Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Is Mental Illness Contagious?

In a word, no! At least not in any conventional sense. A mental illness cannot be spread the way a cold or viral infection might be but there are other dangers. Especially if you are close to someone who is dealing with a serious episode of depression, stress, anxiety or other mental illness.

There is a growing body of research to support the fact that living with someone who is clinically depressed, for example, may erode the mental and emotional strength of the very people who are trying to help them. Spouses, partners, children or parents can all find themselves worn down by the relentless demands placed on them by loved ones dealing with these types of illness.

This, in turn, can lead to feelings of resentment, guilt, frustration and others on the part of people whose only motivation is to help those people they care about who are coping with a serious mental illness. Eventually these states of mind may even trigger an episode of something like depression in the person who took on the role of caregiver in the first place.

Why is this important to know? It's quite simple really. Something we see all the time is a surprising lack of concern for people who are caring for someone with an illness. And this is not limited to mental illnesses alone. Everyone's attention, including that of the caregiver or caregivers themselves, is focused on the person suffering the illness. Little attention is given to the caregiver. Surprisingly, this is even true of caregivers themselves.

If someone who has assumed the role of a caregiver is sacrificing their own health and wellbeing in order to care for someone else, ultimately they will not be of any help to themselves or anyone else. As a caregiver you MUST know when enough is enough. Only you can know this. You do not need to feel guilty that you are not doing enough. You don't have to worry what other people are going to think. As a caregiver you have a responsibility to take care of yourself so you can take proper care of others. Professional caregivers like doctors and nurses know this all too well.

If you are caring for someone who is suffering from a mental illness we may be able to help. Cognimmune provides programs that aid in the prevention of mental illnesses such as depression and others. They can also be used to treat people already suffering from these illnesses. If you were caring for someone with a illness that you could be immunized against so that you would not succumb to the illness and be able to continue caring for your loved one you would choose to be inoculated, wouldn't you? Cognimmune offers you the possibility of doing the same thing in the realm of mental health.

Remember, there are resources available to help you and your loved ones. You do not have to go through this alone. All you need to do is ask for help as a first step. Also you will find some helpful insights at this link:

Coping With Mental Illness In The Family

If there is anything we can do here at Cognimmune to help simply visit our website or reply to this post.

I wish you all the best.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Suicide and Antidepressants. The Hidden Danger.

(The information that follows is not widely known. There are no scientific studies proving or disproving it but it is something that is whispered about by those “in the know”. I may very well land in a lot of trouble by disclosing this information here but it is IMPORTANT. Very important.

My motivation is simple. This information may well save lives. Even if only one life is saved then the risk will be worth it. I am only mentioning this here because I want you, the reader, to be apprised of the reality of what is to follow. Read it with an open mind and draw your own conclusions.)

Depression has been shown to be a contributing factor in suicide. However, depression comes in many levels of severity. In actual fact, those people who are experiencing a severe episode of clinical depression are less likely to commit suicide than are those who are only mildly or moderately depressed. The reason for this is quite simple.

How many daily activities do we take for granted? Activities like getting out of bed, showering, getting dressed, eating, maybe going out to do grocery shopping. Ask anyone who has ever lived through a bout of severe depression and they will tell you just how difficult these activities can be. In some cases they are just plain impossible!

What does this have to do with suicide? Almost everything. Suicide is something that takes effort, at least a certain amount of planning and resolve. These things are all but impossible for most people suffering from an episode of severe depression. This is not to say that it can't happen (there are no absolutes when it comes to dealing with mental illnesses) but the likelihood is remote.

When a severely depressed person is finally able to seek help, whether through their own efforts or those of concerned friends and loved ones, the situation can become more tenuous. As a first step toward recovery most patients will be placed on a treatment program that includes antidepressants. This may or may not be done in conjunction with other types of therapies such as psycho analysis or some other “talking” therapy. It is the medication component of this treatment that is of concern here.

