Thursday, July 2, 2009

Re: Clinical Pastoral Education .... Did You Know?

... that certain types of mental illness could be understood as attempts to solve problems of the soul, and that some patients can find a cure in the power of religion?
At least according to Anton Theophilus Boisen, who lived from 1876 to 1965. His ideas served as the foundation of modern clinical pastoral education. Considering much current education and practice, one might enquire whether the edifice of counsel is off its Rock.

Boisen may have been quite right, but I prefer to defer to the power of God in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. I know ... that all things ... including incoherent speech, waking nightmares, seven months in a psychiatric hospital and eighteen months in rehab ... all things, work for good to those who Love God, to those who are called according to His purpose, mysterious though it may be!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Church and 'The Mentally Ill'

The following article by Peter Andres, written on Aug. 9th, 2007, can be found at


'Are people of faith with a mental illness different from those who have a physical illness? Much about mental illness still remains a mystery. That's one of the reasons people are tempted to spiritualize the problem. They hope that the person with mental illness would be able to gain spiritual strength and thus gain victory over the illness.

What remains hard for many to understand is that having a mental illness and being a strong person of faith is no different than having a serious physical illness and being a strong person of faith.

How can church leaders encourage support of people with a mental illness? What does a person with a mental illness need to help him or her feel accepted and part of the congregation? How does the Christian message and experience take on meaning under these circumstances? What exactly is mental illness, anyway?

Marja Bergen, in her book 'Riding the Roller Coaster' (Northstone, 1999), describes her experiences living with bipolar disorder. She talks about the many important factors that helped make her life with this illness tolerable and manageable. Having a supportive husband, friends, and service systems were critical, but she also acknowledges the importance of a spiritual home.

Her church friends learned to understand her illness and provided spiritual nurture, especially during difficult times. She speaks about friendships which include a common belief as being the most valuable ones she'll have. But she also admits that she was fortunate in this regard.

Sadly, many people with mental illness who look for spiritual help during difficult times face ignorance, stigma, avoidance, and judgment. The spiritual counsel and prayer these people receive frankly do more harm than good.

Understanding mental illness, even from the professional, scientific perspective, is still very much a work in progress. Schizophrenia and its related disorders, bipolar disorder (also known as manic depression), major depression, panic and obsessive-compulsive disorders, are all considered mental illnesses. It is estimated that between 15 percent to 20 percent of North Americans will, at some time in their lives, experience a mental illness. Most of these will suffer debilitating depression.

Evidence suggests there are probably organic (biochemical) reasons for the illness, or psycho-social origins -- or a combination of the two. Treatments that deal with the symptoms include medications, psychotherapy or a blend of both.

What is clear to people working in the field is that the experience of the illness goes far beyond living with the symptoms. While a person who has a physical illness -- even cancer -- suffers discomfort and anxiety related to the illness, those who have a mental illness suffer from a constellation of additional issues. These all affect their ability to return to wellness. One of them is stigma, both internally and externally imposed. There's also the loss of self-worth and self-efficacy that might come with a loss of job, friends, marriage and the feelings of being separated from God.

How can the church assist someone in a situation as devastating as this?

1. Church leaders and church members need to know that a mental illness is not the same as a spiritual crisis. Nor is the absence of healing, especially after fervent prayer, a sign of judgment or lack of faith.

2. There should be no judgment about the use of mood altering medications. Medications are commonly needed to treat the bio-chemical causes for the disorder and radically help many keep their symptoms under control.

3. Quality of life for a person suffering from mental illness does not depend on a complete remission from the illness.

What church members need to know is that many experience a recovery which allows them to return to an active and fulfilling life -- but still continue to experience times that are difficult. Recovery from mental illness means: the return of a positive sense of self, usually through meaningful endeavour (work, vocation), a circle of meaningful relationships, a place to live that the person can call his or her own, and a spiritual life that feels a reconnection with God.

The recovering person can be experiencing personal brokenness and limitations, yet have valuable gifts to offer to the church community.'

Peter Andres is a regional director for MCC Supportive Care Services, a non-profit charitable organization which supports people with disabilities -- including people with mental health issues. He can be contacted at

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

On Mental Illness, Christian Education and Leadership

Why does mental illness, and even suicide, afflict Christian families?

