Australian Broadcasting Corporation
A parliamentary investigation into immigration detention has found that conditions in detention centres are causing endemic mental illness and violence.
EMMA ALBERICI, PRESENTER: Refugee advocates have welcomed a parliamentary committee report into immigration detention that was released today.
The 9-month inquiry examined the country’s detention system and recommended reforms.
The Opposition backed 16 of the 31 recommendations. The Government is yet to detail its response
Political correspondent Tom Iggulden reports.
TOM IGGULDEN, POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: There has been a string of reports into suicide, violence and despair in detention centres, but this is the one that brings them all together with the weight of a parliamentary committee behind it.
DAVID MANNE, REFUGEE AND IMMIGRATION LEGAL CENTRE: It’s a very welcome report which provides a powerful record of just how damaging and costly the current detention policy is.
TOM IGGULDEN: First, the evidence.
The report says “acute mental illness is widespread across the detention network …” Almost 90 per cent of detainees suffer clinically significant depression. Half have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, and a quarter report suicidal thoughts. It highlights the evidence from one witness: “The psychologist pointed out that an immigration detention centre is not a psychiatric hospital, but has some of the characteristics of one”.
The length of time in detention was found to be the key cause of mental breakdown. Several psychologists said three months was the limit from most detainees. The report recommends that no detainee should be kept longer than 90 days.
SARAH HANSON-YOUNG, GREENS SENATOR: Time limits on detention, dealing with the mental health issues, getting people out of remote facilities – these are all very practical and much-needed steps.
DARYL MELHAM, COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN, LABOR: Less harmful, far more cost-effective alternatives are available and should be pursued.
TOM IGGULDEN: But political parties are already split on the suggestion to limit time in detention. The Opposition is against time limits altogether.
SCOTT MORRISON, OPPOSITION IMMIGRATION SPOKESMAN: We believe that mandatory detention should be in place until someone’s status has been determined. That’s what we practised in government.
TOM IGGULDEN: The Greens want the 90-day limit enshrined in the law.
SARAH HANSON-YOUNG: If we don’t legislate, I think we set ourselves up for fail.
TOM IGGULDEN: The Labor chairman of the committee doesn’t want limits to be mandatory.
DARYL MELHAM: You don’t necessarily require legislation, what you require is good faith.
TOM IGGULDEN: About two-thirds of current detainees have been held for more than three months. Mr Melham wants that percentage published regularly.
DARYL MELHAM: It’s like a shame thing. The Department, the Minister would obviously be under scrutiny as to whether those figures are going up, whether they’re stable or whether they’re going down.
TOM IGGULDEN: The report also recommends depriving the Immigration Minister of his current obligation to act as a guardian of unaccompanied children in detention. Refugee advocates have long argued the Minister shouldn’t act as jailer and defender for who they see as the most vulnerable people in the system, and the committee agrees.
DARYL MELHAM: These people need an advocate. That’s the reality. And it needs to be seen that they’ve got an independent advocate.
SCOTT MORRISON: No, we believe the existing guardianship arrangements are appropriate.
TOM IGGULDEN: And the Opposition is saying no to another key recommendation, that detainees be given the right to force a review of their security assessment.
DAVID MANNE: In some cases it appears ASIO has got their assessments wrong because those assessments in the past have at times been reversed.
DARYL MELHAM: It’s nothing against ASIO but these assessments need independent review. We are detaining people without charge. We are depriving them of their liberty, and in some instances for a very long time.
TOM IGGULDEN: Such cases account for many of the one fifth of detainees now in the system who have been locked up for more than 18 months. The report recommends some could be released with strict conditions under a control order.
DARYL MELHAM: I do not accept the fact that someone who’s a non-citizen, that they get second class rights when it comes to their liberty.
TOM IGGULDEN: The Coalition opposes that recommendation too.
SCOTT MORRISON: Our recommendation is to restore offshore processing on Nauru.
TOM IGGULDEN: The committee’s Labor chairman is not a spokesman for the Government, and he admits he has got a fight on his hands to convince colleagues to take up the report’s key recommendations, particularly those opposed by the Coalition.
But refugee advocates are staying positive, saying this report could be the breakthrough they’ve been looking for to force a major change in government policy.
DAVID MANNE: The Government must urgently respond to this report, and as part of that, to commit to honouring the promises that it made over three years ago in its policy which were meant to implement a new detention regime where detention was only to be used as a last resort for the shortest possible time.
TOM IGGULDEN: The Government did point out today that almost 3,500 detainees have been moved into community detention since the bridging visa program was expanded in October.
