MORTI AND ME

sheridegrom - From the literary and legislative trenches.:

November is National Caregiver Month and I find it’s the perfect time for me to take a break from blogging. I’ll still be around reading blogs, commenting here and there and I have some housekeeping chores to take care of on my own blog. I also plan to spend time with Tom, organize parts of my pile management along with coming up with an idea of how to handle the 30,000+ messages in my in-box. Many I’ll delete of course but others need to go into folders for later research and on and on. I also may pop in with some blogs I’ve stumbled across and simply leave you the link. These are blogs I believe are worth reading (but that’s simply my opinion). The gardens need additional preparation for winter and I want to curl up with my precious shih tzu, our afghan, a great book and something delicious to drink.
I’m wishing you wonderful holidays and I’ll see you around the blog. Love to all, Sheri

Originally posted on Sheri de Grom:

Morti and Me
Slice Of Life
  By – Sheri de Grom 

Four decades ago, on a Thanksgiving morning, I met one of the greatest loves of my life.

It all started as “let’s play a joke on Sheri” and ended twenty-seven years CAT IN WINDOW later with my being a better person for having been loved and owned by a tabby cat with the name of Mortichi Muffin Mouse-Catcher Bowser-Brown. (Morti for short).

My first paid writing gig came about from my being in the right place at the right time and being high on life. Mortichi filled my life with love and laughter.

I’d hired into StarKist Foods on Terminal Island, California (across the bridge from San Pedro, and near Los Angeles harbor). How I convinced the head of the accounting department I’d make a great addition to their department I’ll never know. I’d never bothered to balance my own…

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EVERY SIXTY-FIVE MINUTES A VETERAN COMMITS SUICIDE

Mental Health/Veterans/Suicide
by – Sheri de Grom

Suicide Prevention Ribbon

Suicide Prevention Ribbon

Every sixty-five minutes a United States Military Veteran kills themselves. We lose one-hundred-fifty-four Veterans per week. The reality of how many Veterans commit suicide is unknown. The number is higher than the actual number provided. Two of our largest states, California and Texas, don’t report suicides.

Veterans have problems connecting with The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to obtain help. Many Veterans don’t trust the VA and the abundance of double-talk that often occurs when they seek help. Fewer than half of our nation’s 22.3 million eligible veterans are enrolled with the VA.

The VA itself admits veterans face huge challenges getting their assistance. Once the veteran does ‘get into’ the VA system, appointments are difficult to get. After the initial appointment, there are long delays in receiving a treatment plan and follow through.

Vietnam era veterans, in particular, are often distrustful of the VA. Fifty-eight thousand American’s died in the Vietnam War. Over one-hundred-fifty thousand have committed suicide since the war ended.

Many older veterans are at the age where the structures of their lives are loosening up. Before retiring from their civilian careers, they pushed their depression and PTSD down and focused on work and the demands of family life. They returned from Vietnam and Korea without developing community involvement or other activities. Upon retirement, many turn to alcohol to push the unwanted wartime memories away. More than half of our veterans committing suicide are fifty or older.

A VA study reported that the percentage of older veterans with a history of VA health care that committed suicide was higher than that of veterans not associated with VA health care.

Attention to veteran suicide has focused on service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. However, the most recent numbers reflect that seven out of ten veterans who have committed suicide are over the age of fifty.

Eleven years after the first troops entered Afghanistan and two years after combat operations ended in Iraq, our nation still does not know why its fighting men and women are dying after they come home. No governmental entity follows the fates of the hundreds of thousands of veterans who aren’t enrolled with the VA—nearly half of all recent veterans.

Last year, the San Francisco-based Bay Citizen reported that since 2007, more service members have died after returning home than in combat. VA officials told the news organization they had no interest in determining causes of death for every veteran, insisting the agency already had a handle on the problem.

If the VA has a handle on the problem, why are our service members committing crimes they have no interest in completing? They tell their buddies they want the pain to go away and the criminal action is referred to as “suicide by cop.” Other Veterans drink themselves to death or an overdose of drugs. Some eat their gun. Research reveals hundreds of one-vehicle accidents involve a Veteran driving into a no-win accident where death is guaranteed.

Achieving any health care program for a veteran within the VA system is a hit and miss situation. [I speak from years of experience in assisting hundreds of veterans obtain the health care they deserved]. It was from my position with JAG in California that I came head-to-head with the inadequacies of The Department of Veterans Affairs and knew Veterans would always be a part of my advocacy work.

Veteran suicides are not reported unless the family or someone close to the veteran elects to notify the VA that the death was a suicide. In this instance, the veteran is living independently of any VA programs and there’s no requirement to report the cause of death to The Department of Veterans Affairs.

