Posts tagged ‘illness’

July 2, 2014

Why Solitary Confinement Is The Worst Kind Of Psychological Torture [io9.com]

by George Dvorsky / io9.com

There may be as many as 80,000 American prisoners currently locked-up in a SHU, or segregated housing unit. Solitary confinement in a SHU can cause irreversible psychological effects in as little as 15 days. Here’s what social isolation does to your brain, and why it should be considered torture.

There’s no universal definition for solitary confinement, but the United Nations describes it as any regime where an inmate is held in isolation from others, except guards, for at least 22 hours a day. Some jurisdictions allow prisoners out of their cells for one hour of solitary exercise each day. But meaningful contact with others is typically reduced to a bare minimum. Prisoners are also intentionally deprived of stimulus; available stimuli and the fleetingly rare social contacts are rarely chosen by the prisoners, and are are typically monotonous and inconsiderate of their needs.

As for the jail cell itself, it typically measures 6′ x 10′. Nearly all scenarios for human contact, such as a guard, or medical and family visits, are done through a metal mesh, behind glass partitions, or in hand- and leg-cuffs.

Writing in Wired, Brandon Keim describes the conditions in the cells:

What’s emerged from the reports and testimonies reads like a mix of medieval cruelty and sci-fi dystopia. For 23 hours or more per day, in what’s euphemistically called “administrative segregation” or “special housing,” prisoners are kept in bathroom-sized cells, under fluorescent lights that never shut off. Video surveillance is constant. Social contact is restricted to rare glimpses of other prisoners, encounters with guards, and brief video conferences with friends or family.

For stimulation, prisoners might have a few books; often they don’t have television, or even a radio. In 2011, another hunger strike among California’s prisoners secured such amenities as wool hats in cold weather and wall calendars. The enforced solitude can last for years, even decades.

These horrors are best understood by listening to people who’ve endured them. As one Florida teenager described in a report on solitary confinement in juvenile prisoners, “The only thing left to do is go crazy.”

Prisoners in low and medium security jails are often thrown in the SHU for “just” a few days. But in maximum security prisons, individuals in solitary are held on average for five years, and there are thousands of cases of prisoners who have been held in solitary confinement for decades. Some countries, including the United States, employ the use of Super Maximum Security Prisons, or “Supermax Prisons,” in which solitary confinement is framed as a normal, rather than exceptional, practice for inmates.

Exact statistics are not known, but a 2011 study suggested that 20,000 to 25,000 prisoners in the United States are held in this way. Keim claims that that California holds some 4,500 inmates in solitary confinement, and that there are as many as 80,000 prisoners held in solitary across the United States — more than any other democratic nation.

Lasting Effects

Human beings are social creatures. Without the benefit of another person to “bounce off of,” the mind decays; without anything to do, the brain atrophies; and without the ability to see off in the distance, vision fades. Isolation and loss of control breeds anger, anxiety, and hopelessness.

Indeed, psychologist Terry Kupers says that solitary confinement “destroys people as human beings.” A quick glance at literature review studies done by Sharon Shalev (2008) and Peter Scharff Smith (2006) affirms this assertion; here are some typical symptoms:

  • Anxiety: Persistent low level of stress, irritability or anxiousness, fear of impending death, panic attacks
  • Depression: Emotional flatness/blunting and the loss of ability to have any “feelings”, mood swings, hopelessness, social withdrawal, loss of initiation of activity or ideas, apathy, lethargy, major depression
  • Anger: Irritability and hostility, poor impulse control, outbursts of physical and verbal violence against others, self, and objects, unprovoked angers, sometimes manifested as rage
  • Cognitive disturbances: Short attention span, poor concentration and memory, confused thought processes, disorientation
  • Perceptual distortions: Hypersensitivity to noises and smells, distortions of sensation (e.g. walls closing in), disorientation in time and space, depersonalization/derealization, hallucinations affecting all five senses (e.g. hallucinations of objects or people appearing in the cell, or hearing voices when no one is speaking
  • Paranoia and psychosis: Recurrent and persistent thoughts, often of a violent and vengeful character (e.g. directed against prison staff), paranoid ideas (often persecutory), psychotic episodes or states, psychotic depression, schizophrenia
  • Self-harm: self-mutilation and cutting, suicide attempts

In California, it has been shown that inmates are 33 times more likely to commit suicide than other prisoners incarcerated elsewhere in the state. Disturbingly, solitary confinement beyond 15 days leads directly to severe and irreversible psychological harm. But for some, it can manifest in even less time. What’s more, a significant number of individuals will experience serious health problems regardless of specific conditions of time, place, and pre-existing personal factors.

