Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Suicide in America: Know the Signs

Suicide in America: Frequently Asked Questions.

Suicide is a major public health problem and a leading cause of death in the United States. The effects of suicide go beyond the person who acts to take his or her life: it can have a lasting effect on family, friends, and communities. 

Learn about the brain in health and illness. Click here.

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), can help you, a friend, or a family member learn about the signs and symptoms, risk factors and warning signs, and ongoing research about suicide and suicide prevention.

If You Know Someone in Crisis: Call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL) at 1–800–273–TALK (8255), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The service is available to everyone. The deaf and hard of hearing can contact the Lifeline via TTY at 1–800–799–4889. All calls are confidential. Contact social media outlets directly if you are concerned about a friend’s social media updates or dial 911 in an emergency. Learn more on the NSPL’s website. The Crisis Text Line is another resource available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Text “HOME” to 741741.


What Is Suicide?
Suicide is when people direct violence at themselves with the intent to end their lives, and they die because of their actions. It’s best to avoid the use of terms like “committing suicide” or a “successful suicide” when referring to a death by suicide as these terms often carry negative connotations.
suicide attempt is when people harm themselves with the intent to end their lives, but they do not die because of their actions.

Who Is at Risk for Suicide?

Suicide does not discriminate. People of all genders, ages, and ethnicities can be at risk.
The main risk factors for suicide are:
  • A prior suicide attempt
  • Depression and other mental health disorders
  • Substance abuse disorder
  • Family history of a mental health or substance abuse disorder
  • Family history of suicide
  • Family violence, including physical or sexual abuse
  • Having guns or other firearms in the home
  • Being in prison or jail
  • Being exposed to others’ suicidal behavior, such as a family member, peer, or media figure
  • Medical illness
  • Being between the ages of 15 and 24 years or over age 60 
Even among people who have risk factors for suicide, most do not attempt suicide. It remains difficult to predict who will act on suicidal thoughts.

Are certain groups of people at higher risk than others?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), men are more likely to die by suicide than women, but women are more likely to attempt suicide. Men are more likely to use more lethal methods, such as firearms or suffocation. Women are more likely than men to attempt suicide by poisoning.
Also per the CDC, certain demographic subgroups are at higher risk. For example, American Indian and Alaska Native youth and middle-aged persons have the highest rate of suicide, followed by non-Hispanic White middle-aged and older adult males. African Americans have the lowest suicide rate, while Hispanics have the second lowest rate. The exception to this is younger children. African American children under the age of 12 have a higher rate of suicide than White children. While younger preteens and teens have a lower rate of suicide than older adolescents, there has been a significant rise in the suicide rate among youth ages 10 to 14. Suicide ranks as the second leading cause of death for this age group, accounting for 425 deaths per year and surpassing the death rate for traffic accidents, which is the most common cause of death for young people.
Looking for more data and statistics? For the most recent statistics on suicide and more information about risk, please visit the CDC website at www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/suicide/index.html.

Why do some people become suicidal while others with similar risk factors do not?

Most people who have the risk factors for suicide will not kill themselves. However, the risk for suicidal behavior is complex. Research suggests that people who attempt suicide may react to events, think, and make decisions differently than those who do not attempt suicide. These differences happen more often if a person also has a disorder such as depressionsubstance abuseanxietyborderline personality disorder, and psychosis. Risk factors are important to keep in mind; however, someone who has warning signs of suicide may be in more danger and require immediate attention.

What Are the Warning Signs of Suicide?

The behaviors listed below may be signs that someone is thinking about suicide.
  • Talking about wanting to die or wanting to kill themselves
  • Talking about feeling empty, hopeless, or having no reason to live
  • Planning or looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online, stockpiling pills, or newly acquiring potentially lethal items (e.g., firearms, ropes)
  • Talking about great guilt or shame
  • Talking about feeling trapped or feeling that there are no solutions
  • Feeling unbearable pain, both physical or emotional
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Using alcohol or drugs more often
  • Acting anxious or agitated
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Changing eating and/or sleeping habits
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Taking risks that could lead to death, such as reckless driving
  • Talking or thinking about death often
  • Displaying extreme mood swings, suddenly changing from very sad to very calm or happy
  • Giving away important possessions
  • Saying goodbye to friends and family
  • Putting affairs in order, making a will

Do People Threaten Suicide to Get Attention?