In closing, while researching this and other topics I came across some disturbing facts about our Vietnam Veterans. I cannot take credit for compiling the information. Charlene Rubush recently reread Chuck Dean’s book, Nam Vet, and set them forth for consideration:

  • Since 1975, nearly three times as many Vietnam Veterans have committed suicide than were killed during the war.
  • Fifty-eight-thousand-plus Americans died in the Vietnam War. Over 150,000 have committed suicide since the war ended.
  • The national accidental death and suicide rate among Veterans is fourteen thousand men per year—33% above the national average.
  • Of those veterans who were married before going to Vietnam, 38% were divorced within six months after returning from Southeast Asia.
  • The divorce rate among Vietnam Veterans is above 90%.
  • Five-hundred thousand Vietnam Veterans have been arrested or incarcerated. There are an estimated 100,000 Vietnam Veterans in prison today, and 200,000 on parole.
  • Drug and alcohol abuse problems range between 50% and 75%.

Forty percent of Vietnam Veterans are unemployed and 25% earn less than $7,000 per year.

Thank you for reading with me. I’d planned for this to be a September blog to go along with National Suicide Prevention Month. I had no idea just how much the topic and the proportionate numbers would pull at not only my heart and soul but at my emotional and physical self as well.

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EXTREME PRESCRIBERS – ELDERLY AT RISK

The American Recall Center/Medicare Part D
by – Sheri de Grom

 

Doctor Writing Prescription - Morgue File

Doctor Writing Prescription – Morgue File

How can one doctor continue to write an excessive amount of prescriptions, and have them filled—151 times more than the average doctor’s tally for all Medicare patients—and not have it raise a red flag? The cost to the government was $9.7 million.

Pro Publica’s investigative reporters analyzed four years of Medicare prescription drug data and examined the prescriptions of all health professionals across specialties. It examined all prescriptions—1.7 million in 2010 alone—not just those in general-care specialties or mostly urban areas.

Medicare’s prescription drug program was launched in 2006 and now accounts for one

Medication Prescribed - Getty Photo

Medication Prescribed – Getty Photo

in four prescriptions dispensed, according to the Inspector General. Last year the government spent $62 billion subsidizing the drugs of 32 million people.

Medicare has failed to protect patients from doctors and other health professionals who prescribe large quantities of potentially harmful, disorienting or addictive drugs. It’s impossible to maintain medication safety for the Medicare population when a government agency turns a blind eye to the needs to a vulnerable population.

I rarely agree with anything Senator Tom Coburn (R) of Oklahoma comments on and his voting record reflects an extreme right approach. However, I do agree with his statement, “No one wants Medicare telling doctors which drugs to prescribe. But, the government does have a responsibility in preventing fraud and abuse.”

Medicare Difficult To Understand - Getty Photo

Medicare Difficult To Understand – Getty Photo

The Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services has repeatedly directed the Center for Medicare officials to be more vigilant. Yet the agency has rejected several key recommendations as unnecessary or over-reaching.

Pro Publica has created an online tool at this location. Click on the link to search for individual providers and see which drugs they prescribe.

Nursing Home - Unable to Hold on to Conversation - Getty Image

Nursing Home – Unable to Hold on to Conversation – Getty Image

After I retired from government, an advertisement for a Chief Financial Officer for a group of nursing homes in North Carolina caught my eye. I knew from previous investigations that the abuse of pharmaceuticals as money-makers was wide-spread but I had no idea how bad it was in the civilian sector until I accepted this position.

 

The prescribing practices I found the most deplorable were for profit margin and not for the benefit of patients.

A private practice psychiatrist visited the facility once a month and fraudulently annotated in the patient charts to reflect he had assessed the patients for the high levels of pharmaceuticals he prescribed. Each note in a patient’s medical chart was billed as an office visit by the doctor, resulting in a hundred or more office visits per day. The doctor visited five nursing homes each month and he billed for 300 patients per nursing home. This doctor did not need to maintain an office, he made his fortune via fraudulent billing.

Pharmaceuticals had the largest profit margin of any other department at the group of nursing homes where I was employed and anti-psychotics were prescribed two to one over any other drug.

I hadn’t been hired by the nursing homes’ corporate office to investigate pharmacy, Medicare, or other types of abuse. I’d been hired to look for new sources of revenue and to collect back debt.

I couldn’t allow the patient population to receive excessive sedating drugs. The patients included: the elderly, veterans, the disabled needing extensive physical therapy and hospice patients. It’s no wonder the patient population seemed more confused, became agitated and fell often creating even more work for an industry that’s routinely under-staffed.

White Collar Investigation Getty File

White Collar Investigation
Getty File

Thankful, for many reasons, I don’t have Medicare Part D for my prescription coverage and I’m grateful a portion of my health-care coverage has stayed almost level. I’m still able to use my same independent pharmacy where we’ve had prescriptions filled since we moved to our home eight years ago.