Treating depression with antidepressant drugs is an elaborate chemistry project. It is NOT an exact science! Every individual has different brain chemistry so each individual will respond differently to antidepressant drugs. What does remain consistent, however, is the fact that these medications do not begin to work immediately. There is what is commonly referred to as a “ramp up” period during which an individual begins to enjoy the benefits afforded by antidepressant drugs. After the ramp up period, if the drug works, the patient will begin to enjoy life again as the depression slips away. If the medication does not yield the desired results, the patient will have to be weaned off the medication over a period of a few weeks before a new ramp up program on a new medication can begin.

It is these ramp up and weaning periods that must be monitored very closely! As antidepressant medications begin to work or cease to do so most patients will begin to notice an changes in mood and energy. Those activities that seemed impossible only a few days before suddenly don't seem so daunting. The underlying depression is still there but the sense of hopelessness and feelings of lethargy will begin to subside. And this is where the danger lies.

If a person was prone to suicidal thoughts or tendencies it is now that they might have the strength and energy to follow through on them. Remember, the depression is still there but the person has renewed energy and will power.

If you are a depressed patient or if a friend or family member is going through this process it is important to remain vigilant. Watch for signs that suicidal behavior is evident and act accordingly. (There are many excellent resources available on line that will provide you with information on warning signs to watch for) The appropriate action could include calling a suicide hot line, consulting a medical professional or going to a local emergency ward. Whichever course you ultimately choose it is a good idea to have your medication available as well as information on dosages and how long you have been using the antidepressant in question.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that this ramp up period is a passing thing. Once a patient has responded favorably to a treatment regimen they can begin to enjoy life again. If you are the individual going through this process, keep this thought in mind. Whatever you might be feeling at this moment is going to pass and THINGS WILL GET BETTER! If the patient in question is a friend or family member, tell them the same thing and reinforce it often.

Mental health is something we all have a right to enjoy but like any kind of health it is precious and must be safe guarded. Please do everything in your power to do just this. If you need help or direction you can visit our website at www.cognimmune.com for additional information and resources. Above all, don't be afraid to seek whatever kind of help you need if your mental health is not all it should be. Almost any kind of help you can imagine is available to you but you have to ask for it in order to get it.

I wish you the very best.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Suicide, The Hidden Endemic

Did you know that an average of 80 Americans take their own lives each and every day? That is about 30,000 people per year. In addition, almost 500 people attempt suicide in the United States each day. In other words almost 180,000 people a year!

If you want to look at that in perspective, consider that since the war in Iraq began the estimated number of US soldiers killed in combat is 2,924. The same period has seen almost 120,000 suicides and approximately 720,000 suicide attempts! This is almost 1 million individuals and families who have been directly impacted by suicide. This is in no way intended to minimize the significance of the loss of brave US fighting men and women but we all know what's going on in Iraq and, agree or disagree, we all talk about it. We don't do the same when it comes to suicide and the underlying mental illnesses that cause it?

The direct costs of suicide and attempted suicide each year (costs being work loss, and medical costs) is almost 40 billion dollars. This does not include costs incurred by survivors such as funeral costs, therapy costs, work loss costs and others. And despite these staggering costs, business and individuals seem content to simply ignore the problem. Why are we, a culture that is obsessed with health so afraid of discussing and dealing with the issues of mental health?

We cannot begin to address a problem until we recognize and accept that the problem exists. Personally I would consider a mental health issue that directly impacts almost 200,000 individuals and families each and every year as being a serious problem. But what to do about it? A good first step is open and honest discussion. I find it impossible to believe that there is any person living in our day and age who, upon reaching the age of reason, has not at least thought about suicide. Fortunately, most people are mentally strong enough to overcome these momentary lapses in judgment. But what about those who are experiencing a moment or period of weakness brought about by some other mental health problem such as depression, stress, anxiety or others?

As always, the question is where to start?

Depression is one of the root causes of suicide. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 19 million people in the United States suffer from "clinical depression" each year. In addition to this most people suffer some form of mild to moderate depression on an ongoing basis. It may surprise you to learn that you too are probably experiencing some level of depression right now. To find out how moderate or severe this may be use this link to take a brief depression self assessment.

In future postings we will deal in more depth with mental and emotional illnesses and techniques for their prevention.