Wednesday, May 28, 2008

DAJ ONLINE/ MAY 28 EDITION

I have never done this before on the blog or the DAJ Online, but I am asking those of you who believe in the power of prayer to pray for a friend’s son who is in intensive care in Winston-Salem, NC suffering from a head injury. The last report I had he still had not regained consciousness. Thank you in advance for your prayers and concern.
I have a friend who has created another world which is rather complex. He named it Goosville. One of the meanings of goo is excessive sentimentality. He has spent a lot of time alone and in that world over the years. One of the things I like about the world he has created is that the animals there speak the same language as humans. That would certainly be helpful with my wife’s two cats. The most important thing about this world is he does not seem to think he controls all the people or animals in it. Now if I created a world everyone in it would do as I wanted them to. I think we could all learn from my friend’s created world into which he retreats when our collective world either ignores him or he can no longer deal with it. He is not the puppeteer even in his own created world.
Recently a letter Albert Einstein wrote to a philosopher sold at an auction for $404,000.00. It was a letter about his views of God and the Bible among other things. He called the Bible “pretty childish” and said the problem of God “is too vast for our limited minds.”
At times it seems like I am moving slowly towards 60 and at others it seems like I am speeding towards it. All I am sure of is that this November I have to stay far away from my older sister because she does crazy things to people on their 60th birthdays. Have I learned anything about this problem of God in these 60 years?
Maybe a couple of things.
First, I agree that God “is too vast for our limited minds”, but the story does not end there because I believe we have souls and that it is thru faith not logic that we learn to know our Creator.
Secondly, like my friend in the world he created, I think our Creator is not a puppeteer which means Einstein and all before him and you and all after you have the free will to decide for yourselves what you believe about the Creator.
Even those of us with mental illnesses have the need and right to be in community with folks who hold the same beliefs and opinions we do. When I started my research in 1988 on faith communities and folks with mental illnesses and their families, I was advised not to discuss religion with people with mental illness because it might encourage their delusional system.
On my most psychotic day living on the street I may not have been able to discuss the finer points of Systematic Theology, but I could have understood a piece of food and a hug as being love.
I loved an article I found in The New York Times the other day. It says I may not simply be getting forgetful as my brain grows older, but wiser.
“Some brains do deteriorate with age. Alzheimer’s disease, for example, strikes 13 percent of Americans 65 and older. But for most aging adults, the authors say, much of what occurs is a gradually widening focus of attention that makes it more difficult to latch onto just one fact, like a name or a telephone number. Although that can be frustrating, it is often useful.”
“It may be that distractibility is not, in fact, a bad thing,” said Shelley H. Carson, a psychology researcher at Harvard whose work was cited in the book. “It may increase the amount of information available to the conscious mind.”
But the best part is yet to come.
“Jacqui Smith, a professor of psychology and research professor at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan, who was not involved in the current research, said there was a word for what results when the mind is able to assimilate data and put it in its proper place — wisdom.
“These findings are all very consistent with the context we’re building for what wisdom is,” she said. “If older people are taking in more information from a situation, and they’re then able to combine it with their comparatively greater store of general knowledge, they’re going to have a nice advantage.”