It’s no wonder medications are so costly today. The United States is the only country in the civilized world that charges its consumers the cost of research and development for every brand name drug sold.

Additionally, Congress has served up a blank check to pharmaceutical companies for Medicare Part D. It prohibits Medicare from negotiating with companies for lower prices. Medicare places no cap on the cost of medications they approve and these results in the patient having a higher co-payment.

Medicare might benefit the patient if it allowed the same negotiating of payment policy with physicians and other healthcare services.

What do you think? Will Medicare Part D be what you need when it’s your turn to need pharmaceutical coverage?

Congress and Medicare gave the pharmaceutical companies a blank check with our tax dollars held for ransom. Why is this okay with Congress, the Presidential Administration and the Supreme Court? This is not equal opportunity, it’s not safe medicine and it’s not justice!

Thank you for reading with me. I always appreciate you support. The month of October marks the calendar as “Talk About Your Medicines” month. I’m honored that www.recall.com/community asked me to be an extension of their campaign. Please visit their site.

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HOW SAFE ARE PSYCHIATRIC MEDICATIONS?

The American Recall Center/Personal Experience
by – Sheri de Grom

Far Too Many Pills - Photo Courtesy of Death to the Stock Photo

Far Too Many Pills – Photo Courtesy of Death to the Stock Photo

Each day begins with my swallowing a handful of pills and injecting a shot. Each medication has more side effects than I care to think about. Four of the pills I swallow in the a.m. are for panic attacks resulting from a nasty case of PTSD. I’ve worked hard in therapy and thought I had managed to put everything in a pretty box and handed it to God. The move to DC I’ve talked about a lot brought on other events leading to more severe panic attacks. After my second brain injury, I was diagnosed with Narcolepsy and here came another pill and more panic. I suddenly found myself in one dangerous situation after another and I had no idea when my body would betray me and fall asleep, unannounced. And I shouldn’t forget to mention the medication to treat my on-going nerve pain (although I cut it in half). I can’t stand the way it makes me feel if I take the prescribed dosage.  I’ll be talking about my medications in another blog as PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and TBIs (Traumatic Brain Injuries) have been the culprit behind most of my serious medical conditions.

Before I have my first meal of the day, some four or five hours after that first handful of pills and the injection, I swallow another handful of drugs and so on and so on. Without my medication cocktail my body rebels and reminds me why the prescriptions are necessary.

Today’s blog will focus on the medications my husband Tom has taken and the resulting damage to his body.

Medication is almost always a part of the recommended treatment course for bipolar disorder. People with undiagnosed bipolar disorder will sometimes self-medicate with alcohol or drugs to try to relieve some of their symptoms. It’s with thanksgiving I’ve never had to worry about those extremes with Tom.

Credible physician a Must for Treatment kenowi.com

Credible physician a Must for Treatment
kenowi.com

A catastrophic problem for the bipolar-disordered patient is that a psychiatrist will add medications to daily pharmaceutical regimes without taking other medications away. This continuous addition of pharmaceuticals is a widespread practice by psychiatrists.

My career moved Tom and I many times and this meant Tom had several psychiatrists in a twelve-to-fourteen-year period.

My husband was gone. He’d become a shell of the man I’d married. Over the years the medications damaged his internal organs.

Carmel, CA, Getty Images

Carmel, CA, Getty Images

Our spontaneous conversations were gone along with lingering over dinner at our favorite restaurants, walks along the Carmel, CA beach, trips to our favorite bookstores, discovering antiques and other activities. When Tom was taking the psychiatric medications he used a dull and monotone voice, rarely expressed an opinion and became a man with little energy who slept all day. Perhaps worst of all — the husband I knew was slipping away and he knew that I could see it. Tom had become defenseless.

A study conducted in Sweden involved 10,000 patients with two chronic diseases and 10,000 patients diagnosed bipolar-disordered. The results are alarming. Of the bipolar- disordered group, 6,618 of the 10,000 bipolar-disordered patients died over a decade sooner than the general population. Multiple causes lead to an increased mortality: cardiovascular disease, diabetes, COPD, influenza or pneumonia, unintentional injuries and suicide. There’s also a higher rate of cancer.

At issue here, even with the best health care available, medical doctors have many reasons why they don’t want to add bipolar patients to their practice. At least fourteen studies have shown that a patient with serious mental illness receives worse medical care than ‘normal’ people. Last year the World Health Organization called the stigma and discrimination endured by people with mental health conditions a world-wide human rights emergency.

The mentally ill that die early due to negligent physical medical care comprise sixty percent of recordable deaths in the United States annually. These patients die of preventable or treatable conditions.

A medical advocate must be aware of the mentally ill’s needs with vigilance. This is an exhausting role but one where the slightest withdrawal of attention to the total medical care and observation of the patient can turn to tragedy in a nano-second.

