Depression

Depression: Let’s talk

depression-lets-talk

This month, WHO launched a one-year campaign Depression: let’s talk. The goal of the campaign is that more people with depression, in all countries, seek and get help.

Depression is an illness that can happen to anybody. It causes mental anguish and affects people’s ability to carry out everyday tasks, with sometimes devastating consequences for relationships with family and friends. At worst, depression can lead to suicide. Fortunately depression can be prevented and treated. A better understanding of what depression is, and how it can be prevented and treated, will help reduce the stigma associated with the condition, and lead to more people seeking help.

Depression is a common mental disorder that affects people of all ages, from all walks of life, in all countries.

Overcoming the stigma often associated with depression will lead to more people getting help.

Talking with people you trust can be a first step towards recovery from depression.

Perhaps you are suffering from depression or know someone who is.  Here are ways you can get involved:

Posters – WHO has developed a set of posters and handouts to get the campaign started.  The posters can be downloaded here

Handouts – WHO has handouts which provide information on depression to increase our understanding of the condition and how it can be prevented and treated.  The handouts can be downloaded here

Organize an activity – According to WHO, organizing an activity or event is a great way to raise awareness about depression and stimulate action, both among individuals, and on a wider scale. The organization recommends that if you decide to organize an event, to keep the following in mind:

  • What are you trying to achieve?
  • Who are you targeting?
  • What would make your target audiences want to participate?
  • When and where will your activity be held?
  • Should you join up with other organizations?
  • Who will you invite? Are there any well-known figures who could help you achieve your goals?
  • Do you have the resources to achieve your goals? If not, how can you mobilize them?
  • How will you promote your event?
  • Can the media help you achieve your goals? If so, which media should you target?
  • How will you share information about your activities after the event?
  • How will you measure success?

WHO offers other examples of activities that you may want to consider such as: discussion forums, sporting events, workshops for journalists, art competitions, coffee mornings, concerts, sponsored activities ̶ anything that contributes to a better understanding of depression and how it can be prevented and treated.

Share information and materials on social media – Throughout the campaign WHO will be communicating via our social media channels Facebook https://www.facebook.com/WHO/, Twitter https://twitter.com/who @WHO, YouTube https://www.youtube.com/c/who and Instagram @worldhealthorganization

The primary hashtag that /WHO is using for the campaign is #LetsTalk but look out for posts using #depression and #mentalhealth as well.

You are encouraged to share WHO’s posts with your own networks, share your own materials and join discussions on issues related to the campaign.

Information about depression

If you are organizing an activity, or developing your own campaign materials, here are some facts and figures that you might want to use:

  • Common mental disorders are increasing worldwide. Between 1990 and 2013, the number of people suffering from depression and/or anxiety increased by nearly 50%. Close to 10% of the world’s population is affected by one or both of these conditions. Depression alone accounts for 10% of years lived with disability globally.
  • In humanitarian emergencies and ongoing conflict, as many as 1 in 5 people are affected by depression and anxiety.
  • Depression increases the risk of other noncommunicable diseases, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. In addition, diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease increase the risk of depression.
  • Depression in women following childbirth can affect the development of new-borns.
  • In many countries of the world, there is no, or very little, support available for people with mental health disorders. Even in high-income countries, nearly 50% of people with depression do not get treatment.
  • Lack of treatment for common mental disorders has a high economic cost: new evidence from a study led by WHO shows that depression and anxiety disorders alone cost more than a trillion dollars’ worth of economic loss every year.
  • The most common mental health disorders can be prevented and treated, at relatively low cost (WHO).

It’s hard to imagine that there are people out there who are suffering with depression but are hiding it.  They are putting up a brave front while they are hurting inside.  No one can see the sadness behind their smiles.  We must provide the atmosphere where people suffering from depression will feel safe and comfortable talking about their struggles.  Depression should be talked about and often.  Talking and just letting it all out can be therapeutic and can lead to early recovery.

Mental Health Crisis in India

More than 50 million people in India suffer from a mental illness.  In 2011, India recorded the highest rate of major depression in the world at 36 per cent.  According to doctors, roughly 10 per cent of India’s population suffers from depression – MGMH

 

Women with mental illness are treated as less than human.  They are dumped, abandoned and abused.  If there are any signs of mental illness, a woman is put in a mental hospital with no chance of getting out.  Men can go back home while women are there for life.  In the following video, we meet a woman whose husband had her institutionalized although she had no history of mental illness.  Here’s a story of a mentally ill woman whose husband built a case against her so that he could get custody of their children after divorcing her.

It is not surprising that women suffer from depression at higher rates than men.  They have to deal with gender inequality, violence, lack of paid employment, lack of education, excessive spousal alcohol use and poverty.  Mothers are blamed for the birth of a female child and many face pressure to have male children.  Women are diagnosed with schizophrenia later in life, oftentimes, following the birth of their children.  The children are often removed from the ill mother’s care and this results in further distress for her. Indian women have higher rates of suicide than women in most developed countries and a higher rate of suicide compared to men in India.  Depression is one of the most common reasons for suicide among Indian women.

