Thursday, July 14, 2011

Loughner Video and NAMI Schizophrenia Report

Please check out this news clip from Anderson 360 with Dr. Drew and Sunny Hostin.

Also, NAMI released the results from a survey on attitudes and awareness among the general adult public, as well as among caregivers and individuals living with illness.
Please read the report on the NAMI website. Shizophrenia: Public Attitudes, Personal Needs

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

An EMS Call - Is it really so 'crazy'?

Hi Readers,

I'll start by telling you a quick story:

Last night while riding with a friend to her house, I glanced in the side mirror of her car and watched a homeless woman fall from the curb into the middle of a crowded intersection in Austin. If anyone knows Austin you know that when I say crowded, I mean crowded. It was late but there were certainly a fair amount of cars on the road. I instantly felt a terrible sinking feeling and thought I might be sick. I saw car lights coming around the curve quickly and noticed that the woman had a heavy backpack on her back (unable to get up) and two dogs in tow. I did what I assumed anyone would do - I got out of the car, helped her out of the street and posted her up in an area that was further from the curb. The woman quickly confessed, "Sorry, I've had too much wine." Who am I to judge? I told her it didn't matter to me and that I just wanted her and the dogs safe and far from the street. When I felt like the woman was in a safe location, I jumped back into the car with my friend and went along my way. "What next?" I asked my friend. "Call 911" she responded. I thought to myself, well sure, what else am I supposed to do? They teach you that you should render aid in the event you think someone is in trouble, right? Regardless if she was intoxicated, I didn't think it was appropriate not to call. As far as I was concerned her and the dogs being in the middle of the street wasn't safe for anyone.

Fast forward to 8:15 am this morning. Here I was, in the car again, ironically, on the same path that I was last night when the above encounter happened. Then, I changed the radio station. I'll admit, I love a good talk radio. The hosts were discussing one of the top stories of the day as seen in the Austin American Statesman - "Austin-Travis County EMS aims to match habitual 911 callers to social services." My ears perked up as the program host said "well, rest assured the majority of these habitual callers are those crazies that think someone is in their attic or there are ghost footsteps outside their bedroom door." I'll be honest, I'm already a bad driver. This, folks, this did NOT help make the streets of Austin any safer. If I wouldn't have been so close to work, they would've heard from me. Tonight, I dove into the story a little more and will share with you some of the details they were discussing.

A new program hit Austin in 2009 that hopes to to cut down on unnecessary EMS calls by matching the aforementioned frequent callers with the social service that best fits their need. The article elaborates, "EMS officials are trying to cure it with help from mental health professionals, clinics, nonprofits and hospitals interested in reducing the strain on their emergency rooms. But just one Austin-Travis County EMS paramedic among 352, Cmdr. Andy Hofmeister, is assigned to a program to tackle it.

The Community Health Paramedic Program, begun in December 2009, mirrors efforts around the country to match frequent EMS callers to services that address their needs. After an ambulance responds to a frequent 911 caller, Hofmeister will follow up — at the person's home or the hospital — to try to get to the nub of the trouble.

Usually, it's a combination of mental, physical and social ills. A diabetic has missed doses of her medicine. She also has schizophrenia and can't afford the right foods. Now she needs to go to the emergency room, but a hospital trip could have been prevented." From what EMS officials can tell, the program is doing its job. Officials followed 10 frequent users since the beginning of the program and noticed that after the appropriate service was provided to the user their EMS calls dropped by 79%. No doubt, this is fantastic. Where my concern comes from is that these individuals with mental health issues are expected to get services from mental health programs that will likely see a budget cut of $134 million dollars. So tell me this readers, how can these individuals seek help from programs that are seeing budget cuts. State hospitals already lack bed space for many with mental health issues in Texas but we expect them to house more. I understand, I really do. We desperately need to find a solution, but if no one will take them, if no one has the budget to help them, then, what now?

You can see why I felt so angry listening to the radio hosts this morning. I understand that there is no fixing the world, but isn't it evident that if you fix one part of the machine, you're breaking another? Readers, I pose this question to you - If our family members or friends shouldn't be calling 911 and can't be checked into an institution because there is no vacancy, what should we instruct them to do?



"Mental health programs hit hard in proposed budget cuts"

"Austin-Travis County EMS aims to match habitual 911 callers to social services"

Monday, June 20, 2011

Summer Read

I just finished reading a book called The Quiet Room – A Journey Out of the Torment of Madness. This book gives you a very intimate look in to the life of Lori Schiller who was diagnosed with schizophrenia in her late 20’s and spent a total of four years in the hospital. Lori has been through cocaine addiction, suicide attempts, and multiple medication changes. Her symptoms began to surface during college at Tufts University.

The Quiet Room was different from other books of an individual’s account of mental illness because it had writings from Lori’s parents, brothers, former roommates, and doctors that treated Lori in the hospital. As a sibling of a mentally ill individual, it was important for me to read about other family members experiences. Lori’s younger brother was constantly scared that someday he too may be in the same place Lori was, that someday his mind might become sick. I know that these are feelings that I have had before and that my younger brother has experienced or will experience.

The book also gives you a patient’s perspective of her relationship with her parents. While in the hospital Lori struggled with having her parents visit. Lori says:
“much as I loved my parents, I felt like I was on stage for them too. I fought so hard to seem normal before them. I didn’t want them to know how sick I was. I didn’t want them to see me out of control. From the moment they arrived my struggle to keep control battled with my fear of losing control. I knew how much my illness hurt them. I knew how much they suffered for me. As much as I could, I wanted to keep the worst of it from them. I wanted them to be proud of me. I didn’t want to cause them heartache.”
I can imagine that other patients feel this way too. This passage reiterates to me the need for strong family support and letting the patient know that as a mother, father, sister, or brother you will be there for them no matter what.

