. . . the right care at the right time

Depression

Blog posts with a category of Depression.

Suicide prevention: we’re all on patrol

By Eli Zaret, New Oakland Guest Blogger

I was golfing with a friend the other day who suddenly had to leave after 9 holes. When I asked why, he told me a horrific tale. A good friend in his early 50’s had taken his own life a few weeks ago, leaving a wife and 4 children behind. It was utterly baffling to all involved. People who don’t suffer from mental illness, or have a loved one who does, can’t comprehend stories like this. Even more bizarrely, there had been no suspicions of depression, as the victim had managed to shield his inner torment. My friend had to leave the golf course because the suicide victim’s wife was doing quite poorly and desperately needed comfort.

A significant part of New Oakland’s mission is to help families understand the warning signs that can prevent the majority of suicides from taking place. There is no disputing that between 2-15% of people diagnosed with depression, bi-polar disorder or schizophrenia commit suicide, but the ratio drops dramatically when friends and family learn the warning signs that lead people to end their lives, and then get them help.

 Here’s a list of the most common warning signs of an impending suicide:

  • Expressions of hopelessness or helplessness
  • An overwhelming sense of shame or guilt
  • A dramatic change in personality or appearance, or irrational or bizarre behavior
  • Changed eating or sleeping habits
  • A severe drop in school or work performance
  • A lack of interest in the future
  • Written or spoken notice of intention to commit suicide
  • Giving away possessions and putting their affairs in order

As we watched All Star game starting pitcher Max Scherzer of the Tigers this week, we were reminded that his brother Alex took his life last summer. Alex’s depression had been treated for years, but was still too much to overcome despite his and his family’s vigilance. Same so for popular evangelical Pastor Rick Warren who lost his 27-year-old son Matthew to suicide in April after years of struggling with mental illness and deep depression. Continue reading

Mental illness and schools – an American crisis

By Jeffrey Sendi DO, Medical Director New Oakland

As a child and adolescent center, we’re all too aware of the tragedies that are occurring in our schools. Our many therapists, social workers and doctors deal with the backlash every day. Here’s the reality students face:

  • If you don’t finish in the top 15% of your class you won’t get into a good college
  • If you don’t go to a good college, you’re chances of getting a good job are greatly diminished
  • If you don’t get a good job, statistics say you are likely to struggle financially your whole life

Should we wonder why kids of all intelligence levels continually break down from pressure? Should we wonder why they bully each other and attempt suicide in record numbers?

Our educational system is under fire and for good reasons. We drill them with facts and we eliminate the extracurricular activities and the more fun, free-wheeling elective courses because of budget restraints. And since we get our funding based on test scores, we turn learning into a high stakes game of posting a good number or a good grade.

One student in a recent survey said, They don’t teach us to love to learn. They teach us we have to pass all classes with a high grade or we will fail in life.” Continue reading

Talking the brain into better health

Blog by Lisa Kaliniski, New Oakland Therapist

The tremendous improvements in medications used to treat depression and other types of mental illness have come via the “biological” approach. The other type of treatment is the “psychological” approach, or what we call “talk therapy.” Now, Cornell University clinical psychoanalyst Larry
Sandberg, co-author of “Psychotherapy and Medication: The Challenge of Integration,” tells us that treatment should not be an either-or method. That type of thinking, he says, “Obscures the fact that talk therapy affects the brain and is no less biological than pills.

“Numerous findings over the last two decades,” notes Sandberg in a letter to the New York Times, “demonstrate how talk therapy alters the brain. Disabling conditions like clinical depression and anxiety can be treated effectively by understanding distorted thought patterns, becoming aware of emotional conflicts that have not been conscious, or practicing new behaviors. Talk therapy is a potent treatment for serious mental disorders and not simply for the ‘worried well,’ as it is sometimes characterized.

At New Oakland, we understand that the effects of medication can disappear when the patient stops taking it, but the benefits of talk therapy can endure because, as Nobel laureate Eric Kandel points out, “Significant changes take place not only in the mind but in the brain, too. Learning,” he says, “affects the brain by forming new connections.”

It’s easy to reflect on the disparaging images pop culture has put on talk therapy. I picture Tom Cruise jumping on Oprah’s couch railing about Scientology’s rejection of psychiatry. I picture Woody Allen’s hilarious routines about his many neuroses and the failure of his therapist to solve them, and I cringe to think that Tony Soprano had to hide from his pals the humiliation of needing talk therapy at all.

Sandberg says, “These cultural trends devalue psychotherapy and the listening healer,” and that’s unfortunate. In many cases, medication is vital in easing the symptoms of mental illness as a prerequisite for effective, life-altering talk therapy. Many patients have had trouble sleeping or feel as if life has steamrolled them into a state of despair, and medication is necessary to set the stage for talk therapy to be effective. Continue reading