Tag Archives: schizophrenia

The Heart of July 4th

Propaganda of the American Colonies

Propaganda of the American Colonies

I would never refer to myself as an ardent patriot, but I do (on occasion) have the opportunity to spend time researching history and then living in a manner that our forefathers (and mothers) were accustomed to. The time of the American Revolutionary War is one that is of particular interest to me.

What is it about the period leading up to the war and the transition into a unified country I find so fascinating? Well, while others are roasting their hot dogs today and lighting off fireworks, I’m thinking about why July 4th is a holiday in the first place.

It is a story of a group of people being taken advantage of; an example of a true tale of the underdogs fighting for the rights they believe they deserve until they have achieved them.

This is an important story, and though it is one that comes up again and again in US history focusing on many different groups of people, this is a story that is still in its early stages when it comes to our story.

The American Revolution itself faced difficulty in reaching unity within the colonies. It provided a period of thought and contemplation about what basic rights should be afforded to all people, and (what people usually remember) also included a brutal struggle through the physical act of fighting.

You might be surprised to hear it, but I see a lot of similarities between the fight for American independence and the fight for fair, competent mental health services in our country and the need to bring people together on this issue. I don’t expect our journey to involve a navy or muskets, but I’m sure that is for the better!

The snake, for example, in the propaganda banner above is broken down into pieces representing each of the colonies that needed to come together to create a unified force. I think we face similar issues when attempting to unify people behind the cause of mental health because many of us have different viewpoints, different backgrounds, different disorders, different symptoms! Still, if we can find a way to work together we will find we are a force to be reckoned with; a snake you’d better not step on again!

Guerilla Warfare

Guerilla Warfare

During the American Revolution the British soldiers greatly outnumbered the colonist militia, so the militia changed the rules of war; hiding in wooded areas in an attempt to shield themselves while making an attack.

Most of us with mental illness have felt like we have needed to hide in order to keep ourselves safe, and being smart about when we share our experiences or staying calm and choosing our battles is a strategy that has already began to show some improvement in our nation’s social dialogue.

I know that while I feel comfortable coming forward and being open with everyone in my life about my experiences, I understand there are others in situations (like in a questionable workplace, family, or school environment) who have to be very careful about the battles they choose to fight and when they can fight them. I know these situations can be distressing, but I don’t consider this to be a drawback because when a hidden warrior chooses to finally make themselves seen there is a big impact.



One of the things I’ve found is that the act of hiding makes discovering a sense of community ten times more rewarding. This is part of what makes us strong; we truly appreciate much of what each other has to offer. Though I know there is still a little work that needs to go into unification for our cause, our community is constantly growing.

I expect that this 4th that there will be picnics and a sense of community and giddy children lighting off fireworks in the streets, but I hope that today you will also think about the reason behind it all.

No, it isn’t our right to bear arms, nor our hatred of paying taxes. It isn’t about guys in powdered wigs or military prowess. July 4th is about being someone who has struggled, someone who has been walked on, and demanding a better life.

If nothing else, that thought inspires me because I see myself in itIf that is what it truly means to be an American, maybe I’ve been a patriot all along?


Lower Life Expectancy with Mental Illness

At the NAMI peer-to-peer recovery course I’ve been taking there was a statistic the other day that wasn’t necessarily surprising, but it was shocking.

The statistic is that on average, the life expectancy of people with mental illness is 25 years shorter than the general population.

A couple of the reasons why include:

  • Individuals with mental illness smoke half of all cigarettes produced
  • Increased risk of weight gain and type-2 diabetes with some antipsychotic medications
  • People with mental illness may see a psychiatrist regularly but may not have access to a general practitioner

And these explanations don’t even take things like suicide into account.

I know I for one don’t want to cut my life short, but when it comes to things like medication it can sometimes feel like we don’t have a choice but to take them.

I guess what I took away from this was that we all need to be on top of taking care of ourselves, because we are the only ones that are going to do it. I know health can kind of fall on the back burner when things like our sanity is on the line, but it is important to consider the health of your entire body, not just the mind.

I didn’t want to end the week on something of a downer, but I really see this as an opportunity for inspiration to do the things I need to do to keep healthy. Don’t become a statistic, hopefully it can inspire you, too!

Common Genes Found for 5 Mental Illnesses

Research has found that five conditions, previously thought to be clinically different, share a common genetic root. The conditions in common are autism, attention deficit disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and major depression.

Dr. Jordan Smoller of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston led the study, publishing findings in the journal Lancet.

This finding covers only one small portion of the makeup of mental illness (it is thought that they involve hundreds of different genes) and does not explain every single case of mental illness. At the same time, it is groundbreaking information and suggested on a genetic level that,

The five diseases are more like a continuum of dysfunction than five separate and discrete conditions.