Lori’s parents offer another perspective when they were struggling with separating drug addiction from illness. Lori’s mom Nancy writes:
“We couldn’t separate out her illness from anything else that might be affecting her. Lori’s moods were so unstable that she had initially been diagnosed as manic-depressive. She slept so little that her eyes were often bloodshot. And she was taking so much prescription medicine that there was hardly a time when her hands didn’t shake.”

Finally, Lori’s doctor who helped get her stabilized gives the reader a good description of schizophrenia, a disease that can be difficult to understand. “Schizophrenia is like a persons brain breaking. For the thing that has broken is the person’s ability to relate to another person. The thing that breaks is whatever it is that connects people to their environment, that allows them to recognize another person as someone outside of themselves.”

“People with schziophrenia are locked out of the outside world, and locked inside their heads with nothing but these wild, out-of-control thoughts emotion and thoughts. In people with schizophrenia the normal emotions – or push back into the recesses of our minds – run amok. Emotions that would normally be comfortably catalogued as unacceptable take on a life of their own as voices that seem more real than the real world outside.”
Throughout The Quite Room Lori struggles to accept the fact that she is sick. She also struggles to realize that she will never be the same person she was before her illness began. Doctors work with her not to get her back to where she was but to get her to a place where she can function.

I will not spoil the book and reveal what the quite room actually is but I encourage anyone looking for a summer read to get this book.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

You Give Me Peace Love

While I was avoiding studying last week and reading Yoga Journal magazine I stumbled upon an ad for Peace Love Studios. The ad featured a watch and said PeaceLove Changing The Face Of Mental Illness. I immediately went to the website to learn more about PeaceLove. PeaceLove is “a growing community of mental health advocates and artists creating conversations of acceptance, understanding, and hope.” Everyone at PeaceLove has “found common purpose in spreading understanding around mental illness.” PeaceLove uses creative expression to spread understanding of mental illness. They are using art to build a symbol of hope and acceptance. Founder of PeaceLove, Jeff Sparr,and artist does not put a face on his paintings because he says “that is mental illness, it has no face, it could happen to anyone.”

Find your own peace!

This video is very moving and tells a lot of different stories. I encourage all readers to check it out and share with your family and friends.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Goat

Hi Readers
Sorry our posts have been so sporadic lately. School and work have been very busy for me and Becca.
Wanted to share a new campaign with all of you called Dear World and the Story of Beatrice Biira from Uganda. Dear world is a platform for individuals no matter what race or background to write our future. You are in charge of your own future and we can all help write the future of this world. Supporting Our Siblings is going to take part in writing the future of mental illness.

Beatrice Biira credits a goat her family received when she was 9 years old to the reason she was able attend school and Uganda, earn a highschool scholarship, and to come to the U.S. for college. Although a goat might not have gotten you where you are today, you are here. Now you can continue to mold the future and change our world. Check out the websites, read Beatrice's story, and take inspiration from her goat.


Thanks Anna

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Danger of a Single Story

A few weeks ago, Bring Change 2 Mind blogger Marc Peters posted a video from TED talks by Chimamanda Adichie. I wanted to share this video and more importantly the message the video presents to our readers. Chimamanda Adichia is a novelist and MacArthur Fellow. Her work is inspired by events in her native Nigeria. In the TED talk Chimamanda discusses the danger of the single story. Her discussion of the single story relates very closely to the experiences of the mentally ill. Chimamanda’s messages is that a single story about a person or culture creates stereotypes. And the problem with stereotypes is NOT that they are untrue but that they are incomplete and make one story the ONLY story. A single story shows a group of people as only one thing over and over again and that in turn is what they become. We risk a critical misunderstanding when we only hear a single story about a person or a culture.
So when we only have a single story about mental illness that is what the mentally ill become. If we only know mental illness as violence than every mentally ill individual is perceived as violent. This in turn leads to more stigma associated with mental illness. This is why we also must share our stories about mental illness. Please share your story on our blog. Or if you don’t feel comfortable sharing on the blog then email Becca and I at Keep Reading. Keep Learning. Keep Advocating.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Talk Therapy

Jacob Berelowitz  a graduate of NYU Master of Social Work and created a TV network called Talk Therapy Television.  “Talk Therapy Television was created to disseminate information about mental illness and its treatment options to the public through media and thereby promote the treatment of mental illness.”  Talk therapy television is working to promote the treatment of mental illness.  Everyone at Supporting Our Siblings, Becca, readers, our followers, and myself are all working towards decreasing the stigma associated with mental illness and educating the public about mental illness.  Talk Therapy Television is just one example of an amazing effort being made to enhance the lives of those suffering form a mental illness.
Talk Therapy Television is not the only thing Berelowitz has created.  He also came up with the idea to put mental health facts on the back of grocery receipts, a Mental Health Quick Facts Campaign.  This idea then emerged into a Quick Facts website.  The facts about mental illness are now on receipts in major grocery stores in New York City.  “An average of 25,000 shoppers every day are handed receipts with Quick Facts printed on them.”
The New York Daily News then wrote an article about the quick facts campaign.  The online article has a pole that asks individuals if people are undereducated on mental health issues.  So go online and VOTE!
Berelowitz came up with the idea about Quick Facts campaign while shopping at the grocery store.  He is an example and inspiration to both Becca and me.  He shows us that if you have an idea don’t hesitate to act on that idea.  Thank you all for following our blog.  This blog started with an idea.  And our ideas continue to grow and we both hope some day to have careers and working with the mentally ill daily.