Have deficiencies in theological study and application contributed to the prevalence of mental illness among Canadians?

Anton T. Boison discussed his own psychotic breaks and suggested that they represented efforts to reintegrate his personality. He developed an empirical theology which sought to study the patient, his symptoms and the healing process. He became one of the founders of clinical pastoral education. This field has largely been taken over by secular psychologies which allow the patient to become a subject for experimental testing of theory. Pastoral theology has thus been transformed from the divine cure of souls into the pseudo-Christian effort to correct human flaws by human techniques.

Arno Gruen describes the folly of so-called normal behaviour when it is shown to be counter-productive. (see his book, 'The Insanity of Normality') Benoit Mandelbrot, the father of fractal geometry, has been pointing out, for several years, inaccuracies in the financial formulae used to predict market behaviour. Could there be similar errors in the spiritual formulae which our churches develop to meet their 'objectives'?

True leaders cultivate the ability to foresee events and potential circumstances. Robert Greenleaf claimed that it was actually "necessary (for a good leader) to live a sort of schizoid life, always at two levels of consciousness, both in the real world -- concerned, responsible, effective, value oriented and also above it, seeing the actual reality, being deeply involved in daily events, but having the perspective of a long sweep of history and looking to, and planning for, the indefinite future".

The schizophrenic features of our churches, and our various denominational divisions, are hardly conducive to good mental health in a society in which many families are split among different, often antagonistic, churches.

For those of us whose churches are more formal, we have an "inherited attitude toward the liturgical act (which) reflects a kind of schizoid state. We hear but do not really hear. The liturgy is an encapsulated experience, entered into in isolation from real human experiences. It does not connect with the real world because it has been shaped by a piety which is often consciously an escape from the pressures of the real world. Liturgical time is seen as ‘holy time’ working according to its own laws, and feeding our hunger and thirst for God. But it does not connect for the great majority of our people with the real choices of daily life." - from 'Sacraments and Liturgy: The Outward Signs', by Louis Weil.

Education involves much more than filling students with facts and theories. It is an attempt to lead out of darkness and ignorance into light and wisdom, an attempt to develop competence and ability in the area of study. In short, good leaders show the way as well as talk about it. Real teachers lead and real leaders are good at teaching.

But, do our schools value this reality based approach?

for more see

Monday, April 6, 2009

Discrimination and stigma plague Canadians with schizophrenia

Evidence straight from those who know!
Would you wait 18 weeks to have a broken leg treated?

According to a national report released in Winnipeg, Manitoba, on March 30/09, by the Schizophrenia Societies across Canada, 60% of Canadians assume that people living with schizophrenia are likely to act violently toward others.

Schizophrenia in Canada: A National Report calls on Canadians, health care professionals and government to support a National Mental Health Strategy that addresses the disparities and inequities faced daily by those living with schizophrenia and their family members.

The report describes different factors affecting those with
schizophrenia, such as public perceptions and discrimination, quality of life, access to health care services, access to medications, wait times and government spending on mental health. These are key factors that illustrate the standard of schizophrenia care in Canada.

"While 92% of Canadians surveyed have heard of schizophrenia, most do not understand what it is or its symptoms. In fact, the majority confuse it with split personality disorder," said Chris Summerville, CEO, Schizophrenia Society of Canada. "Misconceptions such as these lead to negative stereotyping and stigma towards people living with schizophrenia."

The report examines how stigma negatively impacts the lives of people living with schizophrenia. Stigma causes gradual social isolation, making it harder for them to seek the help and treatment they need to manage their illness.

The report found that people with schizophrenia also experienced discrimination within the Canadian health care system. Schizophrenia in Canada calls highlights the findings of a 2008 report by the Fraser Institute on hospital waiting times, in which, physicians were asked to provide a reasonable wait time to receive various medical treatments. On average patients are waiting over six weeks longer for psychiatric treatment than is deemed reasonable. (Source: Fraser Institute, Waiting Your Turn: Hospital Waiting Lists in Canada, 2008 Report)

"It is simply unacceptable that people living with schizophrenia wait an average of 18.6 weeks from referral to receiving treatment for psychiatric care," said Mr. Summerville. "Mental health must be considered a top priority in the national and provincial wait time strategies."