Suicidal thoughts or actions are a sign of extreme distress and an alert that someone needs help. Any warning sign or symptom of suicide should not be ignored. All talk of suicide should be taken seriously and requires attention. Threatening to die by suicide is not a normal response to stress and should not be taken lightly.

If You Ask Someone About Suicide, Does It Put the Idea Into Their Head?

Asking someone about suicide is not harmful. There is a common myth that asking someone about suicide can put the idea into their head. This is not true. Several studies examining this concern have demonstrated that asking people about suicidal thoughts and behavior does not induce or increase such thoughts and experiences. In fact, asking someone directly, “Are you thinking of killing yourself,” can be the best way to identify someone at risk for suicide.

What Should I Do if I Am in Crisis or Someone I Know Is Considering Suicide?

If you or someone you know has warning signs or symptoms of suicide, particularly if there is a change in the behavior or a new behavior, get help as soon as possible.
Often, family and friends are the first to recognize the warning signs of suicide and can take the first step toward helping an at-risk individual find treatment with someone who specializes in diagnosing and treating mental health conditions. If someone is telling you that they are going to kill themselves, do not leave them alone. Do not promise anyone that you will keep their suicidal thoughts a secret. Make sure to tell a trusted friend or family member, or if you are a student, an adult with whom you feel comfortable. You can also contact the resources noted below.
How can doctors and other health care providers play a role in suicide prevention?
Health care providers can help prevent suicide when they understand the risk factors and use evidence-based treatments and therapies. In addition, The Joint Commission recommends screening all patients in all medical settings for suicide risk using validated, population and setting-specific tools.
Clinicians should be advised that it is no longer acceptable to “contract for safety” with patients. Safety planning for managing future suicidal thoughts and means restriction (removing or ensuring safe storage of potentially lethal items) have been proven to be effective ways of preventing suicide. Health care providers can find educational resources on the Zero Suicide website and news about the latest research on the NIMH website at www.nimh.nih.gov.

What if Someone Is Posting Suicidal Messages on Social Media?

Knowing how to get help for a friend posting suicidal messages on social media can save a life. Many social media sites have a process to report suicidal content and get help for the person posting the message. In addition, many of the social media sites use their analytic capabilities to identify and help report suicidal posts. Each offers different options on how to respond if you see concerning posts about suicide. For example:
  • Facebook Suicide Prevention webpage can be found at www.facebook.com/help/594991777257121/[use the search term “suicide” or “suicide prevention”].
  • Instagram uses automated tools in the app to provide resources, which can also be found online at https://help.instagram.com [use the search term, “suicide,” self-injury,” or “suicide prevention”]
  • Snapchat’s Support provides guidance at https://support.snapchat.com [use the search term, “suicide” or “suicide prevention”]  
  • Tumblr Counseling and Prevention Resources webpage can be found at https://tumblr.zendesk.com[use the search term “counseling” or “prevention,” then click on “Counseling and prevention resources”].
  • Twitter’s Best Practices in Dealing With Self-Harm and Suicide at https://support.twitter.com [use the search term “suicide,” “self-harm,” or “suicide prevention”].
  • YouTube’s Safety Center webpage can be found at https://support.google.com/youtube [use the search term “suicide and self injury”].
If you see messages or live streaming suicidal behavior on social media, call 911 or contact the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1–800–273–TALK (8255), or text the Crisis Text Line (text HOME to 741741) available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals can contact the Lifeline via TTY at 1–800–799–4889. All calls are confidential. This service is available to everyone. People—even strangers—have saved lives by being vigilant.

What Treatment Options and Therapies Are Available?

