Day 913

Till date I wonder what it must have been like for Saagar, to be diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and to be on Psychiatric medications. I have read books, watched documentaries and films to gain an understanding of it and I think I have an idea but maybe I have absolutely no clue.

Watching a clip of Paul Dalio, a young man living with Bipolar disorder and a film director brought clarity in 2 and a half minutes.

“When you get diagnosed, you go from experiencing what you’re certain is divine illumination. After sometime in it, you’re thrown into a hospital, you’re pumped full of drugs, you come down 60 pounds overweight, completely disoriented and they tell you, ”No, there was nothing divine. Nothing illuminating. You have just triggered a lifelong genetic illness which will swing you from psychotic highs to suicidal lows and you’ll probably fall into the 1 in 4 statistic unless you take the medication which makes you feel no emotion. If you imagine missing feeling sad, it’s the only thing worse than pain.”
So, it’s very hard for people to comprehend.

After a lifetime of building your identity, your place within humanity, you’re suddenly told that you are a defect of humanity. And to know that you’re not going to be the person you used to be and that you’ll at best be able to get by is … is life shattering. And the only labels you have to choose from are some kind of a disorder, Manic-depressive or Bipolar. So you scrape through every clinical book  trying to look for answers. That’s exactly what I did. Peeling through these books which were these diagnostic, medical texts where I felt like I was under a microscope and someone in a lab coat was judging me.”

Paul Dalio came across a book by Kay Redfield Jamison who is a world authority on Bipolar Disorder by way of having the illness and being a Professor in Psychiatry. The book is called “Touched with Fire”. He went on to write and direct a film by the same name.

Ref:
Paul Dalio:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jUnkt7M-GCM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jr7vi4wLJI8
Film Trailer:

Day 909

Most life assurance providers exclude suicide within first year of the policy.

A benefit scheme run by Utility Warehouse is called Bill Protector. It’s for Utility Warehouse customers, and basically between £2-9 per month added onto your premium. This gives cover for your bills should you lose your income due to illness, injury or redundancy. There is also an accidental death cover.

The illness cover excludes mental health. The basis of this is because it’s ‘hard to prove’. The attitude of the underwriters seems to be that people could go to their GP and simply say ‘I’m depressed’ when they’re not and be signed off work. This is in part due to an industry-wide attempt to combat insurance ‘fraud’.

It is interesting that mental health was covered until July 2016 and then they decided to write it out.

What annoys me most is that this is sold to customers as cover for bills in the event of illness, and then when they call to make a claim, they’re essentially told that their mental health difficulties don’t qualify as an illness – it’s the same old issue of perceptions and attitudes towards mental health. I think if there are going to be any restrictions like this, it should be made abundantly clear.

We as a society treat mental and physical health just the same. Don’t we?

Ref:

Utility Warehouse: www.utilitywarehouse.co.uk
Bill Protector:  https://www.utilitywarehouse.co.uk/services/billprotector
Key Facts: https://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/pdf.utilitywarehouse.co.uk/Bill%20Protector_KeyFacts_1July2016.pdf

 

Day 886

Ministry-of-Justice1-678x381

“More people are being detained by police under the Mental Health Act as Psychiatric services struggle to cope” says Jacqui Wise in the cover story of the British Medical Journal of 18th March 2017.

Statistics tell us that deaths in custody are up by 21%.
Self-inflicted deaths are up by 13%.
In the female estate, the number has doubled from 4 to 8 in this 12 month period.
Self-harm incidents up by 26%.
Individuals self-harming up 23%
Assaults up by 34%.
Assaults on staff up 43%.
Natural cause deaths up 17%, explained by the ageing population.
5 apparent homicides, down from 7 in the same period of the previous year

Could there be a co-relation between the facts stated in the first and the second paragraph?

“The police to an extent have always been used as an emergency mental health service” says Michael Brown, a police inspector. He adds that police receive little formal training in managing patients with mental health problems. “A highly agitated person may be experiencing Serotonin Syndrome due to the mismanagement of their antidepressant medications. The signs are subtle and most police officers won’t be able to pick up on that. We need to have a proper debate about the role of the police in this area.”

Ref:

Safety in Custody Statistics 2016: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/562897/safety-in-custody-bulletin.pdf#page=6
Blog about Mental health and the Criminal Justice system:
https://mentalhealthcop.wordpress.com/
Serotonin Syndrome:
https://patient.info/doctor/serotonin-syndrome

Day 885

Megan Clark is 19. She came out of anonymity to speak in support of the statement made by the judge on her rape case. Judge Lindsey Kushner, while sentencing the rapist, advised young women that they risk rape if they get drunk. It is well known that drinking seriously impairs judgement. Drunk young women make themselves very vulnerable. They are less likely to be able to defend themselves, remember the events correctly or be believed.

The judge’s statement was interpreted by some as ‘victim-blaming’.

I think it’s common sense. I have great admiration for this young girl for coming forward and speaking from her experience. It must have taken courage.
In no way does it absolve the attackers of  what they did.
It’s about taking care of ourselves. The lessons are there if we are willing to learn. It’s much better to learn from other people’s mistakes.

