Saturday, October 10, 2015

5 Late Life Depression Myths Everyone Should Know


Late Life Depression, clinically called geriatric depression, affects an estimated 15% of Americans ages 65 and older. The World Health Organization estimates that late life depression effects 7% of older people worldwide. Given their advanced age, many mistake this mood disorder for other conditions associated with getting older like memory loss, muscle/joint weakness or side effects from medications. As a result, upwards of 90% of seniors don’t receive adequate care, with 78% not receiving any treatment at all.

Learning the myths that surround geriatric depression can help you identify it in yourself or a loved one. Remember, depression is a serious, but treatable disorder.

·        Myth: Depression is a normal part of aging.
·        Fact: Depression is not a normal part of aging. This is the biggest myth of aging and mental health. Depression at any age is not a normal part of the aging process.

·        Myth: Depression in later life is not a major health concern.
·        Fact: The World Health Organization has stated that depression is a global crisis. Late life depression occurs in about 15% of seniors ages 65 and older. In the United States alone approximately 7 million older adults meet the criteria for a depressive disorder. However, over 90% of seniors are not being diagnosed or treated for this illness, which places them at enormous risk. Depression in the most common mental health problem for the elderly.

·        Myth: Depression will go away on its own.
·        Fact: A serious mental illness cannot be willed away or brushed aside with a change in attitude. Ignoring the problem doesn’t give it the slip either. Depression is serious, but treatable illness, with a success rates of upwards of 80% for those who seek intervention.

·        Myth: Depression affects seniors in the same way it does younger people.
·        Fact: Depression is not a one-size-fits-all illness. It actually presents differently in seniors than in younger individuals. Studies suggest seniors experience more structural changes in the brain and vascular issues, and aren’t aware that they’re feeling depressed. Seniors report more somatic complaints and irritability than sadness or despair as do younger people.

·        Myth: The risk of suicide in the elderly is greatly exaggerated.
·        Fact: The population for the greatest risk of suicide is the elderly, with men, age 85 and older having the highest death by suicide rate of all. Though suicide rates for seniors varies across countries and cultures, data shows that 85-90% of persons aged 65 years and over who died by suicide had a diagnosable depressive disorder. Also, 2/3 of seniors who died by suicide were seen by primary care physicians within a month of their deaths, and up to 1/2 half were treated by a primary care doctor within one week of their deaths.  These statistics makes the need for identifying at-risk seniors urgently crucial.

·        Myth: Seriously depressed people cannot lead productive lives.
·        Fact: Seniors with depression can live full, productive lives. In fact, many high profile people – even now in their golden years - are doing incredible things despite living with depression. Consider senior celebs like Rocker, Bruce Springsteen, Actor Harrison Ford, Talk Show Host and Writer Dick Cavett, Comedian Stephen Fry, Entrepreneur Richard Branson, Tennis Legend Cliff Richey. How about the greatness of President Abraham Lincoln, Choreographer Alvin Ailey, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Film Director Akira Kurosawa and Artist Michelangelo. It’s considered that depression helped all of these significant icons achieve greatness.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Are You Medicine Smart?

If you're someone who takes over the counter medications or prescription medicines, you need to become medicine smart. What does this mean? For starters, you should know what your medications are ... but also what they are treating, why a particular one has been chosen uniquely for you and how to use them.

According to The National Council on Patient Information and Education,  here are the most important things to know:

1. What is the name of the medicine and what is it for? Is this the brand name or the generic name?

2. Is a generic version of this medicine available? If so, it may be more cost effective to ask your doctor to prescribe it for you.

3. How and when do I take it - and for how long?

4. What foods, drinks, other medicines or activities should I avoid while taking this medicine? Adverse reactions are serious things, so learn what goes and doesn't go well with your medications.

5. When should I expect the medicine to begin to work - and how will I know if it's working?

6. Are there any side effects? What are they and what do I do if they occur?

7. Will this medicine work safely with the other prescription and nonprescription medicines I'm taking? Will it work safely with any supplements like vitamins, for instance?

8. Do I need to get a refill? If so, when?

9. How should I store this medicine? Some medicines must be refrigerated. Others need to be in a dark cool place. Other can't be stored near sunlight.

10. Is there any written information available about the medicine? Is it available in large print or a language other than English?

I always encourage children and adults I work with to become medicine smart. It makes treatment all the more effective when you know all the whys, whats, whens and hows about medication. One last thing I recommend:  Keep a list of all the medications you take available in your wallet, handbag or on your cellphone. In case of an emergency, the medications you take will be at-the-ready should the information be needed.

Friday, September 04, 2015

World Suicide Prevention Day is September 10th

Every 40 seconds someone dies by suicide. 

Every 41 seconds someone's left to make sense of it.

That's over 1 million people who die by suicide each year. And millions more who grieve and mourn the loss of their loved one.

Suicide is THE most preventable kind of death. Education, resources, intervention and outreach can help children and adults who struggle with staggering sadness, hopelessness and despair.

World Suicide Prevention Day is September 10th sponsored by The International Association for Suicide Prevention, The World Health Organization, The United Nations and many more grass root health organizations and agencies world-wide.

This is the 10th anniversary of the World Suicide Prevention Day. Ten years of research, ten years of prevention, ten years of education and dissemination of information. This year's theme is "Suicide Prevention across the Globe: Strengthening Protective Factors and Instilling Hope."