Effective suicide intervention practices are based on research findings and tested to see how various programs benefit various specific groups of people. For example, research has shown that borderline personality disorder is a risk factor for suicidal behavior, and there are programs that are effective in reducing suicide attempts.
Among its research on suicide, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has supported research on strategies that have worked well for those who have mental health conditions related to suicide such as depression and anxiety. These mainly include types of psychotherapies (such as cognitive behavior therapy or dialectical behavioral therapy). NIMH also conducts research on suicide risk screening tools for health care clinicians to use as a guide for screening patients for suicide risk.
For basic information about psychotherapies and medications, visit the NIMH website (www.nimh.nih.gov/health). For the most up-to-date information on medications, side effects, and warnings, visit the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website.
Looking for a mental health provider in your area?
For general information on mental health and to locate treatment services in your area, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Treatment Referral Helpline at 1–800–662–HELP (4357). SAMHSA also has a Behavioral Health Treatment Locator on its website that can be searched by location.

Talking to Your Doctor

Suicide is often not discussed in medical visits where physical symptoms are more of the focus. If you have thoughts of suicide, tell your health care provider. Asking questions and providing information to your doctor or health care provider can improve your care. Talking with your doctor builds trust and leads to better results, quality, safety, and satisfaction. Visit the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality website for tips at www.ahrq.gov/patients-consumers.
Source: NIMH

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

From Healing the Brain: Depression and Other Mood Disorders:

Learn about the brain and depression in clear language.



Depression and mania—the companion moods of bipolar disorder—are “ancient illnesses” and common among the general population, and successfully treating them is perhaps the best way to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental illness, says Kay Redfield Jamison, a foremost academic authority on manic-depressive illness whose best-selling memoir An Unquiet Mind chronicled her early experience with bipolar disorder.


All the major psychiatric illnesses disproportionately hit the young, and
particularly college age.


“The average age of onset of bipolar illness is 17, 18, 19. All of the major psychiatric illnesses are illnesses of youth,” Jamison said. “It’s not like cardiac disease, it’s not like dementia, it’s not like cancer, which disproportionately hit older people. All the major psychiatric illnesses disproportionately hit the young, and particularly college age.”

Jamison said it’s also important to note that depression and mania are not modern ailments. Hippocrates described mania and melancholia extremely well in about 500 B.C., she said, as did the authors of ancient Persian and Chinese texts.

“Depression and mania are complex and multifaceted disorders,” said Dr. Jamison in a talk at Vanderbilt University in 2017. (www.Vanderbilt.edu)

“When we talk about these illnesses, we’re not just talking about illnesses of mood,” she said. “We’re talking about illnesses of energy and sleep and cognition—the ability to think clearly, the ability to reason.”

This is particularly problematic on college campuses, she said, where the essence of what young people are doing is learning. “When you have illnesses that disrupt that capacity to learn, it can be very, very frightening,” she said. “Suicidal thinking is not uncommon, and unfortunately, suicide is not uncommon.”

Moods during depression includes hopelessness, irritability and apathy, she said. Mania, on the other hand, is the opposite in most ways.

“When people are manic, they have an incredible amount of energy,” Jamison said. “They speak and think quickly, they need far less sleep than usual, they’re restless, irritable, and they show astonishingly bad judgment. They spend money they don’t have, and they impose their enthusiasms and convictions on others. They’re impulsive, reckless, and they impetuously start new projects and new relationships.

“Mania, in short, is a high-voltage state,” she said.

Bipolar disorder is very common, Jamison said. Approximately one person out of 100 will develop a severe, classic form of the illness, and another 2-3 per cent of the population will experience a milder form. Some 15-20 per cent of people will have at least one episode of major depression in their lifetime.

“These are not weird, bizarre diseases—these are common. Depression is known as ‘the common cold of psychiatry’ for good cause,” she said.

Both depression and bipolar illness are genetic, she noted. Men and women are equally liable to bipolar illness, and women are about twice as likely to get depression. In addition, alcohol and drug abuse are very common among those who experience these disorders. The highest comorbidity in psychiatry is with bipolar illness and alcohol or drug abuse, she said.