In terms of prevalence, somewhere between 8% and 19% of American prisoners will experience significant psychiatric or functional disabilities, while another 15% to 20% will require some form of psychiatric intervention during their incarceration. Figures in Europe are comparable. The American Psychiatric Association says that up to 20% of all prisoners are “seriously mentally ill” whereas up to 5% are “actively psychotic at any given moment.” About 4% of inmates have schizophrenia or some other psychotic disorder, nearly 19% suffer from depression, and around 4% have bipolar disorder (Abramsky and Fellner 2003).

Click this link to continue reading the article on io9’s website:

http://io9.com/why-solitary-confinement-is-the-worst-kind-of-psycholog-1598543595

May 28, 2014

Lawmakers Aim To Restrict Guns for Mentally Ill After Shooting [californiahealthline.org]

California lawmakers are calling for increased restrictions on gun purchases for individuals who are suspected of having mental health issues and could pose a threat to themselves or others, theAP/Sacramento Bee reports. The legislation comes after six people were killed last week by an individual with suspected mental health issues.

Background on Killings

On May 23, 22-year-old Elliot Rodger killed six individuals by stabbing or shooting them and wounded 13 others in Isla Vista, Calif. Rodger had legally purchased three semi-automatic guns and ammunition used in the attack (Dillon/Thompson, AP/Sacramento Bee, 5/28).

The incident occurred after Rodger’s family members had contacted the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department on April 30 with concerns about his mental health. Police conducted a welfare visit and concluded that Rodger did not pose a risk (Pickert, Time, 5/27).

Details of Legislation

Following the killings, California lawmakers proposed changes to the state’s rules for purchasing guns.

Assembly members Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) and Das Williams (D-Santa Barbara) and state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) have introduced a bill that would allow temporary restraining orders to prevent individuals who are potentially violent from purchasing guns. Under the bill, family members and friends could contact law enforcement if they believe an individual could be a threat to themselves or others, and officers then could ask a judge for the temporary restraining order (Mason, “PolitiCal,” Los Angeles Times, 5/27).

Under current state law, individuals can be banned from buying firearms only if they are involuntarily committed to a mental health facility.

Skinner said, “When someone is in crisis, the people closest to them are often the first to spot the warning signs, but almost nothing can now be done to get back their guns or prevent them from buying more.”

In addition, Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said the state should require law enforcement officers to check for weapons when conducting welfare visits, such as the one that took place at Rodger’s residence on April 30. In addition, Steinberg suggested that officers should search the area when called on such visits and speak with roommates and neighbors (AP/Sacramento Bee, 5/28).

Reaction

Sam Paredes, executive director of Gun Owners of California, said the new legislation limiting gun purchases is unnecessary. Parades said, “We don’t need another bill to solve this problem. The tools are there — the Legislature and the professionals involved need to be willing to understand and take advantage of the system that is there in place” (“PolitiCal,” Los Angeles Times, 5/27).

Meanwhile, a spokesperson with the California chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness noted that only 30 law enforcement employees in Santa Barbara County undergo crisis-intervention training each year. However, the official said increasing such training still might “not be enough to respond” to such violent incidents.

NAMI California Executive Director Jessica Cruz added that there often is a lack of funding for mental health prevention and treatment, noting that the state has fewer than 50% of the number of psychiatric in-patient hospital beds as recommended by an expert panel (Time, 5/27).

http://www.californiahealthline.org/articles/2014/5/28/lawmakers-aim-to-restrict-guns–for-mentally-ill-after-shooting

December 18, 2012

Talking to Children About Death

February 21, 2012

Mental Health Problems Plague Transgender Kids [livescience.com]

by Stephanie Pappas / livescience.com

Kids who are distressed because they feel their physical body doesn’t match their gender suffer from high rates of psychiatric symptoms, such as depression and suicide attempts, a new study finds.

In a sample of children and adolescents treated at the Endocrine Division at Children’s Hospital Boston, young people who experienced distress about the “mismatch” between their body’s sex and their mental gender had high rates of psychiatric complications (before any gender treatment). Kids who don’t get treatment, whether for financial reasons or because their parents aren’t supportive, likely have higher rates of psychiatric problems, said study researcher Scott Leibowitz, a psychiatrist at Children’s Hospital Boston.

