Sunday, September 30, 2007

Suicide and the Family

Have you ever had a loved one commit suicide? The question is always why did they do it or did I fail my loved one in some way?

Suicide is a major, preventable public health problem. In 2004, it was the eleventh leading cause of death in the U.S., accounting for 32,439 deaths. The overall rate was 10.9 suicide deaths per 100,000 people. An estimated eight to 25 attempted suicides occur per every suicide death.(NIMH) That means that lots of families are touched each year in this country either by a member committing suicide or attempting to.

For Christians it becomes a problem not only of feeling the loss of the loved one, but dealing with the issue of the person’s eternal soul. The truth is that folks should not underestimate the Grace of God. Family members who have lost loved ones to suicide need to hear the following words. They come both from Jewish texts and Christian texts.

Behold, the arm of the Lord is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear" (Isaiah 59:1). The loved ones who are left in grief can take comfort from knowing "it is not the will of the Father that any of these should perish" (Matt. 18:14). We have the promises, "He does not deal with us after our sins, nor requite us according to our iniquities" (Psalm 103:10) and "My Father is greater than all...and no one is able to take them out of the Father's hand" (John 10:29). In the face of these great mysteries, we can assure ourselves, "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (Gen.18:25).

When you read the risk factors below you will begin to understand that we are not talking about sin. We are talking about an illness. The Judge knows that. Men and women here on this earth may not, but the all knowing Creator and our final Judge does. He will do right. In my humble opinion I find nothing in the Bible that says folks will go to hell for acts caused by an illness. My Bible tells of Jesus healing the sick not sending people away to eternal damnation.

“What are the risk factors for suicide?
Research shows that risk factors for suicide include:
depression and other mental disorders, or a substance-abuse disorder (often in combination with other mental disorders). More than 90 percent of people who die by suicide have these risk factors.
stressful life events, in combination with other risk factors, such as depression. However, suicide and suicidal behavior are not normal responses to stress; many people have these risk factors, but are not suicidal.
prior suicide attempt
family history of mental disorder or substance abuse
family history of suicide
family violence, including physical or sexual abuse
firearms in the home, the method used in more than half of suicides
exposure to the suicidal behavior of others, such as family members, peers, or media figures.
Research also shows that the risk for suicide is associated with changes in brain chemicals called neurotransmitters, including serotonin. Decreased levels of serotonin have been found in people with depression, impulsive disorders, and a history of suicide attempts, and in the brains of suicide victims.
If you are in a crisis and need help right away:
Call this toll-free number, available 24 hours a day, every day: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You will reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a service available to anyone. You may call for yourself or for someone you care about. All calls are confidential.”

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Friday, September 28, 2007


If you remember I quoted Carl Mumpower, a member of the Asheville, NC City Council, in this blog on September 21st in which he wrote these words in an op-ed piece for the Asheville Citizen-Times, “It ended with the abandonment of earlier promises and a bungled transition to a state-funded hybrid system morphing a safety net into a mineshaft.”

Being born in Eastern Kentucky in coal country I know the dangers of a mineshaft. They kill coalminers each year.

I have written before about the death here at the state hospital in Burke County were I live. This appeared Monday in the Morganton paper.

“Broughton losing millions
By Sharon McBrayer
Monday, September 24, 2007
Morganton - In an effort to restore $1 million a month in Medicare and Medicaid funding at Broughton Hospital, the state is stepping in.
Staff supervision and training are top priorities, said Dr. Michael Lancaster, Dempsey Benton and Mike Moseley, all with the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.
Medicaid and Medicare funding was pulled on Aug. 25. The decision came on the heels of a patient's death on Feb. 1 and another patient's injuries on Aug. 19. “

MINESHAFTS ARE DANGEROUS PLACES TO BE GIVEN TREATMENT? You had better hope you never need them.

Actually, I am trying to be kind. A few years ago in South Florida when writing about deaths at South Florida State Hospital I called them murders. When another person sits on the chest of a person until they are dead you tell me what it is.