Jamison spoke of her own struggle to come to terms with her bipolar illness and to accept the necessity of taking lithium to treat it.

Healing the Brain: Depression and Mental Illness gives readers a view of the remarkable human brain, its capabilities, and its vulnerabilities. A brain compromised by depression and other mental illnesses is tragic and in many cases increasingly treatable. Detailed coverage, appears in Chapter 7.
       

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Dark chocolate consumption reduces stress and inflammation


Data represent first human trials examining the impact of dark chocolate consumption on cognition and other brain functions

Date:
April 24, 2018
Source:
Loma Linda University Adventist Health Sciences Center
Summary:
Findings from two new studies show dark chocolate consumption reduces stress and inflammation, while improving memory, immunity and mood.
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FULL STORY

Research shows there might be health benefits to eating certain types of dark chocolate.
Credit: LLU Health
New research shows there might be health benefits to eating certain types of dark chocolate. Findings from two studies being presented today at the Experimental Biology 2018 annual meeting in San Diego show that consuming dark chocolate that has a high concentration of cacao (minimally 70% cacao, 30% organic cane sugar) has positive effects on stress levels, inflammation, mood, memory and immunity. While it is well known that cacao is a major source of flavonoids, this is the first time the effect has been studied in human subjects to determine how it can support cognitive, endocrine and cardiovascular health.
Learn about your brain, here.
"For years, we have looked at the influence of dark chocolate on neurological functions from the standpoint of sugar content -- the more sugar, the happier we are," Berk said. "This is the first time that we have looked at the impact of large amounts of cacao in doses as small as a regular-sized chocolate bar in humans over short or long periods of time, and are encouraged by the findings. These studies show us that the higher the concentration of cacao, the more positive the impact on cognition, memory, mood, immunity and other beneficial effects."
The flavonoids found in cacao are extremely potent antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents, with known mechanisms beneficial for brain and cardiovascular health. The following results will be presented in live poster sessions during the Experimental Biology 2018 meeting.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Barbara Bush: Advocate for literacy and the brain

Former First Lady Barbara Bush, who died on Tuesday, was a strong advocate for reading and literacy. During her time at the White House, Mrs. Bush encouraged reading and writing among Americans. In 1989, she founded the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy. The foundation started a new children’s program, My Home Library,” last year, but campaigned to increase the literacy rate of adults as well. Reading is crucial to learning and educational achievement. Reading profoundly supports brain health, through all stages of life. To honor Mrs. Bush’s legacy, we present the following article, “The Reading Brain: How Your Brain Helps You Read, and Why it Matters.”


Adapted from The Reading Brain: How Your Brain Helps You Read, and Why it Matters
by Martha Burns, Ph.D


If you’re reading this, you’re probably an accomplished reader. In fact, you’ve most likely forgotten by now how much work it took you to learn to read in the first place. And you probably never think about what is happening in your brain when you’re reading that email from your boss or this month’s book club selection.

And yet, there’s nothing that plays a greater role in learning to read than a reading-ready brain.

As complex a task as reading is, thanks to developments in neuroscience and technology we are now able to target key learning centers in the brain and identify the areas and neural pathways the brain employs for reading. We not only understand why strong readers read well and struggling readers struggle, but we are also able to assist every kind of reader on the journey from early language acquisition to reading and comprehension—a journey that happens in the brain.


Read about your brain!


We begin to develop the language skills required for reading right from the first gurgles we make as babies. The sounds we encounter in our immediate environment as infants set language acquisition skills in motion, readying the brain for the structure of language-based communication, including reading.

Every time a baby hears speech, the brain is learning the rules of language that generalize, later, to reading.  Even a simple nursery rhyme can help a baby's brain begin to make sound differentiations and create phonemic awareness, an essential building block for reading readiness. By the time a child is ready to read effectively, the brain has done a lot of work coordinating sounds to language, and is fully prepared to coordinate language to reading, and reading to comprehension.

