A recent USA Today headline—quite startling, really—splashed across its pages: MENTALLY ILL DIE 25 YEARS EARLIER, ON AVERAGE. One would think this would strike the psychiatric world like a 9/11, stirring drastic changes. It did not.
They’ve known for decades that psychiatric patients die earlier that the average population. But since the early 1990s the lifespan gap has DOUBLED. That’s right. Patients used to live 10-15 years less. Now it’s 25. Still, psychiatrists are not storming CNN to get the message out.
Even more damning is the fact that the research that discovered this 25-year gap was published in 2006 and is only now reaching a major newspaper. We are left to wonder if the lives of the mentally ill are considered less important—so much so that the guardians of their care, modern psychiatry and its professional organizations, brushes off this news with a sigh and the usual finger-pointing.
If a headline announced that the general public was dying 10-15 years earlier, what do you think the response would be from the public and private sectors?
Also, one would think that alarm bells would be ringing over two matters.
First, the only thing that has significantly changed in psychiatry in the past two decades is the medications. “Modern” medications cause diabetes, obesity and other medical complications. A reasonable person could conclude that they are shortening the lives of millions of people by 10-15 years and that this could easily be regarded as a national crisis. In fact, this was stated blatantly in the January 2007 issue of the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry by researcher Mary Seeman: “The general health of individuals with schizophrenia suffers from neglect, poor life style choices, and current treatments that increase death rates.”
Secondly, while numerous explanations have traditionally been given for why the mentally ill die early, even before the 1990s, one reason that is never given is the most obvious reason of all: They are physically ill. Perhaps most mental illness is caused by hidden physical disorders that not only affects the person’s mind but his body as well and will kill him early if not detected and treated.
When a population has a life expectancy of 1/3 less than the rest of the population, why is this most obvious conclusion not being addressed? Why are millions spent on more drugs for symptoms and almost no treatments being developed that detect and address underlying physiological causes?
“We’re going in the wrong direction and have to change course,” says Joseph Parks, director of psychiatric services for the Missouri Department of Mental Health and lead author of the report.
The facts are simple. A person with a mental disorder had a far better chance of living longer 50 years ago than he does today. When medical doctors “treat” people resulting in an ADDITIONAL 10-15 year loss of lifespan, calling it a “wrong direction” is charitable at best. A court might call it negligent homicide—on a very large scale.
Outdoor Greenery Walks Improve Depression
For centuries, the use of mild exercise in the green outdoors was a routine part of mental health treatment. As far back as the thirteenth century, residents of Gheel, Belgium took in mentally troubled travelers and allowed them to assist on local farms.
In the 1800s sanitariums with lots of acreage sprang up modeled after the Quakers’ famed York Retreat in England. In the U.S. state mental hospitals were placed in rural settings to allow patients the benefits of walks, peace and rest in a natural setting.
As mental health treatment has become more modern, the use of the outdoors as a therapy has virtually vanished.
Recent research, however, has revived the concept of healing through greenery. In a groundbreaking report entitled “Ecotherapy – The Green Agenda for Mental Health” by MIND, England’s leading mental health nonprofit, in conjunction with the University of Essex, we find studies that show the mental benefits of mild outdoor exercise.
Researchers examined members of local MIND groups—all mental health clients—who took part in two walks, one in a country park and one in an indoor shopping centre, to test the impact on self-esteem, mood and enjoyment.
- 71 per cent reported decreased levels of depression after the green walk.
- 22 per cent felt their depression increased after walking through an indoor shopping centre and only 45 per cent experienced a decrease in depression.
- 71 per cent said they felt less tense after the green walk.
- 50 per cent said they felt more tense after the shopping centre walk.
- 90 per cent said their self-esteem increased after the country walk.
- 44 per cent reported decreased self-esteem after window shopping in the shopping centre.
- 88 per cent of people reported improved mood after the green walk.
- 44.5 per cent of people reported feeling in a worse mood after the shopping centre walk, 11 per cent reported no change and 44.5 per cent said their mood improved.
- 71 per cent of people said they felt less fatigued after the green walk and 53 per cent said they felt more vigorous.
Encouraged by these resounding findings and calling the outdoor exercise “ecotherapy,” Mind has launched a campaign promoting that:
- The health profession see ecotherapy as a clinically-valid treatment for mental distress.
- Doctors consider ecotherapy when prescribing treatments for patients in mental distress.
- People on care plans have access to green spaces.
- Health and social care referrals include care farms (farms used for therapy).
- Health and social care budgets consider the cost-benefits of ecotherapy.
- All health, social care and criminal justice institutions offer access to green space.
- Town and country planners incorporate mental wellbeing in their design.
- Public health campaigns promote the benefits of green exercise.
Alternative Mental Health Conference, Las Vegas, 9/14
On Friday, September 14, 2007, The Results Project (www.resultsproject.net) will host a conference in Las Vegas entitled “What’s Causing My Symptoms?”
The conference will focus on modern lab testing techniques that pinpoint risk factors for mental disorders. Conference promoters pose the following question:
Question: What causes symptoms of ADD, OCD ODD, PDD, depression, mood swings, anger, Bi-polar, Autism and Asperger’s?