The diseases caused by Tom’s anti-psychotic drugs include:

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Cardiovascular disease and Diabetes Type II. Sadly, diabetes is often the result of an anti-psychotic drug that only a few years ago received a black box warning that it could cause Type II diabetes. By the time the warning came out, it was too late for Tom. He was already coping with being a diabetic.

Tom was prescribed Lithium and while it did keep him out of the hospital, it also destroyed one-third of his liver. The doctor prescribing the lithium did not order the necessary blood panels Tom should have had during the time he was taking lithium.

Some medications used to treat bipolar disorder have been linked to an increased risk of death, but those with no medications to treat their disorder have an even higher risk of mortality.

A miracle occurred in late 2004 when we met Tom’s current psychiatrist. Tom was admitted to the hospital and detoxed from the twenty-seven psychiatric medications he’d been taking daily. At the time of this admission, Tom’s diagnoses included: Parkinson’s disease, Type II Diabetes, Tardive Dyskinesia, bleeding at the cortex of the brain and of course bipolar disorder. All of the diagnoses, with the exception of bipolar disorder, were a direct result of being over-medicated with psychiatric medications.

Once the twenty-seven psychiatric medications were out of Tom’s system, we knew he did not have Parkinson’s disease, Tardive Dyskinesia or bleeding at the cortex of the brain. Of course the diagnoses of bipolar disorder and diabetes II will stay with him throughout his lifetime.

National Institute of Health

National Institute of Health

The National Institute of Health (NIH) reported on October, 8, 2014 that, “Results strongly suggest that clinicians need to pay much more attention to promoting physical health in people with severe mental illness.” This statement has been needed for years. Unfortunately, doctors in family practice, internists and specialists haven’t embraced adding the mentally ill to their patient roster.

The results of the NIH study revealed treatment with anti-psychotic medication, even after brief exposure was associated with an increased risk of metabolic syndrome, which is a major risk for future cardiovascular illness. [Were the anti-psychotic medications Tom took for so many years responsible for his needing a pacemaker in 2007 and an emergency heart surgery a few months ago]? I believe they were. After all, the anti-psychotic medication is one his current psychiatrist tells us he does not need and there’s strong evidence to support that theory.

Tom had been hospitalized twenty-seven times in a behavioral health unit until we met his current psychiatrist. Since our fortunate meeting, Tom has not needed hospitalization. We are a team, the psychiatrist, Tom and I.

In addition to the psychiatric medications Tom took every day, he also took medications for high cholesterol, diabetes, low thyroid, sinus infection control, low Vitamin D and reflux.

Today Tom’s psychiatric medications are limited to three and his psychiatrist approves or disapproves any and all medications added to his care. We’re aware how a slight chemical imbalance can send Tom to a place where his medicine is no longer safe for him.

Thank you for reading with me. I always appreciate your support. The month of October marks the calendar as “Talk About Your Medicines” month. I’m honored that Judy Cohen, Outreach Coordinator with the American Recall Center asked me to be an extension of their campaign. Please visit their site at:  www.recallcenter.com/community You’ll find the medical information there written in a straight-forward manner and easy to understand.

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WRITING TRAVEL BLOG – PART 2

Slice of Life/Travel Blog                                                      
by – Sheri de Grom

In my blog of June 2, 2014, I introduced you to eight bloggers I admire and follow. I hope you’ve had the opportunity to check out each one of the fascinating individuals I’ve listed below. They are indeed the real deal in the blogging world.

Huntie @ http://chasingrabbitholes.com/

Tess @ http://letscutthecrap.wordpress.com

Marie @ http://writingwingsforyou.com

Gallivanta @ http://silkannthreades.wordpress.com

Regan @ http://bluestockinghack.wordpress.com

Inesse @ http://inesemjphotography.com

Emily @ http://beefandsweettea.com

Andrea @ http://harvestinghecate.wordpress.com

I took the liberty of splitting the travel blog suggestions into two parts and I’m now returning to answer the questions set forth about my writing journey.

  1. What are you working on now? A fiction novel based on fact.

Working Title: Not The Man I Married

Working premise: Government contractor Ava Bishop’s brain is on overload. Her daily calendar is exploding with sticky notes. Elliot, her husband, is a world-renowned artist and when they met, it was love at first sight. Within two years of their wedding, Elliot is diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Ava second guesses herself at every turn; she’ll not lose him, not on her watch. Life crumbles around her: her work forces her to move to DC. Her deputy embezzles millions and the general in charge of her contract is assassinated. Ava will do anything to love and protect Elliot and is convinced someday he’ll be back to his old self. In the meantime, Elliot has a medical procedure that erases his memory. Ava’s world is upside down and she’s alone. Her husband’s memory is missing and so is he. Ava won’t wait and watch for Elliot to be found. That’s not her game.