The folks up here are smarter than the folks in South Florida. I sat on a number of boards down there including the board of South Florida State Hospital. Maynard Taylor, a Burke County Commissioner, asked me to apply for the board of the Mental Health Services of Catawba County which now is the entity that hands out the state money for both Burke and Catawba County. They call them Local Management Entities. I did not make the board. Patty who had been the state director for PAIMI in Florida thought I would make a good member of the PAIMI advisory council here in NC. I did not make that either. So the fact is I am free to say what I want which is the way I like it as all of you who know me know.

One of the lead stories in the Asheville Citizen-Times on September 25th was about the NC Mental Health System?

“By Leslie Boyd
September 25, 2007 12:15 am
ASHEVILLE - In a system where the catchphrase is “no closed door,” people with mental illnesses are finding no door at all, say frustrated providers of mental health services.
Agencies are closing or losing therapists, social workers and psychologists as a crushing load of regulatory changes push costs well ahead of reimbursement rates.
Amid the tumult, people like Patrick Diraffale, who has bipolar disorder and anxiety disorder, are placed on waiting lists or told to go to an emergency room or agency that deals with patients in crisis, places that might be able to offer real help.
Diraffale was told last week he would have to wait three months for an intake appointment at a local services provider after being hospitalized for six days. He is out of medication, and has been told to use the “coping mechanisms” he was taught in the hospital.”

My question is can they find any gold down in the mineshaft? Our new Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services appointed by Gov. Easley on September 5, 2007 had been Chief Deputy Secretary from January 2001 until February 2007 at the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Maybe he can find the gold!!!

My father has been dead a number of years now. He was a pastor and a teacher/principal. One of the things we discussed/argued about was his contention that a good teacher could take any textbook and teach any subject even if they did not know the subject. I said I did not believe it. Likewise, I don’t care how good a man or how good a manager Secretary Benton is I want to know what he knows about Health and Human Services. I want to know what he knows about mental health the system that has become such a mess.

Who will fix it? No one. Why? Because it will never be funded to the level that is needed and they will never come down out of their ivory towers and ask the real experts.

You can reach me directly at
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Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Professor of Pastoral Counseling David Augsburger spoke about some of the concepts of his latest book, Dissident Discipleship, in a "fireside chat". This was the second in a series of these gatherings, sponsored by Fuller’s Office of Alumni/ae and Church Relations, designed to offer alumni/ae and friends the opportunity for discussion and dialogue with a Fuller faculty member in a more intimate setting.

The premise of his Dissident Discipleship book, Augsburger explained during the gathering, is that there are three poles of spiritual orientation: mono-polar, bi-polar, and tri-polar. Mono-polar spirituality, the first step, “is an opening of the soul, the beginning of soul-making. It seeks a spirituality that discovers the sacred within, the holy in nature, the numinous mysteries of one’s inner depths and their connection to the universe.”

Bi-polar spirituality, Augsburger went on to describe, happens when the God of our own creation and celebration dies and we encounter a God who is sovereign and truly other—“who stands above all human manipulation, beyond our strategies of control.” Moving into this phase can be a shattering kind of death experience, he said, when we can no longer say “my God is my own.”

Tri-polar spirituality, he said, occurs when we realize that love of God cannot be split from love of other. Love for God and neighbor, two aspects of one and the same love, become inextricably united. “It begins in the radical, subversive walk of living out love without conditions, exceptions, exemptions; it ends in following the ultimate dissident exemplar, Jesus, who said: ‘A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another as I have loved you.’” (This is From Fuller Theologically Seminary’s Web Site)

Being raised on a mission field in southern Africa service to others has been part of my life since I was a kid. In fact, I was mad at my father for the amount of time he spent on his work which left no time for me. More about service later.

The mono-polar spirituality may really be the hardest for me. It requires that I look within my own soul and I don’t like to look there. I don’t seem to have any trouble looking at others and finding their flaws, but to take a good long look deep within myself is very painful.