  • To learn about the warning signs for suicidal behavior go here.
  • For suicide resources in the USA use this link - and for global resources go here.
  • And remember, there is always someone ready to talk to you any day, any time at 1 800 273 TALK

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Benefits of Sarcasm

From the Greek and Latin for “to tear flesh,” the word sarcasm has been defined as “hostility disguised as humor,” the contempt-laden speech favored by smart alecks and mean girls that’s best to avoid.
But new research by out of Harvard University finds that sarcasm is far more nuanced, and actually offers some important, overlooked psychological and organizational benefits. Sarcasm has been shown to increase creativity for both expressers and recipients.  Sarcasm also enhances problem solvingUsing edgy forms of humor has long been an interest of the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor. When sarcasm is used in light-hearted ways, it deepens social bonds too. 
Sarcasm also works our brain. Studies show that language we hear is processed through the left hemisphere of the brain which interprets the literal meaning of the words. Then, the frontal lobes and the right hemisphere check the content for intention, contradictions, emotional and social meanings. Finally, the prefrontal cortex of the brain lets us know if what we've heard is sarcasm. 
Bottom line, sarcasm is good for you. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Facebook and Depression

Facebook is the millennium’s new water cooler. 

Though virtual in its design, it serves as a way for us to catch up on the latest trends, share milestones, learn about juicy gossip, or live vicariously through the experience of others. And not only is it a way to keep up with the Joneses, but it’s a way to keep track of the Joneses. 

Facebook provides us with social capital – and these valuable social experiences make us feel connected. But bear in mind that not everyone feels Facebook is an upbeat and pleasing social past time. Reading stories or viewing photos of friends’ activities could cause a user to feel left out or question the value of his or her own social status. Though Facebook can elicit warm feelings of nostalgia and connectedness, it can also spur jealousy and feelings of inadequacy too. With all these things going on, it’s wise to learn the psychological reasons for using social networking. When you understand what they are, you’ll be able to judge for yourself if Facebook is meeting the social expectations you hold. 

Research reports two distinct ways people use Facebook. One is bonding with others – to reconnect with old friends and family or to explore new relationships. The other is bridging as a means of strengthening your identity. Think of bridging as a kind of network that links you to other colleagues, businesses, contacts and organizations that share your political, social and community interests, or your career or professional pursuits. 

6 Tips for Using Facebook 

When you live with depression, it’s important to put yourself in a positive environment. Toxic people and negative experiences only serve to worsen depressive symptoms. So, understanding the reasons why you use Facebook will help determine if this social media is a thumbs up experience – or if you should consider other social avenues. 

1) Ask yourself why you’re on Facebook. Is it to bond or to bridge? Once you determine what you’re looking for – connection or networking– then you can set realistic expectations.

2) Explore your “user pattern” - or how you are using Facebook. Are you spending time too much time reading the news feeds of others? Do you only just cue into your own profile to look for connections - or do you venture beyond to connect with others? Do you leave comments? Do you invite others to respond to your wall status? How about direct messages, do you like using that feature? Do you like being in the app or game community? Are your bridging connections creating support, or are the conversations provocative, challenging or taunting?

3) Once you realize how you’re using Facebook, ask yourself what each of these activities does for you. The goal is to discover what gratifies you not only socially, but emotionally. Essentially, you’ll be cluing yourself into what Facebook activities work or don't work for you. 

4) Next, redefine your Facebook experience. If it makes you feel left out to read about others' daily lives, consider editing your subscriber list. Want to have more connection? Consider direct messaging than commenting on a community level. Personalizing your social media experience will help you feel good about yourself and the others you're choosing to share your online time with. If you discover that using Facebook isn’t as valuable a tool for you, bow out. It’s just as cool to bump the trend as it is to be part of a trend.

5) Now that you know the how, what and why reasons that you use Facebook, give yourself permission to be an extrovert or an introvert. Facebook should be a place that *you* design for *your* social needs. Find your comfort self-disclosing zone and work within it. 

6) Last but not least, remember to interface beyond the virtual world. Make sure you spend quality time socializing in real time with real people. 

Monday, June 01, 2015

Coming Out Proud to Erase the Stigma of Mental Illness

The new groundbreaking book Coming Out Proud to Erase the Stigma of Mental Illness: Stories and Essays of Solidarity edited by Patrick W. Corrigan, Jon E. Larson, and Patrick J. Michaels has just been released.
This book is a collection of personal reflections by people with mental illness, telling their stories of coming out and the lessons they learned from their journey.  Included are diverse stories from people all around the world, comprising of people from Australia, Canada, China, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Research states that one of the most effective ways to erase public stigma is through hearing first-hand experiences of people telling their stories of recovery. Being in the closet with mental health experiences often leads to shame while coming out replaces this shame with a sense of authority and empowerment. These stories of solidarity illustrates the fact that people with even the most serious of mental illnesses recover. 

I'm honored to have been invited to share my own personal and professional experiences with living with depression in this collection - and urge readers of my blog to add this important work to their must-read books. 

As Dr. Patrick Corrigan and his team at the National Consortium on Stigma and Empowerment state the goal of a book like this is "not less stigma, but more affirmation."