November 14, 2007

Taking responsibility

Posted in Children and adolescents, Mental health, Musings at 4:08 pm by The Lizard Queen

I just came across this article via Shakesville. The basic story is this: a young teenage girl, Megan, met a boy on myspace. Her mother monitored her myspace use, but found nothing objectionable about the boy, nor anything objectionable in their correspondence. The boy started saying nasty things to Megan, which culminated in her running up to her room and hanging herself.

That would be bad enough. Megan suffered from depression and ADD, and one of the symptoms of the latter is poor impulse control. The combination, in this case, was deadly. The mother is racked with guilt; she monitored Megan’s myspace use, but still feels like there’s more she could have done.

But the worst is still to come. The boy didn’t exist. A family down the street had created the persona; the following is information from a related police report, with the mother’s name redacted and replaced with (She):

“(She) said she, with the help of temporary employee named —— constructed a profile of ‘good looking’ male on ‘my space’ in order to ‘find out what Megan (Meier’s daughter) was saying on-line’ about her daughter. (She) explained the communication between the fake male profile and Megan was aimed at gaining Megan’s confidence and finding out what Megan felt about her daughter and other people.

“(She) stated she, her daughter and (the temporary employee) all typed, read and monitored the communication between the fake male profile and Megan . . .”

(She) stated she knew ‘arguments’ had broken out between Megan and others on ‘my space.’ (She) felt this incident contributed to Megan’s suicide, but she did not feel ‘as guilty’ because at the funeral she found out ‘Megan had tried to commit suicide before.'”

First of all, I don’t think it’s ever possible to place blame on anything other than mental illness when it comes to someone committing suicide*. That said, though, the actions of the adults in creating and maintaining the fake myspace account disgust me. And the fact that the woman ostensibly felt less guilty because someone told her that Megan had attempted suicide in the past? “Utterly reprehensible” doesn’t even begin to cover it. Read the rest of this entry »


August 30, 2007

Read ’ems

Posted in Government, Mental health, News, Politics, Racial issues at 6:57 pm by The Lizard Queen

On Owen Wilson’s (ostensible) suicide attempt: Owen and Me at the Thinkery:

Another aspect of all this is how it doesn’t help for people to be surprised that a particular person is depressed, or bipolar, or suicidal. On the surface it seems like a compliment, and surely that’s how people always intend it to be. But to have everyone express shock and wonder that you’ve got a mental illness only serves to increase your sense of alienation. That it was my wife who first spoke of depression to me, who insisted that I seek help has been an immense comfort to me, because it showed that she knew me, the real me, and knew there was a problem, and she cared enough to want to fix it. When I told my mother about it, she wasn’t expecting it, but neither was she in shock. “I’ve known there was something for years,” she said, “But I never could put my finger on it. And I never knew what to do for you.”

Melissa McEwan (usually of Shakesville) writes of Senator Craig at Comment is free: His own private Idaho:

Which in the end makes him a truly pitiable figure, just another victim of the so-called morality that casts same-sex attraction as a conquerable bit of devilry, like the offer of a rich dessert during a post-holiday diet: “Oh, I really shouldn’t … well, maybe just one bite.” Or would make him a pitiable figure, except for the niggling truth that Mr Craig was one of the purveyors of that morality, an architect of its policies and wielder of its wedge issues. And that sort of thing tends to rob people of their sympathies – even when it’s not remotely clear that he deserved to be arrested in the first place.

Bill Quigley at The Black Commentator: How to Destroy an African American City in 33 Steps — Lessons from Katrina:

Step Twenty Two. Keep all public housing closed. Since it is 100% African-American, this is a no-brainer. Make sure to have African-Americans be the people who deliver the message. This step will also help by putting more pressure on the rental market, as 5000 more families will then have to compete for rental housing with low-income workers. This will provide another opportunity for hundreds of millions of government funds to be funneled to corporations when these buildings are torn down and developers can build up other less-secure buildings in their place. Make sure to tell the 5000 families evicted from public housing that you are not letting them back for their own good. Tell them you are trying to save them from living in a segregated neighborhood. This will also send a good signal – if the government can refuse to allow people back, private concerns are free to do the same or worse.