One day as I was walking along a beach in California when I looked down and saw a tiny flower growing. It was growing in a place I could not see how it was living and the funny thing was I never even see big flowers much less small ones. . I had left a seminar to take that walk and seeing the tiny creation of God it was the beginning of a journey. The next time I looked into my soul I saw a tiny light in the darkness of my inner being. By beginning to see the world around me I began to see inside myself.

Bi-polar spirituality is simply being willing to hand over to God what is already His. Now Bipolar has a different meaning to me. It means my illness. It means going from depression to manic highs. It means having to take medications every day. Here it means coming into a relationship with the Creator after having found the light in the darkness of your soul.

Tri-polar spirituality is more than service. It can heal the pain of your own soul. Gandhi taught service to others not just as a way to build a nation, but as a way to get people to see each other as neighbors and live in peace with one another. Jesus taught service to others not just as a way to heaven, but as a way to bring a peace beyond all understanding to one’s soul.

Helping others will get you further along the recovery path than anything else you can do. Tri-Polar Spirituality is one of the main keys to recovery.

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Saturday, September 22, 2007



I need to cover a few things about my blog.

First, it will come out twice a week. Tuesdays and Fridays. I write it mainly as therapy for myself, but from the number of emails I get apparently some of my readers get something out of it too. For that and for my readers I am grateful. Thank you for taking the time to share my thoughts with me and feel free to reply to anything you read in the blog.

Secondly, I need to make clear that I thought Councilman Mumpower’s op-ed piece was right on target. It was a long and powerfully written piece and I feel he is an advocate for those of us with disabilities. It may have been unfair of me to pick a single word such as victim out of his piece and write my blog around it. I would encourage you to go online to the Asheville Citizen-Times and read his entire op-ed piece. I think the points I made about victim hood are valid and I wanted to use the quote, but maybe I did not make clear how strongly I agreed with the points his piece made.

Thirdly, a loyal reader brought to my attention that I keep using the phrase “mentally ill” rather “people with mental illnesses”. This was not the person who called me on this before in such an angry tone. This reader did it in kindness and maybe I can remember it better because of the tone that was used this time. I go deaf when I am yelled at, but this reader was not yelling. He was simply making the valid point that “the phrase ‘the mentally ill’ has no person in it.” Well if I am trying to get the world to see us as fully human then my language must reflect that. I promise to try to do better and I thank this reader for his gentle approach to helping make this blog better.

There is a SPECIAL EDITION of my book “WHEN EVEN THE DEVIL DESERTS YOU” being printed. It will be available from Project Dream Again sometime after the 1st of October. This new edition is dedicated to Cassy Edwards and Roy Dale. I will let you know how you can get a copy soon after the first of the month.

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Friday, September 21, 2007


“Scapegoating one bureaucrat for recent misjudgment does not conceal a mental health system that was undermined by many hands over many years. It began in the 1960s with an unsustainable government promise establishing a statewide system available to all. It evolved into a complex nightmare in the 1980s, when that same government’s controls and inefficiencies generated costs of service double that of private providers. It ended with the abandonment of earlier promises and a bungled transition to a state-funded hybrid system morphing a safety net into a mineshaft. Not one of the host of players — elected or appointed — who were complacent or complicit in the demise, is being held accountable. The consequences, as usual, are reserved for the victims.” Carl Mumpower is a military veteran who currently serves on the Asheville City Council in Asheville North Carolina. His op-ed piece was posted online August 29, 2007 at 12:15 am in the Asheville Citizen-Times.

Well Carl if we are victims it is the victims of the stupidity and stigma from chronically normal people, but we do not accept the role of victim hood. We are organized into groups of brotherhoods and sisterhoods all across this country. You would just have to look at such places as Rebel’s, 9Muses, and PEER Center in South Florida as examples of places operated by consumers of mental health for consumers to know we are not victims, but rather folks capable of doing wonderful acts of kindness for each other. Or maybe go into the Broward County jail in South Florida with Jana as she does her work with inmates and see if you think you are watching a victim or a strong and worthy person doing a job few folks could or would do. There are other examples in South Florida and here in North Carolina and all across America.

