|Safe Harbor had the good fortune of delivering a workshop before a packed audience at the Alternatives 2004 conference in Denver, Colorado, in mid October.
This conference was primarily composed of mental health consumers who work in various nonprofits or mental health departments around the U.S., helping other consumers in and out of “the system.”
What was most striking about this conference was the theme: Recovery. This stemmed from the report on President Bush’s 2003 Freedom Commission on Mental Health, which recommended, among other things, that the system be focused on recovery.
Safe Harbor has always been one of the few mental health organizations promoting the concept of recovery so to see an entire conference on the topic was welcome indeed! People from all areas in the mental health system were endorsing recovery.
We were also pleased to see how many people grasped the concept of how physical wellness relates to mental health.
Recovery is a brand new concept in mental health. And a worthwhile pursuit that finally acknowledges the thousands of people who have recovered! Now that the idea has taken flight, help us keep the recovery ideal alive and well and growing! It’s a glorious goal well worth chasing.
|On-The-Job Solvent Exposure Puts Unborn Children At Risk|
|Pregnant women exposed to job-related organic chemical solvents are putting their fetus’ brain development at risk, new research shows.
Children of mothers exposed to common organic solvents during pregnancy had lower scores on tests of language and behavior than children of unexposed mothers, according to a study by Canadian researchers published in the October issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.
Dry cleaning, manufacturing, nail salons and medical laboratories use such solvents,
“Reducing exposure in pregnancy is merited,” writes researcher Dionne Laslo-Baker, MSc, atoxicologist with the Motherisk Program at the Hospital for Sick Children and the University of Toronto. Intelligence, language development, dexterity, hand-eye coordination, and behavioral skills were assessed in the offspring of 32 women exposed to job-related solvents for at least eight weeks of their pregnancy starting during the first trimester.
Laslo-Baker and her colleagues compared the group of women who had contact with organic solvents during pregnancy and their children, ages 3 to 9, with a matched
All of the exposed children had significantly lower scores in each of the tested areas, Laslo-Baker reports. The children also showed less dexterity and eye-motor coordination, less ability to pay attention, and greater hyperactivity.
“Each of these areas, combined or on its own, may pose challenges in these children academically and socially,” writes Laslo-Baker. “If children are not successful in facing
Mothers in the former group reported being exposed to a total of 78 organic solvents between 1 and 40 hours per week and between 8 and 40 weeks of their pregnancies.
|High Blood Pressure Affects Cognitive Function|
|High blood pressure in otherwise healthy adults between the ages of 18 and 83 is associated with a measurable decline in cognitive function, according to a report
published in the October issue of Hypertension (a journal of the American Heart Association).
Authors Penelope K. Elias et al, University of Maine Department of Psychology, and
In their study, younger individuals (18-47) performed at a higher level than older individuals (48-83), but all groups showed blood pressure-related decline in cognitive function over time.
In the same issue of the journal, an editorial by medical researchers in Belgium and
Subjects in the study exhibited a normal range of cognitive functioning, as determined
The researchers analyzed data from four types of cognitive function tests focusing
Visualization tests included in the study measure abilities such as picture completion, picture arrangement, block design and object assembly. As a group, the tests require visualization and organization skills and the ability to solve novel problems under time constraints.
Other studies have related high blood pressure to cognitive decline but have not compared younger and older individuals and have not measured cognitive performance over an extended time period.
The results emphasize the importance of reducing high blood pressure even in younger adults. Across the population, lowering average systolic (the highest number in blood pressure tests) blood pressure by 20 millimeters mercury or diastolic blood pressure by 10 millimeters mercury would “have a considerable beneficial effect on the preservation of cognitive abilities in the population as a whole,” they concluded.
|Autistic Child Helps Create His Own “Sensory Room”|
|Safe Harbor received the following e-mail:
This summer, I invited my nine-year-old twin daughters and my ten-year-old autistic stepson to personalize their bedrooms by helping me choose paint colors and design themes.
Our new home in Boynton Beach, Florida, needed some fresh paint just about everywhere. I’m an artist and certified teacher, so the twins have grown up loving art. Getting them involved was simple.
My stepson, however, couldn’t tell me what he wanted. So I handed him a paintbrush. What a change in his demeanor! He became a participant immediately. The paint flew, most of it ending up where it was supposed to. I incorporated cool lights and interactive pieces that he can enjoy. By the time we had completed the project, he was ready and eager to start sleeping alone – for the first time in his life!
I had never seen him attend to a task for such a long stretch of time. Even now, three months later, he leads me to his room at least daily to “look at what we did make.”
I decided to offer my services to help other children have such an experience and create such a meaningful space. I also offer private art classes out of my home for students that are developmentally disabled, helping them discover the joy of expression through art.
|Treatable Brain Condition Mimics
|Up to 1 in 10 diagnosed Alzheimer’s patients in the US may instead be suffering from normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH), a treatable condition involving excess fluid on the brain, according to a story profiled Oct. 6 on CBS’ 60 Minutes.
