Category Archives: News

Crisis Text Line Charts Outline When & Where Teen Crises Strike

Most of you already know that I am a huge fan of charts and graphs that can provide a visual representation of the things many of us go through, from anything like stress or anxiety to those situations involving having thoughts of suicide or self harm. Mood charting has been has had a huge impact on the way I view my own mental health, and on the way I can convey what I experience to others.

Crisis Text Line, a New York based non-profit, is geared toward teens in crisis. The service allows users to text the crisis line about their crisis instead of having to call, making the subsequent conversation less intimidating and less likely to be overheard in public places (like schools or parks) where teens often spend much of their time.

This new format creates interesting opportunities, as text messages do leave behind a certain amount of data. This data has been combined and sorted allowing anyone to visit their website and select different types of crises and see the  time of day, day of the week, change over time, and crises per state based on the volume of text messages received about each type of crisis at any given time.

I realize that is a lengthy description, so here’s an example:

If you combine “time of day” and “anxiety” you will see that crisis texts involving anxiety peak between 7-8 am and at lunchtime.

If you combine “time of day” and “depression” you will see that crisis texts involving depression tend to peak around 8-9 pm.

Really, no description could do justice to how comprehensive and great these graphs are, giving us a unique opportunity to consider how we can help teens -or potentially anyone who is experiencing a crisis situation.

I would highly recommend checking this out, crisis topics range from eating disorders to bullying to sexual abuse and beyond, so there is a multitude of information here, not just that pertaining to depression or suicide.

You can find the Crisis Text Line website here, and their page specifically for the charts and graphs here.

There is also an article over at The Atlantic that contains a few more details I have not provided here if you are looking for more.

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Toadking – Free New Tracking & Charting App for Android Users

While psychiatric medications have not helped me manage my treatment resistant bipolar symptoms, there is one thing that has truly contributed to my understanding and daily management of both my emotional symptoms and those related to anxiety. I can easily say the most helpful tool I’ve come across is mood tracking.

Not only do I track the status of my moods, I also track things like anxiety level, sleep quality, and level of physical pain. Anything that might contribute to exacerbating my bipolar symptoms is something I want to keep tabs on, and this has helped me understand exactly what kinds of things trigger my episodes, gives me an easy way to relay information to my psychiatrist, and has given me a much wider understanding of the disorders I am dealing with.

These days, it can be hard to find time to jot down notes; it seems the easiest solution is to do so on the go. While there are a few mood charting apps out there, I am someone who really hates paying for something that might not work for me in the long-run.

That said, if you are someone who is already tracking different elements in your life or would like to start and have an android device, you’re in luck! There is a new, open-source app developed by a tracking-app user for android called toadking.

Toadking Charting App

Toadking Tracking & Charting App

The toadking app allows users to choose one or several elements to track (which could be anything from level of depression to sleep quality to stress level, there is no cap on the number of things you can track so the sky is the limit here!) and then designate a 1-10 value for those elements once each day. Don’t worry, if things change throughout the day you can always go back and change your value!

Once you have compiled some data, you can use the share tool to create printable graphs for each element, an excel file with your compiled data, or email that data to your doctors or therapist, creating an easy way for them to check up on your status.

Some of you readers might remember that I am a bit of a graph nut, and I was pleased to learn that the finished graphs can be bar graphs, line graphs, or a table. While viewing the graphs in “history” mode on the device, the graphs can be seen showing one month at a time, however when exporting graphs you can select from the current month, previous month, last three months, last six months, and even one year’s worth of graph data!

If you really want some perspective on how your mood or anxiety or sleep habits have changed over time, there is nothing quite like seeing a full year’s worth of data!

So if you, like me, prefer no-frills tools and abhor obnoxious adds popping up constantly on your “free” apps and you have an android device, I would definitely recommend giving this tracking app a try. After all, it is totally free… so what do you have to lose?

Here is a link to the toadking website where you can find more information, as well as access to the source code (I know I have some programmers out there reading so a little shout out to you!) and a support area if anyone has any questions regarding usage.

I also want to provide a link to the page at Google Play where the app can be downloaded, so you can get straight to the fun part if you’re interested in checking it out!

Finally, I want to make a quick note about the creator of this app, because this app is something he could have sold to someone (who would ultimately charge you and I to use it) and decided instead to share it for free with those that could really get good use out of it. In my book, that is really saying something, so I really want to encourage people to try this out and potentially pass it on to anyone you think might find it useful.