I agree with you Carl that none of the promises that were made to us have been carried out. I agree that the public mental health system is a mess. And just for your information Carl since you are a vet the Veterans Administration isn’t doing any better and maybe worse.

The piece below breaks my heart.

“Broughton loses money over Feb. patient death
From Staff Reports
Saturday, September 1, 2007
Morganton - Broughton Hospital lost its federal funding for Medicaid and Medicare patients after an investigation into a patient death there in February.
An autopsy found a male staff member was on top Anthony DeWayne Lowery’s torso for two to three minutes before the 27-year-old died. An original autopsy report said the Broughton staffer was 300 pounds. An amended report this month said that weight was incorrect.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services ordered Broughton to devise a plan to avoid incidents like Lowery’s death.”

The death is horrible and the loss of money will mean that some of us somewhere will not get the services we need. To replace the money they will have to take it from someplace.

The truth is that if you live in some counties in North Carolina and have a mental illness or an addiction or are dually diagnosed as lots of us are there are more services than in others. Not having the same amount and quality of services available to people no matter where they live in this state is a crime.

How will they ever get things put together in the public mental health system where they serve people in the proper way? When they start listening to the folks who know. Who knows? The folks with the problems, their families and loved ones, and the front line workers.

I was asked by a county commissioner of Burke County, NC to apply for the board for mental health, substance abuse, and developmental disabilities for Burke and Catawba counties. I did and gave references from South Florida. One of my references in South Florida said she told them that if they did not want to hear the truth they did not want me on their board. She had watched me serve on boards down there for almost 13 years. I did not make the board which is perfectly OK. No advocate needs a vote. All information about public money and how it is used is public and all meetings have a time you can speak. I don’t have to be a member of a board to be heard. If I have an issue I think needs to be heard I will get it heard. As I said in the beginning of this blog. We don’t have the mental attitude of victims. WE ARE PERSONS even if the new Person to Person Manual in North Carolina does not really show that and we will be heard even if we don’t have a place at the voting table and are only on advisory boards.

The system may try to make us victims by being an under funded mess and even kill us at times by sitting on our chests in an improper restraint, but it can’t make us a victim unless we believe we are. As long as we believe we are persons we can climb higher than the system ever dreamed we could.

You can reach me directly at
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Thursday, September 13, 2007


WHO IS WILLING?/September 14, 2007

There will not be a blog sent out Monday. I am taking a small vacation. I will try to get another one out on September 21st.

A couple of days ago as I was driving back from my therapy session I was thinking about how I got started in the advocacy arena. It was in 1987 and I was a traveling salesman with lots of time to think between sales calls and at night in my motel room. I was struck by the fact that the church I grew up in and am an ordained minister of did not have a single outreach ministry to folks with mental illness or their families that I knew of. In 1988 I started putting together a survey to find out if I was correct. When I did the survey I did not find any, but I did find that over 30% thought mental illness had some relationship to sin and some even considered it demon possession.

I then expanded my research to other denominations and discovered that there were mental illness networks in some of them and that some churches had special ministries for folks like me. Faith communities as a whole were not doing much, but a few were.

In 1989 I started Christian Friends of the Mentally Ill in Asheville, North Carolina and began writing and speaking on the subject of the church and the mentally ill. I became the Co-Chair of the Religious Outreach Network of what was then called the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill. At NAMI’s 1991 national convention in San Francisco Laurie Flynn, then Executive Director of NAMI, read to the convention a poem I wrote entitled “When Even the Devil Deserts You” which had been published in the January/February 1991 issue of Church & Society a journal of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

From the early 90’s into this decade I spent nearly 13 years in South Florida as an independent advocate for folks suffering from a mental illness. It was in Broward County, Florida that Project Dream Again was born. I do not regret a moment of those years, but they were not focused on the purpose I had when I began in 1987. I intend to return to my roots.