“Individuals who are not transgender take for granted what life must be like when our minds and bodies are incongruent with one another,” Leibowitz told LiveScience. “Personally, I’ve seen so many kids who experience such high levels of distress with their changing bodies that it impairs their emotional and social functioning,” he said.

Mind-body mismatch

Transgender people — people who feel that their biological sex does not reflect their true gender — have astonishingly high rates of mental health problems: A 2010 survey found that 41 percent of transgender people in the U.S. have attempted suicide.

Researchers attributed those rates to discrimination and stigma, as well as a lack of laws protecting transgender people from employment discrimination. Poor insurance coverage of hormones and other treatments to help a transgender person transition to their desired gender also account for the rates, the researchers found. [5 Myths About Gay People]

But the mismatch between mind and body alone can be a major source of psychological pain, Leibowitz said. Of 97 patients who came to the Endocrine Division for hormones and other treatments related to gender identity disorder between January 1998 and February 2010, 44.3 percent had significant mental health histories. Twenty percent had self-mutilated, and 9.3 percent had attempted suicide at least once. About 37 percent were taking psychiatric medication.

Treating gender identity

Growing up, many children experiment with cross-gender behaviors, but very few of them will grow up to experience distress about their biological sex. Persistent gender identity disorder is rare: In the Netherlands, where gender-treatment programs are well- established, only about 1 in every 10,000 to 30,000 people seeks treatment.

When young people start puberty and experience serious distress about their bodies developing into a gender they don’t identify with, there are solutions, Leibowitz said. The medical standard established by the Endocrine Society and the World Professional Organization for Transgender Health call for treatment with hormones that suppress puberty in teens who have not yet undergone major physical changes. These treatments “buy time,” Leibowitz said, preventing the development of secondary sex characteristics such as breasts or an Adam’s apple while kids mature mentally enough to make decisions about whether they’d like to transition to a new gender. These treatments are reversible.

Older teens, ages 16 or 17, can begin to make decisions about taking estrogen or testosterone to promote the sexual characteristics of the gender they feel they are. Puberty-suppressing treatments are also used at this stage to lessen the doses — and thus side effects — of these hormones. The effects of cross-sex hormone therapy are partially reversible.

At every step of the way, Leibowitz said, families and children are counseled and evaluated to be sure they’re ready for treatment. Doctors counsel young children and their families, but do not treat them with drugs or hormones unless their gender identity distress persists at puberty.

The cost of not treating can be high, as the new study, published today (Feb. 21) in the journal Pediatrics, highlights.

“Without treatment, a lot of these kids are prone to psychiatric disorders, including depression, suicide, self-mutilation, anxiety,” Leibowitz said.

http://www.livescience.com/16110-transgender-teen-mental-health.html

 

January 30, 2012

Are Your Annoying Friends Making You Physically Ill? [jezebel.com]

by Cassie Murdoch / jezebel.com

We all have those friends who are competitive or are constantly causing drama for one reason or another. It’s tempting to just put up with them, but a new study has found that conflicts with those kinds of people could actually be irritating you physically—as in causing your immune system to fire up. This leads to your body to become inflamed, a state which has been associated with things like cancer and diabetes.

The study investigated whether stress from personal conflicts or sports competitions would cause the body to release cytokines, which are molecules linked to inflammation. The researchers saw cytokine levels rise after negative interactions like arguments, but people’s cytokine levels did not rise when they were playing a competitive sport. Co-author psychology professor Shelley Taylor explains the consequences of her findings, “What this tells me is that people should be investing in socially supportive relationships, and they should not court relationships that lead to a great deal of conflict.”

It’s probably a lot more complicated than that, but let’s just take this for what it’s worth: a good excuse to break up with your obnoxious friends and suspend contact with irritating workmates. No one will be able to argue with your scientific reasoning.

As luck would have it, the New York Times has also just offered up a hideously detailed explanation of how to dump your friends when the need arises. It takes them a remarkable three pages to conclude what we all already know: The easiest way to put a friendship out of its misery is to just let it slowly fade away with a series of declined invitations, severed social network ties, and unreturned texts. But if you really need to do a direct, in-person execution, theTimes points you to the advice of psychologist Erika Holiday, who is totally legit because she’s been on Dr. Phil:

Schedule a time where you can sit down with them. It’s not about putting the other person down, but telling them, “You don’t fit into my life, you’re not on same path as me.”