Find that you love this app? You can drop the creator a line or kick in a donation to his cause here

WA Supreme Court Rules Psychiatric Boarding Unlawful

Across the nation there have been problems with a shortage of beds in psychiatric wards to accommodate patients in crisis, and in Washington state I have come face to face with this issue firsthand. It is bad enough when psychiatrist’s schedules are booked out six weeks in advance or more (making it practically impossible for someone in a crisis situation to see someone immediately), but when these situations erupt into one requiring an involuntary hospitalization, a lack of available beds has meant keeping some of the most desperate psychiatric patients in ER or regular hospital beds in the meantime.

I guess I can see where this kind of action is coming from, having a lack of beds in psychiatric hospitals has meant having an overflow… and where can these people go? Without a proper budget in the state, it seems the next best thing would be to keep these patients in the hospital until they can receive care, right?

Wrong.

I first heard about this issue when other hospital patients (and some employees) began expressing concern about having involuntary patients who aren’t in the proper secure setting they need, and without the staff having the proper training to deal with potentially dangerous situations.

Oddly enough, that wasn’t the issue that brought this problem up to the state Supreme Court. The lawsuit was actually filed by one of the patients who had been involuntarily committed but temporarily held at a local hospital without treatment. 

Normally (at least in Washington state) the policy is that anyone who is admitted into a psychiatric inpatient setting (voluntary or involuntary) must begin receiving treatment by a licensed professional within 24 hours of intake.

I know how frustrating it can be to be admitted and have to wait 23 3/4 hours before seeing a psychiatrist (on top of waiting nearly 24 hours to be admitted) while in a crisis situation, but apparently there have been several cases where people have been held involuntarily (even strapped into a bed) for days without any kind of treatment due to lack of qualified staff.

Frankly, that sounds like a nightmare to me, and that is why I am pleased to say that the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that holding patients while withholding treatment is not only inhumane but also unlawful.

The ruling quoted the Involuntary Treatment Act;

“Each person involuntarily detained or committed pursuant to (the Act) shall have the right to adequate care and individualized treatment.”

While this feels like a big step in supporting and protecting the rights of the mentally ill in Washington State, the next big issue will be trying to find a solution to the issue of bed shortages.

You can find more about this trial at the Seattle Times blog The Today File here.

Low-Field Magnetic Stimulation May Provide Immediate Relief of Depression

As someone who has recently been looking into treatment options like ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) and TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation), I was excited to see a few new articles (like the one here at the Harvard Gazette) outlining a new, similar treatment with even better results!

While many people consider ECT and TMS treatments to be the most effective treatment available for severe depressive and bipolar episodes (including those with treatment resistant symptoms like mine) there are still drawbacks, and one of the major ones is the period of time after treatments have begun before improvement begins taking place.

Medications (like antidepressants) can often take 4-6 weeks to begin alleviating symptoms of depression, and treatments like TMS and ECT are also not expected to bestow an immediate sense of relief to those who are often experiencing symptoms severe enough to warrant such treatment.

This, however, is where new research (led by researcher Michael Rohan, a physicist at the brain imaging center at Harvard Medical School) has discovered a form of treatment using magnetic fields at a much lower strength than TMS or ECT but at a much higher frequency. The “low-field magnetic stimulation” (LFMS) produces a potential treatment option that appears to have an almost immediate effect of relieving symptoms of depression in severely depressed patients.

While more research needs to be done, the implications could be phenomenal. The ability to provide relief to severely depressed (and potentially suicidal) patients in the ER alone would be hugely beneficial, and as someone who has experienced the sort of long, sprawling, torturous depression that has landed me in the hospital more than once, I can’t even begin to imagine how my life might be different if those symptoms could be relieved before a suicide attempt or a hospitalization!

You can find a more in-depth article outlining the recent study at the Harvard Gazette website here.

Hyperbole and a Half – An Accessible Introduction to Depression

Hyperbole and a Half

Let me start by asking when is the last time you laughed? I mean really laughed?

A friend of mine recently passed on a book recommendation to me. She said it was both hilarious and reminded her of me, so I looked into snagging a copy at my local library. I quickly found myself eighty fifth in line to check a copy of that book out which immediately confirmed – this sheezy must be good!

Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened is a book by Allie Brosh inspired by her already (rather popular) blog Hyperbole and a Half.