I will not stop advocating that the public mental health system do the job they are funded to do or demanding that our public officials give them the funds to do it with. The change in focus is to return to challenge faith communities to do their job. The job God gave them of showing His grace to the entire world and that includes us and our families.

Why do I want to return to my roots? Because I believe in a natural recovery process and the public and private mental health system is just a small part of that. Faith communities are a natural part of the community and a large number of people’s support systems. Natural supports are crucial to the recovery process therefore faith communities are crucial to us.

Back to my roots is back to the Creator who gave birth to this earth and to me. In His embrace and with His grace I and my fellow sojourners can make the climb and reach our highest dreams. We can find a safe place to be and peace for our troubled souls. Who is willing to welcome us and show us the way?

You can reach me directly at
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Monday, September 10, 2007


Mail, Medications, and ME/September 10, 2007

Stay with me on this story even if it seems to have a long beginning. It does have a point. As those of you who have been reading this blog for awhile know my wife and I just moved from a farm in eastern Kentucky to Glen Alpine, NC a few months ago. I still drive to Johnson City, Tennessee to get some of my medical care. The fact is it is hard to break in a new psychiatrist or psychologist every time you move. So I drive the 2 and ½ hours one way to get my psychiatric care from folks I am comfortable with.

On my way back on my last trip I stopped at the U.S. Post Office in the little town of Erwin, TN to mail three envelopes I needed to get weighed to see how much postage was needed. I was mailing a booklet called “Serious Mental Illness: Seeking A Comprehensive Christian Response” which was developed by the Task Force on Serious Mental Illness of the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy of the Presbyterian Church (USA). I had just purchased the three envelopes at Wal-Mart up the road and they only had the kind with bubble in them. I was mailing the booklets to the pastor of the Glen Alpine United Methodist Church, a person in a federal prison, and a friend in San Diego, CA. The envelopes all were sealed and had my return address on them indicating I was from Glen Alpine.

The lady who was serving me began asking questions about the envelopes and then called a man over. They even asked me where I had been and where I was going? Where I lived and why was I mailing my mail from Erwin? Remember, I had just finished my visit with the mental health professionals and was on my way home. Now I was being interrogated by the postal police. I told them to open the envelopes and look for themselves if they did not believe me, but those folks were not about to open those envelopes for no amount of money. Finally, after about ten minutes they let me go and I guess my envelopes went out. I have not heard from the folks yet if they got them.

The entire time I was on the verge of losing it. I don’t mean simply getting angry. I mean I almost could not mentally handle the situation. I had just been through a tough session with my psychologist. My medications are not adjusted very well at the moment. I just went through the trauma of a move and a wreck. I did not take the interrogation at the Post Office well.

When I lived on the streets I hid from anyone in uniform because I knew they would hassle me. I to this day obey all speed limits trying to avoid having to speak with a person with a uniform on. Of course I did have to recently when Patty and I were involved in the car wreck. The folks in the Post Office had on uniforms. It was not fun.

The point is we are coming up on the 6th anniversary of 9/11 and I know it has changed things for all of us, but for some of us it has made our lives much more difficult. The more paranoid that chronically normal people get the harder it is for those of us with a serious mental illness to navigate in public. People that use to give us a break or overlook something we did no longer do.

Do you know how many of us get locked up each year just for simple trespass? Do you know how many of us get a felony charge against us because of something that happens during getting arrested for trespass or during getting picked up for involuntary commitment? Do you know how many of us die at the hands of the police? Of our care givers? Or how many of us of all ages simply give up and take our own lives because we can’t navigate this world any longer.

Folks let me tell you what I believe and you can call it part of my delusional system if you want. I believe the hand of God was on my shoulder in that Post Office in Erwin, TN the other day or Patty would have had to come get me out of the jail or hospital over there. I believe He kept me sane when the postal workers went postal on me trying to mail out a booklet published by a church about mental illness. The only thing I have to rely on sometimes is that God walks with me.

