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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

In the News Month of October Mental Health and HIV

In the News Month of October

Remembering Dr. Beny Primm
Source:  AIDS.gov  October 29, 2015

"It is with great sadness that we recognize the passing of Dr. Beny Primm, a stalwart leader in our national response to HIV from the earliest days of the epidemic.  Dr. Primm died on October 16, after a long battle with kidney disease. His legacy in both substance abuse treatment and HIV/AIDS is profound and will continue to have a positive impact on our responses to both of these issues for years to come.:

source:  Thursday, October 22 2015    Vital VOICE                            

"1948 Alfred Kinsey

Biologist and sex researcher Alfred Kinsey published Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. Kinsey concludes that homosexual behavior is not restricted to people who identify themselves as homosexual and that 37% of men have enjoyed homosexual activities at least once. While psychologists and psychiatrists in the 1940's consider homosexuality a form of illness, the findings surprise many conservative notions about sexuality."



Source:  AIDS.gov

"With Fiscal Year 2015 (FY15) just concluded, I wanted to share highlights of the awards made under the Secretary’s Minority AIDS Initiative Fund (SMAIF), which are supporting many activities that will unfold during FY16.  A total of $52.2 million was awarded to support 31 initiatives across 10 HHS Operating Divisions (OpDivs) and Staff Offices to prevent new HIV infections and reduce drop-offs along the HIV care continuum for racial and ethnic minorities who bear a disproportionate burden of HIV disease."


Soutce:  Ashton P. Woods From TheBody.com  October 6, 2015

"The importance of a gathering like the Positive Living Conference, and many others like it, is that a safe space is established for people to be more than their HIV status. The Positive Living Conference -- which happens each year in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., and took place from September 18-20 this year -- is the largest gathering of people living with HIV in the U.S. When safe spaces are created, the true humanity of participants can be seen. In seeing that humanity, many of the problems in relation to being HIV positive are exposed."


Source: The Goodman Project: October 1, 2015:  By  Sean Swaby

"Claim your crazy. Your mental health may be stronger when you struggle.

"Stigma is never a good thing. We do it with race, gender, sexuality, religion, and mental health. Go ahead, tell your friends and coworkers that you are crazy. At first they will laugh and then they will ignore it (and maybe even you). That is how stigma works.

Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. To help others their mental illness, he created the Brandon Marshall Foundation. He compares the stigma of mental health with cancer and HIV."

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Bipolar Depression: Letting the Light In

REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION OF BP HOPE MAGAZINE  October 13, 2015




Learn more about bipolar depression, including strategies that challenge lethargy—like the “good enough” theory and word choices that can help you build momentum and get yourself unstuck.


By Robin L. Flanigan


When he’s feeling low and the couch is the only place he wants to be, Jim might choose to work on his motorcycle or take a walk with his wife, children and dogs.

Distracting himself with tasks that require physical movement has been a critical tool for dealing with bipolar depression.

“I can’t emphasize too much that it’s a very difficult thing to do,” Jim says of resisting the pervasive lethargy, “but I can feel the mood lifting. By the time I’m finished, the depression is not nearly as deep or dark. … It’s not a cure, but it does reduce the suffering.”

The Indiana resident taps into a list of coping skills he first learned in therapy during a five-month depressive episode in 2001—an episode that eventually led to his bipolar I diagnosis.

Bipolar is actually much easier to diagnose during manic episodes, since behaviors like talking unusually fast, taking on multiple new projects, and plunging into risky activities tend to catch the eye. Without an obvious “up” to clue in clinicians, the down side of bipolar mood swings—with symptoms like dragging slowness of brain and body, social withdrawal, and hopelessness—often gets (mis)treated as major depressive disorder.

Bipolar-Depression Part of the problem is that individuals who have bipolar disorder spend, on average, far more time in depressive states than in elevated ones. Researchers at the University of California at San Diego calculated the ratio of time that people with bipolar II spend in depression versus hypomania at 40:1. Even in bipolar I, they found, the depression-to-mania ratio is 3:1.

There are individual variations, of course. There are people whose mood tends to swing upward more often than down, or who begin to have severe depressions only as they get older. Others rarely feel the bump of an elevated state. When episodes follow a seasonal pattern, depression can set in this time of year and not lift entirely until spring arrives.

Though it’s often overshadowed by mania’s expansiveness, bipolar depression can create a heavy burden of disability. Whether it’s characterized by bone-deep fatigue or agitation, apathy or irritability, insomnia or oversleeping, the “black dog” (as Winston Churchill famously dubbed his depression) takes a toll on family life and social relationships, makes it difficult to keep up with work and school responsibilities, and slices away at the pleasures that enrich existence.

Jim takes pride in what he is able to accomplish in the face of bipolar depressions marked by lassitude and trouble concentrating. After being on disability for years, the 53-year-old has decided to return to school and work toward a new career as a certified medical assistant. (One of the draws: The job should be much less stressful than his former position as a computer system administrator.)

