental illness. "'Words matter,' James McNulty, head of the Mental Health Consumer Advocates of Rhode Island and a national authority on mental health says. 'Words make a difference. They help us in how we think about ourselves and about others.'"
"McNulty favors 'people-first' phrases and words — language that acknowledges an individual’s overall humanity, not a label describing one aspect of someone’s identity."
"Susan C. Jacobsen, the Mental Health Association of Rhode Island’s executive director, places the discussion in the context of other movements.
'This is one of the last ground fights for civil rights,' Jacobsen asserts. 'Those living with mental illness have been marginalized, discriminated against, and treated as an ‘other’ or an underclass throughout history. Language is one of the ways that we dehumanize people. It’s the mechanism of oppression and dehumanization.'"
“'Honesty' and 'clarity' are words Dr. Gabor I. Keitner uses to describe his interactions with people with mental illness and their significant others. Associate Psychiatrist-in-Chief at Rhode Island and Miriam hospitals, Keitner cautions against language — however well-intentioned — that obscures the true nature of such conditions as schizophrenia and posttraumatic stress disorder.
'We should be careful not to get caught up in the process so much that we actually end up minimizing the reality of what people may be struggling with,' Keitner says. 'When somebody has an illness, they have an illness. When we try to sugarcoat the notion of mental illness, we’re almost accepting the [idea] that this is something you shouldn’t talk about because it’s a really much worse thing to have than other illness.'"
"Dr. Keitner's patients appreciate honesty and clarity, he says.
'I’m validating that I recognize that this is really a tough thing they’re coping with. And that this is painful, this is disruptive — and it is an illness. They’re not doing it on purpose. It’s not their fault. They haven’t asked for this. But maybe for them to know that somebody accepts, validates and recognizes puts us in a position of ‘All right, what can we do together to help you manage this more effectively?’”
"The American Psychiatric Association is among the groups that have published guidelines of preferred language. 'The general rule,' the Arlington, Va.-based organization states, 'is to use person-first language.'
The APA guide gives several examples of words and phrases that should replace ones with stigmatizing or incorrect connotations. Among them is a recommendation to use 'She has a mental health problem or challenge' instead of 'she is mentally ill/emotionally disturbed/psycho/insane/lunatic.' Instead of 'suffering with, or a victim of, a mental illness' the guide advises 'experiencing, or being treated for, or has a diagnosis of, or a history of, mental illness.'"
“'Why is language important? Because the way that we talk about things frames the way that we think about things,' says Jacobsen."
Why is it so important to talk about mental health now? Because it is so prevalent. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, "One in four adults-approximately 61.5 million Americans-experiences mental illness in a given year. One in 17-about 13.6 million-live with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, major depression or bipolar disorder."
61.5 million Americans a year require treatment for a mental illness and that's only Americans, and Americans are a minority when thinking in global terms. That is a lot of people. This is important, talk about it, talk about it, talk about it. Do your best to use correct language. Don't minimize, instead validate, use "person-first" language, but most of all talk about it. The more you do the easier it will become, trust me, I have been there.
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