  1. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

It’s presented as pure fiction. All mental health related-matters are written with complete honesty and are events that have happened to my husband and me.

  1. Why do I write what I do?

Far too many people are misinformed about the disease of bipolar disorder. I wish to present it in an entertainment format without violence or embarrassing outbursts of behavior.

  1. How does my writing process work?

I develop complex profiles for my primary characters. This usually includes four to six characters. They have a story to tell and it’s up to me to allow them to tell it in the most entertaining way possible while still educating readers. I also develop complete descriptions of locations I believe will present themselves as a part of the narrative.

Thanks again for reading with me. I always appreciate your friendship.

Please note I’m unable to leave comments on your blogs at present and am frustrated by this development. I’m further frustrated that WordPress will not help me with my problem because I don’t have a premium membership.  I hope to have this issue resolved soon. I can still receive and reply to your comments about my blog.

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THE PRINCESS, THE GROCERY STORE AND SUICIDE PREVENTION

Mental Health/Suicide Prevention
by Sheri de Grom

I’d arrived at the perfect time and place for daydreaming. My hair color specialist had finished the foils and Tom had presented me with my second venti non-fat latte—for the day—Starbucks. I’m addicted.

Tom asked, “Is there anything special you’d like from the grocery store?”

 

“No, you always get it just right.”

With a smile and a kiss to my cheek, he was on his way.

My colorist pulled up a chair and said, “You are such a princess and don’t even know it.”

I started to say, you haven’t a clue. We’d never talked of Tom’s illness or about my life as a caregiver. We talked about books, travel, movies and such. I’d had twenty-five years of pretending that we lived a charmed life.

Princess

Princess

What I had shared with my colorist were stories of how I hadn’t cooked a meal in well over twenty years, how Tom loved to shop and as an artisan he had impeccable taste. She couldn’t imagine how Tom could shop for suits for my professional career and any number of other items for me. I hated to shop and that meant everything: groceries, office supplies, clothing, furniture, new cars, almost anything other than bookstores and there I could become lost for hours.

Additionally, I never doubted Tom’s ability to pack for me when my career sent me out of town on an unexpected business trip. Not only was his packing perfect, thinking of everything I might need, but he always included several notes expressing his love that I would find throughout my stay. I’d also come across other thoughtful gifts and often a special piece of jewelry he’d made for me and tucked away for just such an occasion.

My colorist had a different take on my allowing Tom to treat me like a princess. Her thoughts were completely foreign to me. Her comment had to do with trust. She told me she might never have gotten divorced if she’d trusted her husband to get the right kind of bread at the market.

The bread analogy is an oversimplification of individuals who never learn to trust and/or perfection is so important to them; they can’t allow anyone to do anything on their behalf.

Tom’s not always well enough to perform what he considers his responsibilities but when he is, they are all his.

When Tom’s unable to be my prince charming, I don’t hand the reins to anyone else. I pump gas when it’s essential and prefer to pour milk into the bottom of an almost empty cereal box for dinner rather than mess up a dish or go to the market. I’ll move into my workaholic mode instead of ordering or going out to eat. When it’s the two of us, we enjoy dining out but when it’s just me, I take the no fuss, no mess route.

Some find it surprising that I don’t cook or do all those things some believe to be women’s work but not Tom. When I met Tom, he was active duty military and the single father of two young daughters ages 4 and 8.

I finally had to face the horrors of grocery shopping on Father’s Day of 2012 and my list had grown to three full pages. I hadn’t actually been in a supermarket to shop since long before we married in 1986. Sure, I’d dashed into the deli section or to pick up cases of bottled water and diet coke, but otherwise, count me out.

I might as well have been on a space mission arriving at the market. I had no idea where anything was and my saving grace was another single father of four children. They more or less adopted and supervised me through the store and all the way to the check-out counter. I wanted to bring them home with me to help unload the car but thought that might be asking too much.

What does all of this have to do with suicide prevention you ask?

I used to feel guilty that Tom took over all the chores I hated. He never complained about shopping, running all the errands that came up, coordinating our calendars, ensuring routine matters such as car registrations and other odds and ends were taken care of.

One day I overheard Tom tell a friend of his that taking care of me was the best suicide

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prevention plan he’d ever stumbled upon. I wrote in my journal, John wanted to know why he did everything and Tom told him, no that’s not true. Tom said, “When I forget my anchor and my mind starts spinning, I go to the refrigerator and on the door I’ll always find a list of things that need to be done. They don’t have to be done immediately but normally within the week. If I kill myself, who will do them for Sheri?”

I no longer worry about how long the list of things to do becomes. If there’s one item on the list and Tom takes care of it and it sets his mind free of obsessive thoughts, I don’t have a problem being his princess.