July 27, 2007

I hear Starbucks gives benefits to part-time baristas…

Posted in Health care, Medicine, Mental health, Musings at 11:46 pm by The Lizard Queen


1. I am a graduate student at a state university, entering my seventh (and final) semester.
2. I had an assistantship for my first six semesters. Six semesters is the maximum length of an assistantship in our department, because that’s the most we have funding for.
3. Health insurance was included in the assistantship.
4. As I am no longer employed by the university, my coverage ends on August 20th.
5. I have another job, but that job does not offer health insurance.
6. I have suffered from depression for most of my life. I first saw a psychologist when I was seven years old.
7. I have been on medication for my depression for the past six years, with occasional breaks. The medication is not a cure-all, but it makes a significant difference.
8. With my insurance plan, I paid 40% of the cost of my medication, and it was still expensive. (The patient’s share of medication costs will go up to 50% when the fall semester begins.) I’m not sure I can afford to pay 100% of the cost of my medication.
9. I’m also not sure I can afford to pay for the graduate student insurance plan out of my own pocket.
10. I thus find myself considering tapering off my meds at a rather inconvenient time solely for financial reasons.

The facts lead me to THE QUESTION:

Can someone please explain to me what’s so bad about universal (socialized) health care?

April 19, 2007

They know when you’re not sleeping; they know when you’re depressed…

Posted in Civil rights, Medicine, Mental health at 3:45 pm by The Lizard Queen

Here’s an interesting paragraph from a recent ABC News story about Cho Seung-Hui (emphasis added):

Some news accounts have suggested that Cho had a history of antidepressant use, but senior federal officials tell ABC News that they can find no record of such medication in the government’s files. This does not completely rule out prescription drug use, including samples from a physician, drugs obtained through illegal Internet sources, or a gap in the federal database, but the sources say theirs is a reasonably complete search.

John Aravosis of AMERICAblog asks some very pertinent questions in a blog post entitled “Why does the Bush administration have a list of everyone who has ever used anti-depressants?” (emphasis in the original):

We don’t even have a list of gun owners, and we have a list of everyone who has been prescribed anti-depressants? And in fact, the article suggests that this isn’t just a database of patients who use anti-depressants, it’s a federal database of every prescription drug you’ve ever bought.

What exactly do the Bushies do with that list? And what other lists do they have of which medications you’ve ever taken?

Indeed. There’s not much I can add to that except to note that the idea of the government knowing what medications I’m on or have been on makes me uncomfortable. I don’t think that’s anyone’s business outside of me, my doctor, and those I choose to tell. And as Evil Bender said yesterday, “When the state denies us the right to make medical decisions about our own bodies, we lose the right to pretend we’re really free.”

November 4, 2006

Depression in schools

Posted in Education, Mental health at 3:17 pm by The Lizard Queen

I came across this article on the other day, and it concerned me. Here are the pertinent details (with emphasis added):

A former student who was barred from the campus of George Washington University and threatened with expulsion after checking into a hospital with depression has settled a lawsuit with the college, both sides announced Tuesday.The school told Jordan Nott his 2004 hospitalization violated the school’s code of conduct because it demonstrated dangerous behavior. He said he hadn’t tried to kill himself before the hospitalization, but had been thinking about it because of the suicide of another George Washington student.

He was barred from campus and threatened with suspension or expulsion unless he withdrew. He decided not to fight the charges and transferred to another school a few months later. …

The Bazelon Center [for Mental Health Law, which represented Nott] is also representing a student at a Connecticut boarding school who was placed on a mandatory leave after seeking treatment for depression.

What bothers me about this is less that it demonstrates the othering of the mentally ill that is all too prevalent in this country–though, of course, that does bother me–but that Nott and the unnamed student in Connecticut are being punished for seeking treatment for their depression. Depression is far from unusual in adolescents and young adults, and I feel that the message that’s being sent here is that students should keep their depression to themselves. Nott recognized that he had a problem and took positive action to alleviate that problem, and he was punished for it. I think of the mention of “the suicide of another George Washington student” and wonder what GWU’s administration would have done had they known ahead of time that that student was suicidal. Would they have simply threatened him with suspension or expulsion, as they did Nott? If Nott had killed himself after the events of 2004 took place, would the school have felt justified in barring him from campus? The more I think about this, the more it bothers me. While I don’t expect universities or other schools to be babysitting their students to watch for signs of mental illness, I think that if a student is willing to seek help for their illness, the university should be supportive, rather than wanting to rid themselves of that student.