Mental health in India carries with it a stigma, especially if the person suffering from mental illness is a woman.  According to MGMH (Movement for Global Mental Health), in rural India, it is common to see people taking their children to temples and faith-healers instead of hospitals and doctors, especially in cases of mental health.  Mental health was something that was talked about in hushed tones.  Thankfully, it is no longer being swept under the rug.  People are coming forward.  Deepika Padukone stunned her fans last year when she admitted that she suffered from anxiety and depression.

At the time the news broke, she was one of the most sought after actresses in Bollywood. It took tremendous courage for her to disclose her illness, especially since people diagnosed with mental illness face discrimination.  Deepika has since launched the Live Love Laugh Foundation to raise awareness about mental health issues and as a result many celebrities were inspired to come out in the open and address the need to talk about mental health.  Varun Dhawan admitted that he was depressed during the making of Badlapur and Honey Singh revealed that he has been undergoing therapy for bipolar disorder.

Sadly, those living with mental illness are victims of a cruel fate.  They are often locked away and stripped of their basic human rights in state-run institutions that are under-staffed. In an article, titled Mentally Ill Suffer a Horrible Fate in India posted on the site for Deutsche Welle (DW), most state run mental hospitals are in deplorable conditions. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) reported that out of the 43 government mental hospitals in India, less than half a dozen are in a “livable” condition”.

There are doctors in charge of these hospitals who have no business being there.  “These doctors don’t understand the intricacies of a psychiatric illnesses and the comprehensive care the patients require,” said a psychiatrist working in a state-run mental hospital in Uttar Pradesh.

And in the midst of the crisis of hospitals not providing the conditions and care the patients need, are quack healers who are profiting from this.  According to a study by Dr. Shiv Gautam, former superintendent of Jaipur Mental Hospital, 68 per cent of the mentally ill are taken to faith healers before a psychiatrist.  “The reason, besides superstition, is that most general medicine doctors fail to diagnose psychiatric illness,” Gautam said. “A mentally ill patient displays symptoms which superstitious people believe are paranormal,” he added. “Such patients are tortured, chained and used for extracting money from their families.”  Hema, who was suffering from Schizophrenia was believed to have an evil spirit.  Her family took her to Datar Sharif Dargah where she spent a year locked up.  It wasn’t until her condition deteriorated that she was brought to Dr. Gautam.  In 15 days, she began to improve and a month later she was normal.

In other cases, the mentally ill are subjected to one of these horrific ordeals:  whipping, caning, inhaling burnt chili smoke, having their eyes smeared with chili paste or having their eyes branded with red, hot coins.  There are laws banning this practice, however, many dargahs and temples keep the patients chained.  Some of them spend the rest of their lives like this.  In 2001, 26 patients perished in a fire at a dargah in a coastal village because they couldn’t escape the blaze since they were chained.  What a horrific and senseless tragedy.

Families of mentally ill people opt for dumping them.  This means that they are dumped into an asylum where the conditions are not fit for a human.  When an illegal asylum was raided, they found thirty-five men and six boys living in inhuman conditions.  The stench from their unwashed bodies and the excrement drove neighbors to alert the health department.  Naked and chained inmates were discovered, dumped there by their families after they paid the asylum owner.  Some of these poor souls were found crawling in their excrement, some even consuming it.  On their bodies were marks of torture.  Some had surgical scars on their backs, leading to allegations that the asylum had links to kidney theft.  78 patients had entered the asylum but only 41 were found during the raid.

Other patients are dumped in jungles or forests ranges.  Their families pay lorry drivers to drop them.  Women and children are among these victims and in some cases, the females are raped by the drivers before being dumped.  Social activist Murugan S. who has rescued countless mentally ill people from the streets, cautions us not to judge the families by calling them cruel.  Instead we are to examine what forced them to take such extreme measures.  He believes that system needs to change.

Part of the solution is raising awareness.  The suffering of the mentally ill has been brought to our attention. It is out in the open.  The next thing that needs to be done is to show the superstitious and fearful society that mental illness is nothing to run away from or to be ashamed of.  The person suffering from mental illness needs love, support and most importantly, proper care so that he or she can live a normal life.

The government needs to put something place to ensure that patients are placed in reputable, sanitary facilities that will provide the care that they need and to ban the operation of illegal asylums and the practice of dumping.  Quack healers should be banned from profiting from other people’s suffering.  Husbands should not be allowed to institutionalize their wives if there is no record that they have mental illness.

No one wants to be mentally ill but it is a reality for many people and what they need is to know that they have a platform where they can talk about what is happening with them. Here in Canada, we have Bell Let’s Talk, a wide-reaching, multi-year program designed to break the silence around mental illness and support mental health all across the country. It has done so much to fight the stigma of mental illness and encourage people to get involved in educating themselves and others.