Tom Iggulden, Lateline.
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New scientific evidence proves that hypnosis, mediation, and affirmations raise energy in a person changing their DNA. Russian biophysicist and molecular biologist Pjotr Garjajev now has scientifically proven that affirmations along with meditation/ hypnosis (terms for an altered state) will raise consciousness, increase well-being, and balance chemistry in individuals.
In the past, most people were under the impression that Bipolar Disorder would be a life long ailment. Often Bipolar Disorder is destructive to relationships, careers, can wreak havoc on family life, and is a potentially fatal disease. According to Edgar Cayce, the Father of Holistic Health, “There are in truth no incurable conditions.”
Over time working with a holistic therapist, that uses therapeutic hypnosis and other “energy raising tools” suggested by Pjotr Garjajev, people are finding a new life free of their past debilitating illness, which is a symptom of a lack of balance with life.
Illness is a wakeup call to bring the sunlight of the spirit into your existence to replace the fearful darkness that is manifesting through acting out from the past wounds. With the help of an appropriate counselor, changes in emotions, attitudes, and a new life style release the root causes and conditions of this disease. It is about learning to raise your consciousness into higher loving emotions.
Marilyn Redmond says, “With new life skills and a spiritual daily program, the old mood swings minimized into reality, after discontinuing medication. I no longer am running from reality with prescription drugs, alcohol, or dysfunctional behavior. I have over twenty-six years of sobriety and over eleven years without any medications. My psychiatrist declared that I was sane, over seven years ago.”
In addition, it may be necessary to release past trauma and fear, called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD can trigger episodes of Bipolar Disorder. This again can be healed through regression therapy where the root cause can be addressed and replaced with a loving solution rather than drugging people where rational thinking is then not possible.
Supporting a healthy recovering body and emotional experience means changing the root cause of the emotional foundation of the symptoms to a new loving basis. The individual needs to stay vigilant in his or her new structure, balance, and focus. Centeredness and groundedness in present thoughts, existing communication, and current activities alter mood swings producing a sane and rational existence. Bipolar Disorder is no longer a lifetime sentence.
Marilyn Redmond, BA, CHT, IBRT. Registered Counselor, ordained minister, and Included in Who’s Who. Contact her at 253-845-4907, visit angelicasgifts.com, or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org
She is a member of the American Board of Hypnotherapy and International Board of Regression Therapy. She has taught in colleges, wellness centers, speaks, writes, and counsels people to find their inner strength and consciousness for health, healing, and empowerment. Her radio show, “Marilyn’s Solutions,” and her radio and TV appearances are big successes.
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Increasing numbers of young children are being medicated for anxiety and depression, with mental health providers saying the problem has gone beyond common moodiness.
Youth service providers have seen spikes in the number of children referred for treatment, and Pharmac figures show prescriptions for some mood-stabilising drugs have almost doubled in the past five years.
Wellington’s Central Regional Health School is so concerned with the dramatic increase in pupils with mental illnesses on its roll that it has called a conference with principals from mainstream primary schools.
This month, the school, which caters for 166 primary and secondary school pupils in the lower North Island who are deemed too ill to attend mainstream schools, hosted local principals, Education Ministry staff, and Capital Coast District Health Board staff for a coaching session on how to recognise mental health problems in pupils.
Principal Ken McIntosh said that a decade ago the school catered solely for children with physical illnesses. Now 47 per cent had a mental illness, a leap of about 20 per cent in the past few years.
“That’s a reasonably significant jump. We want schools to be aware that they are able to work with students within their school early on, and when things do get past the normal, healthy anxiety and start to impact on kids they know the kinds of services that are available to help.”
Anxiety problems could range from post-traumatic stress, to phobias or obsessive compulsive disorders. Although some anxiety was normal, it was a problem when it began to affect the quality of a child’s life and impaired learning.
Evolve Wellington Youth Service manager Kirsten Smith said the number of young people using the service had ballooned in the past two years.
“It’s a massive issue, and we’ve been seeing the same trend in the last couple of years – we’ve noticed a huge spike in mental health-related issues going on in young people.”
She blamed high youth unemployment for increasing depression and anxiety problems in older teenagers, with their inability to get a job battering their self-esteem and leaving them feeling worthless.
Pharmac figures show an average 10 per cent increase in prescriptions of mood-stabilising drugs for children aged five and over compared to five years ago.