The book itself seems to act as something as a (very loose) memoir with several hilarious stories about her own childhood, the behavior of her eccentric dogs (something any dog owner can associate with) and her desire to learn more about herself and what makes her tick.

Let me just say, the dialogue itself is funny, but the real clincher here is the series of illustrations that go with it, creating something akin to a book with an identity crisis (am I a book or a web comic?).

While funny enough to make me cry from laughing so hard, I wouldn’t suggest this book to you for that simple reason alone.

Allie Brosh’s book takes an interesting turn when she spends a chapter describing  her experience with depression. While I find this chapter extremely relatable (knowing very well what depression feels like myself) I was both intrigued by her continued usage of funny illustrations to help her descriptions and analogies hit home and the way she actually describes depression and how the people around her reacted to her situation.

I would say this book is about 80% light and hilarious, with 20% (maybe even less) focus on serious topics (like depression). Because of this I was immediately struck by how this book makes a great introduction for people who aren’t familiar with depression, coming at the topic initially from a comedic standpoint and then really digging deep to convey what depression feels like and how difficult it can be to convey to others.

While this book is in and of itself great (I will definitely buy a copy, I loved it) I think it would make a wonderful tool for anyone who is trying to reach out to someone either with depressive symptoms who wont address them, or to help gently explain to others what living with depression is like before having a more serious conversation about the subject.

I feel like people are always asking, “how can I bring up the subject of [depression/mental illness] in a positive way with the people around me? how do I know how my [co-worker/family member/friend] will react?”

Well, one answer might be to give this book a read and share it with the people around you. After they’ve read it, you could ask what they thought about the portion about depression, and I can see this really helping to create a dialogue between people (especially young adults, teens) on the topic.

Depression can feel like a very heavy, intense topic, so being able to approach it in a smart, fun way (sandwiched between two hearty portions of comedy) makes a discussion about it more accessible to a wider audience.

As I mentioned, this book has a lot to offer and I was very impressed by how something seemingly silly could offer up something profound.

You can check out Allie Brosh’s blog Hyperbole and a Half here, and you can find her book at your local library or at amazon.com (where the image in this post came from) here!

 

Support Needed for Mental Illness in the Workplace

Happy Monday! Today I want to share a recent article from USA Today that seems to address some issues I’ve been seeing (and living, let’s face it) about a lack of support around people with mental illness in the workplace.

I’ve been hitting a lot of big roadblocks when it comes to applying for SSDI, and I’ve honestly had some big questions about how our disability system works (or doesn’t work) here in the US. I’ve come across countless people who are against the whole idea of SSDI because it doesn’t support people who are disabled and want to work part time, and the current system seems to only support an “all” or “nothing” style of support. There have been so many situations I’ve found myself in where I know I could mentally benefit from working a few hours a week (giving my life a better sense of structure and a bigger sense of accomplishment and purpose) but the way the system is set up, trying to help myself this way is extremely frowned upon.

The article I’m sharing today addresses the idea of a “supported employment program” that potentially allows employers to do a better job of bridging the gap between the needs of their companies and realistic employment abilities of those with mental illness (which, let’s be honest, can widely vary for any given person over time). Personally, I consider this to be a stellar idea… I am just not sure how well this could realistically be executed. If companies aren’t currently willing to make the necessary accommodations for exceptionally well qualified applicants with mental illness as it is (something I have experienced several times), what would encourage them to use a program like this one?

At any rate, you can check out the article here. Give it a read and let me know what you think!

An Expert’s Insight About Avoiding Mass Shootings

Hey folks! Frankly, I’m a little worn out when it comes to all the talk regarding mental health and violence, but I’ve just found a great article with information from Dr. Jeffrey Swanson, a professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Duke University School of Medicine. This man is something of an expert when it comes to researching mental health and violence, and I appreciate the information he was willing to share in this article!

I feel like there have been so many theories and ideas about this subject tossed around (really this seems to be a subject everyone has an opinion about) that I find it refreshing to see a point of view from someone who is well educated, understands many aspects about mental health, and is a leader in their field.

Having experienced a mass shooting recently down the street from my apartment here in Seattle I think it is important that we (as a mental health community) are aware of what our individual states and country as a whole plan to do in response to these acts of violence. There is a good chance the changes made will impact us (via healthcare or laws, etc.) as members of the mental health community first (violent or not), and probably as citizens second. I know it can be tough to stay informed with such a raging debate going on, and that’s why I wanted to share this particular piece with you.

You can find the article here, it is worth checking out!

Thanks!