May 8, 2006

Recruiting the mentally ill and developmentally disabled

Posted in Mental health, News at 11:43 am by The Lizard Queen

Just came across a news item via Shakespeare’s Sister that I wanted to pass along and comment on: The signing of a disabled [i.e. autistic] Portland man despite warnings reflects problems nationally for military enlistment.

A comment in the Oregonian article that struck me: “Recruiters in Portland and nationwide spend several hours a day cold-calling high school students, whose phone numbers are provided by schools under the No Child Left Behind Law.”

Can someone explain to me what providing the phone numbers of high school students to military recruiters has to do with making sure they get a good K-12 education? That strikes me as inappropriate at best, if not frighteningly invasive.

Another striking moment: the mother of the autistic man, Jared, “said she spoke to Cpl. Ronan Ansley and explained that Jared had a disability, autism, that could not be outgrown. She said Ansley told her he had been in special classes, too — for dyslexia.”

Well… maybe this is a point in Ansley’s favor. If he’s comparing autism to dyslexia (don’t get me wrong, dyslexia is serious business, too), then he clearly has no grasp of what autism is and why Jared’s family is fighting so hard to keep Jared out of the Army.

Finally, the moment in the story that broke my heart: “During a recent family gathering, a relative asked Jared what he would do if an enemy was shooting at him. Jared ran to his video game console and killed a digital Xbox soldier and announced, ‘See! I can do it!'”

I can’t say it any better than Shakes Sis did: “No good can come of this for Jared. If his parents aren’t successful in having his enlistment overturned, he will sent to Iraq on a dangerous tour of duty for which he is wholly unprepared. If they are successful, he may never quite understand why they withheld the opportunity from him, since his video game acuity proves, to him, that he can ‘do it.'”

April 28, 2006

Mental illness, and a proposal for next Friday (May 5)

Posted in Mental health, Movies at 2:35 pm by The Lizard Queen

A little less than a year ago, Tom Cruise criticized Brooke Shields for treating her post-partum depression with medication and psychotherapy. Soon afterward, he appeared on the Today show to promote War of the Worlds and ended up expanding on his opinions of psychiatry, calling it a “pseudo-science.” I’ve been trying to forget Cruise’s rant, chalking it up to just another celebrity taking advantage of his fame to pontificate on his chosen subject. (I can’t blame them—I’m sure I would do it, too.) Still, the more I think about this particular incident, the angrier I get. People struggling with mental illness have enough problems without celebrities—who, like it or not, the general public pays attention to—disparaging them. I defy anyone who’s experienced clinical depression to tell me it’s not real. I defy anyone who’s had to witness one of the most brilliant people she knows descend into madness to tell me that can be fixed by vitamins and exercise. I certainly have no argument against people seeking treatments other than psychotropic medications for mental illnesses, nor do I claim psychotropic medications are a panacea; I do, however, believe that criticizing those who take such medications so that they can function is akin to criticizing epileptics for taking medication to prevent seizures. Such criticism is unfounded and damaging. My hope is that someday the stigma can be removed from mental illness, so we as a society can focus instead on understanding it and treating it more effectively.

To increase awareness of this issue, I have a suggestion that may seem like a non sequitur: an anti-Mission Impossible: III movie night. MI:3, starring Tom Cruise, premieres on Friday, May 5. Don’t go see MI:3 that night—instead, you might do as I plan to do and get together with your friends to watch a movie featuring one of the other MI:3 cast members (Capote, anyone?). Or perhaps you might watch a movie that deals with mental illness in some way, like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest or Girl, Interrupted. (Or perhaps you might just go out and celebrate Cinco de Mayo and avoid the movies altogether.) No matter what, I encourage you to skip MI:3 (does it really look that good anyway?) and talk about this issue. Will boycotting Tom Cruise’s movies make any dent in his paycheck or his beliefs? Probably not. However, breaking the silence surrounding mental illness is the first step toward removing that aforementioned stigma.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
-Margaret Mead