It is my sincere hope and prayer that something will be put in place in India so that attitudes toward mental illness would change and those suffering from it will have a platform where they would not be judged, dumped, abandoned or discriminated but supported and be treated with dignity and open minds.  In the meantime, let’s keep talking and raising awareness.

Talking is the best way to start breaking down the barriers associated with mental illness – Bell, Let’s Talk

 

Sources:  Vice News; Movement of Global Mental Health; Wikipedia; Deutsche Welle

A Mother’s Hidden Legacy

Naomi was a Christian.  She grew up praying to Jesus as a Friend and reading the Bible so that she could get to know Him better.  So great was her love for God that it was natural to believe that when she had children, she would pass on her faith to them.  However, things didn’t turn out quite as she expected.

Naomi’s parents arranged her marriage and although the wedding was held in the church and followed all the Christian traditions, her husband was of a different religion.  Can you imagine being in Naomi’s shoes?  You were raised to love the Lord.  You look forward to going to church and worshipping Him in His sanctuary with others who share your faith.  Then, one day, you are forced to stop going to church because your husband won’t allow you.  And to make matters worse…your husband is an alcoholic.

Shortly after the wedding, Tarak’s alcoholism reared its ugly head.  He had a steady job as a truck cleaner but spent the money he earned on drinks or cigarettes.  As a result it was a struggle just to have the bare necessities.   The struggle only increased when they had Oppilmani and Sadhya, born two years apart.  Now Naomi had two growing children to feed not to mention providing them with clothing and education.   Overwhelmed, she was compelled to reflect on her life before she got married.  With a penitent heart she began to pray.

She didn’t tell Tarak that she repented of her neglect of God or that she was praying for the family’s restoration.  She didn’t tell him that she was praying for him–that he would stop drinking.  Can you imagine how hard it must have been for Naomi to keep these things to herself?  How she must have longed to tell her family about Jesus and how only He could help them.  Then, hope came in the form of Gospel for Asia Pastor Zaafir when  he came to their village.  God heard her prayers and He sent help.

Naomi began to speak to Pastor Zaafir frequently and began attending church again.   As she grew in the Lord, Pastor Zaafir helped her to enroll Oppilmani and Sadhya in the local Bridge of Hope center.  This proved to be a blessing for the children.  They excelled in their studies and learned about Jesus.  How it must have brought joy to their mother who had dreamed of telling them about the Friend she had since she was a child.

The joy was short-lived, however.  Tarak’s animosity returned and he began to verbally abuse his wife when she attended church and insisted that the family follow his religion.  In the wake of this new wave of opposition Naomi attended church less but refused to stop going altogether.  All the while she continued praying for her family even as they were about to face a crisis…

…pray without ceasing – 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Tarak’s years of drinking and smoking finally began to take a toll on his health.  What began as asthma quickly turned into something very serious and unmanageable.  How terrifying it must have been for his family when he began vomiting blood.  He couldn’t eat anything.  However, the waves of nausea and the vomiting didn’t stop Tarak from continuing to drink alcohol.   Within a few days, he was taken to the hospital where doctors determined that he had a serious lung infection.  If he didn’t have an operation he would die.  What was the family to do?  For years Tarak had spent his income on alcohol.  There wasn’t enough money for the operation.

Naomi and the children, went home, bracing themselves for a future without her husband.  The children continued to attend the Bridge of Hope center but it didn’t take long for the staff to notice that something was wrong.  When they inquired, Oppilmani told them about his father’s condition and that the family couldn’t pay for the surgery.  The staff offered words of encouragement and hope.  They assured the boy that Jesus could solve his problems and then they decided to visit the family.

The coordinator of the centre went with two social workers and GFA’s pastor Bahurai to the family’s home where they saw an alarmingly thin Tarak who looked much older than his age of 35 years.  The group shared God’s Word and encouraged the family to ask for His mercy.  The Lord spoke to Tarak’s heart and the father confessed his wrongdoings to God.  From that moment on, there was a transformation.  Naomi no longer faced opposition from her husband and she was free to regularly attend prayer meetings.  She, the pastor and other believers prayed for Tarak’s healing.  He began to recover slowly and he opened his heart to the God who was healing him.

Tarak no longer insisted that his family worship his god or protest his wife’s church going.  Instead he brought the children to church.  It took a life-threatening illness for Tarak to know the true God.

God had answered the prayers of a mother who had known Him all of her life.  She had turned back to Him after she was forced to neglect Him–knowing that He was her only Source of comfort, hope and deliverance.  God heard the prayers of a wife who wanted her husband to stop drinking.  He heard the prayers of a mother who wanted her children to worship the true God and go to school.  He heard the prayers of a woman who wanted to free her family from their struggles.

The insistent prayer of a righteous person is powerfully effective – James 5:16

What a wonderful end to this story.  A man once opposed to wife’s God had embraced Him.  Oppilmani and Sadhya who once worshipped a traditional god was now worshipping the Creator.  They will continue their family’s legacy by raising the next generation to serve the God who had brought them hope amidst adversity.  As for Naomi, she watched the Lord do amazing things for her family.  “Jesus turned our trouble into happiness,” she said, “and we are ever thankful to Jesus.”