Answer: Toxic metals, nutrient depletion, sugar, low pH balance, delayed food allergies, hormone imbalances and aspartame.
Solution: Get a lab test and find out, stop taking a visual evaluation to get on drugs! Hear from the labs themselves and get the proof you need to be drug free.
The Results Project reports getting “over 1,500 kids off drugs like Ritalin and Prozac using lab tests and we’ve invited those labs to speak.”
Tickets are $29, buy 10 get 1 free, buy 20 get 3 free. The conference will seat 1500. For more information, visit www.whatcausedmysymptoms.com.
Alzheimer’s-Omega-3 Study Launched
More research has now confirmed previous studies that showed that supplementing with polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) improves ADHD symptoms.
Researchers studied 132 Australian children, aged 7-12, who scored high on ADHD symptom testing. Those put on omega-3 (fish oil) and omega-6 (primrose oil) supplements, showed significant improvement after 15 weeks, according to parental reports, than those on placebo. Improvement continued the following 15 weeks. When the placebo group was put on the supplements, they, too, showed the same level of improvement.
Researchers concluded: “Significant medium to strong positive treatment effects were found on parent ratings of core ADHD symptoms.”
The study was reported in the April 2007 issue of the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics.
Depression Risk Higher with Diet of High Omega-6/Omega-3 Ratio
Two common essential fatty acids are Omega-3, found in fish, leafy greens and other foods, and Omega-6, found in olive oil, some nuts and seeds, and other sources. A 1:3 balance of omega-3 and omega-6 EFAs in the diet is recommended by many nutritionists. Western cultures typically consume higher quantities of omega-6 EFAs, because these are found in meat, animal products, and common cooking oils, resulting in unhealthy EFA balances. The average North American diet is about 15:1 and Americans have a ratio as skewed as 1:40.
The April 2007 issue of Psychosomatic Medicine reports on a study of adults with high Omega 6:Omega 3 diets and how this impacted their rate of depression. The research showed that those with a high ratio exhibited significantly more low mood.
According to Medscape, lead author Janice K. Kiecolt-Glaser, PhD, from Ohio State University in Columbus, told: “The major finding here is that yes, [diet] matters, and it probably matters more in people who have high levels of depressive symptoms.” She added that this study provides evidence that diet seems to be very important in the way that people respond to depression and stress, and that “diet is not just a sideline player.”
Safe Harbor President to Speak on Philadelphia Radio, June 30
On Saturday, June 30, at 9 AM EST (1 PM Greenwich Mean Time), Safe Harbor founder and president Dan Stradford will do a rare interview for an hour with psychologist Parthenia Izzard on WWDB radio, at 860 on the AM dial.
The show will also be featured internationally on the internet at http://rs6.net/tn.jsp?t=cmz9obcab.0.rr5yobcab.sx8mssn6.12473&ts=S0256&p=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.modavox.com%2F7thwavenetwork%2F.
He will be taking questions from Dr. Izzard and listeners about non-drug approaches to mental disorders and the vast array of resources for those seeking non-drug solutions.
Book Review: Healing Schizophrenia—Using Medication Wisely
One of the most disheartening diagnoses in the mental health world is the constellation of symptoms known as schizophrenia. This disorder—which can have many different causes—is commonly a death knell for the social life of those so labeled. And it is so resistive to orthodox treatment that a past edition of psychiatry’s DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) claimed that if a person recovered from schizophrenia, it is likely he was misdiagnosed in the first place.
Modern-day psychiatry has a single primary approach to this problem: medication. While drugs have been a godsend for many to bring them relief from the demons of schizophrenia, the problem is that people are then left on pharmaceuticals for the rest of their lives, living with the side effects and having no real address to the causes of their symptoms.
John Watkins has done a superb job of addressing these issues in a meticulous fashion in his book Healing Schizophrenia—Using Medication Wisely. He looks at the statistics of medication usage and all the other options available. Additionally, he gives us a frank discussion of the pros and cons of medication use, with an in-depth analysis of the many issues that must be weighed when considering the drug route.
His writing is sensible. There is no agenda here, pushing drugs or railing against them. It is just a frank acknowledgment that a life on medication is not preferred and that, if approached in a holistic and intelligent manner, an individual’s treatment plan may be able to reduce or even eliminate the need for drugs.
This is not really a book on alternative mental health treatments (although some common sense matters such as diet and exercise are addressed) but asks that psychiatrists rely on less medication with the tools that they have. This book has been needed for a long time and will, no doubt, improve a lot of lives.
Holistic Psychiatrist Files Landmark Suit Against Maryland Medical Board
On May 10, 2007, psychiatrist Alice Lee-Bloem, M.D., filed an unprecedented lawsuit against the Maryland Board of Physician Quality Assurance to protect her right to practice complementary medicine. Following is her statement:
Your right to choose a physician who uses complementary and integrative methods for healing mental illness is currently being threatened by the Maryland Board of Physician Quality Assurance. Because of my choice to use complementary and integrative treatment methods, the Board subjected me to a “peer review” by three traditional psychiatrists. I was not peer reviewed because the Board had received even one legitimate letter of complaint from a patient. Instead the peer review process was triggered by a frivolous letter of complaint to the Board written by an ex-partner of one of my patients. The patient had chosen alternative psychiatric treatment, which was at odds with the ex-partner’s belief in traditional psychiatric treatment. Because the ex-partner’s letter contained numerous false allegations, the patient herself wrote a letter to the Board, explaining the situation and asking the Board to drop the case.
