Tag Archives: Mental Illness

Taking psychiatric meds? How to protect yourself from side effects.

Along with frequently described mood  or antidepressant medications, what else can a person do to protect themselves from accumulating brain tissue loss and losing brain function?

For the folks suffering from disabling episodes of psychosis, mania and depression, the right psychiatric  medications are a godsend. There are many people who attribute their ability to continue working and leading a normal life to their  medications along with therapy. It is thought that for some people, these brain illnesses are associated with degeneration of brain cells. While every case may be different, often dysfunction in the brain occurs along with  dysfunction in the body. After all, every part of our body is connected.

We are seeing increases in autoimmune disorders, food allergies, gut problems, arthritis, asthma, skin disorders, depression and sleep disorders. For some people, some of these problems may be due to the same culprit. There is much discussion now about the role of diet and gut dysfunction in the emergence of mood disorders.

So, would it make sense to identify and eliminate the culprit(s) and replace lost or missing nutrients that are known to be essential for brain health? How about looking at non-prescription supplements and foods that help the brain? In the December, 2016 issue of Current Psychiatry, Dr. Henry A. Nasrallah, writes about supplements that can help protect the brains of folks who are experiencing brain problems which show up as mood or cognitive disorders.

Some antidepressants, mood stabilizers and atypical antipsychotics may not only decrease troubling symptoms but may also have a protective effect on the brain.

There is an additional step that your doctor can take to help you protect your brain from the “destructive processes that accompany acute episodes of psychosis, mania and depression”.

Some of the supplements mentioned are:

Omega-3 fatty acids – Found in fish oil supplements have been shown in research studies to help reduce the effects of mood disorders and psychosis when used in addition to medications as well as a general supplement to protect brain health. Check out http://www.VitalChoice.org

Caffeine –  Thought to be neuroprotective and to aid in preventing mood and memory dysfunction. Not necessarily good for anxious clients but helpful for those with psychosis or mood disorders.

Vitamin D3 –  A deficiency of this essential vitamin (the status of most people living north of North Carolina and especially of people experiencing psychotic and mood disorders)  has been associated with depression, Alzheimer’s, autism and schizophrenia.  Supplementation with natural vitamin D (inexpensive over the counter) is said to protect the brain and the body against basic illnesses.

Nicotine (in the form of nicotine gum or nicotine patches) can help with cognitive processing (thinking), stress and cell health.

Melatonin – is an antioxidant, supportive to the immune system which reduces brain inflammation.  Especially for diabetics or those with metabolic syndrome, melatonin is felt to be protective of brain tissue.  Melatonin is considered an over the counter supplement that is helpful for sleep problems.  For those taking Synthroid,  melatonin use needs to be discussed with your pharmacist or physician.

N-acetylcysteine – is a powerful antioxidant for the brain, especially during a psychotic episode

Minocycline – An antibiotic that has been shown in studies to have protective effects on the brain as an additional treatment in schizophrenia

Lithium – usually used to treat mania in dosages of 900 to 1500 mg/d has been found to prevent progression of “amnestic mild cognitive impairment” to full dementia when taken in doses as low as 1 mg/d.

Erythropoietin (limited use due to some black-box warnings)

Cox-2 inhibitors: anti-inflammatory drug helpful in acute psychosis usually associated with neuro-inflammation.

Talk to your provider about adding these supplements to your psychiatric medication

Source: Current Psychiatry,  Are you neuroprotecting your patients? 10 Adjunctive therapies, Henry A Nasrallah, MD, Vol. 15, No.12, December 2016


Mapping police violence – Every 10 days an unarmed black person is killed

police-carA mental health threat for our people
Police killed 346 black people in 2015, making fear of our “protectors” a rational, reasonable fear.  Now, for sure, there are many honest, caring cops out there. You hope that they are the ones who stop you for a broken tail light. The statistics on police killings portray practices that often result in death for black individuals stopped for nonviolent issues. This presents a mental health issue for our people.