 

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SUICIDE AND ACTIVE DUTY MILITARY

Mental Health/Suicide
by – Sheri de Grom

Suicide by active duty military and reservists is at a record high, about one a day.

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The numbers of active duty soldiers who’ve committed suicide are fifty-percent higher than the number of troops killed in Afghanistan in combat.

An estimated fifty-percent of the military that commit suicide never served in combat nor were they ever deployed to foreign soil.

Suicide rates are rising despite a determined push by the Pentagon to connect troops to a proliferation of resources: crisis intervention, therapy for post-traumatic crisis intervention, and therapy for other types of trauma including sexual abuse.

I believe many reasons account for the escalating suicide rates among active duty military and much of it has to do with deteriorating leadership capabilities within the ranks. Soldiers once had a feeling of camaraderie, the feeling that someone always had their back.

I frequently hear, “No one gives a damn.” Soldiers of today are not joining the same armed forces they heard stories about from their fathers and their grandfathers.

A report by the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention states that the stress on the active duty soldier will continue to rise – even with the pace of combat deployments declining. A primary reason for this stress is that the military is shrinking because of budget reductions.

Separation boards are thinning the ranks. Both officers and senior enlisted are being forced out. It’s not just the Army down-sizing but the Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy. Most of these individuals have been in more than twelve years and they don’t stay around if they don’t plan to have a military career.

Additional stress is resulting from soldiers being forced to leave the military and their separation from a familiar lifestyle. Suddenly careers are destroyed and family plans are left in shambles.

In a perfect world the good guys get promoted and the bad guys get punished and cut. But that’s never how it works in a giant bureaucracy like the military.

Soldiers are being asked to accept a lifestyle that is foreign to them. Before contractors came along and took over government, including the military, an envelope of safety seemed to fall around anyone entering a military base.

Before contractors, it was understood that everyone on base was military, a family member or civil service employee. This security is gone. Base housing is now operated by contractors and the homes are being rented out to non-military.

The rental of base housing is a slap in the face to active duty military. I’ll address the magnitude of problems that arrived with non-military renters in a separate blog.

A study by the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center found that the most frequent diagnosis of military personnel medically evacuated from Iraq and Afghanistan between 2001 and 2012 was not physical battle wounds but “adjustment reaction.” Adjustment reaction causes: grief, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress and other mental disorders.

Mental health services are pitched as a potential solution, with the underlying assumption that the soldier is looking for a solution. But often, the service members in the greatest need of mental help are the ones most resistant to it, thus the call to action goes unanswered. This is in fact the greatest hurdle the military faces in their battle against military suicide: countering the disciplined self-reliance we train our service members to embrace.

In our perfect world, I’d place a minimum of three credentialed and licensed mental health workers (familiar with the military environment) at each platoon to help understand the daily rhythms in a soldier’s professional and personal life; someone who can earn the trust of the service members and respond immediately when needed – not after a call for an appointment. Mental health resources must be integrated into the modern garrison lifestyle.

The primary reasons given for suicides in the active duty military and reservists’ ranks are the same as most Americans in the same age grouping. The leading causes have always been: relationship issues and problems with finances.

The act of suicide is different with each individual. There’s not an easy fix and there’s no set of rules guaranteed that will save an individual. How do we know which soldier

Suicide By Drug Overdose

Suicide By Drug Overdose

needs our attention?

Suicide is complex and the trajectory toward death is as individual as the person.

I thank each of you for reading with me as we explore the difficult subject of suicide. Your love and responses have reinforced again why it is that I do what I do.

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SUICIDE, MENTAL HEALTH AND THE CAREGIVER

Mental Health/Suicide
by – Sheri de Grom

Compiled from journal notes, April 26, 1996, Washington, DC

Burdened by my bulging briefcase, I’d hoped to get a jump on the day. We were celebrating our tenth anniversary tonight and I wanted to arrive home early.

Tom wasn’t in bed as I prepared for work but many mornings he’d be up early working in his shop. That morning would soon prove to be an exception to the rule.

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I slowly made my way downstairs from our bedroom and paused at the second landing to adjust my heavy load. Looking down into the small sitting room, I had a clear vision of Tom as he sat  in an easy chair. There was no mistaking the pistol in his lap.

I knew not to startle him. His finger played with the trigger. I held my breath. My mind raced. My briefcase slid to the floor. I moved cautiously down the remaining steps and into the sitting room.

Tom had been in and out of the hospital five times in the past two years. Sometimes I thought the hospitalizations helped and other times they were puzzling. We’d gone through two additional psychiatrists and tried three new hospitals. Doctors and hospitals alike were proving to be of separate classifications. There were the ones that were more or less okay, the ones that were indifferent and then the ones that just didn’t seem to give a damn about anything other than our insurance coverage.

Our anniversary plans were defeated, again. I had to retrieve the gun and keep Tom safe.