But the most staggering increase is in anti-psychotic medication among 10 to 19-year-olds, which has risen 47 per cent since 2007 – with 3240 children taking the drugs in 2011. Massey University psychology professor Ian Evans said this could be due to the “overpathologising” of childhood behaviour that could be due to normal hormonal changes. Medication was often prescribed when therapy would work just as well.
“There’s a great willingness in society in general to give labels, and to attribute problems to some form of illness.”
However, the combined stress of school, widening economic disadvantages and modern technology meant today’s kids were struggling to cope, he said.
Mental Health Foundation chief executive Judi Clements said adolescent mental health was a major concern.
“Growing up is a hard time. Young people have to deal with issues in school, in their home life, their emerging sexuality, developing friendships … it’s faster-moving than it used to be, there is more alcohol misuse and more cyber-bullying.”
The foundation had started a pilot programme in Hawke’s Bay to analyse school environments and find out if they are conducive to mental health. If successful, they hope to roll it out nationwide. “There’s a problem, and we need to know what to do.”
Education Ministry special education group manager Brian Coffey said mental health problems among pupils were a concern, in part because depressive disorders usually started in adolescence.
The ministry was looking at how schools and support services could work better together to help pupils.
HOW TO TELL
There are signs to watch out for if you are concerned your child or teenager is suffering from anxiety or depression, Mental Health Foundation chief executive Judi Clements says.
“If they start behaving in a way that is unusual for them and it goes on for a while – not just having an off day – but perhaps being weary and wanting to stay in their room, not wanting to go to school and having difficulty sleeping, changing their eating habits and not wanting to eat, or binge-eating.”
Other signs could include a lack of interest or motivation, and withdrawing from friends.
Parents and teachers could help by keeping up a positive relationship with the child.
The latest survey of mental health among secondary school pupils in New Zealand, completed in 2007, found a significant number of pupils were neither satisfied with their lives nor had good mental health.
– © Fairfax NZ News
Is your family struggling with a mental illness? You are not alone!
NAMI of DuPage County (The National Alliance on Mental Illness) will be sponsoring the NAMI Family to Family Education Program for families and caregivers of persons diagnosed with mental illnesses. The course is taught by trained family members. All instruction and course materials are free for class participants.
The Family-to-Family course focuses on current information about schizophrenia, major depression, bipolar disorder (manic depression), panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, borderline personality disorder, and co-occurring brain disorders and addictive disorders. The course discusses the clinical treatment of these illnesses and teaches the knowledge and skills that family members need to cope more effectively.
The 12 week course is taught by trained facilitators with the lived experience and will be held on Thursdays, April 12 – June 28 from 7:00 PM – 9:30 PM at the NAMI DuPage Office, 2100 Manchester Road, Building B, Suite 925, Wheaton, IL 60187.
While the Family to Family program is an educational course, NAMI DuPage also has support groups at various locations. For more information on the support groups or to register for Family to Family, call the NAMI DuPage office at (630) 752-0066, ext. 210 or register online at www.namidupage.org.
(CNN) — While officials have provided few details about the U.S. Army soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan men, women and children in a house-to-house shooting rampage in two villages, one psychiatrist speculated the incident may have stemmed from mental illness, but not necessarily post-traumatic stress disorder.
“Post-traumatic stress disorder has a cluster of symptoms, and violence, or violence against, others is not usually considered part of that diagnosis,” said Paul Newhouse, a professor of psychiatry at Vanderbilt University and a former Army psychiatrist. “So I think it’s more likely that we’re going to discover that there was some either psychotic illness or delusional condition or some evidence that this person was more seriously deranged or impaired than we would typically see in PTSD.”
An Afghan soldier at the combat outpost spotted the staff sergeant leaving about 3 a.m. Sunday and notified American commanders, said Gen. John Allen, commander of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force. A head count verified the solder was missing, and a search party was assembled, but “it was as that search party was forming that we began to have indications of the outcome of his departure.”
Afghans approached the gate to the outpost, saying there had been a shooting and carrying their wounded, according to a senior Defense Department official. The death toll included nine children, three women and four men.
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Officials have not identified the suspect or provided many details about him.
The suspect “basically turned himself in and told individuals what had happened,” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Monday. However, the Defense Department official said the suspect has invoked his right to remain silent and has given no indication of his motive.
The soldier was assigned to the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, Washington, according to a congressional source not authorized to speak publicly.
He is in his mid-30s, with a wife and children, officials said. An infantry sniper, he was trained to hit to kill at about 800 meters, according to the defense official.
He was assigned to an outpost near the southern Afghan city of Kandahar to support a Special Forces unit, according to a military official who asked not to be named because of the pending investigation.