You can help to do amazing things for other families like Naomi’s by sponsoring Bridge of Hope children.  Your sponsorship will open the door for children to share Christ’s love with their families.  If you are interested in learning more about Bridge of Hope visit this link.

I will be glad and rejoice in Your mercy, For You have considered my trouble; You have known my soul in adversities – Psalm 31:7

 

 

Source:  Gospel for Asia

A Story from Cameroon

This story touched my heart. I was moved by this little’s girl’s faith, courage and big heart.

Patricia’s Prayer

inside_story_patricia_nyinang02Patricia lives in central Cameroon. She’s a lot like other girls. She likes to jump rope and talk with her friends. But in some ways Patricia is different from other children. She has HIV and often feels sick. Two years ago Patricia’s mother died of AIDS, and Patricia and her sister went to live with their grandmother. Her father couldn’t pay the girls’ tuition at the Adventist school they had been attending, so he sent them to the public school near their home.

But the children in the public school shunned Patricia because of her illness. The girl begged her father to let her return to the Adventist school. “The teachers and children in the Adventist school don’t tease me,” she said. “They pray for me. They help me if I don’t feel well or need help. Please, please, let me go to the Adventist school.”

Finally Patricia’s father allowed her to return to the Adventist school. “I love my school,” she says. “When I’m feeling well, I’m just one of the children in my class. And when I’m not well, the teachers and the children help me.”

Patricia’s father can’t always pay her tuition. So Patricia prays that God will make a way for her to remain in school.

Patricia enjoys attending Sabbath School, too. She likes the Bible stories the most. “My favorite story is about Moses,” she says. “When he was born he was hidden in a basket and found by the pharaoh’s daughter. God saved him from death because his mother prayed for him.

“God loved Moses very much,” Patricia says with a smile. “He gave Moses a special work to do. I know that God loves me and He has something special for me to do, too. God can use me to help people come to Jesus. I don’t know how He will do that, but I know He will.”

Patricia wants others to know that even if they have problems in life-whether they are poor or sick or have no money-God is with them and will help them. “Trust God and worship Him,” she says. “Whatever you do, do it for Jesus. That way others will know that Jesus lives in your heart.”

Patricia knows that God didn’t make her sick, but He can use her sickness to help other people learn about His love. She learned that at the little Adventist school in a village in Cameroon.

Our mission offerings help build schools such as the one Patricia attends. Thank you for being a part of something larger than any of us, God’s work around the world.

Produced by the General Conference Office of Adventist Mission. email: info@adventistmission.org website: www.adventistmission.org

Notes to Women salutes this brave little girl who is willing to let God use her illness to help others learn about His unfailing love.  We pray that others who are living with HIV will be inspired by Patricia’s story.

Women and Bipolar Disorder

The first time I was aware of bipolar disorder was years ago in New York.  It was there that I learned that my sister was manic depressive.  She had suffered from a nervous breakdown.  I never knew that she was manic depressive.   It was not evident to me.  She seemed fine to me.

While living in New York, she only had one episode where she had to stay in the hospital overnight but after that she was fine.  She had a good doctor who was diligent in her care.  I have other relatives who suffer from bipolar disorder.  And a co-worker of mine is no longer working because she had a relapse.  The last time I saw her I couldn’t believe it was the same person.  She called me on the phone and she was saying things that didn’t make sense and using language I never expected to hear coming out of her mouth.  I realize that when a person has bipolar disorder, he or she is different.  The illness changes the person.  Things from the past are dredged up, there are resentments and the belief that there is a conspiracy against him or her.

It’s hard to see someone you love suffering from a mental illness.  It’s harder when the person comes off of the medication and winds up back in hospital.  Each time he or she comes off the medication, it becomes harder to get back on track.  And the scary thing is they get into debt or in some cases trouble.  It’s hard for family members to know just how to cope, especially if during these episodes harsh and hurtful things are said.  It’s so disappointing when the person is doing well for a long time and then there is a relapse.  Each time he or she gets better, you are wary, wondering how long it would last.  Each time he or she promises not to come of the medication and vows to stay out of the hospital but something happens and there is an episode.

Even though I am aware of bipolar disorder, I still don’t know much about it.  I thought that I would search the web and gather all the information I could find just to get a better understanding of the illness.

What is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain and behavior disorder characterized by severe shifts in a person’s mood and energy, making it difficult for the person to function. More than 5.7 million American adults or 2.6 percent of the population age 18 or older in any given year have bipolar disorder. The condition typically starts in late adolescence or early adulthood, although it can show up in children and in older adults. People often live with the disorder without having it properly diagnosed and treated.

What are the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder causes repeated mood swings, or episodes, that can make someone feel very high (mania) or very low (depressive). The cyclic episodes are punctuated by normal moods.