The reading brain can be likened to the real-time collaborative effort of a symphony orchestra, with various parts of the brain working together, like sections of instruments, to maximize our ability to decode the written text in front of us.
….
It’s never too early to set a child on the pathway to becoming a strong reader. And it’s never too late to help a struggling reader strengthen his or her brain to read more successfully and with greater enjoyment.










Tuesday, April 10, 2018

April Is Autism Awareness Month: Part II: Causes

Causes and Risk Factors

While scientists don’t know the exact causes of ASD, research suggests that genes can act together with influences from the environment to affect development in ways that lead to ASD. Although scientists are still trying to understand why some people develop ASD and others don’t, some risk factors include:
  • Having a sibling with ASD
  • Having older parents
  • Having certain genetic conditions—people with conditions such as Down syndrome, fragile X syndrome, and Rett syndrome are more likely than others to have ASD
  • Very low birth weight

Diagnosing ASD

Doctors diagnose ASD by looking at a person’s behavior and development. ASD can usually be reliably diagnosed by the age of two. It is important for those with concerns to seek out assessment as soon as possible so that a diagnosis can be made, and treatment can begin.

Diagnosis in Young Children

Diagnosis in young children is often a two-stage process.

Stage 1: General Developmental Screening During Well-Child Checkups

Every child should receive well-child check-ups with a pediatrician or an early childhood health care provider. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children be screened for developmental delays at their 9-, 18-, and 24- or 30-month well-child visits and specifically for autism at their 18- and 24-month well-child visits. Additional screening might be needed if a child is at high risk for ASD or developmental problems. Those at high risk include children who have a family member with ASD, have some ASD behaviors, have older parents, have certain genetic conditions, or who were born at a very low birth weight.
Get the basics of the brain, in easy-to-read language.

Parents’ experiences and concerns are very important in the screening process for young children. Sometimes the doctor will ask parents questions about the child’s behaviors and combine those answers with information from ASD screening tools, and with his or her observations of the child. Read more about screening instruments on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.
Children who show developmental problems during this screening process will be referred for a second stage of evaluation.

Stage 2: Additional Evaluation

This second evaluation is with a team of doctors and other health professionals who are experienced in diagnosing ASD.
This team may include:
  • A developmental pediatrician—a doctor who has special training in child development
  • A child psychologist and/or child psychiatrist—a doctor who has specialized training in brain development and behavior
  • A neuropsychologist—a doctor who focuses on evaluating, diagnosing, and treating neurological, medical, and neurodevelopmental disorders
  • A speech-language pathologist—a health professional who has special training in communication difficulties
The evaluation may assess:
  • Cognitive level or thinking skills
  • Language abilities
  • Age-appropriate skills needed to complete daily activities independently, such as eating, dressing, and toileting
Because ASD is a complex disorder that sometimes occurs along with other illnesses or learning disorders, the comprehensive evaluation may include:
  • Blood tests
  • Hearing test
The outcome of the evaluation will result in a formal diagnosis and recommendations for treatment.
Source: NIH

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

April Is Autism Awareness Month. Understanding the basics, Pt.1.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that affects communication and behavior. Although autism can be diagnosed at any age, it is said to be a “developmental disorder” because symptoms generally appear in the first two years of life.


According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), a guide created by the American Psychiatric Association used to diagnose mental disorders, people with ASD have:
  • Difficulty with communication and interaction with other people
  • Restricted interests and repetitive behaviors
  • Symptoms that hurt the person’s ability to function properly in school, work, and other areas of life
Autism is known as a “spectrum” disorder because there is wide variation in the type and severity of symptoms people experience. ASD occurs in all ethnic, racial, and economic groups. Although ASD can be a lifelong disorder, treatments and services can improve a person’s symptoms and ability to function. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children be screened for autism. All caregivers should talk to their doctor about ASD screening or evaluation.

Signs and Symptoms of ASD

People with ASD have difficulty with social communication and interaction, restricted interests, and repetitive behaviors. The list below gives some examples of the types of behaviors that are seen in people diagnosed with ASD. Not all people with ASD will show all behaviors, but most will show several.