I lowered myself to his feet. He’d retreated to his secret and secure inner space, that place where suicide knocked again and it then became my responsibility to whisper to him, “Darling, it’s me, Sheri. May I please have the gun?” Tom continued staring straight ahead. In a calm and soft voice I repeated, “May I please have the gun?”

It seemed hours had passed but only moments had trickled by. He kept his hand on the gun.

“I feel dead. I don’t care. Do whatever you want with me,” he said in that all too familiar monotone voice I’d come to despise.

“I love you. You’re going to be safe. Tom, please give me the gun and we’ll get you help. First, I must have the gun. May I please have it?”

He shook his head yes. Holding my breath, I carefully removed the gun from his hand, put it in a closet for now, helped him into his coat and we slowly made our way to the car where once again I buckled his seat-belt for the ride to the hospital.

I’d admitted him to yet another hospital. The facility was one of the highest rated in Virginia. The psychiatrist interacted with Tom during the admissions process and this gave me hope.

I talked briefly with the psychiatrist and he explained that Tom would probably sleep for at least two days but, I was welcome to stop in any time to see him. After looking at Tom’s meds, he told me there were some he would like to discontinue. He said that Tom might not know I was there that evening and if I wanted and most importantly needed to go home and rest that was understandable.

“Thank you doctor. I appreciate your kindness. I’ll be at my office if you need me. I’ll plan to come by on my way home.”

The doctor told me he would still be on the premises and that if I didn’t see him I should have one of the hospital staff page him.

The day seemed an eternity and I’m sure I looked exhausted before I reached my office. Driving the extra two hours required on the beltway to get Tom to the hospital before work, surviving the admissions process, driving another one and one-half hours on the beltway, bumper to bumper, to get to my office, depleted my negligible reserve of stamina. I was on autopilot, again.

As I drove, I peeked into other cars and all the drivers wore the same stoic expression. We were five lanes of traffic moving at eighty miles an hour with nowhere to stop in an emergency. It always amazed me that on the opposite side of the concrete dividers, another five lanes of bumper to bumper traffic traveled eighty miles an hour going in the reverse direction. It appeared we were all going round and round on some pointless, endless amusement ride.

Some mornings during my commute I’d watch drivers working on laptop computers on the seat beside them with a phone glued to their ear. Other times I’d see a young woman removing rollers from her hair and applying makeup. I’d brood angrily, while these young professionals were working or sending e-mails to lovers. Why had my life become so intolerably chaotic, always directed by the unstable requirements of Tom’s disease?

I’d gotten out of bed on a cold morning to rush Tom to the hospital, again. It distracted me and time passed faster when I fantasized that the young woman applying her makeup and fluffing her hair in the car next to mine stayed a moment too long in her lover’s bed for one more lingering caress. Maybe a baby or toddler stole those few precious moments from her?

Now that I was at my office, I wanted to stay in the car and go to sleep. It didn’t matter that it was cold. I simply didn’t want to see anyone or interact with my deputy or the staff. I didn’t care about the appointments scheduled for a full day.

How was I going to get through this day? I had to focus but I couldn’t stop yawning. Of one thing I was certain, today would not proceed as planned. Would I ever learn? Plans had no place in my life. Other people made plans, I could not. Some day the cumulative disappointments would destroy me.

THESE THINGS I KNOW FOR SURE

  • Suicide will knock again.

    Provided by Healthy Place.com

    Unconditional Love Will Survive Along With Mental Illness

  • No one is exempt from suicide.
  • A correct diagnosis is critical.
  • Bipolar disorder is a progressive disease.
  • Clinical depression can and does manifest without warning and it must be treated aggressively, and at once.
  • Firearm availability increases the risk of suicide.
  • Miracles happen with the dawning of each new day.
  • Unconditional love will see you through and the reward of beginning each new day together is the reason you do what you do.

 

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SUICIDE AMONG THE STARS

Mental Health/Bipolar Disorder/Suicide
by – Sheri de Grom

Our world shook this past week with collective sadness. We didn’t want to believe what we’d heard. Robin Williams’ suicide should not have happened.

There were brief moments in time when Robin Williams would admit to being bipolar (due to his manic behavior) followed by long stretches of the darkest depression.

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Blog for Mental Health

Perhaps his publicist or his wife told the media they wanted no mention of bipolar disorder in the remembrances of this gifted star. For me, a mental health advocate for reform, I see Robin Williams’ tragic death a wasted teachable opportunity. One out of five men with bipolar disorder commits suicide. The general public cannot name two accurate symptoms of bipolar disorder.

Mr. Williams spoke at Mental Health Conferences and at large gatherings of individuals with mental illness diagnoses and never once did I hear or learn later of his hiding behind his disease. He spoke openly and with great humility.