Mania Episode Signs and Symptoms:

  • Increased energy, activity, restlessness
  • Euphoric mood
  • Extreme irritability
  • Poor concentration
  • Racing thoughts, fast talking, jumping between ideas
  • Sleeplessness
  • Heightened sense of self-importance
  • Spending sprees
  • Increased sexual behavior
  • Abuse of drugs, such as cocaine, alcohol and sleeping medications
  • Provocative, intrusive or aggressive behavior
  • Denial that anything is wrong

Depressive Episode Signs:

  • Sad, anxious or empty-feeling mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness and pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness and helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed, including sex
  • Decreased energy, fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions
  • Restlessness and irritability
  • Sleeplessness or sleeping too much
  • Change in appetite, unintended weight loss or gain
  • Bodily symptoms not caused by physical illness or injury
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Apparently there are several types of bipolar disorder but the two main ones are bipolar I and II.  Bipolar type I disorder is the “classic” form, and patients often experience at least one full or mixed episodes with major depressive episodes. Bipolar type II disorder is where patients have at least one milder form of mania and one major depressive episode.  However, they never get a full manic or mixed episode.  Bipolar II is harder to diagnose because some symptoms of hypomania may not be as apparent. Hypomania is described as a milder form of mania with less severe symptoms.  I believe that my sister displays more symptoms of mania.

All the people I know who have bipolar disorder are women.  Although it is prevalent among men as well, it seems that it is approximately three times more common in women than in men.  For women it is rapid cycling.  Rapid cycling describes incidences where a bipolar patient experiences four or more episodes of mania, hypomania, or depression within a time period of a year (Leibenluft, 1997).

The article explains why rapid cycling bipolar disorder more common in women than in men. Three potential hypotheses to explain the higher prevalence of rapid cycling in women are hypothyroidism incidence, specific gonadal steroid effects, and the use of anti-depressant medications. First, more women encounter hypothyroidism than men do; however, there is not a general consensus on it being a primary cause of increased rapid cycling. Second, gonadal steroids, such as estrogen and progesterone, fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle. Sixty-six percent of bipolar type I women had regular mood changes during either their menstrual or premenstrual phase of their cycle. They were more irritable and had increased anger outbursts (Blehar et al., 1998). These may set up women to frequent mood changes (especially prior to the menstrual cycle, as noted in the term “premenstrual syndrome”). Increased estrogen may cause women to develop hypercortisolism, which may increase the risk of depression. Stress levels are associated with cortisol level, so this may possibly be the reason for increased risk for depression.

There are risks involved in pregnant women who suffer from bipolar disorder.  Manic episodes and cycling seemed to occur exclusively during pregnancy.  For reasons still unclear, apparent pregnancy poses a question of relapse, which has an important effect on women and the fetus that they are carrying. The fetus can be at risk due to lack of attention to prenatal care, if the woman is not treated for the psychiatric illness. Precipitated episodes in the absence of treatment may be very detrimental to both parties involved. Secondly, the woman would be at risk because with each successive episode, the length of time to following episodes gets smaller. That is, the woman could have manic and depressive episodes more often. This would neither be beneficial to the woman or her child. The effect on the fetus due to many mood episodes is unclear (Viguera et al., 1998). “During pregnancy, a woman’s glomerular filtration rate increases” (Llewellyn et al., 1998). This means that any medication that she takes, such as lithium (discussed below), will be excreted more rapidly. This is very dangerous because if she does not have enough medication in her system, she can fall into relapse.

A dilemma arises in that if she increases her medication amount, she may be exposing her fetus to grave side effects and even danger (discussed below). Moreover, during labor, it is important that women remain fully hydrated. Since the period of time for delivery varies with each individual, a pregnant woman can become very dehydrated. When a woman gets dehydrated, the serum medication concentrations will increase (Llewellyn et al., 1998). This is the opposite effect of the increase in glomerulus filtration. Nonetheless, both situations are dangerous and can be very toxic to the woman and indirectly to the fetus.  As varying as the symptoms of bipolar disorder, per individual, so are the treatments. It is very important that bipolar pregnant women get the appropriate care and treatment that they need, in order to properly care for themselves as well as for the child that they are carrying.

It is disturbing to know that women with bipolar disorder are more susceptible to misdiagnosis.   recent study estimated that the odds that a woman with bipolar disorder will fail to be correctly diagnosed are roughly three times the odds for a man. This disparity may be explained in part by the fact that bipolar disorder tends to look different in women than it does in men—in the same way that physicians sometimes fail to catch heart disease in women because they are effectively looking for the male version of the disease, mental health professionals may not always be aware of the distinctive signs of bipolar disorder in women.  According to Vivien Burt, MD, PhD, director of the Women’s Life Center at UCLA’s Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital, “Women are more demonstrative—they have more of what’s known as ‘affective loading’—so it’s not surprising that bipolar disorder might be underdiagnosed in women compared to men.”