The research for Schizophrenia in Canada: A National Report was conducted by L├ęger Marketing and supported through an unrestricted educational grant from Pfizer Canada Inc.


The Schizophrenia Society of Canada began in 1979 and is dedicated to improving the quality of life for those affected by schizophrenia and psychosis through education, support programs, public policy and research. The Society works with 10 provincial societies in a federation model to: raise awareness and educate the public in order to reduce stigma and discrimination; support families and individuals; advocate for legislative change; and support research through the SSC Foundation and other independent efforts. All the Societies are united through each organization's efforts and share a common goal to raise awareness and educate the public in order to reduce stigma and discrimination.

For further information: or to book an interview with Chris Summerville, CEO, Schizophrenia Society of Canada, please contact:
Jennifer Gordon, Thornley Fallis Communications,
(416) 515-7517 x 348,;
Marissa Lukaitis, Thornley Fallis Communications,
(416) 515-7517 x 324,

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Are You a Schizophrenic Christian?

If so, you're in good company. The prophets of Israel often showed schizoid tendencies.

Hopefully your condition is under the control of the Holy Spirit by whatever means the Lord has given that works for you.

Click on the title above to read an article by Gary DeMar which critiques a less than healthy theology which advocates care for creation and then presumes to suggest that The Lord's imminent return excuses us from strenuous activity in the realms of social and ecological justice.

JESUS is both our Salvation and our Judge,
and HE is NOT schizophrenic.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Housing... At Last...A Start...

Good to see this. May it spread across the country!
Too bad the Mennonites are the only Christian church with a national working policy on the creation of affordable housing.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

On Dental Health, yes dental...

His ashes don't lie
Within a couple of weeks of complaining about aching teeth, Ali Mohammed was dead


From Toronto Sun: 22nd March 2009

One of Toronto's working poor -- homeless in his final moments -- died the other day at St. Michael's hospital, unnoticed by a greater world around him.

It was word of mouth that told of Ali Mohammed's passing, about how he could not be stirred from his cot at the Gateway hostel on Lower Jarvis St., and how staff members there did their best to keep him alive until the ambulance arrived for the short run to the emergency ward at St. Mike's.

Once there, doctors purportedly pumped him full of antibiotics to stem the poison emanating from obviously infected teeth and gums, even though he had gone three times to a walk-in dental clinic, and had at least one tooth extracted.

He hadn't been able to eat for days on end, so severe was his pain once the infection set in. As one friend said: "They got his heart going a couple of times at St. Mike's, but they could not keep him alive."

No obit appeared in any newspaper.

The coroner's office, which ruled that Ali Mohammed's death was from a heart attack, saw to his cremation.

He was 56.

As best that can be determined, Ali Mohammed's provincially funded cremation was the first time he has ever cost the taxpayer a dime, since there are no records that he ever took a dollar in welfare -- under any name.

For the 20 years he had been in this country -- arriving here as Addison James Soodeen, but living as Ali Mohammed, a nickname given to him by friends -- he had worked piecemeal as a handyman and contractor to learn the basics: Laying floors, putting up dry wall, painting interiors and exteriors, and even doing a little plumbing.

He lived, most of his life here, with friends -- ending up at Gateway when he tired of feeling beholding.

"He did good work. He was trustworthy. He was loyal," said Sam Sundar-Singh, an employee at the Scott Mission who only knew him a matter of months, and who employed Ali Mohammed to work on a house renovation.

"He was genuine -- gentle and kind is the way I have always described him," he said.

"Anyone who knew him would agree."

The Gateway, where Ali Mohammed lived for a little over a month, held a memorial service in its chapel a week ago Thursday and then ensured that his ashes will soon make their way home to a sister living in Trinidad.

Some 20 people attended that memorial. There was prayer, there were songs, and there was testimony from people who had met Ali Mohammed along the way.

"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want ..."

The executive director at the community health centre where Ali Mohammed was treated at its dental clinic was out of the province when the clinic was visited, but a director indicated that privacy laws negated the discussion of specific cases.