He served three tours in Iraq, but this was his first deployment to Afghanistan, Allen said. A U.S. military official said he arrived in Afghanistan in January.
During his last deployment in Iraq, in 2010, he was riding in a vehicle that overturned in a crash, and was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury, according to the defense official. However, after treatment he was determined to be fit for duty.
Newhouse discounted the possibility that the injury could have played a role in the incident.
“I think that his injury was probably not very significant and thus he was judged to be fit for duty,” he said. “I think we’re going to learn over the next few weeks or months that this was probably unrelated to this incident.”
He also deemed it unlikely that the soldier suffers from a personality disorder.
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“A sociopath or a psychopath is somebody who isn’t going to fit into the rules of something like the U.S. military, and that kind of person would have been likely drummed out or released from the military many years ago,” he said. “I understand this individual was, had been, in the Army for quite some time, so I think a better likelihood is that this person suffered from some severe illness or mental illness that may have come on more recently and perhaps is linked to this terrible incident.”
The soldier was put in pretrial confinement in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, about 15 miles from the outpost where he was stationed, said the congressional source. He has not been charged, but Panetta said he could face the death penalty.
Military officials have said evidence indicates the suspect acted alone.
After the shooting, the suspect’s family was moved onto Joint Base Lewis-McChord for their safety, the defense official said.
The soldier’s medical history will be part of the investigation, which is being handled by U.S. military authorities, Allen said.
Newhouse compared the shootings to mass killings seen in the United States, at Virginia Tech and in Tucson, Arizona. Individuals accused in those incidents “turn out to have given off a lot of signals of mental illness or severe disturbance before the incident, and I think that’s where I would be starting my investigation or my inquiry,” he said.
“I think we are in a new situation for the U.S. Army over the last few years, because we are now having a professional army with multiple deployments, multiple tours in the combat zones, and this is something the Army has really not had a lot of experience with until the last decade or so,” Newhouse said.
In previous engagements, soldiers typically had a single deployment, he said, adding that military officials are attempting to figure out appropriate mental health services for troops after multiple deployments.
A handful of soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord have been involved in violent incidents in the past few years, including four soldiers convicted of killing Afghan civilians in 2010 as part of a “kill squad.”
The forensic psychiatric review process at the base’s Madigan Army Medical Center is being reviewed. Western Regional Medical Command said last week that some 285 soldiers who were evaluated at Madigan since 2007 will be asked to undergo a second evaluation.
In December 2010, the Stars and Stripes military newspaper said Lewis-McChord had gained a reputation as “the most troubled base in the military.” It also reported that year that multiple investigations were under way into the conduct of troops at the base and the adequacy of the mental health and medical care soldiers were receiving upon their return home.
CNN’s Barbara Starr and Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report.
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NORTH MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (WSVN) — Men and women suffering from medical and psychological ailments are being forced out from the only home they know.
Toney Rouse rents the home located on Northeast 178th Street in North Miami Beach.
Ten people live inside the six-bedroom home, which is furnished with bunk beds and TVs; all 10 contribute to the household.
Among the 10 is Chris Clarke, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder; Greg, who has battled alcoholism and now is the house manager; and James Bonoffski, who battles manic depression. “These people here are just trying to live. That’s all. They are not causing no problem. They are not perfect, but no one is,” said Rouse.
The City of North Miami Beach says that Rouse is operating a group home in a single-family house, which is considered a zoning violation. At a hearing Thursday, the City ordered Rouse to stop operating the home and said everyone must leave the home by Monday. “No food, no water, no place to stay, get out,” said Rouse.
Clarke said living in the home with everyone has made him better. “It’s giving me my health back, my ability to work, to take responsibilities for things,” Clarke said.
The City says police have been called to the home more than a dozen times in the past year. “Those people that can’t manage themselves are no longer here,” said Rouse.
Rouse now wonders what will happen next. “If I can’t stay here, then give me a fair chance to find another place, that’s all,” he said.
Rouse is talking to several realtors and friends to find a place to stay, and hopes for a miracle.
(Copyright 2012 by Sunbeam Television Corp. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
A respected medical journal is distancing itself from a controversial study it published that established a link between abortion and mental illness.
The study, which appeared in the Journal of Psychiatric Research in 2009, suggested that pregnancy termination can cause post-traumatic stress, disorder, anxiety, depression and even drug addiction, reports Reuters.
Now the journal’s editors are dubbing the research “flawed,” saying it “does not support assertions that abortions led to psychopathology.”