You can reach me directly at edcooper@projectdreamagain.com

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

DAJ ONLINE/ MAY 21 EDITION

There are three races 2/3 finished which may turn out to be historic races. I am not talking about the run for the Presidency of this country. I am talking about the running of the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing (although sometimes shortened to Triple Crown, the full name is used to avoid possible confusion with other sports) consists of three races for three-year-old thoroughbred horses. Winning all three of these thoroughbred horse races is considered the greatest accomplishment of a thoroughbred racehorse. In recent years, the Triple Crown has become a very rare achievement, with most horses specializing on a limited range of distances.
In the United States, the Triple Crown consists of the:
Kentucky Derby, run over 1.25 miles (2.01 km) at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky;
Preakness Stakes, run over 1.1875 miles (1.91 km) at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland;
Belmont Stakes, run over 1.50 miles (2.41 km) at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York.
The Triple Crown starts with The Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday of May. The Preakness follows two weeks later. The Belmont Stakes is three weeks after The Preakness in early June. In the U.S., the term "Triple Crown" is the usual reference for these three horse races unless another sport is specified.
In 1930, Gallant Fox won all three important races, and sportswriter Charles Hatton brought the phrase "Triple Crown" into the American lexicon. In the more-than-125-year history of the U.S. events, only 11 horses have ever won the U.S. Triple Crown; none since 1978.
To a person like me born on the edge of horse country near Lexington, KY these races are important. I grew up either wanting to play basketball for the University of Kentucky or riding a thoroughbred in the Kentucky Derby. I was too big to be a jockey and too short to be a basketball player for Adolf Rupp the then famous coach at UK.
My life took another road. We went to Zimbabwe as missionaries and then in 1967 I entered the US Army. I was trained as a medic and mostly worked in an orthopedic ward in El Paso, Texas. After that I held over 50 different jobs before forming N.O.M.I. Inc. (know me) in 1989.
Am I am thoroughbred or simply a workhorse? Maybe I am not even a very good workhorse. The point to all this is that the road to recovery takes a long term view not a short term one. You will face defeats, but they must be viewed as fire fights or small battles. Not the war.
The Gospels have a long term view as they talk about life after death, but they also have a short term view as they tell about Jesus healing the sick and feeding the hungry. In 1988 before N.O.M.I. Inc. was formed in 1989 I formed Christian Friends of the Mentally Ill which is still a division of N.O.M.I. Inc. I still believe that churches have a vital role to play in the recovery process by providing some of the natural supports so necessary for us to make the journey down the recovery road.
However, just because I am a Christian does not mean that I see no value in other spiritual paths. After last week’s DAJ Online a friend of mine sent me a very uplifting email. She follows a different path, but her email was powerful medicine to my soul.
We need our souls nurtured as much as we need anything bio-psycho-social. Until the powers that be recognize that fact each of us are left to put our own support system together.
By RICK EANES
Published: May 18, 2008
T.S. Eliot told us in “The Waste Land” that April is the cruelest month, and he may have been right. But for the mentally ill, the cruelest month of the year is May — National Mental Health month.
I realize that I should strike into a paean about how the mentally ill are not treated fairly by society, or that in the United States, there are more than 20 million mentally ill people, or in Virginia, 20 percent of all households are affected by mental illness.
But we are more than the shabbily dressed, smelly man that mumbles to himself as he waits in line. For any parent, the aforementioned scenario is frightening. Nevertheless, there are more than 100,000 of us in Virginia. We cannot all be in grocery store lines. We cannot all be in jail. We cannot all be on a prayer list.
So maybe, just maybe, it is time to look and see us for what we are.
We are better than you are. None save the mentally ill will understand that statement, but I will explain. A great myth in mental health is that we long to be as you are. There could not be greater folly. Every day we must be more than you are. To rise from the bed is no great task for most. Nonetheless, the mentally ill know that there are days, months and possibly even years where the clarion call to rise and shine goes unanswered. We freely take medications that have side effects ranging from a dry mouth to sexual side effects to tremors that are not reversible. We may fly into rages and frighten people.
Still, how different are we from others?
You may know that many of the mentally ill have a drug problem, superimposed over mental illness. I know firsthand, for you learn early in an abusive life that alcohol provides a release. Even though you are sometimes gut-wrenchingly sick, you know it is a palliative of great value, for it aids you as you strive to cope.
Many of the mentally ill were, such as myself, made through verbal and physical abuse. Still others have impairments of thought through accident, through drug use, through fetal alcohol syndrome and, yes, some are just born mentally ill.
Consider yourself, consider your children, consider your relatives and make them one of us. They need services but they have no money or little money. The experts have told them what they need, but they can’t afford the help.
I say that May is the cruelest month for the mentally ill, for much will be said and written. This information is designed to satisfy those that are not mentally ill. More than likely, statistics will be brought forth and they will read we had this much last year and now we have only that much.
The governor recently signed mental health legislation. This means that it will be easy for someone to be committed, but the person cannot as easily discharge himself from a hospital as before.
A great truth concerning this legislation is that none has, to date, addressed what happens if a person with a weapon is willing to sacrifice his or her life. If that’s the case, then there is nothing able to protect a single soul.
Certainly, the Virginia Tech massacre caused people to cry out and demand that something be done. We do not have a voice, but something has been done, and we have been ignored. Our cries are silent, for they are inward.
Imagine, for a moment, that you are in a large hole. The hole is really a chasm so large, in fact, that you have no hope of ever climbing out. As all would do, you cry out for help. When that does not work, you scream at the top of your lungs. None has heard either cry. You now are desperate; you have no energy, no will to even give the occasional shout. Inwardly you scream and inwardly you imagine rescue. It is inwardly you will live out the last moments of being alive.
This is the mentally ill — needing help but having been turned down too many times. All our anger and demands for action take place inside. We have come to appreciate that we are the next highway expansion or the next raise given by the state to its employees.
The month of May more than half gone and the state’s only offer of help is a program that governs commitment procedures and the voluntary discharge of a patient from a psychiatric institute — and purports to increase campus safety.
May is the cruelest month, for many times the mentally ill have been told to buy bread and wait and someone would come and help them. Time passes, the birds eat the bread and, like any dressed-up, stood-up person, they waited. For some time, they believed a new day had come. It has not — and 20 percent of Virginia suffers.
Our goal is that you see us and hear us when you pass by the chasm. We, too, wish to become, in a world of equality, one of the more equal. In the Bible, Job cries out into the blackened void, where now is my hope? It is the same question hundreds of thousands of us will ask during the merry month of May — our cruelest 31 days of the year.
Eanes lives in Danville
[Published on GoDanRiver.com which is brought to you by the Danville Register Bee, the Eden Daily News, the Madison Messenger, and the Reidsville Review]