"No one is going to talk to you about specifics at the dental clinic," she said, stating that it would be best to call a dental office, or a community doctor, if one wanted to talk hypotheticals.

So we called Dr. Gary Bloch, who works out of St. Mike's and is a director for the Inner City Health Association, a group that helps fund doctors to deal with the homeless in 30 sites across the city -- from hostels, to drop-in centres, to makeshift walk-in clinics.

According to Bloch, some 60% of the homeless who come through his association's doors do not have a valid health insurance number -- meaning antibiotics would not be covered in any clinic other than a community health centre.

"And then antibiotics are not always considered necessary," he said, indicating, however, that unhealthy teeth and gums are the door openers to other health problems.

According to a study by a major U.S. dental school -- a probe of 18 years of medical histories involving almost 12,000 people -- people with infected teeth and diseased gums are twice as likely to die from a heart attack and three times as likely to die from a stroke.

"For low-income people, and for people like the homeless, the only dental coverage is for extractions," said Bloch. "And that's a huge problem because there is no coverage whatsoever for prevention -- like teeth cleaning.

"As a result, I've seen some pretty horrific looking mouths among the homeless."

According to Dion Oxford, director of the Gateway, Ali Mohammed returned three times to the dental clinic complaining about the pain and, each time, was given nothing more than Tylenol tablets, over-the-counter painkillers that require no prescription.

But not antibiotics?

"To get those, Ali found himself having to go to St. Mike's, and getting them there," said Oxford. "But he didn't get them at the dental clinic."

The exact time frame between Ali Mohammed's last trip to the dental clinic, his visit to St. Mike's to finally get some antibiotics, and the time he was found unresponsive in his bed at the Gateway is somewhat uncertain.

But, within a matter of a couple of weeks of his first complaint about his aching teeth, he was dead.

This is undeniable.

His ashes, in a cardboard box, do not lie.


A Story Shared

John Stokdijk, Chief Financial Officer of the Mental Health Commission of Canada, tells his story. To read, click on the above title.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Friday, January 16, 2009

Hitting Where It Hurts: Schizophrenia linked to Alzheimer's Disease

The following articles have special meaning for me considering that my father spent the last ten years of his life with Alzheimer's disease and I spent most of my twenties dealing with schizophrenia.

CHARLIE FIDELMAN, in The Montreal Gazette, of January 6, 2009 reports of a study warning that Dementia could become epidemic, and that Alzheimer's patients are getting younger.

The Alzheimer Society of Canada is warning that the number of Canadians living with Alzheimer's disease or dementia is expected to swell to epidemic proportions within a generation.

About half a million Canadians - 119,700 of them Quebecers - are affected. The new study, made public yesterday, predicts that within 25 years, the number of cases of Alzheimer's or a related dementia will more than double, ranging between one million and 1.3 million people.

Researchers stress that the findings, presented in a report called Rising Tide: The Impact of Dementia on Canadian Society, should be a clear signal that more effective treatment and preparation is needed in order to avoid a meltdown within the Canadian health care system. The initial findings report the first new prevalence data since the 1991 Canadian Study on Health and Aging.

"These new data only reinforce the fact that Alzheimer's disease and related dementias are a rising concern in this country, an epidemic that has the potential to overwhelm the Canadian health-care system," Ray Congdon of the Alzheimer Society said in a statement.

The most common form of dementia, Alzheimer's, affects one in 11 Canadians over 65. A degenerative disease that slowly destroys memory, reasoning and orientation, Alzheimer's affects how people think, remember and communicate.

But Alzheimer's is not just a disease of the elderly.

The new data suggest an increasing number of baby boomers are also being struck. About 71,000 Canadians under the age of 65 are living with Alzheimer's disease or a related dementia. Approximately 50,000 are 59 or younger. In Quebec, more than 17,140 are under age 65.

"It's urgent we come up with better treatment or there will be an epidemic," said cognitive neurologist Howard Chertkow, a McGill University professor and director of the Bloomfield Centre for Research in Aging at the Jewish General Hospital.

The rising number of cases is no hype, Chertkow said, which explains the push to get the topic on the front burner.

