“They’re playing with one of the big existential issues for all of us, which is death,” says Dr. Stuart Beck of Mass General.
On a recent Monday, clinical staff at Massachusetts General Hospital had gathered with a patient as she prepared for discharge from the psychiatric ward. After nearly everyone had said their goodbyes, the patient turned to Dr. Stuart Beck, the soft-spoken psychiatrist who runs the ward.
“Hey you, Dr. Beck,” the patient blurted out. “You got anything to tell me?”
The Boston hospital has 1,011 beds, only 24 of which are reserved for the psychiatric ward. Vacancies on the ward are rapidly filled, and Beck and his staff are always busy, moving from one bed to the next as they make decisions about medications, treatment plans and whether it’s safe enough to let a particular patient go. Still, Beck tries to build a connection with his patients and uncover the deeper issues that brought them to his ward. more
An 11-year-old boy was locked in a mental hospital for a week after his mother took him there voluntarily seeking help. He’s not alone.
A note to viewers & readers
The accounts of people shared here should not dissuade individuals from getting mental health help. But, too often, experts say that for-profit, private facilities do not choose the “least restrictive appropriate setting” for therapy, as mandated by current law, and instead default to locking up people in more expensive inpatient care when it’s not necessary.
You can get help without getting locked up. Do your homework, and know your rights.
Imagine walking into a mental health facility voluntarily because you want help.
Then, the door locks behind you. You’re told you can’t leave. Stripped of your clothes, given a new bed. You have no idea when you’ll see your family again.
Now imagine you are 11 years old. more
Joy in a Mental Hospital
My experience after checking myself in at a mental hospital was almost entirely positive. I had been diagnosed as bipolar at 25. At the time, I was fresh out of a top-10 law school, but I had managed to endanger my career through a series of poor decisions.
After a brief round of treatment with lithium, Prozac, and Tegretol, I decided that sanity was overrated. I quit all my meds and slipped into a five-year period of uncontrolled mania. It was, in all honesty, the happiest time of my life.
I was completely manic (and happy) for five years of marriages, near marriages, and one-night stands. I slept one to two hours a day and salsa danced until five in the morning. more
Girl, Interrupted – Ice cream parlor scene
Thousands of psychologists, therapists, social workers and psychiatric nurses will begin a five-day strike Monday against Kaiser Permanente at more than 100 facilities across California, demanding one of the nation’s largest non-profit HMOs devote more resources to mental health services.
The shortage of mental health professionals is a growing problem nationwide.
“These clinicians are making timely access to mental health care the civil rights issue of our time,” said Sal Rosselli, president of the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW), which organized the strike of approximately 3,600 Kaiser mental health professionals and 400 support staff, including dietitians and health educators. more
Psychiatric advance directives allow patients with serious mental illness to specify the treatment they want if they become too sick to say so.
Steve Singer, who has bipolar and borderline personality disorders, knows when he’s on the verge of a mental health crisis. The female voice he hears incessantly in his head suddenly shuts up, and the hula hoop he gyrates while walking to the grocery store stops easing his anxieties.
That’s when he gets to a hospital. Usually, talking briefly with a nurse or social worker calms him enough to return home. But this year a hospital placed him on a locked ward, took his phone, and had an armed guard watch him for 20 hours before a social worker spoke with him and released him. more
The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry has found that the misuse and abuse of benzodiazepine is relatively rare, even though the drug is sometimes hyped as the next overdose crisis in healthcare.
Benzodiazepines – often called “benzos” — are a class of sedative that includes Valium and Xanax. The medications are usually prescribed to treat anxiety and insomnia.
Data on over 100,000 adults in the 2015-16 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health was analyzed by researchers, who found that benzodiazepines were used by 12.5% of American adults. Of those, about 17% “misused” the drug at least once, but only 2% had what was diagnosed as a benzodiazepine use disorder.
The study found several risk factors for benzo misuse, including younger age, male gender, lower levels of education, lack of health insurance or employment, and lower income levels — factors often associated with other substance use disorders. more
Luke Watkin was in year eight at school and alone in a corridor when he first heard a strange noise.
“I heard what sounded like a train brake, followed by a metal on metal noise.
“It was just something completely out of the ordinary. It was a bit of a shock to the system, something I just couldn’t understand or really process.
“My experience at the time was quite terrifying.”
It was his first experience of the mental health condition, psychosis. Luke was 12 years old.
He said it went on from noises to hearing words, hearing his name, to eventually hearing whole sentences “of it almost trying to talk to me”.
The main symptoms of psychosis are hallucinations and delusions and it can be caused by a specific mental health condition, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or severe depression. more
Powerful drugs that have been used for decades to treat delirium are ineffective for that purpose, according to a study published online Monday in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Antipsychotic medications, such as haloperidol (brand name, Haldol), are widely used in intensive care units, emergency rooms, hospital wards and nursing homes.
“In some surveys up to 70 percent of patients [in the ICU] get these antipsychotics,” says Dr. E. Wesley “Wes” Ely, an intensive care specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. They’re prescribed by “very good doctors at extremely good medical centers,” he says. “Millions of people worldwide are getting these drugs to treat their delirium.”
But the drugs can have serious side effects. And Ely says there is no solid researchshowing that they are effective at treating delirium. more
Earlier this month, musician Kanye West ranted about politics and slavery following the season premiere of NBC’s Saturday Night Live.
Among other elements of his speech, he told audience members that this was the “real” Kanye speaking and he was off his medication, a nod to his earlier revelation that he had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
“Public figures talking about their mental health issues can help bring awareness and combat stigma surrounding these common conditions,” said Dr. David Hu, medical director at Behavioral Health of the Palm Beaches in Florida.
“Some people with mental illness never seek treatment because they feel shame. Knowing that they are not alone, that someone they admire has mental illness too, can be a powerful motivator to seek the help they need,” he said. more
‘I’ve had a good experience compared to other people’
Karla says she knows she’s been lucky. Her experience of accessing mental health care has been overwhelmingly positive.
“I’ve got two long-term health conditions but it was this year that it became a real issue. In January I did attempt suicide,” she says.
Karla, who lives in Derby, adds: “I got CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) really quickly, within a couple of weeks. And in that time, I was seeing my GP pretty much every day. He made time to make sure I was OK.
“It doesn’t happen very often that people have that experience. I was really fortunate to have a GP who took the time. The access can be such a problem.”
And she says her CBT made a significant difference. “The therapist helped me through a lot of things. I’m officially in recovery from depression and anxiety. I’m in a far better place. more