Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Mental Illness

Mental illness affects 1 in 6 adults, yet there is a heavy stigma associated with this group of disorders.  Why should such a common group of afflictions be so frowned upon?  Many people lack knowledge about mental illness; they may see it as a sign of weakness, or something to cover up.  Bring Change to Mind is an organization that fights the stigma associated with mental illness. Visit http://www.bringchange2mind.org/ to learn more.
Here are some of the more common misconceptions about mental illness.

  • "Children don't get mental illnesses.'  This couldn't be further from the truth.  1 in 10 children have a mental illness, including depression, anxiety and mood disorders.
  • "People with mental illnesses are violent."  While some violent people are mentally ill, few mentally ill people are violent.  Most people with mental illness are shy or withdrawn, and are more likely to be the victims of violence. 
  • "Mental illness is a sign of weakness."  Mental illness has few to no known causes and can affect anybody, in any walk of life.  It is not a sign of weakness.  
  • "Mentally ill people can't get better."  With early and appropriate treatment, many people with mental illnesses go on to lead normal lives, and most can't be picked out from people without mental illnesses.  It is, however, crucial that mental illness be treated promptly.  This is a problem in our nation, where mental health care insurance coverage is extremely lacking and services can easily cost thousands of dollars without coverage. 
And here are some of the more common mental illnesses:
  • Bipolar disorder: characterized by extreme mood swings, from manic (happy, excitable and euphoric) to depressive.  Often also associated with racing thoughts, irritability and agitation/anxiety.
  • Schitzophrenia: affects 1.1% of the adult populations.  Characterized by visual and auditory hallucinations, garbled thoughts and speech and disorganized thoughts.  Not the same as split personality.  
  • Depression: The most common mental illness, and while it is one of the moore treatable, it is still very serious.  Causes long term saddness, anxiety, pessimism, odd sleeping or eating patterns, fatigue, and/or suicidal thoughts/ actions.
  • PTSD: a rection to a traumatic event or expirience.  Most commonly associated with soldiers, but also occurs in any other populations, including seriously ill patients and their families, or victims of abuse or other violent crimes.  Characterized by extreme anxiety, sleep problems, flashbacks, nightmares and fear.  
  • Anxiety Disorders: a group of mental illnesses, including generalized anxiety disorder, phobias, panic disorders, OCD and social anxiety disorder.  Characterized by extreme bouts of anxiety and nervousness, which may or may not be directed at a specific situation or item, and can cause a panic attack, in which anxieety manifests itself into somatic symptoms (a panic attack).
Be open to learning about mental illness and be willign to discuss it openly.  With better understanding, better treatments will be developed and we will be able to help those who have mental illnesses to live in society.  

Sunday, January 20, 2013

X Files

As a bored college student, I enjoy watching old TV series on netflix.  Last semester, it was "That 70s Show", which was purely entertaining.
This semester, I've opted to watch the X-Files.  I enjoy seeing how far we have come with some of the Sci-Fi topics covered in the series: computers, genetic engineering, biology, and communication.  I've also come to a few conclusions:

  • The best way to find someone in a possibly dangerous situation is NOT to do any of the following: walk around loudly screaming their name, wearing high heels, calling their cell phone, ect.  Especially not when any of the following are involved: man eating aliens, mad scientists, bombs, armed gunmen, ect.
  • Cell phones and computers have come a llooonnnnngggggg way since 1993.
  • Big hair should have died in the 80s.
  • The glowing yellow eyes of Eugene tombes will always be watching.
  • There are always new ways to kill off characters.
  • Everything (at least in the show) is a conspiracy.  
  • The lights never work properly.  Large flashlights are a must.
  • Investigatins never take place during the day, or in a well lit area.  Nor do interviews, shootings, crime scenes or wierd events.  
If you enjoy mind twisting crime shows that border with sci-fi and fantasy, the X-files are excellent.  Happy hunting for the truth on alien life! 

