Safe Harbor was founded in 1998 in the wake of growing public discontent with the unwanted effects of orthodox psychiatric treatments such as medication and shock therapy. Seeking to satisfy the demand 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.
P.O. Box 37
Sunland, California 91041-0037
In this month’s issue we cover the remarkable work of the Genesis Program of the Los Angeles County Dept. of Mental Health. Much has been written about the neglect and overdrugging of our nation’s elderly. But little has surfaced on efforts to remedy this problem. We ran across something bold and satisfying in this area: a government-sponsored group bucking the tide.
The Genesis Program has not only stepped in to reduce overmedicating and mis-medicating. They have refused to allow seniors to be declared senile. Instead, they insist on searching medical exams to ferret out the causes of pseudo-dementia that so often is accepted as part of getting older.
Our hats off to this wonderful group. We would like to see more of this kind of public (and private) service.
REVERSING SENILITY: L.A. PROGRAM RESCUES THE ELDERLY
WITH MEDICAL TESTING FOR PSEUDO-DEMENTIA
“I’m afraid Mrs. Williams is going to need to be placed in a facility,” the doctor said in a call to nurse Barbary Massey of L.A. County’s Genesis Program. “Her family can no longer take care of her. She has dementia.”
“How do you know she has dementia?” asked Nurse Massey.
“Her memory is gone,” came the reply.
“And what else? What medical tests have you run?
The phone was silent. The doctor had, in fact, done little testing. Nurse Massey rattled off a series of medical procedures she felt should be done before Mrs. Williams (not her real name) was consigned to the dustbin of “dementia.”
“I’ll make a deal with you,” said the physician. “I’ll run these tests if you promise to help the family with placing her in a facility.” The nurse agreed.
Some months went by before Barbara Massey heard that doctor’s voice again.. He called to tell her that Mrs. Williams had just left for a vacation in Las Vegas and was having the time of her life. Medical tests had shown she had extremely low thyroid function and a severe urinary tract infection.
Once these were treated, the “dementia” vanished.
“I’ll never make that mistake again,” the doctor said.
The Genesis Program is a unique community outreach project
established around 1995 under the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health. Their mission is to organize medical and social services for seniors having difficulty caring for themselves. Their goal is to preserve self-autonomy as much as possible. They have six nurse-social worker teams.
The most unusual aspect about Genesis is that, unlike most mental health professionals, they do not accept most diagnoses of “dementia.”
“It’s ageism, pure and simple,” says Massey. “If a young person lost his memory or did the things a confused older person does, they’d be given medical tests immediately. But the elderly are written off as senile. We’ve seen 5000 clients and 98% of the senility is medically caused (not Alzheimer’s). We are able to find the cause 75-80% of the time.”
Massey says that the most common causes of senility (covering over 70% of their cases) are:
B12/Folic acid deficiency
Poor general nutrition and fluid intake
Urinary tract infection
Head injuries (subdural hematoma – a swelling that presses
on the brain)
Mixing wrong medications and/or wrong dosages
The full Genesis Protocols – the recommended battery of tests to run on seniors with “dementia” – are available at www.AlternativeMentalHealth.com under the Articles section of the home page.
The Genesis Program, headed by Barbara Massey and Laura
Trejo, can be reached at (213) 974-0562.
TEN PERCENT OF AMERICANS MAY HAVE
UNDIAGNOSED THYROID DISORDERS
In a study of 25,862 people, Colorado researchers found that 9.9% had thyroid disorders that were untreated and probably unknown. The research, reported in Archives of Internal Medicine, February 28, 2000, was carried out at a statewide health fair in Colorado at 111 testing sites. Researchers suspect these figures may even be higher in the average population since 62.5% of the research subjects had seen a health care practitioner in the previous year.
To determine abnormalities, researchers tested for several items including thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which, in excess or deficiency, showed malfunction. The prevalence of elevated TSH levels in this population was 9.5%, and the prevalence of decreased TSH levels was 2.2% for a total of 11.7.% (9.9% had untreated conditions and 1.8% were taking thyroid medication yet still showed abnormalities).
A total of 5.9% of the 25,862 were being treated for thyroid problems at the time. Thus, almost a third of the treated group (1.8% vs. 5.9%) showed thyroid abnormalities despite treatment.
This means 11.7% of the American population may have poor thyroid activity (untreated or inadequately treated).. This has dramatic implications for mental health practitioners (and doctors in general).
One of the most common symptoms of thyroid disease is mood disturbance. People with hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) and hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) can manifest depressive symptoms, mania, psychosis, “brain fog,” senility, and a host of other odd mental phenomena.