The study’s author, Priscilla Coleman, a professor of human development and family studies at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, used data from a Harvard University co-morbidity study of mental illness in the United States to establish her link between abortion and mental illness.
The Guttmacher Institute of California, which studied the same data, questioned whether Coleman had actually established what came first in the test subjects — the abortion or the mental illness.
“Determining the ‘effects of abortion’ is not possible unless it can be established that the diagnoses occurred after the abortion,” said Julia Steinberg, a researcher at the University of California, San Francisco. “For many women, psychiatric illnesses occurred before the abortion,” she said.
Coleman, whose paper has become a cornerstone for conservative argument against abortion, admitted to certain problems with her assumptions on the times when the women terminated their pregnancies and their psychiatric disturbances.
Abortion foes have used this study and others like it to support state laws mandating that women be told the procedure holds mental-health risks.
In Texas, Kansas and West Virginia, women seeking an abortion are told they are at risk for suicide, depression, fear, anxiety and alcohol and drug abuse.
Pro-choice and pro-life politics have inflamed the debate over Coleman’s study, which has been slammed as factually inaccurate.
In 2011, Coleman gave a speech to the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists in which she announced she had a plan “to develop a new nonprofit organization devoted to understanding and publicizing the real risks of abortion.”
The Guttmacher Institute is an outspoken advocate for women’s right to have an abortion.
NEW YORK |
NEW YORK (Reuters) – A leading psychiatry journal has distanced itself from a controversial study that it published in 2009 which suggested a link between abortion and mental illness, including such severe forms as post-traumatic stress disorder, panic attacks, and drug addiction.
NEW YORK (Reuters) – A leading psychiatry journal has distanced itself from a controversial study that it published in 2009 which suggested a link between abortion and mental illness, including such severe forms as post-traumatic stress disorder, panic attacks, and drug addiction.
In an unusual commentary, one of the Journal of Psychiatric Research’s editors-in-chief and a co-author warned that the 2009 paper, which has been widely cited by legislators and advocates to argue that abortion raises a woman’s risk of mental illness and to push for laws requiring providers to tell women that, in fact “does not support assertions that abortions led to psychopathology.”
Led by Priscilla Coleman, a professor of Human Development and Family Studies at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, the study used data from the Harvard-based National Comorbidity Survey, which assesses the prevalence of mental illness in the United States. She and her co-authors concluded that there is a link between past abortions and mental illness.
In 2010 Julia Steinberg of the University of California, San Francisco, and Lawrence Finer of the nonprofit Guttmacher Institute published their own analysis of the same data from the comorbidity survey. They identified a number of errors in the Coleman paper, including statistical ones.
The Guttmacher Institute is a non-profit research and education group that advocates for reproductive rights, including access to abortion.
The U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973 but opponents have sought, particularly at the state level, to impose restrictions on the procedure.
Steinberg said that the biggest problem in the original Coleman study was that “many of the incidents of mental illness she included came before the abortion.” That cast doubt on whether abortion triggered mental illness. Instead, women with mental illness might have been more likely to have an unwanted pregnancy and terminate it.
“Determining the ‘effects of abortion’ is not possible unless it can be established that the diagnoses occurred after the abortion,” said Steinberg. “For many women, psychiatric illnesses occurred before the abortion.”
Last July Coleman acknowledged the statistical errors, but that was far from the end of the battle. A letter from Steinberg and Finer in the March issue of the Journal of Psychiatric Research reiterates the criticism about including episodes of mental illness over a woman’s entire lifetime.
In a published response, Coleman conceded that she had used lifetime estimates of mental illness, rather than only episodes after an abortion. It “is certainly true” that this makes it difficult to figure out whether the abortion or the mental illness came first, she wrote.
In an email Tuesday from London, where she had addressed members of Parliament “about the abortion and mental health association,” Coleman said that “the pattern of results” -greater incidence of mental illness among women who have had an abortion – “did not change much” when she made the statistical corrections. Moreover, she wrote, “we never made assertions of causality.”
The title of her paper included the phrase “the effects of abortion.”
Coleman’s arguments did not sway the journal. In an unusual step, a commentary co-authored by Alan Schatzberg, an editor-in-chief and professor of psychiatry at Stanford University School of Medicine, concludes that the criticism of the Coleman study “has considerable merit.”
Her analysis “does not support assertions that abortions led to psychopathology,” it continued, and using lifetime diagnoses of mental illness is “flawed.” Studies of abortion and mental illness “should consider only mental disorders subsequent to the pregnancy.”