The Board, however, ignored the patient and chose to proceed with the peer review process. During one peer review interview, the reviewer never asked me even one question about the case in question, but said that the case depended on whether orthomolecular psychiatry was a legitimate approach for healing mental illness. In order to judge me, the reviewer asked that I bring articles and information to him so that he could begin to familiarize himself with the field and thus judge me on my orthomolecular skills. The other reviewers were less frank, and they were not interested in any articles, but they were prepared to judge me anyway.
In addition, the Board pays peer reviewers to act as expert witnesses for the prosecution of a physician. The peer review process is currently not much more than a step towards license revocation–with the physician providing the information to the reviewer that will later be used against the physician. (My medical license has NOT been revoked). To add to this charade of justice, the Board has not had any formal guidelines or rules to govern the peer review process for years. Therefore, as a physician, I had no rights within their administrative proceedings.
However, as a citizen of the state of Maryland and the United States, I do have certain guaranteed rights, which the Board of Maryland had disregarded and had violated during the peer review process. These rights are defensible in court. On May 10, 2007, I filed an unprecedented lawsuit against the Maryland Board for violating my right to due process and for its unconstitutional practices. This lawsuit sets a precedent in a number of ways:[ Remainder of article found at http://rs6.net/tn.jsp?t=cmz9obcab.0.vr5yobcab.sx8mssn6.12473&ts=S0256&p=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.drbloem.com%2Fhp%2Famddonatemain.htm ]
Many Schizophrenics Recover Faster Without Drugs
Research published in the May 2007 issue of the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease has found that many people diagnosed with schizophrenia actually recover without medication. The study’s author’s concluded, “The current longitudinal data suggest not all schizophrenia patients need to use antipsychotic medications continuously throughout their lives.”
The research found that, after 10 years, 79% of patients on antipsychotics were psychotic, whereas 23% of those not on medication were psychotic. After 15 years, 65 per cent of patients on antipsychotics were psychotic, whereas only 28% of those not on medication were psychotic.
Those who did well off of medication tended to have certain character traits including better premorbid (before the illness) developmental achievements, favorable personality and attitudinal approaches, less vulnerability, greater resilience, and favorable prognostic factors.
The study concluded that there is a subgroup of patients diagnosed with schizophrenia who do not immediately relapse while off antipsychotics and experience intervals of recovery.
Alzheimer’s Disease Worsens With Nursing Home Placement
People with Alzheimer’s disease experience an acceleration in the rate of cognitive decline after being placed in a nursing home according to a new study by Rush University Medical Center. The study, published in the June issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry, finds that prior experience in adult day care may lessen this association.
The observational study involved 432 older persons with Alzheimer’s disease who were recruited from health care settings in the Chicago area. At baseline, they lived in the community and 196 participants were using day care services from 2 to 6 days a week for an overall mean of 1.7 days a week. At six month intervals for up to four years, they completed nine cognitive tests from which a composite measure of global cognition was derived.
On average, cognition declined at a gradually increasing rate for all participants. During the study period, 155 persons were placed in a nursing home, and placement was associated with a lower level of cognition and more rapid cognitive decline.
Study participants who had previous adult day care experience fared better. As level of day care use at study onset increased, the association of nursing home placement with accelerated cognitive decline substantially decreased. Thus, people using day care 3 to 4 days a week at the beginning of the study showed no increase in cognitive decline upon nursing home placement.
“The findings suggest that experience in day care may help individuals with Alzheimer’s disease make the transition from the community to institutional residence,” said study author Robert S. Wilson, Ph.D., a neuropsychologist at the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center.
The study also found that a higher level of education was associated with accelerated cognitive decline upon nursing home placement. Yet, day care use markedly reduced the association of education with accelerated cognitive decline in the nursing home; further evidence that there is a robust association between day care experience and cognition during the transition to a nursing home.
The authors considered the possibility that nursing home placement is simply a sign of increased severity of Alzheimer’s disease. Yet, the nursing-home-related increase in cognitive decline was observed even after simultaneous control for cognitive and noncognitive indicators of dementia severity at the time of nursing home entry.
Alternatively, the increased cognitive decline upon placement may reflect difficulty adapting to an unfamiliar environment, consistent with clinical reports of increased confusion and behavior problems in those with dementia during acute hospitalization or trips away from home. Patients who had prior adult day care services may be better able to adjust to the unfamiliar environment.
“The findings suggest that the transition from the community to a nursing home is particularly difficult for people with Alzheimer’s disease and that those planning for their care should consider the possibility that experience in adult day care programs may help prepare affected persons for institutional living,” said Wilson.