Research suggests Alzheimer's begins about 20 years before symptoms appear, Chertkow said. But despite better awareness and detection tools, there's still a gap between the number of people who are affected by dementia and the number that show up at clinics for evaluation and treatment, he said.

"Some people think it's normal for Grandpa to become senile and lose his memory. So why take a person like that to the doctor?"

There is no cure, but researchers have made progress in understanding the disease, its causes, what makes people susceptible and how it can be prevented.

The report set out to evaluate the economic impact the increasing incidence of the disease will have on the economy. That analysis will be made public when the full report is issued this year.

A provincial working group developing strategies on dementia is expected to complete its report next month.

Dementia causes cognitive impairment, resulting in the loss of memory, attention and reason.

According to, higher mental functions are affected first in the process. Especially in the later stages of the condition, affected persons may be disoriented in time (not knowing what day of the week, day of the month, month, or even what year it is), in place (not knowing where they are), and in person (not knowing who they are or others around them). Symptoms of dementia can be classified as either reversible or irreversible, depending upon the etiology of the disease. Less than 10 percent of cases of dementia are due to causes which may presently be reversed with treatment.


Alzheimer's/Schizophrenia Link Discovered

ScienceDaily (May 9, 2008) — Neuroscientists at Johns Hopkins have discovered that mice lacking an enzyme that contributes to Alzheimer disease exhibit a number of schizophrenia-like behaviors. The finding raises the possibility that this enzyme may participate in the development of schizophrenia and related psychiatric disorders and therefore may provide a new target for developing therapies.

The BACE1 enzyme, for beta-site amyloid precursor protein cleaving enzyme, generates the amyloid proteins that lead to Alzheimer's disease. The research team years ago suspected that removing BACE1 might prevent Alzheimer.

"We knew at the time that in addition to amyloid precursor protein, BACE1 interacts with other proteins but we didn't know how those interactions might affect behavior," says Alena Savonenko, M.D., Ph.D., an assistant professor in neuropathology at Hopkins.

Reporting in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences, the research team describes how mice lacking the BACE1 enzyme show deficits in social recognition among other behaviors classically linked to schizophrenia.

A normal mouse, when introduced to another mouse, shows a lot of interest the first time they meet. If the mice are separated then reintroduced, their interest drops because they remember having met before, a phenomenon the researchers call habituation. If they then introduce a completely different mouse, interest piques again at the newbie.

The researchers introduced mice lacking BACE1 to another mouse. The first time they met, the BACE1 mouse showed interest, the second time meeting the same mouse the BACE1 mouse showed less interest and even less interest the third time. The researchers then introduced the BACE1 mouse to a totally different mouse of a different strain and the BACE1 mouse showed no interest at all. "These mice were totally disinterested, normal mice just don't behave like this," says Savonenko.

Additionally, the researchers found that these BACE1-lacking mice also displayed many other schizophrenia-like traits. Most importantly, according to Savonenko, some of the deficits improved after treatment with the antipsychotic drug clozapine.

Because schizophrenia is a disorder likely caused by many different factors, Savonenko explains that BACE1 might contribute to an increased risk of schizophrenia in certain patients and the BACE1 mice will be a useful animal model. "We never thought we would see one mouse that closely mimics so many of the clinical features of schizophrenia," says Alena Savonenko, M.D., Ph.D., an assistant professor of neuropathology at Hopkins. "This could be a really useful model to study and understand the molecular contributions to the disease."

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute on Aging, the Alzheimer's Association, the Adler Foundation, the Ilanna Starr Scholar Fund and the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation.

Authors on the paper are Savonenko, T. Melnikova, F. Laird, K.-A. Stewart, D. Price and P. Wong, all of Hopkins.

On Clergy and Mental Illness

Mental Illness Often Dismissed By Local Church

Has this happened to you?

With research consistently showing that clergy–not psychologists or other mental health experts–are the most common source of help sought in times of psychological distress, a Baylor University study has found that clergy often deny or dismiss the existence of mental illness.

This is believed to be one of only a few studies to look at the experiences which mentally ill people have when approaching their local church for assistance with their troubles.