Decades of substance abuse, anxiety, rehab stays and relapses caused him endless self-doubt and shame. These feelings are normal for anyone but Robin Williams was a super star living a public life. Like so many with bipolar disorder, his instant witticism in interviews and stand-up routines were beyond the ability of all others.

It’s well know that a patient misdiagnosed as clinically depressed when they are actually bipolar is a time-bomb waiting to explode. The patient without the proper diagnosis doesn’t receive mood stabilizing medications.

Antidepressants, if prescribed alone for the bipolar patient, rather than with mood stabilizers or anticonvulsants are often a deadly mix.

I witnessed this first hand when my husband was admitted to a mental health unit for the first time on December 7, 1987. Tom was diagnosed as single episode, major depression and prescribed so many antidepressants, he was more a zombie than himself. Tom told me the combination of his medications felt as though he were putting his finger in a light socket each time he swallowed yet another one and it activated.

It was impossible for me to know who Tom would be from one hour to the next. He’d think nothing of spending $10,000 for gold and precious gems for a jewelry design he’d sketched without any idea of which market he’d be able to place the piece in and for the highest price.

Tom ordered the $10,000 in materials one day when he was manic and two days later when he’d already moved into a depression so deep he couldn’t get out of bed, the materials arrived and I’d once again lock them in the safe for a day when he might remember the design he ordered them for.

Sixty-five percent of all diagnosed bipolar individuals are also addicts per the Menninger Institute. The individuals will do anything to escape the hell the disease causes.

Tom is not an addict as most people define it with drugs or alcohol. When Tom is manic, he spends money as if however much he spends, it will be instantly replaced by some magical means. Spending money is Tom’s drug of choice.

Robin Williams said in an NPR clip, “Do I perform sometimes in a, in a manic style? Yes. Am I manic all the time? No. Do I get sad? Oh yeah. Does it hit me hard? Oh yeah. Oh yeah.”

All too often a patient with a set medical regiment will be doing so well, they decide to take a “drug holiday.” They don’t like the side effects of the drugs: weight gain, feeling sluggish, dry mouth, numbed feelings and for the artist, lack of creativity.

Not being creative is enough to make most any artist stop what they perceive to be the problem and relapse into old behavior that’s familiar and they can control.

Early in our marriage, a piece of Tom’s blown glass won first in show at the Monterey, CA Museum of Art. The award was equally prestigious as he was still active duty military and world-renowned glass blowers had entered the competition.

Tom's Blown Glass

Tom’s Blown Glass

A friend of ours made a comment I didn’t place much meaning on at the time, but I’ve thought about it numerous times since the event. At the reception to honor the artists, our friend approached us and said, “Tom, congratulations. You do your best work when you are depressed.”

Nearly one-third of those who kill themselves visit a physician in the week before they die, and more than a half do so in the month prior to committing suicide.

The media reported that Robin Williams had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. This is not an unusual diagnosis when an individual has taken medication for bipolar disorder for many years. The symptoms of the bipolar disordered individual mimic Parkinson’s disease and are misdiagnosed time and time again.

Tom was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease for two years and was prescribed medication wherein one of the medications main side-effects is suicidal behavior. Once all of the medications, to include his psych medications were taken away, the symptoms for Parkinson’s disease disappeared.

Parkinson’s disease is the same as bipolar disorder in that there aren’t any blood tests or other definitive tools for diagnosis. Both diseases are diagnosed from a set of symptoms.

It’s critical the mentally ill patient have an advocate who honestly cares about the care they receive. Misdiagnosis causes more harm than the diseases themselves.

The great majority of people who experience a mental illness do not die by suicide. However, of those who die from suicide, more than 90 percent have a diagnosable mental disorder.

Thank you for reading with me and being concerned for everyone facing the challenges of mental illness in today’s world.

 

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All About Mihran

sheridegrom - From the literary and legislative trenches.:

Aina has created a tribute to one of the kindest individuals I’ve had the pleasure of meeting since joining the blogging world. His willingness to support and urge many of us makes life that much simpler. I consider myself blessed to know Mihran, a remarkable friend to all bloggers.

Originally posted on Lyrics, Sentiments and Me:

All About Mihran

I have blogged for years now. But I never met a man as gentle and kind as Mihran Kalaydjian. Because aside from the fact that he had been so generous reblogging my posts, there was this one very warm conversation I had with him.

When I posted my condolences to our dear Ajaytao, I made Mihrank cry that day. Although I was worried if I made him cry because I wrote bad; or I wrote something for Oscar’s (coz I do have the tendency for drama), but I was really touched with his honest sentiment. Coz Mihran never met Ajay, yet he shed a tear for him. He even asked me “Why am I crying, Aina?” I told him, “It’s because Mihran, you’re a gentleman with a very big heart and beautiful soul.” And so we were both crying in the end.

And I mean those words up to…

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