Emphasizing the critical importance of testing thyroid in cases of mental disorders, the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists has stated on its web site, www.aace.com/clin/guides/thyroid_guide.html:
“The diagnosis of subclinical [without obvious signs] orclinical hypothyroidism must be considered in every patient with depression.”
A.D.D. OR JUST HEARING PROBLEMS?
In an article dated July 24, 2000, abcnews.com reported that hundreds of thousands of children labeled with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder may be incorrectly diagnosed and may instead have trouble deciphering what they are hearing.
Frank Musiek, director of audiology at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H., believes many of these youngsters – as many as 2 to 3 percent of all school-age children – may instead have a central auditory processing disorder, in which the brain can’t distinguish foreground signals from background noise. Diagnosing an auditory processing disorder involves finding a properly trained audiologist who can run advanced electrophysiological tests, such as attaching elecrotrodes to the head to record how the brain responds to sounds. These tests cost from $250 to $1,000.
“The symptoms can mimic attention deficit disorder,” agrees Robert Sweetow, director of audiology and professor of otolaryngology at University of California at San Francisco. “The kid who can’t sit still – maybe what he’s hearing is so
scrambled, he doesn’t give a damn.”
“Auditory processing disorder is a sleeping giant. Not enough people know about it to even consider it,” Musiek says. “Too many people look at these overlapping symptoms and say, ‘It must be ADHD.’ We’re trying to say, ‘Why not have them evaluated for this as well?’ ”
ADD: THE ZINC CONNECTION
Many cases of hyperactivity can be traced to zinc deficiencies. This connection was established in a study conducted at Ohio State University, which found stimulant therapy ineffective in such cases. A 1996 study, published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, found significantly lower levels of both zinc and fatty acids in children diagnosed with ADHD.
Zinc is necessary for over 200 enzyme reactions, many of which are required for brain function. Copper can be a hyper-irritant to the brain if not balanced with an adequate supply of zinc. Recent evidence suggests that physical aggression in young males is linked to an increased blood copper-to-zinc ratio. Zinc and vitamin B6, administered in the right proportions, can dramatically reduce hyperactivity symptoms where copper is found to be the cause.
Many studies have shown that zinc supplementation is helpful with memory, thinking and I.Q. The best way of getting zinc is to optimize the diet. The most recently published RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) for adults is 15 mgs. per day. The richest sources of zinc are generally the high protein foods such as organ meats, seafood (especially shellfish), oysters, whole grains and legumes (beans and peas).
COMPLEMENTARY MENTAL HEALTH THERAPIES GAIN ADHERENTS
The use of alternative mental health treatments were virtually unheard of a decade ago. Now they are on the rise. An article in the July 2000 issue of Archives of General Psychiatry reports the following findings:
A total of 16,038 respondents to the 1996 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey were asked about visits for 12 complementary medical services, including chiropractic services and herbal remedies. A total of 9.8% of those reporting a mental condition made a complementary visit, and about half of these (4.5%) made a visit to treat the mental condition. Persons reporting transient stress or adjustment disorders were most likely (9.1%) and those with psychotic conditions least likely (1.5%) to use complementary therapies to treat their mental condition. Dr. Benjamin Druss et al., authors of the article, reported “The findings suggest that many individuals reporting mental conditions use complementary therapies, whether for mental or other medical conditions. This use was particularly prevalent among younger, female, and more educated respondents. Since this survey only asked respondents about visits to practitioners of complementary therapies rather than self-care, the estimate should be considered a lower bound on the overall rates of use of these therapies among individuals with mental conditions.”
HEAD INJURIES SHARPLY INCREASE MENTAL PROBLEMS
The rate of psychiatric illness one year after a traumatic brain injury is significantly greater than that of the general population, reported the American Journal of Psychiatry, March 1999.
A sharp increase was observed in the rate of occurrence of depression. It was nearly seven times higher in the brain injury group (13.9% of the 196 adult traumatic brain injury patients studied, compared with 2.1% of the general population).
Panic disorder was more than 11 times more prevalent in the head-injury group (9.0%, compared with 0.8% of the general population).
Dr. Shoumitro Deb et al., authors of the article, stated that neurobehavioral symptoms are not uncommon after a traumatic brain injury. However, psychiatric syndromes per se have rarely been studied in patients with such injuries.
The study confirms the work of a growing number of physicians who now ask about prior head injuries as a standard procedure with any patients complaining of severe mental symptoms.
AlternativeMentalHealth.com is the largest web site devoted exclusively to alternative mental health treatments. It includes a directory of over 120 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 on the medical conditions that create “mental illness” and the many safe resources available for addressing and often curing severe mental symptoms.