Jim expects the two-year degree will take at least six years to complete as he manages his bipolar along with his studies, and he’s fine with that.

“Having a purpose in life will get you up in the morning,” says Jim, who is also active in the National Alliance on Mental Illness and facilitates support groups on occasion. “Instead of sleeping, I go to class and study. I just decided that I was going to have a life that continually improves.”


Starting from zero

Once the smothering blanket of bipolar depression drops, it often seems as if nothing will lift the gloom. That’s when accomplishing any action, as tough as it may be to do and as seemingly useless as it may feel, makes all the difference.

Trapped in a cycle of bipolar depression, Joe of New Jersey had barely left his house in nearly two weeks. He’d ventured out only for weekly therapy appointments and a trip to the library.

His therapist explained how increased activity of any kind creates momentum for more activity, and how over time that decreases depressive symptoms and aids the return to a normal routine. So Joe decided on a trip to the beach.

“I had a very small goal, to get out to the ocean and put my feet in the water,” the 34-year-old recalls.

He got a slow start, walking out the door three hours later than he’d planned. He took two buses to get to a free beach an hour away. He reached the boardwalk, looked out over the ocean … and turned around.

He lives on a fixed income, so thinking about the money he was spending for the bus ride made him feel guilty. Then he started thinking about how he overspends when he’s showing manic tendencies.

“That made me feel bad and I didn’t want to be there anymore,” he admits.

Joe may not have felt the sand between his toes after all, but he does consider the trip a launching point.

“It was a baby step,” he says. “I accomplished something today, and maybe tomorrow I’ll accomplish something a little more.”

That pretty much defines the “good enough” theory—the idea that you don’t have to go all out on a goal right out of the gate.

“You want to get out of the depression, but you want to do it piece by piece, little by little,” explains Washington, D.C.-area therapist Kathleen McNulty, LCSW.

Practically speaking, she explains, that might look like this: Instead of going on a hike, walk around the block. Instead of starting a garden plot, buy a basil plant. If you’re too depressed to brush your teeth, put water with dental rinse into a spray bottle.

“The more you pile up those ‘good enough’ experiences, the faster you’ll find yourself in the flow of day-to-day life and coming out of the depression,” McNulty says.

Taking the reins

When her psychologist told Amy she was reverting to a childlike state of avoidance, she was initially both embarrassed and offended. But that insight was a breakthrough for Amy, who says talk therapy plus medication helped usher her out of a depression that lasted about 18 months.

Amy, who lives in British Columbia, saw that she hadn’t been taking the time to deal with stressful situations in her personal life and on the job.

“I was encouraged by his explanation because I saw that I had a choice,” recalls Amy, 37. “I was like, ‘Suck it up, cowgirl!’

“You really do have to decide to put yourself in a different head space. And you can’t do that unless you’re getting medical support. It has to be a package.”

According to Virginia therapist Ted Petrocci, LPC, the best way to get into that better head space is to recognize and accept what is—and is not—within your control in this world. “And most of it is not,” he adds.

To promote recovery, focus on what you can control. Something as simple as switching up your vocabulary can be surprisingly powerful in shifting your perspective.

Bipolar-Realtionships“Absolute” words such as “must,” “should,” “always,” and “never”—as in: “I will never get better,” or, “My life will always be like this”— can keep you trapped in a place where you feel powerless to change, Petrocci points out.

“These kind of words are reflective of your belief system and affect how you emotionally respond,” Petrocci explains. “They set your body and mind in motion and contribute more to the helplessness.”

Whereas “should” sets us up for failure, “could” implies we have options.

Transitioning to a lexicon with fewer boundaries can take a while, Petrocci says. After all, ingrained patterns of thinking have developed over years. He suggests writing down one or two “absolute” watchwords in the morning and then checking in with yourself at different points throughout the day to see how often you’ve used them.

“The more we practice something, the better we get at it,” he notes.

It’s important to remember that looking for areas where you can take charge doesn’t mean you have to do it all alone. Sometimes the truest sign of strength is letting others lend a hand—or a bit of encouragement, if nothing else.

Marisa of Quebec, 29, volunteers as an online content manager for Stigma Fighters Canada. During a months-long depressive episode that required a leave of absence from her fast-paced job in media relations, she turned to the peer organization’s online support group as well as to her therapist, who was willing to correspond via email between sessions.

“My husband, my friends and my therapist are kind of like the buoys in the ocean,” says Marisa, who blogs abut mental health at Mad Girl’s Lament. “They keep me oriented and help me know that I’m not going to be lost at sea forever.”

Tips from the trenches

Recovering from bipolar depression is a team effort. You should work with your prescribing physician to adjust current medications or consider some of the other meds that target bipolar depression. Cognitive behavioral therapy and other psychotherapeutic approaches can be crucial in addressing underlying issues and patterns that fuel depressive episodes.

Peer support— encouragement and insight from others who’ve been where you are—often helps, too. Here’s a sampling of advice from those with experience:

Accept where you are. “Don’t let yourself feel guilty for not being able to take a shower,” notes Amy of British Columbia. “You need to remember that you can be happy. Let [the depression] ride and know that it will pass as long as you get help.”