You can reach me directly at edcooper@projectdreamagain.com

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Friday, May 16, 2008

DAJ ONLINE/ MAY 14, 2008 EDTION

[I received this e-mail after the last Journal went out.]
Ed:
Just a few thoughts on your most recent blog that I just received in my email.
I had a great friend who was a vet that committed suicide in the VA hospital in Asheville. She was diagnosed with schizophrenia and was coming out of a psychotic depression. Unfortunately a staff member gave her belt back to her and she went to the bathroom and hung herself.
Talk about guilt! I knew that she would eventually succeed....and I knew (looking back) that she was slowly but surely telling everyone goodbye in her own way. She and I lived together....she gave me my one and only dog---Rascal. She said that he was to give me company and comfort while she was hospitalized.
She was a wonderful person.....when she was on her medication. As you and I both know (I know about this one) if one doesn't take their psych medicines....then they suffer needlessly incredible symptoms of their disease.
I really do miss her! About 3 weeks ago, I found myself at her gravesite---don't normally visit but the anniversary of her death was coming up....and then 2 weeks later I attempted suicide by overdosing on my Klonopin. However, there were other factors that were there also!
Do I regret what I did? Every moment, every day of the life that I have been given to live I will regret it. Did I learn something from it, definitely....and still learning from it! Will I do it again....well, not right now. I can't promise anyone that it will never happen again cause one never knows what kind of extreme stress one can be under (and I was there!).
Thanks for writing your blog and being kind enough to send it to me. Congratulations on your being invited to speak at a convention.
Susan (This is not her real name, but the one chosen by her when I asked permission to publish her letter here.)
Some of you who read this Journal know me, but most of you don’t. I use my own experiences to try and explain what life is like living with a mental illness or living with the results of having been sexually abused as a child. I don’t know any other way to open a window into our world. I can’t really tell you what it is like for someone else. I can only share with you what it is like for me and for those who I have known.
Usually spring brings not only new life to the earth around me, but also new life to my spirit. However, this year has been very different. I am guessing it is because my physical health is not up to par and I am not as active outdoors as usual. I have never really had to deal with my body letting me down. My brain has never worked as it should consistently and I have come to terms with that. I have even learned how to live with a dissociative disorder caused by early childhood sexual abuse. This broken body thing is different from a broken brain.
When I don’t feel like getting out of bed is it my depression from my bipolar disorder or my broken body? What doctor can I go to who can tell me? Are there specialists who can do a diagnosis and tell me whether my symptoms are coming from my bio or my psycho or my social or my spiritual?
I think I may be in trouble this year. This year may be a struggle. North Carolina did not even stock their normal number of trout for those of us who like to trout fish because of the drought. At least I have my family, friends and church family.