But the great thing is that now you don’t even need to do the bit about fitting into your life, you can just say, “I’m sorry we can’t hang out anymore, but studies have shown you make me sick.” And with those magic words your toxic friendship will most certainly be dead, and you can live healthily ever after.

Study shows how stress triggers immune system [USA Today]
It’s Not Me, It’s You [New York Times]

http://jezebel.com/5880386/are-your-annoying-friends-making-you-physically-ill

January 20, 2012

Do you reside somewhere on the autism spectrum? In the near future, you may not. [io9.com]

by Robert T. Gonzalez / io9.com

For the first time in seventeen years, the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (D.S.M.) is undergoing a significant revision. One of the mental conditions facing major emendations in its D.S.M. definition is autism. If the changes go through, a recent analysis suggests that the rate of official diagnosis for autism, and related disorders like Asperger syndrome, could plummet. And that, some people worry, could be bad news for those marginalized by the new diagnostic criteria.

The revision of the D.S.M. puts the APA in the unenviable position of having to draw what the New York Times calls “the line between unusual and abnormal” in relation to mental disorders; in the case of autism, the fact that symptoms are widely believed to manifest themselves along a “spectrum” of class and severity makes the situation even more difficult to navigate. According to the Times:

At least a million children and adults have a diagnosis of autism or a related disorder, like Asperger syndrome or “pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified,” also known as P.D.D.-N.O.S. People with Asperger’s or P.D.D.-N.O.S. endure some of the same social struggles as those with autism but do not meet the definition for the full-blown version. The proposed change would consolidate all three diagnoses under one category, autism spectrum disorder, eliminating Asperger syndrome and P.D.D.-N.O.S. from the manual. Under the current criteria, a person can qualify for the diagnosis by exhibiting 6 or more of 12 behaviors; under the proposed definition, the person would have to exhibit 3 deficits in social interaction and communication and at least 2 repetitive behaviors, a much narrower menu.

If the proposed changes come into effect, an analysis conducted by Yale researchers Fred Volkmar, Brian Reichow and James McPartland indicates they could have a dramatic impact on everything from diagnosis rates (some estimates indicate that autism diagnoses have mushroomed to one child in 100 in recent years), to the ability for many people — people who presently reside somewhere on the autism spectrum of disorders — to access health, educational and social services.

“Our fear is that we are going to take a big step backward,” said Lori Shery, president of the Asperger Syndrome Education Network. “If clinicians say, ‘These kids don’t fit the criteria for an autism spectrum diagnosis,’ they are not going to get the supports and services they need, and they’re going to experience failure.”

Read more over on The New York Times.

http://io9.com/5877879/do-you-reside-somewhere-on-the-autism-spectrum-in-the-near-future-you-may-not

October 1, 2011

National Institutes of Health Statistics on Mental Illness [nimh.nih.gov]

Understanding the scope of mental health problems and treatment in the United States is central to NIMH’s mission. Much of what we understand in this area comes from research in the field of epidemiology; the scientific study of patterns of health and illness within a population. Research on psychiatric epidemiology shows that mental disorders are common throughout the United States, affecting tens of millions of people each year, and that only a fraction of those affected receive treatment.

The resource below represents an extensive collection of our best statistics on the prevalence, treatment, and costs of mental disorders. Equally important are sections that have been included on mental health-related disability and on suicide.

This resource is a continuing work in progress, and will be updated regularly as new statistics are released. As it continues to develop, NIMH seeks users’ comments and suggestions on its content, as well as its usability. Comments may be sent toNIMHstatistics@mail.nih.gov.

Click on image to go to statistics selections at NIH…

June 29, 2011

US Affordable Care Act to Collect Health Data/Disparities on LGBT Populations

From the US Department of Health and Human Services:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 29, 2011
Contact: HHS Press Office
(202) 690-6343

Affordable Care Act to improve data collection, reduce health disparities

HHS announces new draft standards to improve the monitoring of health data by race, ethnicity, sex, primary language, and disability status, and begins planning for the collection of LGBT health data 

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today announced new draft standards for collecting and reporting data on race, ethnicity, sex, primary language and disability status, and announced the administration’s plans to begin collecting health data on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) populations. Both efforts aim to help researchers, policy makers, health providers and advocates to identify and address health disparities afflicting these communities.

