The Safe Harbor was founded in 1998 in the wake of growing public dissatisfaction with the unwanted effects of orthodox psychiatric treatments such as medication and shock therapy. Seeking to satisfy the desire for safer, more effective treatments, the Project is dedicated to educating the public, the medical profession, and government officials on research and treatments that, minimally, do no harm and, optimally, cure the causes of severe mental symptoms. Our primary thrust is education on the medical causes of severe mental symptoms.
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This month’s lead story is about the first public issue of the Medical Evaluation Field Manual on the internet. The public response has already been dramatic. An organization in Australia has broadly e-mailed the document to many in the healthcare field and has attracted the interest of the CEO of the “Beyond Blues” Project, a 35-million-dollar program on depression in Australia.
A California mental health executive responded to the manual by claiming it would herald a “new era” in mental health.
Safe Harbor is currently working with two California counties interested in implementation of the Field Manual medical screening programs.
In a recent phone conversation, Dr. Lorrin Koran of Stanford University, author of the Field Manual, told us he was pleased to see this valuable document being brought into the public eye.
We feel it is time this brilliant manual was put to use. And we are glad to see so many others concur.
“LOST” PSYCHIATRIC MANUAL NOW ON INTERNET
In the 1980s the California legislature passed a bill commissioning a study to determine how significant a role physical illness played in the psychiatric population – and what should be done about it.
The study was carried out by Dr. Lorrin Koran of the Dept. of Psychiatry of Stanford University. Koran’s team found a stunning 39% of the psychiatric population had clearly-defined major medical illnesses. Many of these illnesses were causing or worsening mental symptoms. They also found that nearly half of these medical ailments (47.5%) were overlooked by the mental health system.
The study was ultimately reported in the Archives of General Psychiatry in 1989.
Koran’s final report to the state, the Medical Evaluation Field Manual, not only revealed the facts above, but also laid out explicit details on how to do full exams on psychiatric inpatients and a quick, simple algorithm (step-by-step problem solving method) to use on outpatients and others to rapidly determine if they have medical problems.
“The program we laid out was cost-effective,” Koran recently told the Safe Harbor. “Though there was some cost to the department of mental health in setting up and running the screening program, there was an equal drop in medical costs for the state. So for the state it cost nothing overall.”
The Field Manual was turned over to the California Department of Mental Health. From there it faded into obscurity until it was mentioned by a patient advocacy group at recent Senate Bill hearing.
The Safe Harbor obtained a copy of the Medical Evaluation Field Manual and have now posted the 44-page report on the internet at www.AlternativeMentalHealth.com, listed among the articles on the home page. This is the first broad public release of this document. The site posting is still undergoing edit adjustments but is fully readable and downloadable.
SMOKING DOUBLES RISK OF MENTAL ILLNESS
“If you are a smoker, you’re more likely to develop neurotic or psychotic symptoms.” So states Dr. Wesley Boyd, one of the authors of a November 22, 2000, report in the Journal of the American Medical Association on smoking research.
The study, “Smoking and Mental Illness”, found that 41% of people who had displayed signs of mental illness in the past month were smokers, as opposed to only 22.5% of people with no history of mental health problems.
The authors of the report are based at Harvard Medical School. They analyzed data from 4,411 people from 15 to 54 years of age who responded to a 1991-92 survey, the National Comorbidity Survey.
They defined “mental illness” broadly, including everything from delusional disorders and schizophrenia to alcohol abuse and drug dependence. “But even without the alcohol figures, the numbers are staggering,” he said.
Among the findings, 41% of people with past-month mental illness and 34.8% of those with mental illness at some time in their lives smoke, whereas 22.5% of people with no history of mental illness smoke.
Dr Boyd also blamed psychiatric institutions themselves for exacerbating the problem by allowing patients to smoke as a reward. “It’s a privilege to be allowed to smoke” in mental hospitals, he said. “You behave well, you get to smoke.”
A large study published in The Lancet in June 1998 also found that cigarette smokers are more than twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease as are non-smokers. Smokers are also more likely to develop vascular dementia — another common form of dementia caused by vascular disease and strokes.
Dr. A. Ott and colleagues from The Netherlands followed up 6,870 men and women, aged 55 years and older, living in a Rotterdam suburb. At the start of the study, none of the men or women had dementia.