Please share your faith and show the Grace of God to my fellow sojourners. We all need HIM.

You can reach me directly at
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Friday, September 07, 2007


Sharon Begley wrote a piece for NEWSWEEK which she starts out with these words, “For doctors who treat illnesses that strike from the neck down, a patient's symptoms are only the first step toward a diagnosis. No sooner do they hear ‘It hurts when I climb stairs’ than they order blood work, X-rays or other tests. In psychiatry, though, the laundry list of symptoms is it, the only basis for diagnosis. Maybe that helps explain why 70 percent of patients with bipolar disorder are misdiagnosed, as are up to half of women with depression.”

Remember my last blog. I wrote about why we had to get the diagnosis right for our kids because psych meds were not health foods. Well, it turns out that I am not the only one writing on the subject of how difficult it is to get the proper diagnosis and then to get on the right meds.

A year ago I had to go off the main medication I take for my bipolar disorder and a year later I am still trying to find the right med and dosage to do the job as well as was being done by the med I had to go off of. I have spent a year close to mania and in fear of breaking through into full blown mania. My wife’s life has not been as pleasant to say the least.

She goes on to write, “The American Psychiatric Association is updating its immense (911 pages) diagnostic manual, which offers 20 forms of bipolar disorder alone.”

I wonder which form I have. I have the form that as a friend of mine says I wish I could “move off and leave behind.” The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR®) is the bible, but are there really 20 different forms of my disorder?

Then she writes, “EEGs let you look at patients the way cardiologists do with EKGs, focusing on physiology, not symptoms," says psychiatrist William Richardson, who is at Overlook Hospital and in private practice in Summit, N.J. Brain measurements like EEGs not only offer the possibility of better treatment for mental illness, however. They also show that the line from brain to mind can meander like a mountain stream. For an EEG, which typically costs about $150 and takes 45 minutes, a patient has about 20 electrodes pasted to his scalp, where they measure the electrical activity of neurons—brain waves—directly beneath. In the 1980s, researchers tried to base diagnoses on EEGs, but it didn't work. The same squiggles could mean different illnesses, and one illness could be marked by different EEGs. The new use of EEGs skips the diagnosis (a label like "anxiety disorder") and goes straight to a recommended treatment. An EEG is compared with a database that includes 13,000 pairings of EEGs with which drugs helped in each case. A California company called CNS Response, which runs the database, finds a match and sends the physician an analysis indicating which drugs patients with that EEG are sensitive or resistant to.”

Now I love mountain streams. There is nothing more beautiful than a trout stream here in Western North Carolina. I take that back. My wife is. Her beauty inside and outside has done more for my darkened soul than even the mountain streams of these beautiful mountains in which I live. However, the writer can not get me to like this idea by bringing to mind a mountain stream. The above is simply no way to come up with which drug to use.

She ends her piece with these words, “One reason for the sometimes-odd pairings of illnesses and drugs is that many different brain states can produce the same mental symptoms, and many different symptoms can arise from the same brain state. Now replace "symptoms" with "mind." The path from electrical firings to mind is less mechanical than neuroscience dogma suggests. The mind has not yielded all its mysteries quite yet.”

The writer just forgot a small detail. Yes we are more than a mere set of symptoms. We are even more than mind and body. We have a soul. That is why we need the embrace of faith communities which seem to shy away from us. We are fully human. We are bio-psycho-social-spiritual beings. When will you finally see us?

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007


The most emailed article at THE NEW YORK TIMES as of this morning is “Bipolar Illness Soars as a Diagnosis for the Young”. It says the number of American children and adolescents treated for bipolar disorder increased 40-fold from 1994 to 2003. That makes one wonder what is going on.