See how widespread the problem is
The resource website, http://www.mappingpoliceviolence.org   allows you to learn the stories of each of the individuals that were killed. Many of them are shocking, such as the Chicago landlord who opened her front door to greet police officers who had been called by her upstairs tenant. She opened the door, they shot her dead. Or the 17 year old brother, whose mother and sister had called the police when he experienced a psychotic episode. He ran into the bathroom, police shot him 17 times as his family begged them to stop.

The story of Kenneth Chamberlain
One of the saddest is the story of Kenneth Chamberlain of White Plains, NY.  Mr. Chamberlain, a retired Marine and long-time corrections officer, was killed by police after accidentally triggering his 1st Alert alarm.  He wore it because of a heart condition.  Police in riot gear stormed his apartment  (to be sure he was safe), and in a few seconds, tasered him twice, shot him at close range with four bean bag rounds, finally shooting him in the chest and killing him.

The entire episode was taped by the 1st Alert operator and yet the officers were never charged.  The conflicting testimonies of the officers supported a cover-up.The civil suit was lost last week because the nearly all white jury could not believe that the 69 year old retiree was not still standing when he was finally shot.  Watch the film and see what you think. These are not uncommon stories and they boggle the minds of mental health professionals right along with all other folks.

We are reading…..”Nobody: Casualties of America’s War on the Vulnerable from Ferguson to Flint and Beyond”


There is an almost palpable level of fear rising in the minds of many Americans over the steady stream of
unarmed young black men and boys, women and girls killed by police. How do we protect our children? How do
black people conduct themselves to be sure that they are not seen as dangerous. Not shot down, because by
their physical appearance alone, their movements are intuitively misperceived as imminently threatening.
While the majority of killings have been white officers against black citizens, there is that small number
of black officers on black victims that indicates that it’s not only about white on black racism.

Whether it’s this American drama on our urban streets or any of the international wars that bring death
to everyday life, it is clear, killing is not a solution to anything. Guns do not speak more articulately
than human reasoning. Mental health, is the essence of prevention. Racism is a mental health issue. Diminishing
the value of “others” is a mental health problem. In this book, Marc Lamont Hill joins Ta-Nehisi Coates and Michelle Alexander
in bringing clarity to the ongoing war against black men.

Just Get Over It! And Other Insensitive Things That People Say……..


How many times have you heard someone shriek, mutter, moan, yell, spit, murmur or plead, “Just get over it!”, usually followed by the less audible, “Will you?” The answer is, you won’t.  The fact that you are displaying emotion  through your words, facial expression, body language, tears or a big fat sign with four-letter words is THE POINT. What would make someone think that just telling you to get over it would fix it for you?  Two things: One, the assumption that emotions are totally within one’s control and, two, that you just need to change your thinking and apply a little discipline to change your mood.

People fear feelings

This simplistic thinking is  the equivalent of magical thinking. Just close your eyes and pretend what’s happening is not real and think    happy  thoughts so I won’t have to come up with the right words to make you feel better. So my telling you to straighten your face and look happy is really an expression of my fear of not being a good enough partner, parent, friend or sibling.

The effect of experience

Some people are very literal thinkers. If they feel things deeply, they don’t tell anyone, not even themselves. If they don’t feel things deeply, they don’t understand how you could. Literal people often don’t understand that what someone might express emotion about might really mask something totally different that they are upset about. Like people who cry at the movies when the hero dies. They might actually be thinking bout a pet’s death early in their childhood. And some people  who have had many disappointments in their lives  might react intensely to anything. Opening the container that holds their emotions might cause them all to spill out. One could imagine that for some people, each subsequent loss made it harder and harder for them to contain their sadness or anger.

It is often said that African Americans are likely to be more expressive of their emotions than whites, that Latinos are more expressive than European Americans, and the British more conservative in expression than Italians. In these instances we may be referring to cultural learning about what is acceptable  expression of feelings.