Hold on to hope. Faith that things will get better keeps you moving forward. Buffeted by persisting bipolar depression, Joe of New Jersey didn’t give up even when he was homeless for two months earlier this year. “You may have to look very hard for hope, and you may need a magnifying glass to find it,” he says, “but it’s there somewhere.”

Stay connected. Meghan of Arizona has gotten better at letting people know when she needs their company – even if it’s over the phone. “Some days, when it’s really easy to isolate myself, I make sure to call at least one person,” she says. “I’ll say I’m not feeling well and just want to talk to someone, or just listen to someone talk. It makes me feel like I’m not sitting here all by myself.”


Which depression is which?

In recent years, the field of psychiatry has come to recognize how serious the depressive phase of bipolar disorder can be. The challenge now is how to distinguish bipolar depression from “unipolar” depression more quickly in order to treat it more effectively.

The spectrum of depressive and bipolar disorders are grouped as “mood disorders” in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Clinicians use a set of symptoms (known as criteria) to diagnose major depressive disorder—and the same criteria for depressive episodes in bipolar disorder.

If someone seeks help for depression, therefore, arriving at a correct bipolar diagnosis typically relies on probing for past occurrences of hypomania or mania—which tends to be more successful when a partner or other close relative comes along to share observations—and sifting family history for relatives with bipolar.

Research has yielded some other possible clues, but they’re far from clear-cut. When depressions arise early in life or in connection with pregnancy, there’s a higher likelihood that they’ll turn out to be part of a bipolar disorder. Psychotic symptoms are another strong marker, says James Phelps, M.D., a national expert on bipolar disorder and a staff psychiatrist at Samaritan Mental Health-Corvallis in Oregon.

Some early evidence suggests that “atypical” depressive symptoms—oversleeping instead of insomnia, overeating rather than loss of appetite, increased sensitivity to rejection—may be more typical in bipolar.

Bipolar depression often proves more resistant to treatment, especially when standard antidepressants are prescribed due to misdiagnosis. In some cases, taking an antidepressant alone (without a mood stabilizer) triggers a switch to hypomania or mania, leads to more rapid cycling of mood episodes, or results in a “mixed” state when depressive and manic symptoms occur simultaneously.

In the misty future, bipolar may be diagnosed based on physiological markers that can be quickly seen in the blood or brain. In one project, scientists at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota are collecting DNA samples, blood tests, brain scans, and other clinical data in an effort to find bio markers that identify bipolar depression versus major depression. Neuroimaging studies at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and elsewhere are seeking the same elusive goal.

A small study by Chinese researchers, published online July 14 in the Journal of Proteome Research, reported promising results based on variations in metabolites found in the urine of people with the different diagnoses.

At the same time, however, some studies have identified genetic interrelationships among the major mental disorders. That’s more in line with a new model for psychiatric research that encourages an overarching “dimensional approach”—giving weight to the array and severity of an individual’s symptoms instead of adhering strictly to diagnostic categories.

“By using a dimensional lens, as well as the DSM lens, we can see the full spectrum of depression’s variations,” explains Phelps. “This is a tidal wave shift in the diagnostic process.”



Robin L. Flanigan is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in People magazine, US Airways Magazine and other national and regional publications. She lives in Rochester, New York.















Thursday, October 8, 2015





"KING OF PRUSSIA, PA--(Marketwired - October 07, 2015) - The image of staid psychiatrists trying their best to help their patients find a solution to their mental health concerns without the benefit of the latest technology is becoming as outdated as the slide rule. Mental Illness Awareness Week Oct. 4-10 and World Mental Health Day on Oct. 10 provide important opportunities to share the latest about advancements revolutionizing patient care."


Mental Illness Awareness Week declared in Manitowoc

 "The National Alliance on Mental Illness held a candlelight vigil at Lakeshore United Methodist Church Monday, Oct. 5, to kick off the week. Barbara Stohl, LCSW of Phoenix Behavioral Health, spoke on “Mindfulness.”



This is Mental Illness Awareness Week

"In 1990, the U.S. Congress established the first full week of October as Mental Illness Awareness Week in recognition of the National Alliance on Mental Illness’s efforts to raise mental illness awareness.

This year, the theme is “I am Stigma Free.” Being stigma free means learning about and educating others on mental illness, focusing on connecting with people to see each other as individuals and not a diagnosis, and most importantly, taking action on mental health issues."



During the first full week of October, NAMI and participants across the country are bringing awareness to mental illness. Each year we fight stigma, provide support, educate the public and advocate for equal care. Each year, the movement grows stronger.

We believe that these issues are important to address year round, but highlighting these issues during Mental Illness Awareness Week provides a time for people to come together and display the passion and strength of those working to improve the lives of the tens of millions of Americans affected by mental illness.

If you or someone you know may need a mental health assessment, anonymous online tools are available. Learn more and help yourself or someone you care about."