. . . the right care at the right time


Blog posts with a category of Self Injury.

Suicide in America – the elephant in the room

By Eli Zaret, Guest Blogger

When the Sandy Hook massacre a few months back sparked the raging gun debate in America, one stunningly awful statistic rattled my thinking. The raw number, that roughly 30,000 Americans are killed by guns each year, had a startling asterisk attached: nearly 20,000 of those deaths were by suicide. How awful is that, seeing as every death devastates dozens more who missed the warning signs?

I get a chilling reaction to these stats because a suicide attempt some years back by a family member failed, and had it not, my life would have been affected in ways I shudder to dwell upon. The reason had been undiagnosed bipolar disorder, and it brought me to New Oakland to seek both treatment and answers. Fortunately, the suicide attempt had been one of the approximately 1.1 million that fail each year.  Overall, 35,000 do succeed through various means. More women attempt than men, but men complete the act more often because they’re more likely to use a gun.

I learned at New Oakland that the great majority of people who experience depression, bipolar disorder or other related mental illness do not die by suicide.  But of those people who do die from suicide, more than 90 percent have a diagnosable mental disorder.

Perhaps the grimmest of facts about it is that we still don’t know why people kill themselves, and that’s why we’re not very good at preventing it.  Eight million people have suicidal thoughts each year, yet researchers know astonishingly little about how to treat people who contemplate killing themselves.

The subject has been so roundly ignored that the 900-page bible of psychiatry, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV, offers no advice for doctors on how to assess suicide risk.

Continue reading

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder: Not just for soldiers

By David Harris, MD; American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology

David Harris, MD

As our soldiers coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan struggle to adjust to civilian life, we’ve been forced to better understand the tragedy of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. War is hell, and the human brain can’t just put it all aside when it returns to tree-lined suburbia. Domestic violence, alcohol abuse and suicide among them have risen alarmingly. Many veterans that saw combat and lost buddies can’t escape fear, paranoia, dejection or survivor guilt for the remainder of their lives.

In 1968, John Sheppard’s patrol in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam was ambushed. He ran and tossed a grenade into an enemy bunker and earned a Bronze Star with valor, one of the Army’s highest decorations.  Weeks later, his platoon leader was killed by a sniper as he tried to help Shepherd out of a canal. It broke him. His behavior became erratic, and he later refused to go on patrol.

“I never felt fear like I felt when he got shot,” Shepherd said last week.

How was this hero treated? He was court-martialed, given an undesirable discharge and forever denied his veteran benefits. Now he’s part of a class action suit against the government to regain those benefits. PTSD isn’t just a war issue. It’s prevalent in our children, and demands our attention also.

New Oakland deals with hundreds of distressed children on a weekly basis, many of whom legitimately suffer PTSD. The statistics are sobering: Over 90% of children get PTSD if they see a parent being killed or if they see a sexual assault. PTSD develops in 90% of sexually abused and neglected children; 77% of children who see a school shooting, and 35% who see violence in the area they live. Others that are relentlessly bullied can develop the depression associated with PTSD.

There is still a lot we don’t know about childhood PTSD. We do know that girls are more likely than boys to get PTSD, and minorities have higher levels of PTSD symptoms, possibly because minorities may be exposed to more traumas. Other questions involve a child’s age at the time of the trauma, and that PTSD can look different in children of different ages.

PTSD symptoms in children can go away on their own after a few months or remain for years if left untreated. A child may start thinking, “the world is totally unsafe” and it’s our job to change thoughts or beliefs like those that are not correct or true.

Unfortunately, we can’t help a child with PTSD unless a parent, teacher or school counselor recognizes the symptoms and alerts us. Adults must be on the lookout for changes in a child’s school performance or if the child has problems with friends. Look for signs like sleep issues, anger, and avoidance of certain people or places.

Soldiers and bullied teenagers are taking their lives in record numbers. They aren’t losers or weak-kneed. They’re victims of extreme trauma and abuse that break down hope, spirit and rational thinking. It’s up to the rest of us to recognize and respond to the signals and to get them the help they desperately need.

Josh Pacheco and the Evil of Bullying

By Jeffrey Sendi, DO

Josh Pacheco
Suicide victim

When he recently told his mom, Lynnette Capehart of Linden that he was gay, she accepted the news unconditionally. After all, her 17-year old son, Josh Pacheco, was an amazing kid. He was smart and active and was close with his four siblings. He was responsible, working at the local Tim Hortons. He loved hisadvanced placement politics class and loved to entertain, acting in the community theater.

Around lunch time on Nov. 27, he was under the weather and stayed at home. He went into his closed garage, started the engine and shut the windows. Hours later, he was dead, yet another teen suicide. On Facebook , he quoted a line from a character in the “Lord of the Rings” movies: “I regret to announce that this is the end. I’m going now. I bid you all a very fond farewell. Goodbye.”

Josh Pacheco had been bullied at school. Lynnette found out that he’d been pushed into lockers and teased. “He was having problems with bullying. He didn’t really want to tell us very much,” she said. “It was very disheartening to me.” Continue reading