Sensitive brains and OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)

Here’s another something to consider – the brains of some people, and their nervous systems ( which their brains are connected to, by the way) are extra sensitive. In the field of neurofeedback, you can look at the speed with which brain cells are firing in an EEG (electroencephalograph). Those people who have extra fast firing neurons in the front of the brain tend to get stuck on thoughts and feelings, sort of like your car tires spinning on ice. Such people can’t help themselves  from getting carried away when they get upset. They will obsess over it until something or somebody gives them a push or a pull out of that rut that they are creating. Luckily, neurofeedback, also known as brain biofeedback, provides a non- intrusive, drug-free way to slow down the troublesome brain activity.

The power of positive thinking

So many people who have grown up in difficult situations have found help from positive thinking courses. It is the poor man’s form of self- treatment and it can be very useful if there is not a biochemical cause of mood disorders. Positive affirmations introduced years ago by folks like Norman Vincent Peale and reframed twenty years back by Iyanla Vanzant in her book, Acts of Faith, began a very successful trend  of giving folks new roads out of despair.  Mental health problems can come from  physical disorders like diabetes or heart problems, hypertension, multiple sclerosis, dementia, lupus, etc. because in these disorders the chemistry and functioning of the organ systems are altered, thereby affecting the brain.

The  power of CBT

So there are different ways of accessing mental health problems in order to find solutions to them. Solutions from the inside might include medications, diet change, detoxification or supplements. Solutions from the  outside may include psychotherapy, group therapy, acupuncture, transcranial magnetic stimulation, neurofeedback, meditation, yoga, exercise and other treatments. For some problems, a combination of several of these may be just the ticket. While the current medical treatment in America emphasizes drugs above psychotherapy, the rule of thumb over the last twenty years has always been psychotherapy first and medication second if there was no risk of harm to life and limb or safety. In more recent years drugs have dominated nearly every area of medical treatment such that people assume there is nothing else. In other countries, where the success of medical care for everyday health issues is more successful than in the United States,  alternative, non drug therapies are a matter of course.

One of the most effective, short term therapies, is Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT). In talk sessions, one’s specific thoughts underlying your feelings and behavior are examined. Those that are logical and are working for you are reinforced. Those thoughts that are mythical, incorrect or left over from some previous bad experience  are corrected and replaced with more helpful thoughts. It has been proven that CBT and other forms of talk therapy actually change the brain and provide long lasting improvement for most people.

It is important to ask your provider, what is the safest, least intrusive way to solve your problem and is this an area in which they specialize. There are many people with depression who have been on medication for years and yet have never been evaluated by a therapist – an expert in mental health needs. A general antidepressant is often given out by gynecologists and family practitioners based on your answers to a checklist of questions. This can be helpful where there are no trained mental health providers but in most populated areas there are many and in rural areas telephone or Skype therapy is possible.

Since antidepressants don’t cure depression or rid you of its’ cause, once you stop taking them you may be right where you started or the real cause of your depression may have disappeared for unrelated reasons. A responsible and comprehensive approach would include having a full medical work up to eliminate physical sources of problems, for which depression or anxiety might be the first symptoms.  In the meantime, one can begin therapy and learn how to use insight to identify choices and learn techniques to change their behaviors and feelings. They can’t just be told to “Get over it”.

Mental health or behavior problems aren’t just a matter of choice.

Crucial Factors in Mother Driving her Children into the Ocean

What would make a young mother want to kill her children? That was the big question when this near tragic event first occurred. There were rumors that there had been domestic violence, that for some reasons she didn’t want her husband near her children. More recent reports from CNN state that Ebony Wilkerson had suffered a number of traumatic events, and all at the time that she was going through the major emotional and physical changes that pregnancy causes many women.

#1. Ms. Wilkerson had reportedly been raped prior to becoming suicidal, while she was pregnant.

#2. Ms.  Wilkerson had been the victim of domestic abuse. Her sister reported that the violent husband had held a knife to her throat when she attempted to help her sister whom he had attempted to strangle.