Another article stated that a woman is likely to have more symptoms of depression than mania.  And female hormones and reproductive factors may influence the condition and its treatment.  Research suggests that in women, hormones may play a role in the development and severity of bipolar disorder. One study suggests that late-onset bipolar disorder may be associated with menopause. Among women who have the disorder, almost one in five reported severe emotional disturbances during the transition into menopause.  Studies have looked at the association between bipolar disorder and premenstrual symptoms. These studies suggest that women with mood disorders, including bipolar disorder, experience more severe symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

My sister had the disorder since she was in her thirties.  She is unmarried and doesn’t have any children.  If she had children would they be at risk?  Bipolar disorder is more likely to affect the children of parents who have the disorder. When one parent has bipolar disorder, the risk to each child is estimated to be 15-30%.  Bipolar symptoms may appear in a variety of behaviors. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, up to one-third of the 3.4 million children with depression in the United States may actually be experiencing the early onset of bipolar disorder.

If you notice mood swings in yourself or someone else, don’t write them off as hormonal changes.  Seek medical help.  And if you are diagnosed with bipolar disorder, consult a psychiatrist or a general practitioner with experience in treating this illness.

My sister is currently on disability.  A bipolar diagnosis can have a great effect on your job and career.  In a survey of people with depression and bipolar disorder conducted by the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, 88% said their condition affected their ability to work.  Don’t be discouraged, though.  Being diagnosed with bipolar disorder doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t keep your job. Plenty of people with bipolar disorder work and live normal lives.  If you are currently unemployed and are seeking employment, find a job that is a good fit for you–one that is not stressful and has a flexible schedule.  If you are currently in a job that is not working for you–is affecting your health, not letting you get enough sleep, maybe it’s time to make some changes.  Here are some things you should consider:

  • Decide what you really need from your job. Do you need to reduce your responsibilities? Do you need extra breaks during the day to reduce stress? Would you rather work independently or in a group? Do you need to work shorter hours or take time off? Or do you need a different job altogether?
  • Make decisions carefully. People with bipolar disorder are prone to acting impulsively. Think through the effects of quitting your job — both for yourself and possibly for your family. Talk over your feelings with your family, therapist, or health care provider.
  • Look into financial assistance. If you do need to take time off because of your bipolar disorder, see if your employer has disability insurance, or look into Social Security Disability Insurance, which will provide some income while you recover. You can also look into the Family and Medical Leave Act. Ask your doctor or therapist for advice.
  • Go slowly. Returning to work after you’ve taken time off can be stressful. Think about starting in a part-time position, at least until you’re confident that your bipolar disorder has stabilized. Some people find that volunteer work is a good way to get back into the swing of things.

Unfortunately you may encounter stigma at work.  Some people might treat you unfairly because of your disorder.  If you feel that you are being passed over for promotion or are being treated unfairly, there are things you can do.  Find out what policies are in place at your company that will protect you from this kind of discrimination which is illegal.    The Americans with Disabilities Act can protect some people who are discriminated against because of a health condition.  Before you do anything, research the law and talk things over with family, friends and therapist.  Mitzi Waltz, author of “Adult Bipolar Disorders,” advises bipolar employees to call a counselor or local support group to help them with workplace problems.

Bipolar disorder is tough on families and spouses.  They have to cope with behavioral problems.  Family members often experience feelings of extreme guilt after the individual is diagnosed. They are concerned about having had angry or hateful thoughts, and many wonder whether they somehow caused the illness by being un-supportive or short-tempered, although this is not the case.  There are times when I feel guilty because I didn’t touch base with my sister as often as I should have.  There are times when I am frustrated with her for coming off her medication because she is aware of what happens when she does.  I feel that she should take more responsibility for keeping the disease under control by taking her medication.  I see how her relapses affect my mother who has Parkinson’s.

I realize that although it is difficult to cope, families of patients with bipolar disorder need to be more supportive.  It is in the best interest of the person to be hospitalized for his or her own protection and for much needed treatment if he or she is in the middle of a severe episode.  And it is important for the patient to  to understand that bipolar disorder will not go away, and that continued treatment is needed to keep the disease under control. It is important that they understand that proper therapy will enable them to have a good quality of life and enable them to have a productive life.

The following tips are for families who want to help their loved ones to cope with the illness:

  1. Educate Yourself
  2. Learn How–and When–to Talk
  3. Make Some Rules
  4. Plan Even More
  5. Listen
  6. Go Gentle
  7. Laugh Together
  8. Support Yourself

I encourage families of people with bipolar disorder to educate themselves and then see how they can help their loved ones to cope.