Despite these problems the paper has not been retracted. “The ultimate decision to retract is made by the publisher using preset procedures including an independent committee,” Schatzberg said in an email to Reuters.
Journal publisher Elsevier “has specific policies and procedures for evaluating and instituting any possible retraction decisions. Authors are also free to request a retraction.” Editors can also initiate the process leading to a retraction.
Critics say the paper is flawed enough to be excised from the scientific literature. “This is not a scholarly difference of opinion; their facts were flatly wrong. This was an abuse of the scientific process to reach conclusions that are not supported by the data,” said Steinberg. “The shifting explanations and misleading statements that they offered over the past two years served to mask their serious methodological errors.”
Another concern has been whether Coleman fully disclosed any possible conflicts of interest. In a presentation she gave in 2011 to the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, she said, “I have a plan to develop a new non-profit organization devoted to understanding and publicizing the real risks of abortion. I would like to bring together many credentialed scientists with a research program pertaining to the physical, psychological, and/or relational effects of abortion on women and their families.”
Advocates on both sides of the abortion debate disagree on whether the strongly worded commentary, plus a letter to the editor pointing out serious mistakes in the 2009 study, will affect policy.
Thirty-five states require pre-abortion counseling, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
Of those, nine include only negative psychological consequences, such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicidal thoughts or other forms of mental illness. Courts have thrown out some of these requirements, including South Dakota’s that abortion providers tell women that the procedure “increased risk of suicide ideation and suicide.”
There is no shortage of studies on abortion and mental illness. But expert analyses have found that many are as poorly done as the 2009 paper. Two reviews of the science, one by the American Psychological Association, found that higher quality studies were much less likely to find adverse psychological effects from abortion than lower-quality studies were.
Opponents of legalized abortion believe there are enough studies linking the procedure to mental illness to support state laws mandating that women be told of that risk. Kansas requires a doctor to say that “after having an abortion, some women suffer from a variety of psychological effects ranging from malaise, irritability, difficulty sleeping, to depression and even posttraumatic stress disorder.”
Texas tells women that some “have reported serious psychological effects after their abortion,” including depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and behavior, flashbacks, and substance abuse. West Virginia says that many women “suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Syndrome following abortion,” and can experience suicidal thoughts or acts, depression, fear and anxiety, and alcohol and drug abuse.
The 2009 study was “not alone in driving legislation” requiring pre-abortion counseling that includes a mental health warning, said Jeanne Monahan, director of the Center for Human Dignity at the Family Research Council, a non-profit group that opposes abortion rights. “A number of other authors have reached the same conclusion, so my read is that it’s very solid.”
Many of those studies compare mental health after abortion to mental health after childbirth. But the crucial comparison, argued Schatzberg, is between women with unwanted pregnancies who aborted or gave birth. To compare women with wanted pregnancies who gave birth to women with unwanted pregnancies who aborted can be misleading.
For the journal that published the controversial 2009 paper to essentially disown it can “help put a spotlight on the issue and encourage states to revisit their existing materials to ensure that they are accurate,” said Elizabeth Nash, a policy expert at Guttmacher. “States give the misinformation the same weight as the empirical evidence. The problem is that when states include inaccurate information, a woman reading the materials does not have the information she needs to make an informed decision.”
Talk about it
Kurt Schreiner was many things. A fun uncle who faithfully attended his nephew’s football games. A charming ladies’ man who loved to travel. A kind-hearted soul who made you feel like his best friend and doled out the perfect advice.
That was on the outside.
On the inside, Schreiner struggled. With drugs and alcohol. With his rightful place in the world. With an engagement that broke off.
“Kurt wore the depression mask better than anyone I have ever met in my life,” says Kursten Dienert, his oldest sister. “What we came to find out was that, behind closed doors, he had lost hope in himself and belief in himself.”
On Jan. 26, 2009, the Bismarck man visited a tattoo shop to finish the final phase of a huge tattoo on one arm. He went out for dinner with his sisters and their families, and they all laughed, visited and teased each other. They asked about his tattoo, still covered by a bandage.
Afterward, he returned to the home of his parents, who were out of town, and he shot himself.
He died on his 27th birthday.
Stories like this are all too common. Locally, suicides this month of high-profile men such as Fargo attorney Steven M. Light and the Rev. David Syverson, a Fargo priest, have shocked the community.
Nationally, suicide rates are four times higher in men than they are in women across all age groups, says Dr. Paula Clayton, medical director of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
“It’s alarming at this point,” Clayton says.
And they are on the rise. Male suicides have risen from a rate of 17.5 per 100,000 people in 2000 to 19.2 per 100,000 in 2009, according to statistics from the AFSP and Suicide.org.