“Health disparities have persistent and costly affects for minority communities, and the whole country,” Secretary Sebelius said.  “Today we are taking critical steps toward ensuring the collection of useful national data on minority groups, including for the first time, LGBT populations.  The data we will eventually collect in these efforts will serve as powerful tools and help us in our fight to end health disparities.”

Under the plan announced today, HHS will integrate questions on sexual orientation into national data collection efforts by 2013 and begin a process to collect information on gender identity.  This plan includes the testing of questions on sexual orientation to potentially be incorporated into the National Health Interview Survey.  The department also intends to convene a series of research roundtables with national experts to determine the best way to help the department collect data specific to gender identity.

“The first step is to make sure we are asking the right questions,” Secretary Sebelius said.  “Sound data collection takes careful planning to ensure that accurate and actionable data is being recorded.”

The proposed standards for collection and reporting of data on race, ethnicity, sex, primary language and disability status in population health surveys are intended to help federal agencies refine their population health surveys in ways that will help researchers better understand health disparities and zero in on effective strategies for eliminating them.

The race and ethnicity standards, for example, will provide additional categories from which racial and ethnic differences in health care and outcomes can be examined in more detail, particularly among Asian, Hispanic/Latino and Pacific Islander populations.  The disability standards would consist of six items that are already being used successfully in the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.  It is intended to improve researchers’ ability to monitor health disparities.

“These new data standards, once finalized, will help us target our research and tailor stronger solutions for underserved and minority communities,” added HHS Director of the Office of Minority Health, Dr. Garth Graham.  “To fully understand and meet the needs of our communities, we must first thoroughly understand who we are serving.”

In anticipation of these efforts, HHS, over the past year, has consulted with federal agencies, requested recommendations from the HHS Data Council, and held listening sessions with relevant community stakeholders.  The public may submit comments for the draft minority data collection standards at www.regulations.gov under docket number HHS-OMH-2011-0013.  Public comments will be accepted until August 1.  Information is also available atwww.minorityhealth.hhs.gov/section4302.

Under Section 4302 of the Affordable Care Act, the Secretary is required to ensure that any federally conducted or supported health care or public health program, activity or survey collects and reports data, to the extent practicable, on race, ethnicity, sex, primary language and disability status, as well as other demographic data on health disparities as deemed appropriate by the Secretary.

For more information on improving data collection to reduce health disparities please visithttp://www.healthcare.gov/news/factsheets/disparities06292011a.html

For more information on improving data collection within the LGBT community visithttp://www.healthcare.gov/news/factsheets/lgbt06292011a.html

June 24, 2011

Study: Big City Life Will Make You Mean!!!

In a new study just released it appears that living in a Big City has the effect of making people be less tolerant of others.  In other words, people get on each other’s nerves faster!!!!

In the AP article, “Big City Got You Down? Stress Study May Show Why?” by Malcolm Ritter, he reports that

Imaging scans show that in city dwellers or people who grew up in urban areas, certain areas of the brain react more vigorously to stress. That may help explain how city life can boost the risks of schizophrenia and other mental disorders, researchers said.

The study, sponsored by the Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim, Germany, looked at people from urban settings and was published in the latest issue of “Nature.”

For more on the study:

AP: Big city got you down? Stress study may show why

Nature: City living and urban upbringing affect neural social stress processing in humans

June 23, 2011

View Helen’s Presentation to SRO Housing on LA’s Skid Row concerning Transgender Diversity and Treatment

On June 22nd I had the privilege to present to a combination of public agencies who work with the homeless population in downtown Los Angele’s Skid Row.  These are incredible people who work very hard with all kinds of unique homeless individuals, including Transgendered populations.

I was invited to present on the topic of how to work with homeless transgendered populations, including treatment issues, sensitivity training, legal issues, and cultural understandings between people.  It was a great event and I was very pleased by the turnout (5o or more providers, counselors, service workers, and others) as well as their questions and thoughts!

The picture below is also a LINK to the presentation.  (WordPress does NOT allow me to embed my own Flash presentation!!)  You will be taken to the presentation on my website (http://www.helen-hill.com).  I want to share the information in hopes that it will be helpful to agencies and transgendered populations and individuals.

Click to view presentation

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