The article says, “Many experts theorize that the jump reflects that doctors are more aggressively applying the diagnosis to children, and not that the incidence of the disorder has increased. In the study, researchers from New York, Maryland and Madrid analyzed a National Center for Health Statistics survey of office visits that focused on doctors in private or group practices. The researchers calculated the number of visits in which doctors recorded diagnoses of bipolar disorder and found that they increased, from 20,000 in 1994 to 800,000 in 2003, about 1 percent of the population under age 20. The spread of the diagnosis is a boon to drug makers, some psychiatrists point out, because treatments typically include medications that can be three to five times more expensive than those for other disorders like depression or anxiety.”

It goes on to say “In addition, drug makers and company-sponsored psychiatrists have been encouraging doctors to look for the disorder since several drugs were approved to treat it in adults.
“We are just inundated with stuff from drug companies, publications, throwaways, that tell us six ways from Sunday that, Oh my God, we’re missing bipolar,” said Dr. Gabrielle Carlson, a professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the Stony Brook University School of Medicine on Long Island. “And if you’re a parent with a difficult child, you go online, and there’s a Web site for bipolar, and you think: ‘Thank God, I’ve found a diagnosis. I’ve found a home.’ ”
Some parents whose children have received the diagnosis say that, with time, the label led to effective treatment.
“It’s been a godsend for us,” said Kelly Simons of Montrose, Colo., whose son Brit, 15, was prone to angry outbursts until given a combination of lithium, a mood stabilizer, and Risperdal, which was often given to children “off label,” several years ago. He now takes just lithium and is an honor roll student.
Other parents say their children have suffered side effects of drugs for bipolar disorder.
Ashley Ocampo, 40, of Tallahassee, Fla., whose 8-year-old son is being treated for bipolar, said that he had tried several antipsychotic drugs and mood stabilizers and that he had improved.
“He has gained weight,” Ms. Ocampo said, “to the point where we were struggling find clothes for him. He’s had tremors and still has some fine motor problems that he’s getting therapy for. But he’s a fabulous kid. And I think, I hope, that we’re close to finding the right combination of medications to help him.”

There is no doubt the truth will remain elusive.

I spent part of this Labor Day at the home of one of my two sisters. One of her two sons was in from Texas and as always family stories were being told. I was a difficult child and I had a hard time in school which means there are plenty of stories to tell about me. The question has to be asked was my bipolar illness starting then or was my troubles caused by the childhood sexual abuse which I did not tell anyone about or was there another cause. Maybe I simply hated school. Maybe it was the fact that I was the youngest of three kids and we were the children of both the principal of the school and the pastor of the church we attended. My point is how do you make a diagnosis or decide the cause or causes of my behavior?

I have said before on this blog that a mental health professional including a psychiatrist does not have much to go on but what he or she is told by the person being diagnosed. In the case of children the parents may be used for the main source of information for making the diagnosis.

Be honest here. Does any parent really know what a child has going on in their mind? Can any parent do more than tell you what their child did not what they were thinking or their motive? Will they always tell it accurately or will they sometimes make it sound worse wanting the doctor to give their child something so they can get some relief? Will the child be honest with the doctor or will he or she tell the doctor what the parents have said they must tell?

My point here is that making a psychiatric diagnosis is not like taking a x-ray to see if your child has a broken arm. The best child psychiatrist on planet earth can’t do any better at making a proper diagnosis than the information he or she is able to gather from the answers they get and the observations they can make in the brief time they spend with the child and parents or parent.

I know my life would have been easier if I had decided earlier in my life that I was going to take my medications on a daily basis and not just when I felt like it. I am not against medications. I want them used properly. Also, I sometimes have this dream that Bill Anthony was born years earlier and Psych Rehab was there to help me years ago.

Psychiatric medications are not health foods so it is important to get it right. The stigma of a label and the side effects of the meds make this no joking matter. Children with behavioral problems and disorders need all the tools available, and they need the best trained professionals we can come up with. Whatever the study shows it shows we need to know more. Our children deserve the most accurate diagnosis they can get not just designer drugs.

You can reach me directly at
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