The reason for the upswing is complex. The Department of Defense reports more suicides from post-traumatic stress-affected veterans. Unemployment and economic downturns historically boost suicide rates, Clayton says.
And men tend to use more lethal methods, such as firearms, than women do. In fact, 80 percent of all firearm-related suicides involve white males, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Factors like mental illness and alcohol also play a powerful role. Over 60 percent of people who die by suicide suffer from major depression. If you factor in alcoholics who are also depressed, that number jumps to 75 percent, according to the AFSP.
But masculine suicide seems to have deeper cultural roots, especially in the traditional, stoic Midwest. From an early age, most men are conditioned to take care of others, suppress their emotions and figure out problems on their own.
‘Believing the lie’
It was only after his death that Schreiner’s family saw the tattoo. It included koi fish, a large open rose and a theatrical mask with a disturbingly sad face.
The mask made sense. Kurt, everyone’s fun, happy-go-lucky friend, had worn one for years.
Dienert, who has since become an advocate for suicide prevention, knows many men are like her brother, hiding emotional pain under a façade.
“I hear more and more from those who have lost a male to suicide that they hide their depression so well under this mask,” says Dienert. “They appear outwardly happy. They aren’t the typically depressed person who is lying on the couch all day and is not involved in the outside world.”
Dienert thinks her brother hid his depression because he believed it made him seem weak.
“Although depression is never a sign of weakness, we as a society had made it out to be that. But it’s a chemical imbalance, it’s an illness. And just like women, men need our support just as much,” she says.
Dr. Danial Sturgill, a Sanford psychologist, seconds that thought. As parents, he says, we comfort and support the little girl who cries, but we tell little boys to “be a big boy,” or “walk it off.”
“We tend to grow up believing that men are not supposed to show or feel emotion, which isn’t true. We grow up believing that lie,” Sturgill says. “So men’s depression tends to go underground.”
The pressure to be the strong, silent type is even greater for independent Midwesterners from stoic Northern European stock. “I think with agrarian families in general, there’s a lot of encouragement to suck it up and do it yourself,” he says. “There’s some fabulous things about those traits, but if you’re dealing with clinical depression, this is a situation you need to handle differently.”
Suffering in silence
Gender differences in friendships also can play a part. Women confide their problems and vulnerabilities to their female friends, while men tend to limit their social interactions to less personal topics.
“It’s more difficult for men to talk about their concerns and things that are meaningful and difficult in their lives,” Sturgill says.
Tom and Audrey Richmond of Fargo say their son, Roy, had a circle of male friends who would rally around him when he struggled with depression or the alcohol dependency that had plagued him since his 20s. They’d take him fishing or work on cars together.
Even so, Roy was a reserved, fiercely independent man who remains an enigma to his family even after his 2009 suicide.
“We could go four to six weeks and he wouldn’t call,” says Tom Richmond, a retired Concordia professor. “I think he just didn’t want to bother us.”
His parents saw their only son as a bundle of contradictions. He had learning disabilities, but was a natural writer. He didn’t make much money, but was unfailingly generous to others. He suffered from a painful, autoimmune disease for decades, yet rarely asked anyone for help.
Like any parent would, they’ve wondered what made him give up hope. They ask if his self-esteem problems came from being bullied in grade school and junior high because he was small for his age. They discovered he had stopped refilling his depression medication, as a stubborn protest against his insurance’s high co-pay. They wonder if he’d just been playing around with his gun and didn’t mean to shoot himself.
But in Roy’s death, as in his life, it was hard to know what he was thinking.
Getting him to get help
The Clint Eastwood mask – the belief that men need to be tough, reserved and self-reliant – also prevents males from seeking help when it’s needed most.
“Men are less likely to engage in treatment for any condition, whether it’s cancer or a lump or a skin rash or whatever,” Clayton says. “It’s just harder to get men to go to the doctor.”
But if husbands or significant others are acting strangely, it’s important to say something.
Men can show classic depressive symptoms (hopelessness, pessimism, etc.), but they may also talk of physical complaints such as headaches or stomach trouble. Depressed males are more likely to act out with irritability and angry outbursts, Sturgill says.
In fact, studies have shown a significant link between increased impulsivity and aggression and suicide risk.
“If your husband punches walls when he gets mad, he’s in more danger,” Clayton says.
Another risk factor for suicide is alcohol or drug abuse. Although Kurt Schreiner was clean and sober for 2½ months before his suicide, authorities found his blood alcohol level was extremely high at the time of his death.