Sources:  http://bbrfoundation.org/frequently-asked-questions-about-bipolar-disorderhttp://psychcentral.com/lib/2007/women-and-bipolar-disorder/all/1/http://www.health.com/health/condition-article/0,,20274376,00.htmlhttp://www.webmd.com/bipolar-disorder/guide/bipolar-disorder-womenhttp://www.bphope.com/BipolarIndepth.aspxhttp://www.ehow.com/about_5032842_signs-bipolar-disorder-women.htmlhttp://www.webmd.com/bipolar-disorder/going-to-work-bipolarhttp://www.livestrong.com/article/23014-good-career-those-bipolar-disorder/http://www.psychiatry24x7.com/bgdisplay.jhtml?itemname=bipolar_familyhttp://www.beliefnet.com/Health/Emotional-Health/Bipolar/8-Ways-to-Help-Your-Bipolar-Loved-One-Cope.aspx

Women and Arthritis

My mother used to have severe pain in her knees due to arthritis before she got replacements in them.  I remember how swollen they looked.  She told me that the arthritis might have been the result of scrubbing the floor on her knees.  Since then they hurt and her mother put on them but they burned her.  There were times when my mother asked me to massage her knees because they hurt.  And what made it worse was the lack of bone density which made the bones in her knees rub together.   My mother-in-law has arthritis in her knees too and one of my aunts has rheumetoid arthritis.

Just recently on TV I saw a promotion for the 2012 Walk to Fight Arthritis which takes place across Canada on June 10.  This got me thinking about writing a post on Arthritis.  What is Arthritis and what causes it?  What are the symptoms?  Can we prevent it?  I searched the Internet to find the answers to these questions and learned so much in the process.

There are more than 100 types of arthritis.  However, there are two common types–osteoarthritis, which is the “wear and tear” arthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis

Here are 10 facts about arthritis:

  1. Arthritis is far from a new disease.  In fact, many researchers believe it has been a part of civilization since the beginning of time, even affecting dinosaurs millions of years ago.  Researchers also believe that skeletal remains from humans living around 4500 B.C. show signs of the disease.
  2. Did you know that the word arthritis literally means joint inflammation?  That’s right, the word arthritis comes from the Greek words for joint (arthro) and inflammation (-itis).
  3. There are over 100 forms of arthritis, including little talked about diseases like Kawasaki disease, which involves inflammation of the blood vessels, and Sweet’s syndrome, which is a skin condition marked by fever and painful skin lesions.
  4. Were you aware that arthritis is the most common cause of disability in the United States?  According to the CDC, arthritis and rheumatic conditions cost the U.S. economy $128 billion annually and result in 44 million outpatient visits and 9,367 deaths each year.
  5. Movement is one of the best treatment options for arthritis and can help most people prevent the onset of the disease in the first place. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) reports that strong evidence indicates both endurance and resistance types of exercise provide considerable disease-specific benefits for persons with osteoarthritis (OA) and other rheumatic conditions.
  6. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and is a chronic disease that affects some 27 million Americans. OA is characterized by the breakdown of cartilage, which can cause stiffness and pain.
  7. There are two types of OA – primary and secondary. Primary osteoarthritis is generally associated with aging and the “wear and tear” of life. The older you are, the more likely you are to have some degree of primary osteoarthritis. Secondary osteoarthritis, in contrast, tends to develop relatively early in life, typically 10 or more years after a specific cause, such as an injury or obesity.
  8. Did you know that children get arthritis too?  Nearly 300,000 children in the United States are living with juvenile arthritis.  Juvenile arthritis (JA) refers to any form of arthritis or an arthritis-related condition that develops in children or teenagers who are less than 18 years of age.
  9. Juvenile arthritis is one of the most common chronic childhood conditions, occurring nearly as often as insulin-dependent juvenile diabetes.  The most common form of arthritis in children is juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA), which has two peaks of onset: between 1 and 3 years of age and between 8 and 12 years of age.
  10. Arthritis is more common among women (24.9%) than men (18.1%), and girls are twice as likely to develop juvenile rheumatoid arthritis as boys.
Some of the risk factors which can cause arthritis include:
  • Genetics
    Exactly how much heredity or genetics contributes to the cause of arthritis is not well understood. However, there are likely genetic variations that can contribute to the cause of arthritis.
  • Age
    Cartilage becomes more brittle with age and has less of a capacity to repair itself. As people grow older they are more likely to develop arthritis.
  • Weight
    Because joint damage is partly dependent on the load the joint has to support, excess body weight can lead to arthritis. This is especially true of the hips and knees that can be worn quickly in heavier patients.
  •  Previous Injury
    Joint damage can cause irregularities in the normal smooth joint surface. Previous major injuries can be part of the cause of arthritis. An example of an injury leading to arthritis is a tibial plateau fracture, where the broken area of bone enters the cartilage of the knee joint.
  •  Occupational Hazards
    Workers in some specific occupations seem to have a higher risk of developing arthritis than other jobs. These are primarily high demand jobs such as assembly line workers and heavy construction.
  •  Some High-Level Sports
    It is difficult to determine how much sports participation contributes to development of arthritis. Certainly, sports participation can lead to joint injury and subsequent arthritis. However, the benefits of activity likely outweigh any risk of arthritis.
  • Illness or Infection
    People who experience a joint infection (septic joint), multiple episodes of gout, or other medical conditions, can develop arthritis of the joint.

According to a Mayo Clinic Study, rheumatoid arthritis is on the rise among women.  In rheumatoid arthritis, women are up to three times more likely to develop the condition than men. Many women with rheumatoid arthritis go into remission during pregnancy. To date, no one has been able to determine the exact cause of this beneficial effect, but one theory is that changes in hormone levels may effect the level of proteins in the blood that contribute to inflammation.