They were asked about their smoking habits and classified as never smokers, former smokers, or current smokers. They were then followed up for an average of two years. Any participants who developed signs of possible dementia during the study underwent neuropsychological assessment and, if possible, a brain scan to find out if they had Alzheimer’s disease or vascular dementia.
In the study 146 individuals developed dementia during the study, of whom 105 were diagnosed as having Alzheimer’s disease.
Current smokers were more than twice as likely to develop dementia of any kind and Alzheimer’s disease compared with never smokers. Smokers also tended to develop dementia at a younger age.
TESTOSTERONE DEFICIENCY IN WOMEN’S DEPRESSION
Increasingly, Australian psychiatrists are referring post-menopausal patients with depression symptoms to a special clinic for hormonal treatment instead of prescribing antidepressants.
Susan Davis, research director of the Jean Hailes Foundation, told a World Menopause Day audience on Oct. 18, 2000, that menopausal women were often misdiagnosed with depression when their testosterone levels slumped.
“Women are being put on anti-depressants because they are feeling miserable,” Dr Davis said. “But increasingly we are having psychiatrists referring us patients after having checked their testosterone levels. They are saying that this may not just be depression, it may be hormonal.”
Tens of thousands of Australian women may be taking antidepressant drugs unnecessarily because of low testosterone levels, according to the women’s health expert. The hormone, normally associated with male libido, is an important mood regulator in women and is also vital for bone health and general well-being.
Around menopause, testosterone levels can drop by more than 50 per cent. Because conventional tests and hormone replacement therapy concentrate on estrogen levels, this factor is often overlooked.
“During the normal menstrual cycle the ovaries produce three important hormones: estrogen, testosterone and progesterone,” Dr. Davis said. “Women who undergo the removal of their ovaries, and in some cases hysterectomy, lose their natural supply of testosterone … this also happens spontaneously in some women.”
Dr. Davis said that many women over 40 take antidepressants unnecessarily: “That equates to a lot of women using what is basically a Band-Aid therapy.” The foundation is preparing a study of the effects of testosterone on libido, depression, bone density and general health in post-menopausal women.
SUDDEN PSYCHOSES COULD POINT TO LYME DISEASE
A young man who had no history of aggressive outbursts slammed a co-worker against a wall, threw a friend down a flight of stairs, and finally decided he needed help. Six months earlier, he had complained of having trouble putting his words together.
The psychiatrist he went to see, Dr. Brian Fallon, recognized the combination of symptoms as “a classic case of Lyme disease.”
Fallon, an associate professor of psychiatry at Columbia University who also directs the Lyme Disease Research Program at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, discussed his work at an American Psychiatric Association meeting a few weeks ago.
“Panic attacks or new onset irritability, insomnia, concentration problems and depression, or what may look like depression, may actually be undiagnosed Lyme disease,” Fallon was quoted in the HealthScout Reporter.
That’s why it is called “The Great Imitator”: Lyme disease symptoms are similar to those of a host of other medical conditions.
Dr. Edward Truemper, director of pediatric intensive care at the Clute Barrow Nelson Children’s Center at St. Mary’s Hospital in Athens, Ga., says he’s seen enough Lyme disease with neuropsychiatric features — from seizures to altered mental status — to always ask where a younger patient lives and plays and whether the child has pets.
“The ticks for Lyme disease are on deer, dogs and cats,” Truemper says. “If [pets] get into the woods, or you’re just in your yard and you’ve got deer, squirrels or any species with fur, the chances of ticks are very real.”
“When you don’t have an explanation with a person with neurologic or psychiatric symptoms, you need to not say it’s all in their head,” he says. “There may be an underlying organic illness, and one of those we’re seeing more and more is Lyme disease. We may not be able to diagnose, but we put them on the antibiotic, and they get better.”
Lyme disease begins as a skin rash, and early symptoms often are flu-like, including fatigue, headache, fever, muscle stiffness and joint pain. If not treated early, Lyme disease can attack the central nervous system and produce a variety of psychiatric disorders, “from depression to full-blown psychosis,” Fallon says.
“We know what panic attacks and depression look like. If a patient also has numbness and tingling, migrating joint pains and a hard time finding the words to say what they want to say — instead of ‘convertible,’ they might say ‘a car without a roof on it’ — that’s classic in Lyme disease, but you don’t typically see it with depression.”
Most people do respond well to the standard treatment, which is four to six weeks of intravenous antibiotic therapy, experts say. And sometimes the results are startling, Fallon says.
“There are cases of people I’ve met with full-blown dementia that was reversed with appropriate medication.”