“I was totally convinced I was dying. I was totally convinced I’d be gone in a month or a so,” says Bob Fowler, who wrote his own obituary five years ago, at the age of 69.
“It was hard to write it. I was totally convinced because I’d been to doctor after doctor after doctor with absolutely no positive results. No diagnosis of what was wrong with me at all. It was a very traumatic time for us.”
For nearly a decade, Fowler had been coping with balance problems, dementia, failing memory, and incontinence. He ended up in a wheelchair and had to stop working. Eventually, his wife Bonita began making plans to put him in a nursing home.
None of the 15 or so doctors Fowler consulted over the past nine years suggested he have an MRI or CT scan.
In Phoenix, retired dentist Milt Newman suffered for 15 years from the same symptoms as Fowler. In Newman’s case, a CT scan was performed, yet none of his doctors could pinpoint what was causing his decline.
“My concentration was nil. There wasn’t any. Reading a book was difficult because I couldn’t remember what happened 10 pages back,” says Newman. “And later on, conversation was difficult because I’d forget what people would say.”
Eventually, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. “I was floored by that because to me that was a death sentence,” says Newman. “I said to myself, ‘Well, let me get prepared.'”
Last year, after 15 years of suffering, Newman met Dr. Harold Rekate, a neurosurgeon at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix. Dr. Rekate determined that Newman’s condition was not Alzheimer’s at all, but normal pressure hydrocephalus. NPH is caused by excess fluid putting pressure on the brain.
“There’s 10 times too much fluid in here than there is in a normal person,” says Rekate. “It’s pushing the brain outward and stretching the nerve fibers so they can’t function properly.”
The result can be the very symptoms that plagued both Newman and Fowler – problems with gait, or walking, with thinking and bladder control.
Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia afflict more than 7 million people in the United States, but medical professionals estimate that between 5 and 10 percent of them — at least 375,000 people — might actually have NPH. And most physicians are missing it. Why?
“It’s hard to make the diagnosis. You have to sit down and you have to listen and you have to examine the patient. And you have to do it in a thorough way. And then you have to order an expensive test,” says Rekate. “An MRI scan will cost somewhere around $2,000-3,000. It’s not that the insurance carriers want you to do that.”
So what do those who are misdiagnosed need to do? “You don’t have to go gently into that good night,” says Rekate. “You need to fight. And we need to give you the tools to fight.”
Once the condition is discovered, it can be relieved through a 45-minute procedure in which neurosurgeons surgically insert a tube called a shunt into the brain. That tube drains the excess fluid from the brain and moves it to the belly where it can be absorbed.
|Preventive Measures May Help Curb Alzheimer’s Growth|
|The number of Alzheimer’s disease cases in the United States will at least double by the year 2030, unless Americans make vital lifestyle changes now, according to a Yahoo News article of September 9, 2004.
Despite the disturbing predictions, researchers say that simple lifestyle changes can dramatically alter the outlook. They suggest:
* Making better food choices and eating fish
Dr. Joseph Mercola, www.mercola.com, points out: “I feel that the dangers of eating most
* Keeping mentally active by playing cards or the piano
* Reducing stress.
In one study, researchers evenly split 20 participants into two groups. One set of
A typical day for group one participants began with stretching, a healthy breakfast, walking
By the end of two weeks, 75 percent of participants on the program showed at least a 20 percent improvement on memory tests. As an added bonus, the program seemed to lower their blood pressures, which is linked to brain health.
Researchers claim that if Americans make any one of the lifestyle changes, the projection of
|Sense Of Purpose Is Good For Your Health|
|When researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Princeton University interviewed a group of older women and assessed their emotional and physical well-being, or levels of optimal health, they found that the people who were purposefully engaged in life tended to have better levels of physical functioning.
“There’s nothing new about a study that shows links between psychology and biology,” says Carol Ryff, UW-Madison psychology professor and lead author of the paper. “What’s novel about this one is that it looks at varieties of positive human functioning and how they relate to physical health.” Their findings are described in the September issue of Philosophical Transactions: Biological Sciences, a journal of the Royal Society of London.
As Ryff explains, most researchers have looked for connections between emotional dysfunction, such as stress or loneliness, and physical illness, such as high blood pressure. But, she adds, ill-being is not simply the flip side of well-being, nor is well-being simply the absence of ill-being.
To begin to understand the role of good mental health on physical functioning, Ryff, along with Burt Singer at Princeton University and Gayle Love at UW-Madison, looked for links between two forms of well-being and health, specifically biological markers for stress, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
For the study, the researchers asked 135 women between the ages of 61 to 91 to rate their levels of two different types of positive emotional functioning: hedonic well-being, such as joy or happiness resulting from pleasurable experiences; and eudaimonic well-being, which results from purposeful life engagement, continued personal growth, positive
“The hedonic is about happiness, feeling good, pleasure and gratification,” explains Ryff. “The eudaimonic has a different philosophical tradition – it’s not so much about feeling good, but about being actively engaged in life and making the most of your talents and capacities, regardless of how old you are.”