In the recent Baylor study of 293 Christians who approached their local church for assistance in response to a personal or family member's diagnosed mental illness, Baylor researchers found that more than 32 percent of these church members were told by their church pastor that they or their loved one did not really have a mental illness. The study found these church members were told the cause of their problem was solely spiritual in nature, such as a personal sin, lack of faith or demonic involvement. Baylor researchers also found that women were more likely than men to have their mental disorders dismissed by the church.

In a subsequent survey, Baylor researchers found the dismissal or denial of the existence of mental illness happened more often in conservative churches, rather than more liberal ones.

All of the participants in both studies were previously diagnosed by a licensed mental health provider as having a serious mental illness, like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, prior to approaching their local church for assistance.

"The results are troubling because it suggests individuals in the local church are either denying or dismissing a somewhat high percentage of mental health diagnosis," said Dr. Matthew Stanford, BS '88, MA '90, PhD '92, professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor, who led the study. "Those whose mental illnesses were dismissed by clergy are not only being told they don't have a mental illness, they are also being told they need to stop taking their medication.
That can be a very dangerous thing."

In addition, Baylor researchers found study participants who were told by their pastors they did not have a mental illness were more likely to attend church more than once a week and described their church as conservative or charismatic. However, the Baylor study also found those whose mental illness was dismissed or denied were less likely to attend church after the fact and their faith in God was weakened.

Dr. Stanford's results were published in 'Mental Health, Religion and Culture'.

see also

No doubt there needs to be more academic discussion and public education about the connections between mind and spirit. Are the various so-called mental illnesses only another name for classic spiritual disorders? The heart of the issue for Christians is whether to trust in worldly assistance, which is sometimes all even the church ends up actually offering, or to accept that a combination of prayer and counsel and medicine might be required. We must also not forget that clergy too are human and suffer from various psychological and/or spiritual conditions.

A witness that Jesus does heal through friends, family and... yes...sometimes through doctors!

Richard Alastair

Crazy or Genius?

Back in 2002 it was reported (in ScienceDaily - May 22/02)
that Stanford Researchers had Established a Link Between
Creative Genius And Mental Illness

The report began with saying that for decades, scientists have known that eminently creative individuals have a much higher rate of manic depression, or bipolar disorder, than does the general population, and that few controlled studies have been done to build the link between mental illness and creativity.

Stanford researchers Connie Strong and Terence Ketter, MD, were reported as having taken the first steps toward exploring the relationship.

Using personality and temperament tests, they found healthy artists to be more similar in personality to individuals with manic depression than to healthy people in the general population. "My hunch is that emotional range, having an emotional broadband, is the bipolar patient's advantage," said Strong. "It isn't the only thing going on, but something gives people with manic depression an edge, and I think it's emotional range."

Strong is a research manager in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science's bipolar disorders clinic and a doctoral candidate at the Pacific Graduate School. She is presenting preliminary results during a poster presentation today (May 21) at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association Meeting in Philadelphia.

The current study is groundbreaking for psychiatric research in that it used separate control groups made up of both healthy, creative people and people from the general population.

Researchers administered standard personality, temperament and creativity tests to 47 people in the healthy control group, 48 patients with successfully treated bipolar disorder and 25 patients successfully treated for depression. She also tested 32 people in a healthy, creative control group. This group was comprised of Stanford graduate students enrolled in prestigious product design, creative writing and fine arts programs, including Stegner Fellows in writing, students in the interdisciplinary Joint Program in Design from the Department of Mechanical Engineering and studio arts master's students from the Department of Art & Art History. All subjects were matched for age, gender, education and socioeconomic status.

Preliminary analysis showed that people in the control group and recovered manic depressives were more open and likely to be moody and neurotic than healthy controls. Moodiness and neuroticism are part of a group of characteristics researchers are calling "negative-affective traits" which also include mild, nonclinical forms of depression and bipolar disorder.

Though the data are preliminary, they provide a roadmap for psychiatric researchers looking to solve the genius/madness paradox depicted in the movie A Beautiful Mind, which tells the story of Nobel Laureate John Nash. The existing data need further review, Strong said. "And, we need to expand this to other groups," he said. How mood influences the performance of artists and genius scientists will be the subject of future research at Stanford. "We need to better understand the emotional side of what they do," Strong said.