What are the symptoms?  

Symptoms of arthritis include pain and limited function of joints. Inflammation of the joints from arthritis is characterized by joint stiffness, swelling, redness, and warmth. Tenderness of the inflamed joint can be present.

Many of the forms of arthritis, because they are rheumatic diseases, can cause symptoms affecting various organs of the body that do not directly involve the joints. Therefore, symptoms in some patients with certain forms of arthritis can also include fever, gland swelling (swollen lymph nodes),weight loss, fatigue, feeling unwell, and even symptoms from abnormalities of organs such as the lungs, heart, or kidneys.

Are there ways to prevent arthritis?  According to the Arthritis Foundation, it can be.  They offer these common tips for prevention:

  • Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet to help maintain your recommended weight. Women who are overweight have a higher risk of developing osteoarthritis in the knees. Learn more about nutrition.
  • Talk to your doctor about taking vitamin and mineral supplements. Having insufficient levels of vitamin D decreases the amount of calcium your body can absorb. That coupled with lower calcium levels as you age can help contribute to osteoporosis. Check out the Arthritis Today Vitamin & Mineral Guide.
  • Exercise regularly to strengthen muscles around joints and help increase bone density. Exercise may reduce wear and tear on your joints, which can help prevent injury and reduce the risk of osteoarthritis. Increased bone density also can help stave off osteoporosis. Check out some exercise routines or get moving with the Arthritis Foundation.
  • Avoid smoking and limit your alcohol consumption to help avoid osteoporosis. Both habits weaken the structure of bone, which puts you at higher risk for fractures.
  • Discuss hormone replacement therapy (HRT) with your primary care provider if you are postmenopausal. Many women lose bone mass during the pre- and postmenopausal years when their ovaries stop producing estrogen. One of estrogen’s functions is to help keep calcium in the bones and maintain bone mass. Lowered estrogen level is a major cause of osteoporosis in women after menopause.
If you suspect that you have arthritis, see your doctor.  To diagnose arthritis, your doctor will take a thorough history and conduct a physical examination to determine which joints are affected.  If you are someone currently suffering with arthritis or was recently diagnosed with it, here is a website that may offer you some support.  Another great website to visit is http://www.arthritistoday.org/.  You can join the community and meet people who know exactly what you are going through.

Sources:  http://www.arthritis.org/women.php; http://www.webmd.com/rheumatoid-arthritis/guide/most-common-arthritis-typeshttp://arthritis.about.com/od/arthritissignssymptoms/a/women_arthritis.htm; http://orthopedics.about.com/od/arthritis/f/arthritiscauses.htmhttp://www.medicinenet.com/arthritis/article.htm#Whatisarthritishttp://bodyandhealth.canada.com/channel_condition_info_details.asp?channel_id=42&relation_id=107751&disease_id=239&page_no=2

Writer and Philanthropist

My mother’s favorite novelist is Catherine Cookson.  After I read a few of her books and watched movies based on them I became a fan too.  Her characters seemed so real and no wonder–her books were inspired by her deprived youth in North East deEngland, the setting for her novels.

Catherine’s story is as intriguing as the stories she wrote.  She was the illegitimate child of an alcoholic named Kate Fawcett, she grew up thinking her unmarried mother was her sister, as she was raised by her grandparents, Rose and John McMullen.   She married Tom Cookson, a teacher.  Tragically, she suffered four miscarriages and had a mental breakdown.  It took her ten years to recover.  She also suffered from a rare vascular disease, telangiectasia, which causes bleeding from the nose, fingers and stomach and results in anemia.

Catherine took up writing as a form of therapy to tackle her depression, and joined Hastings Writers’ Group. Her first novel, Kate Hannigan, was published in 1950.  She became the United Kingdom’s most widely read novelist, with sales topping 100 million, while retaining a relatively low profile in the world of celebrity writers.  She remained the most borrowed author from public libraries in the UK for 17 years, only losing the title in 2002, four years after her death.

Thanks to her craft Catherine became a multi-millionnaire.  She supported  causes in North East England and medical research in areas that were close to her heart.  She also donated more than £1 million for research into a cure for the illness that afflicted her (Wikipedia). 

With affluence Catherine concentrated on philanthropic activities to support the less fortunate. Catherine Cookson created a trust at the University of Newcastle with a committed amount of £ 800,000. The self titled Trust is dedicated towards the progress and research in the field of medical sciences and provides medical support to the underprivileged. Besides this Catherine Cookson also contributed £20,000 for the Hatton Gallery of the University and £32,000 for it’s library (http://www.catherinecookson.net/).

Despite the challenges and tragedies in her life, Catherine Cookson reached out to help others by using the money she made from the sales of her books. The plight of the less fortunate and the underprivileged moved her to do something to make life easier for them. 

Writing helped Catherine to get through her dark hours.  It is my hope and prayer that if you are going through something, that you will find the help you need to cope.