Researchers say this could explain why many people have series of symptoms that do not easily fall into one of the specific diagnoses.

Smoller’s team did a genome study of 33,000 psychiatric patients and compared them to nearly 28,000 people without mental illness.

The research also seems to explain why some people have overlapping symptoms, or why in families prone to one psychiatric disease another might occur.

Not only will this research help in our understanding of mental illness, it could also benefit the treatment of mental illness, including the development of psychiatric medications.

For more information, check out Mental Illness Share common DNA roots over at nbc news.

FDA Considering Latuda for the Treatment of Bipolar Disorder

A recent article in the Boston Business Journal notes that the FDA is considering Sunovion Pharmaceuticals Inc.’s requests to approve recent drug Latuda for use in treating bipolar disorder.

Currently, Latuda is only approved for the treatment of schizophrenia, but one application is requesting it be approved to be used in conjunction with other medications to treat bipolar disorder, and another application requests it be approved to treat bipolar disorder alone.

If you aren’t familiar with Latuda (Lurasidone), it is an atypical psychotic approved by the FDA for the treatment of schizophrenia in 2010.

Looking at the list of side effects, they look comparable to those of Geodon (which I just started recently). Side effects range from things like uncontrollable muscle movements, insomnia, nausea, drowsiness, and agitation.

I know this drug has not actually been approved by the FDA for bipolar disorder yet, but I do know one or two people that have been taking it for bipolar symptoms. For those of us who have symptoms bordering on schizophrenia (or schizoaffective disorder) or for those who haven’t been able to tolerate other atypical antipsychotics (like abilify, zyprexa, or geodon) it is always great to hear that there may soon be another option out there!

Childhood Trauma Linked to Schizophrenia

Most of us familiar with the concept of mental illness know that there have long been debates over whether these disorders are primarily genetic, environmental, or a combination of both.

Researchers at Liverpool and Maastricht University in the Netherlands have brought together and analyzed information from 30 years of studies to try to better understand the link between childhood trauma and the development of psychosis.

Findings suggest that there are both neurological and genetic factors at play, and these recent studies yielded similar conclusions:

Children who had experienced any type of trauma before the age of 16 were approximately three times more likely to become psychotic in adulthood compared to those selected randomly from the population.

The article at Science Daily goes on to suggest that children who had been severely traumatized early on in life were at a greater risk (up to 50% more) than children who were traumatized to a lesser extent.

The study also suggests different types of trauma during childhood can lead to specific sets of symptoms. Childhood sexual abuse was more likely to produce hallucinations later in life, while children brought up in a “children’s home” were more likely to produce paranoia later in life.

 “The causes of psychotic disorders, particularly schizophrenia, are a source of controversy amongst psychiatrists, psychologists and doctors. There is also disagreement about how the disorders are defined. It’s not unusual, for example, for a patient to be diagnosed with schizophrenia by one psychiatrist, but as bipolar by another.”

-Professor Richard Bentall, from the University’s Institute of Psychology, Health and Society

Now that researchers understand that childhood environment plays a crucial role in the onset of psychosis later on in life, research is going to be geared toward finding out the particulars, and why these events can cause symptoms so much later in life.

There is a bit more on the original article and it is definitely an interesting one I’d recommend. You can read the original article here… 

Antipsychotic Drugs Grow More Popular for Patients Without Mental Illness

The Washington Post‘s Sandra G. Boodman sheds some light on an issue that is apparently spreading across the country like wildfire in the article:

“Antipsychotic Drugs Grow More Popular for Patients Without Mental Illness” 

As someone who has some first hand experience taking antipsychotics (and who has a diagnosis that actually warrants their use) I am amazed people are willingly taking them when arbitrarily prescribed. With side effects like extreme sedation and potential rapid weight gain, I could barely take them at all -and I’m someone who can actually benefit from their main purpose!

Antipsychotics play an extremely important role for many folks with mental illness, and for many people they have been something of a godsend. The abuse of these medications could potentially have a resounding negative effect on those of us who actually need them, so I think this is something to keep yourself informed about if an antipsychotic is part of your regimen.

I also wanted to take a moment to stress the importance of asking your doctor questions, being prescribed psychiatric medications through a psychiatrist (whenever possible), and to investigate the medications you are given prior to taking them. Read the pamphlets, talk to your doctor, and to your pharmacist.

I really encourage folks to stay informed regarding all medications they are taking to avoid being prescribed unnecessary medications, or medications that may put your health at greater risk.

I thought I would include a link to it here for anyone interested in finding out more, but I want to add a quick warning: if your perception of the American health care system hasn’t already been shattered, you may just want to skip this one…

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