The study was funded by grants to Ketter, principal investigator and associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at Stanford, from the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression, and Abbott Laboratories.

Stanford University Medical Center integrates research, medical education and patient care at its three institutions - Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford Hospital & Clinics and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford.

See original article at

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Just a Minute!

From a Toronto Sun article of Thursday, January 15, 2009

entitled 'Mental child support'
Parents call to keep funds

Parents struggling to raise children with mental illnesses are calling on the Ontario government to protect and enhance services despite the difficult economic times.

Sarah Cannon, of St. Catharines, whose 12-year-old daughter has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, told a news conference yesterday that only one out of six children with mental illnesses in the province are able to access services and then only after months on waiting lists.

Privately-obtained services are sparse and dauntingly expensive, and Cannon had to take a second job to cover the cost of her child's $750 monthly medication bill.

"I have been telling my daughter's story for nearly a decade and have been struggling with the daily emotional, financial and social struggles associated with having a child diagnosed with a mental illness," Cannon said.

"I have watched my child have to deal with the isolation and stigma that comes attached to her label. I have watched her struggle and suffer battling faceless demons that few can comprehend. I have learned that she shares this struggle with countless other children."

Suicide is a real risk for mentally ill children even though the vast majority have a psychological illness that could be treated, she said.

Cannon and other members of Parents for Children's Mental Health are asking the McGuinty government to increase spending on these services by 3% after years of flat-lined budgets and to work toward a seamless system of care as recommended in several key reports such as the provincially-sponsored Roots of Violence.

London parent Sean Quigley, whose 12-year-old daughter was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 7, said they pushed hard to get her the services she needed.

During the worst of times, they were getting calls every day from school to pick up their daughter who could be violent and verbally abusive when experiencing the mood swings associated with the disorder.

Now in Grade 7, their daughter Erynn has served as a national "Face of Mental Illness."
"She's on the student council and her grades rock," her proud father said.

But many parents of mentally ill children lose jobs, savings and even their homes as they attempt to meet the needs of their children in a complex, patchwork system, he said.

"The health system does not work with the education system which does not work with the social services system which does not really communicate with the justice system," Quigley said.

"And we as parents, we navigate these systems all the time."

Children and Youth Services Minister Deb Matthews said her government's 2004 budget brought in the first base increase in children's mental health services funding in 12 years.
The ministry is currently implementing a strategic framework for children's mental health services to bring more co-ordination to the system, and to use existing dollars more effectively for the care of children and youth, Matthews said.

I'm all for the work of Canada's Mental Health Commission. Yet these examples illustrate the need for more than just talk and research. Real help would go a long way towards reducing stigma for all concerned!
What we really need is a coordinated systems approach, which brings together various levels and departments of government, and which recognizes and collaborates with "informal service providers". We must as Canadians, find ways to stand with each other to obtain the service and respect we all need.

Richard Alastair

Thursday, January 8, 2009


The Government of Canada would have us believe that it is 'helping' those who are homeless in Saskatchewan
see dateline: SASKATOON, SASKATCHEWAN, December 19, 2008

Canada’s Government (claims to be) helping families and individuals in Saskatchewan break free from the cycles of homelessness and poverty and build a stronger future for themselves.


The report says that
“Our government is delivering on our commitment to help those who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. We are proud to support community efforts that help find local solutions to local issues,” said Mr. Komarnicki, who made the announcement on behalf of the Honourable Diane Finley, Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development. “By investing over $1.7 million in these 12 projects across Saskatchewan, we are supporting community efforts to help those in need.”

The announcement took place at the Salvation Army Community Centre in Saskatoon, a shelter, food provider and drop-in centre. The organization is receiving HPS funding to help create 42 emergency shelter beds and six temporary cots for women and children. Individuals will benefit by having a safe place to live in which they can access support services and transition out of homelessness.

Let's not hold our breath waiting.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Post-traumatic stress disorder

CBC news reported in a Dec. 17, 2008 on-line article that 'more Canadian soldiers than ever are coming forward to make claims for psychiatric disabilities, such as post-traumatic stress disorder' and that of 31 recommendations made by the Military Ombudsman's Office in Ottawa, 18 had not been fully implemented.