When the researchers compared the participants’ reported levels of both types of good emotional health to their physical charts, the results surprised them. They had expected that people who had higher levels of hedonic and eudaimonic well-being would be in better health. But, this connection was only evident in the women who reported high levels of eudaimonic well-being.
For example, people who reported high levels of purpose in life had lower levels of stress hormones throughout the day; lower levels of inflammatory cytokines, which can result in arthritis, hardening of the arteries and diabetes; higher levels of “good” HDL cholesterol
Hedonic well-being, on the other hand, showed its positive health effects only in terms of higher levels of HDL cholesterol.
“These preliminary findings tells us that we can achieve good health and well-being by not just eating right, exercising and managing stress, but by living purposeful and meaningful lives,” says Ryff. “Life enrichment may be part of what helps keep older people better regulated.”
|Mayo Clinic Staff Advocates Exercise To Combat Depression, Anxiety|
|“There’s substantial evidence that exercise can enhance mood and reduce symptoms of depression,” says Kristin Vickers-Douglas, Ph.D., a psychologist at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. “It’s not a magic bullet, but increasing physical activity is a positive and active strategy to help manage depression.”
Psychologically, exercise can work in numerous ways, Dr. Vickers-Douglas says. Among them:
Improved accomplishments and confidence. Engaging in physical activity affords a sense of accomplishment and can provide a boost in self-confidence – you’ve met a goal or challenge.
Positive distraction. When you have depression or anxiety, it’s easy to repeatedly focus your attention on yourself, your symptoms and the consequences of your symptoms – to ruminate. But that kind of dwelling interferes with your ability to problem solve and engage in more active coping strategies. It can also make depression more severe and longer lasting.
Improved self-esteem. With anxiety and depression, self-esteem can take a hit.
Positive pairings. The physical experience of physical activity – breathing changes, sweating, increased pulse – can mimic the signs and symptoms of anxiety or panic
Environmental reinforcement. Exercise also gives you an opportunity to experience positive social or environmental reinforcement. “Depression often makes people want to isolate themselves,” Dr. Vickers-Douglas explains. “But by doing so, they miss out on experiencing positive interactions with others or their environment, such as a smile or kind word from a passerby, or the sights and sounds of nature.”
Positive coping skills. Doing something beneficial to manage your depression or anxiety is a positive and active coping strategy. Trying to manage your moods through excessive alcohol consumption or dwelling on the consequences of your negative mood are unhelpful coping strategies. Rather than waiting passively for depression or anxiety to change, taking active steps, such as increasing physical activity, can help you gain confidence in your ability to manage your symptoms, Dr. Vickers-Douglas says.
“There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that exercise is important for emotional well-being and is helpful in reducing symptoms of depression,” she says. “It’s true that less is known about how exercise affects mood. But there’s no reason to wait until the direct, indirect and interactive influences of physical activity on mental health are fully understood. You can start taking advantage of the benefits of physical activity now.”
|Book Review: How To Communicate With Alzheimer’s|
|Although the title says “Alzheimer’s,” this terrific book by Susan Kohler teaches us how to better communicate with those who are brain-impaired – be it through dementia, stroke, head injury, medication or whatever.
It’s loaded with tips on how to get the attention of such a person, what to talk about, how to talk and a host of other aspects of communication.
We also find troubleshooting pointers for such situations as paranoia, emotional outbursts,
Particularly useful are the tips on the types of subjects, songs, poems, etc., that will strike a
It’s clear that Susan Kohler loves her work. How to Communicate with Alzheimer’s comes from an experienced an caring heart.
|Book Review: Break Your Prescribed Addiction|
|When Safe Harbor began building our online directory of alternative mental health practitioners some years ago, we were stunned to find that an entire industry had sprung up amongst healthcare providers to help kids and adults come off of potent psychiatric medication. While orthodox medicine was busy putting people on meds, more health-minded docs were taking them off!
So the book Break Your Prescribed Addiction by Billie Jay Sahley, Ph.D., and Katherine Birkner, Ph.D., fills a vital need for medical professionals and lay public alike in laying out the step-by-step process of weaning off of prescription drugs. Sahley and Birkner give us a wide assortment of nutrition, herbal, and other safe tools for addressing not only withdrawal symptoms but also the symptoms that caused the drug(s) to be prescribed in the first place.
The core treatment recommended are the powerful amino acid therapies that are becoming increasingly popular for their rapid addiction-breaking qualities as well as their use in quickly dissipating depression, anxiety, and mood disorders. Although excellent as a self-help book, Break Your Prescribed Addiction is also a must for any
|Safe Harbor End Of Year Book Store Sale|
|Safe Harbor educates the public, medical profession and government agencies on nondrug alternatives for mental health. As part of this effort, we sell several books and other materials on this subject. You can buy books and materials (listed below) directly from Safe Harbor, and get a 10% or more discount (on selected items) for a limited time only. Order online at http://www.alternativementalhealth.com/, call 323-257-7338 or call 818-563-2392 (evenings). Thank you so much for your continued support of Safe Harbor.
Prices include discount, if applicable