FLUORESCENT LIGHTS, ELECTROMAGNETIC RADIATION FACTORS IN “ADHD”
Fluorescent lighting and electromagnetic fields are so much a part of everyday life that we rarely consider their impact on the normal functioning of the mind and body.
Dr. Alan Gaby, medical editor of the Townsend Letter for Doctors and Holistic Medicine reports, “Time-lapse cinematography studies have shown that first-grade children sitting under fluorescent lights become hyperactive, compared to those exposed to standard lighting.
“The radiation emanating from television sets (not to mention the questionable programming) may also have an adverse effect on behavior. In one study, rats were placed in a cage fifteen feet away from a television set. Although the sound was turned off and all visible light from the screen was shielded by a piece of black cardboard, the rats became hyperactive and aggressive. However, if a lead shield was placed over the black cardboard, the rats behaved normally.”
Radiation exposure decreases as the square of distance. This means, for example, that children sitting a foot from the television are bombarded with 25 times more radiation than they would be at five feet away, and 225 times more than the unfortunate rats in the study.
Similar findings have been reported for decades. In Dr. John Ott’s 1973 study involving four first-grade classrooms in Sarasota, Florida, full-spectrum fluorescent lights were installed in two of the four windowless rooms and cool white tubes in the other two.
Dr. Ott reported: “Under the cool-white fluorescent lighting, some students demonstrated hyperactivity, fatigue, irritability, and attentional deficits. In the classrooms with full-spectrum lighting, however, behavior and classroom performance as well as overall academic achievement improved markedly within one month after the new lights were installed. Furthermore, several learning-disabled children with extreme hyperactivity problems miraculously calmed down and seemed to overcome some of their learning and reading problems while in classrooms with full-spectrum lighting.”
Cool-white fluorescent lighting is deficient in the red and the blue-violet areas of the spectrum – precisely where the sun’s emissions are the strongest. Full-spectrum lights have been designed to correct these deficiencies.
ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS AND ADHD SYMPTOMS
In 1995, Dr. Laura Stevens and her colleagues at Purdue University reported that ADD children had deficiency symptoms of both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in their blood measurements. More recently, Dr. Jacqueline Stordy at the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom found that an omega-6/omega-3 mixture improved manual dexterity and balance in children with impaired motor skills.
Dr. Stevens’group compared 52 hyperactive boys with 42 who were not hyperactive, and found that many hyperactive children are deficient in EFAs (essential fatty acids) based on the clinical signs such as thirst, dry skin and hair, more asthma, and infections.
Dr. Stevens demonstrated that although they consumed plenty of EFAs in their diet, the hyperactive boys were less able to convert the dietary EFAs into the long chain derivatives, DHA and AA (explained below), which require the active enzyme D6D.
“These findings with ADHD are completely consistent with my own in dyslexia,” writes Dr. Stordy. “Fat usually is regarded as a nutrient that should be avoided at all costs, but that is not the case. There are two fatty acids that are essential for life: linoleic acid (LA) in the omega-6 family, and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) in the omega-3 family. Like vitamins, these essential fatty acids cannot be produced by the body, and therefore must be obtained through the diet. LA can be found in certain seed oils, while ALA is in dark green leafy vegetables, flaxseed oil and linseed oil.
“In order to be useful to the body, LA and ALA must be converted by a series of steps in the body to longer chain fatty acids; arachidonic acid (AA), gamma linolenic acid (GLA, which the body converts to AA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These conversions can be slowed down by many lifestyle factors, including typical western diets rich in saturated fats and trans fatty acids; stress; viral infections; too much alcohol or cholesterol; and various illnesses.”
AlternativeMentalHealth.com is the world’s largest web site devoted exclusively to alternative mental health treatments. It includes a directory of over 150 physicians, nutritionists, experts, organizations, and facilities around the U.S. that offer or promote safe, alternative treatments for severe mental symptoms.
Many of the physicians listed do in-depth examinations to find the physical causes behind mental problems. Also included are an array of articles on topics ranging from the medical causes of schizophrenia to the effects of toxic metals on mental health.
A bookstore page lists top books that cover many areas of alternative treatments with titles like Natural Healing for Schizophrenia and Other Common Mental Disorders and No More Ritalin.
AlternativeMentalHealth.com has been created to educate the public, practitioners, and government officials on the medical conditions that create “mental illness” and the many safe resources available for addressing and often curing severe mental symptoms.