The military are said to have made some progress in improving screening before and after conflict, providing national family support groups and aiming to hire 200 mental health workers by March of this year.

But the condition doesn't just affect soldiers. Paramedics, front-line nurses and victims of abuse, violent crimes or accidents have been known to develop symptoms. One in 10 people have post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association. Often with time and support, people can get past a traumatic event.

PTSD can result from stressors such as seeing someone else threatened with death or serious injury, or killed, or from violent personal assaults, such as rape or mugging, from car or plane accidents, industrial accidents, natural disasters, such as hurricanes or tornadoes, as well as from military combat.

In life-threatening circumstances, the body goes into a "fight or flight" response. But when a person continually relives the traumatic event, this response is reactivated and it becomes a problem.

Symptoms usually start to appear three months after the traumatic event. But they can also appear many years later.

They fall into three categories:

Reliving the traumatic event: Some people experience such severe psychological stress that it affects them long after. They have flashbacks and nightmares or tune out for periods of time, making it hard to live a normal life.

Emotional numbing and avoidance: The person may withdraw from friends and family. They avoid situations that remind them of their trauma. They don't enjoy life as usual, and have a hard time feeling emotions or maintaining intimacy. They often feel extreme guilt. In rare cases, they can go through disassociative states where they believe they are reliving the episode, and act as if it is happening again. These can last anywhere from five minutes to several days.

Changes in sleeping patterns and alertness: Insomnia is common, and people with PTSD may have a hard time concentrating and finishing tasks. This can also lead to more aggression.

PTSD can also lead to other illnesses, such as depression or dependence on drugs or alcohol. Some physical symptoms, such as dizziness, chest pain, gastrointestinal and immune-system problems can also be linked to the disorder.

How is it treated?
The depression and anxiety can be treated with medication. Therapy with mental health professionals can help, such as:

Group therapy.
Exposure therapy, in which the person works through the trauma by reliving the experience under controlled conditions.
Cognitive-behavioural therapy, which focuses on the way a person interprets and reacts to experience.
Some people fully recover within six months, but it can take much longer. Cognitive-behavioural therapy appears to be the most effective treatment, according to research.
But PTSD research continues to determine which treatments work best.

How many people does it affect? Who does it affect?
About one in 10 people have PTSD, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association. It can affect anyone who has a traumatic experience. Children and adults alike can suffer PTSD, which is among the most common mental health problems.

But, some people can experience symptoms without developing PTSD. About five to 10 per cent of people may have some symptoms without developing the full-blown disorder, according to the B.C. Ministry of Health Guide. Women are twice as likely as men to develop the full-blown disorder.

In 2002, the Canadian Forces was surveyed by Statistics Canada to determine the prevalence of PTSD and other conditions. The survey found that in the year before the study, 2.8 per cent of the regular force and 1.2 per cent of the reservists had symptoms of PTSD. The more missions soldiers had embarked on, the more likely they were to develop the disorder or PTSD-like symptoms.

But, the rate might be much higher, says Dr. Greg Passey, a Vancouver psychiatrist who specializes in trauma and works with Canadian Forces patients. In the mid-1990s, Passey studied two battalions who had served in the former Yugoslavia and found a 12- to 13- per-cent rate of PTSD.

Because our military is so small, he told CBC News, the front-end combat people have to go on more than one tour. And, he added, the more traumatic situations a person is exposed to, the greater risk of developing an operational stress injury such as PTSD.

The Canadian Forces now screens soldiers three to six months after they return from a mission. The "enhanced post-deployment screening process" involves a set of standard health questionnaires and an in-depth interview with a mental health professional.

If you have symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, what can you do to cope? Veterans Canada recommends a few common sense tips.

Live a healthy lifestyle, eating healthy meals, exercising regularly and getting enough rest.

Set aside time to reflect on the trauma, rather than allow a constant stream of worrying thoughts throughout the day.

Join or develop support groups.

Educate yourself and your family about reactions to trauma. Understanding the condition is helpful in coming to terms with the trauma and dealing with its associated problems.

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