Friday, January 18, 2013

The World We Live In

Ali's father posted this photo on facebook to point out that while children who want a puppy can get 1 million likes, but children who just want to live can barely get ten thousand likes.  Yet many people who saw this post felt that the children with the puppy were being bullied, that this was an unfair comparison, that it is wrong to try to point out that what people pay attention to might not be what they should.  Today, we live in a world where puppies get more attention that dying children.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Recommended Readings

More good books to read:

  • One in Three, by Adam Wishart.  An interesting look at the history of cancer, it's treatment, prognosis and research.  Includes modern cancer methodologies, and the author's own expirience with his father's cancer.
  • DNA, by James Watson (yes, one of the scientists who 'discorvered' the double helix).  An interesting look at DNA and it's place society, including biotech, DNA testing and disease treatment and prevention. A little outdated (written 2004), but quite useful for the history.
  • Children with Cancer, by Christine Eiser.  A psychological study of childhood cancer, probably a doctoral dissertation.  Again, a little outdated, but still relevant.  A little dry for most people, but good for those interested in the nitty gritty.
More to come as the semester progresses, perhaps even some fiction :)

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Take Action

So, as I have previously written, childhood cancer is a subject of great importance to me. Childhood cancer is also a subject of great ignorance of the general population. Most people have seen the smiling bald children on the commercials for the American Cancer Society, or St. Jude’s, but not many continue on to think more about children with cancer.
The reality is that childhood cancer is not as rare as you think. With an incidence of 1 in 330 children and over 10,000 cases diagnosed yearly in the US alone, childhood cancer is huge. This number doesn’t include the number of children continuing with their second or third year of treatment, or those who have relapsed. It is because of these numbers that cancer is the number one disease-related killer of our children. This comes after the other diseases that run headlines: cystic fibrosis, AIDS, asthma, congenital defects.
These treatments are harsh, causing effects like infertility and secondary cancers. Treatments include chemotherapies, surgeries and radiation treatments, all of which are dangerous on their own, let alone in tandem with the killer that is cancer. Multiple studies have implicated radiation of the nervous system and head with lower mental facilities, including lower IQ scores of up to 15 points (one standard deviation), as well as impaired functioning in day to day activities.
Diagnosis of childhood cancers is also woefully inadequate. A 1994 study showed the average time between a child first showing symptoms and being diagnosed was 17 weeks! That’s an entire semester of school, one third of a calendar year. Hopefully this time has been shortened since then, but definitely not to the level one would hope for. Rhabdomyosarcoma, a soft tissue tumor, forms in two main types, alveolar and embryonal. Alveolar rhabdo was found to be misdiagnosed 40% of the time, usually as embryonal (20% of misdiagnoses). These two types of cancer have remarkably different pathologies, treatments and prognosis, yet this mistake is extremely common.
Today, I call for reform. In 2009, the members of congress unanimously voted for and signed into law the Childhood Cancer Hope Act, pledging increased funding towards childhood cancer and improvements in diagnosis, treatment and long term support. Since then, no increase in research funding for pediatric oncology was seen. In fact, funding decreased. Why would congress completely pledge support for something, but then turn their back? Why has funding stayed steady or increased for the most common adult cancers, which have survival rates of 95-98%, while children’s survival rates have stayed at 75-80% since the 1980s? Some childhood cancer survival rates are under 50%, and for DIPG, a brain tumor, 90% don’t survive 18 months.
We need to remind congress of the pledge they took: to end childhood cancer, a scourge that takes 7 of our precious children each day. Write to your congressman/woman, remind them of the pledge they took. Remind them that they must protect our richest treasure, the future of our nation, the children. The duty of the government is to protect those who lack a voice. Since they can’t seem to do this, we must make our voice heard! Call, write, email, tell everybody that childhood cancer is not rare, that it kills more children yearly than AIDS, athsma, heart defects and cystic fibrosis combined, that children with cancer matter.
You can find your congress people at the website http://www.thetruth365.org/pledge/ . For more ideas on how you can give children with cancer a voice, visit the Truth 365 and watch their video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=oljTL1iuMmY . I also invite you to look through the “Links” page here on my blog to find more sites about childhood cancer.

Saturday, January 5, 2013


Today I'm flying back to Salt Lake.  It has been a lovely winter break, albeit a cold one.  It was so chilly on New Year's Eve that when I tried to light fireworks, the lighter froze.  Now I'm returning to SLC, where it should be in the high 30s next week.
This year, I'm hoping to write a bit more.  Classes will certainly provide some interesting writing, and there are always the anecdotes of working in a medical research lab.
Happy Holidays and Enjoy your New Year!