In an ideal world no one would steal, rape or cheat. In the real world they do. That is why we lock our doors, install burglar alarms and have heavily protected bank accounts.
Freedom comes with responsibility.

There is mountains of evidence to say that there is a significant increase in mental illness in women who have been physically or sexually assaulted in childhood and adult life. The harmful effects of abuse can continue to contribute to psychiatric illness for many years.

Ref:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/03/28/rape-victim-says-judge-warned-women-drinking-heavily-right/
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0140673688916005

Day 871

“I have opened a door that can never be shut. How will I ever get her to trust me again?”

19 out of 20 people who attempt to end their lives will fail.

These survivors will be at a 37% higher risk of suicide.

Anger, shame, guilt, fear, minimization and avoidance are few of the reactions they evoke.

The taboo associated with the act might make them feel even more isolated. Their families may not know how and where to access support for themselves and their loved one. The ones closest to them may feel drained, stressed, exhausted and let down. The trust between the two might be deeply damaged.

Their relationship might reach an all time low, just when it needs to be solid.

Both need to take responsibility for their own well-being and  that of each other.

Here are a few useful resources.

Ref:

Supporting someone after a suicide attempt:
https://www.suicideline.org.au/media/1114/supporting_someone_after_a_suicide_attempt.pdf

Advice for those who survived:
http://blog.ted.com/real-advice-for-those-whove-attempted-suicide/

TED:

Day 847

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My box…

I will put in my box
A confirmation certificate
And words of praise for my bishop.
My husband’s compassion
And the heart beat of the sea.

I will put in my box
Chinese fire crackers that
Spit and spark at the devil.
Silhouettes of palm trees
And lightning during the monsoon.

I will put in my box
A teenage tomboy
Forever-happy climbing mango trees.
A far away memory of mother’s laugh
And a fisherman’s hook.

I will put in my box
Only good stuff
A glowing friendship and
A sweet cup of tea.

I will put in my box
My youth and
All the fun of the fair
With donkeys and candyfloss.

I will put in my box
The smell of my first baby
A lot of understanding
And a day in the New Forest in a church
Waiting to hear Dancing Queen playing on the organ.

I will put in my box
A guinea pig from long ago
So sensitive and soft,
Squeezing into a ball like a cat
An orange tree I climbed,
Scared of nothing and such rewards!

I will put in my box
The circus at Blackpool and dancing
Girls in swimsuits.
The smell of mango
And juice of young coconut.

My box is made of
Garden scents and music
With ribbons and buttons and all sorts
On the lid.
You can unlock it by wishing quietly.

I shall keep my box
High on a roll of thunder
And watch the dice
As they tumble down
An evening by the beach.

  • By a creative writing group of elderly patients with mental illness.

What would I put in my box?

I will put in my box
The infectious laughter of my young man
The warm embrace of my sweetheart
The healing touch of my mother’s fingertips
running through my hair
All the colours of autumn.

What would you put in your box?

Day 817

photo

“Terrible poverty causes brain damage”, says Charles Nelson, a professor of neuroscience and paediatrics at Harvard Medical School.
In 1989, when the communists were overthrown in Romania, 170,000 children were abandoned and were living in government-run institutions under very poor conditions. Nelson and his team started studying them in the late 1990s. They found that the kids were deprived of key experiences during critical periods of development. Babies lay in cribs for their first year or more and their visual experience was limited because often the ceilings were painted white. There was no one to talk to them and care-giving was limited, so they were deprived of psychosocial stimulation. Their physical growth was greatly stunted too. The kids were very very small.

“We had a rule: no crying in front of the kids. But I can’t tell you how tough it was.”
The team wanted to find out if high-quality foster care for these kids could rectify the negative impact of poverty they might have. They recruited a sample of 136 kids, from 6-31 months of age and randomly assigned half of them to high quality foster care. The other half remained in institutional care. Foster parents from Bucharest were volunteers who had been intensively screened and interviewed. They were paid a small wage and provided with material support such as toys and diapers. The families were closely monitored by social workers.

Two years into the study they found that across the board, the kids in institutions lagged behind in language development, IQ and mental well being. The prevalence of anxiety and depression were reduced no matter how old the kids were when they were placed in foster care.

They are now about 16 years old. Those in institutions are starting to experience significant mental health issues such as psychotic disorders and paranoia. 20 of them showed a sharp drop in IQ from the age of 12.

One year following this research, the Romanian government passed a legislation banning the institutionalisation of children below the age of 2 years unless they were severely disabled. They also started government foster care.

This is a  classic example of science giving rise to political will to improve lives of kids.
UK’s Child Poverty Action Group reports that 3.9 million children in this country live in poverty at present. This means more than one in 4 children are growing up in families with less than 60% of the median income. In the US, 15 million children live below the poverty line. Western levels of poverty may not be anything close to the hardship endured by many in developing countries but it has long lasting detrimental effects on the physical and mental health of children.
With a strong political will, child poverty can be alleviated but despite setting goals and targets, our government is spectacularly failing to deliver. Dealing with child poverty and its life long consequences is not a matter of political choice but that of moral duty.

Source: New Scientist October 2016.