“That is a really deadly combination in terms of people who have depressive symptoms. You mix in these substances and their inhibitions are down and their judgment is down,” Sturgill says.
A wife may hesitate to say anything, for fear she’ll offend her husband or even plant thoughts of self-harm into his head. But speaking up has the opposite effect.
“Just asking the question makes it less likely that the person will do something,” Sturgill says.
One should never assume that people are talking about death or self-harm simply to get attention.
“People should take that very seriously,” Sturgill says. “If someone is trying to get your attention, it means there’s an unmet need of some sort.”
Clayton believes the best medicine is to talk compassionately and honestly.
A typical opener might be: “I love you and I’m concerned about you.” That can lead to specific worries, such as: “You’ve stopped going to church, you’re not eating, and you’ve isolated from friends.”
The help doesn’t stop there. The concerned party should set up an appointment with a doctor or counselor, then accompany them to the appointment to make sure the patient mentions it, Clayton says.
And they need to monitor the situation for a while, because depression can be episodic and recurrent.
The first medication doesn’t always work, but there is hope for those who are willing to set aside their masks and seek help.
“The other thing we know about suicidal thoughts is that if we can get someone through those times, it does go away,” Sturgill says. “I find that once people come in the door, they realize they’re not going to be told that there’s something terribly wrong that they can’t get help for. It’s just getting through that door.”
‘If I knew then’
The years following Kurt Schreiner’s death have been difficult. Her parents’ marriage did not survive their son’s death, Dienert says.
Yet there have been hopeful, happy days. Dienert’s sister, Delaine Ballard, had a baby girl two years ago. And the loss of their brother drove home the importance of loved ones so much that they now call each other daily.
Dienert and Ballard are both involved in the North Dakota chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, for which Ballard helped start an “Out of the Darkness” tribute walk in Jamestown.
As her own tribute, Dienert had Kurt’s tattoo redrawn and placed on her back. She says it’s a way to keep her beloved little brother with her always.
“If I knew then what I know now, which is way too much about suicide, I may have been able to say, hey do you need help? Is there more I can do to help you?” she says. “Serious depression is no different from someone diagnosed with cancer. We really need to step up and make people aware that something needs to be done.”
Suicide warning signs
Suicide can be prevented. While some suicides occur without any outward warning, most people who are suicidal do give signs, such as:
* Observable signs of serious depression (unrelenting low mood, pessimism, hopelessness, desperation, anxiety, withdrawal, sleep problems).
* Increased alcohol and/or other drug use.
* Recent impulsiveness or taking unnecessary risks.
* Threatening suicide or expressing a wish to die.
* Making a plan (giving away prized possessions, sudden purchase of firearm).
* Unexpected rage or anger (more common in men).
Readers can reach Forum reporter Tammy Swift at (701) 241-5525
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“I was lucky that way, ’cause a lot of people get stuck,” Hunner said. “They want to get care, but they can’t.”
Aside from the medical assistance issue, “nationwide, there’s a shortage” of psychiatrists, especially child and adolescent psychiatrists, according to Dr. Judith Arnold, a psychiatrist with Aurora Behavioral Health Center in Two Rivers who is board certified in adult and child psychiatry.
“Manitowoc County is probably not an exception,” she said, although she didn’t have information specific to the county.
“The burden for some of the care … falls to primary-care physicians,” Arnold said.
Navigating the system
Navigating the mental health care system is difficult for anyone, said Bill Ehrendreich, a 43-year-old Manitowoc resident who has post-traumatic stress disorder and bipolar disorder. It’s even more difficult when people dealing with mental illness are trying to find their way through the “maze of services” while not functioning at a high level, he said.
Hunner agrees, and she’s grateful she had her parents to assist her in getting help.
“Insurance is hard to maneuver,” she said. “When you’re having trouble just thinking and doing hygiene … that’s the last thing you’re thinking about is insurance.”
One need Schulz, the Painting Pathways director, sees in the community is a hotline people could call for information on mental health issues and services. Often when people recognize mental health problems in themselves or a family member, they don’t know where to start. They don’t get the help they need “so it often ends up escalating into a crisis,” she said.
Many members of Painting Pathways first learned they had a mental health issue when they ended up in a crisis, Schulz said.
It was a failed suicide attempt that led Ehrendreich to begin reading all he could about bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder and contacting anyone who would talk to him from numerous agencies and organizations. Among the most helpful were the Manitowoc County Aging and Disability Resource Center, which helped him find financial resources, and Painting Pathways Clubhouse.
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