You can reach me directly at edcooper@projectdreamagain.com

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Thursday, May 08, 2008

DAJ ONLINE/ MAY 7 Edition

I have been afforded the honor of being invited to speak at the FaithNet Special Interest Workshop on Saturday, June 14th at 9:45 am at the National Alliance on Mental Illness’s Annual Convention in Orlando, FL. I am looking forward to seeing old friends and making new ones.
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12,000 veterans a year attempt suicide while under the care of the Veterans Affairs Department. This piece of information was revealed in an e-mail written by Dr. Ira Katz, the VA’s Mental Health Director. He started his memo with, “Shh!”. Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calf accused the agency of criminal negligence in the handling of the data. Is the word criminal related to crime? Does that mean someone did something wrong? Will someone be prosecuted?
Since I am one of those veterans getting mental health services from the VA and have been since 1969, I have lost vets I knew who just didn’t attempt, but who completed the act while under the care of the VA. They have committed suicide while locked on the same psychiatric unit I was.
What are the numbers for our state hospitals across this country? Our private psych hospitals? Our community mental health centers? Our drug treatment programs?
How many folks actually complete the act while under the care of some system or mental health professional? I have not seen that number. Have you?
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The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has awarded $14.8 million to five sites around the country to replicate the PIER program's approach as part of the Early Detection and Intervention for the Prevention of Psychosis Program (EDIPPP). PIER also serves as the foundation's National Program Office for EDIPPP.
McFarlane [psychiatrist leading the Pier program] told Psychiatric News that preliminary data indicate that the rate of acute schizophrenia per population has dropped within the PIER catchments area compared with the rest of Maine. Though those data remain to be confirmed, staff at PIER who are familiar with the long-term nature of schizophrenia express a genuine awe at the results they see at the clinic.
"I have worked in mental health at the other end of the spectrum with adults who have had schizophrenia and bipolar disorder for years," said Nelma Mason, R.N., a nurse at the clinic. "And I have worked with so many people who are one hospitalization away from never leaving the hospital again. How could you not be excited about being part of a program that might prevent that?"
Thomas Insel, M.D., director of the National Institute on Mental Health, who has visited the PIER clinic, said it represents a new direction in the treatment of schizophrenia.
"We have largely defined schizophrenia as psychotic illness, meaning when someone has a psychotic break," he told Psychiatric News in an interview. "That's a bit like defining coronary artery disease by having a heart attack. It's a late stage in the disease.
"What we have been thinking about is how to get people much earlier in the disease," Insel said. "If you think about schizophrenia in stages, stage 1 is early development and genetic risk; stage 2 is when people begin to develop very early, subtle symptoms such as social withdrawal and cognitive problems.”
"Stage 3 is a psychotic break, and stage 4 is when a person becomes chronically ill and disabled. Most of what we do in 2008 is focused on stage 4. And it is no wonder we have not much to show for it.
"At PIER they are really going after stage 2 and identifying people who may be at genetic risk and exhibiting very early behavioral symptoms," Insel told Psychiatric News. "So they are going down this very interesting path to see if we can have a bigger impact on the disease by identifying and treating people much earlier."
[from Psychiatric News]
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The UK annexed Southern Rhodesia from the [British] South Africa Company in 1923. A 1961 constitution was formulated that favored whites in power. In 1965 the government unilaterally declared its independence, but the UK did not recognize the act and demanded more complete voting rights for the black African majority in the country (then called Rhodesia). UN sanctions and a guerrilla uprising finally led to free elections in 1979 and independence (as Zimbabwe) in 1980. Robert MUGABE, the nation's first prime minister, has been the country's only ruler (as president since 1987) and has dominated the country's political system since independence.
My family went there in the late summer of 1960 as missionaries.
Zimbabwe is now in the middle of an election mess bigger than we had here in this country in 2000.
The hope for the future rests with the people of Zimbabwe. That may sound like an obvious statement to you, but if you look at how we have treated Africa it really isn’t. Missionaries did not just take them the Gospel. They wanted the African people to adopt the American culture as well.
I would like to point out one of the rays of hope which was highlighted at the General Conference 2008 of The Untied Methodist Church.
“Delegates were told that while Zimbabwe has an inflation rate of 200,000 percent – the highest in the world – the university, with a few challenges, continues to operate and fulfill its mission of educating its 1,400 students from 24 African countries.”
"The political situation has not affected the university. Your investment is secure," Tagwira said. "Both government and opposition politicians have great admiration for what Africa University has achieved. We remain open and following our normal calendar. We thank God for his divine favor," he said.
Earlier in the conference, delegates voted to increase theological education on the continent and to make the country of Malawi a missionary conference. Congolese Bishop Nkulu Ntanda Ntambo, chancellor of Africa University and chairman of its board of directors, thanked the General Conference for its support of funding education on the continent but cautioned that the effort "should not be at the expense of Africa University."
Ntambo assured the conference that "Africa University does not take away anything from The United Methodist Church or Africa. It only adds to the growth and strength of the entire church." [from umc.org]
My father was an educator/minister/missionary. Give the people the tools to help themselves. The same message I have been writing about here for months about us. Don’t just label us help us learn something useful that we have chosen.
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My wife and I recently made a trip to Eastern Kentucky. The mountains of Eastern Kentucky don’t look like the mountains of Western North Carolina or the foothills of WNC where we live. Eastern Kentucky is coal country and Kentucky is the third leading coal producing state in the country. It also has the highest rate of prescription narcotic abuse in the United States. It averages one drug-related death per day. Is there a relationship? Not directly to coal, but to the conditions the coal economy has produced. Our response to the problems of Appalachia, Africa, those in poverty, the disabled and those of us with a mental illness seems too much alike. We offer our solutions rather than asking how we can help. If only we believed more in the people we were trying to reach out to and less in our own wisdom, then we might find the real truth that God implanted more wisdom in the least of us than the greatest of us could ever figure out how to use.
You can reach me directly at edcooper@projectdreamagain.com
{Being on this resource list does not imply their endorsement of this BLOG.}
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www.ffcmh.org