Learn about the developing brain, in easy-to-read language. 

Social communication / interaction behaviors may include:
  • Making little or inconsistent eye contact

  • Tending not to look at or listen to people

  • Rarely sharing enjoyment of objects or activities by pointing or showing things to others

  • Failing to, or being slow to, respond to someone calling their name or to other verbal attempts to gain attention

  • Having difficulties with the back and forth of conversation

  • Often talking at length about a favorite subject without noticing that others are not interested or without giving others a chance to respond

  • Having facial expressions, movements, and gestures that do not match what is being said

  • Having an unusual tone of voice that may sound sing-song or flat and robot-like
  • Having trouble understanding another person’s point of view or being unable to predict or understand other people’s actions

Restrictive / repetitive behaviors may include:

  • Repeating certain behaviors or having unusual behaviors. For example, repeating words or phrases, a behavior called echolalia

  • Having a lasting intense interest in certain topics, such as numbers, details, or facts

  • Having overly focused interests, such as with moving objects or parts of objects

  • Getting upset by slight changes in a routine

  • Being more or less sensitive than other people to sensory input, such as light, noise, clothing, or temperature
People with ASD may also experience sleep problems and irritability. Although people with ASD experience many challenges, they may also have many strengths, including:
  • Being able to learn things in detail and remember information for long periods of time

  • Being strong visual and auditory learners

  • Excelling in math, science, music, or art

Causes and Risk Factors

While scientists don’t know the exact causes of ASD, research suggests that genes can act together with influences from the environment to affect development in ways that lead to ASD. Although scientists are still trying to understand why some people develop ASD and others don’t, some risk factors include:
  • Having a sibling with ASD
  • Having older parents
  • Having certain genetic conditions—people with conditions such as Down syndrome, fragile X syndrome, and Rett syndrome are more likely than others to have ASD
  • Very low birth weight

Diagnosing ASD

Doctors diagnose ASD by looking at a person’s behavior and development. ASD can usually be reliably diagnosed by the age of two. It is important for those with concerns to seek out assessment as soon as possible so that a diagnosis can be made, and treatment can begin.

Diagnosis in Young Children

Diagnosis in young children is often a two-stage process.

Stage 1: General Developmental Screening During Well-Child Checkups

Every child should receive well-child check-ups with a pediatrician or an early childhood health care provider. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children be screened for developmental delays at their 9-, 18-, and 24- or 30-month well-child visits and specifically for autism at their 18- and 24-month well-child visits. Additional screening might be needed if a child is at high risk for ASD or developmental problems. Those at high risk include children who have a family member with ASD, have some ASD behaviors, have older parents, have certain genetic conditions, or who were born at a very low birth weight.
Parents’ experiences and concerns are very important in the screening process for young children. Sometimes the doctor will ask parents questions about the child’s behaviors and combine those answers with information from ASD screening tools, and with his or her observations of the child. Read more about screening instruments on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.
Children who show developmental problems during this screening process will be referred for a second stage of evaluation.

Stage 2: Additional Evaluation

This second evaluation is with a team of doctors and other health professionals who are experienced in diagnosing ASD.
This team may include:
  • A developmental pediatrician—a doctor who has special training in child development
  • A child psychologist and/or child psychiatrist—a doctor who has specialized training in brain development and behavior
  • A neuropsychologist—a doctor who focuses on evaluating, diagnosing, and treating neurological, medical, and neurodevelopmental disorders
  • A speech-language pathologist—a health professional who has special training in communication difficulties
The evaluation may assess:
  • Cognitive level or thinking skills
  • Language abilities
  • Age-appropriate skills needed to complete daily activities independently, such as eating, dressing, and toileting
Because ASD is a complex disorder that sometimes occurs along with other illnesses or learning disorders, the comprehensive evaluation may include:
  • Blood tests
  • Hearing test
The outcome of the evaluation will result in a formal diagnosis and recommendations for treatment.

Source: NIH