Other Stories of Note
In January, we reported on how through a single phone call, a child was given forced electrical shock treatment by an ex-patient at the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center. We followed up in March with a post describing how shock treatment for children is advocated by the guy who also holds a patent for the device. The last mention of the Center in local papers was in May, when records from the center were reportedly seized as a part of an ongoing investigation.
January also saw an in-depth piece about the worth (or lack thereof) of brain training programs by NewScientist. Their conclusion? Evidence remains decidedly mixed about the usefulness of these programs, and most software programs that purport to “brain train” have little or no scientific research to back up their use. However, they concluded that conducting such brain training probably can’t hurt you, as the only thing you lose out on is your time and a few bucks if the brain exercises don’t generalize to other areas in your life. For specific mental disorders — such as schizophrenia, OCD, and depression — such programs do seem to help people improve people’s memory. And a small, 34 person study published in March suggests that a specific type of training exercise may help in improving one’s “fluid” intelligence (the ability to reason and to solve new problems independently of previously acquired knowledge).
In February, tragedy struck the Northern Illinois University campus in Dekalb, Illinois when Stephen Phillip Kazmierczak killed five students and himself and injured 20 more at the school. Campus police responded to the shooting within minutes, but could only call for ambulances; Kazmierczak was already dead upon their arrival. The media was quick to jump on the fact that Kazmierczak had previously been treated for a mental disorder, despite there being no connection between violence and mental illness.
In May, a brewing controversy about the legitimacy of the pediatric bipolar disorder diagnosis bubbled over as Newsweek published an interview about the “biology of bipolar disorder,” focused on discussing the brain and bipolar disorder. CL Psych has this commentary about the article. Pediatric bipolar disorder is not an officially recognized diagnosis at this time. But that didn’t stop the The New York Times Magazine from following up with a lengthy piece on childhood bipolar disorder in September (which barely mentions the controversy surrounding the diagnosis given to children as young as 2 years old). Furious Seasons has the commentary.
In July, we noted how Kings County (NY) Hospital let a women with mental illness die in their waiting room, while staffers looked on and did nothing to help. A few weeks later, another person with mental illness also died while in a North Carolina hospital (Cherry Hospital in Goldsboro, NC), due to staff neglect.
October saw the historic and significant passage of mental health parity act (specifically the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008) when the U.S. House passed a $700 billion bailout bill for the U.S. financial sector. The bill, for the first time in the nation’s history, ensures that health insurance will now be required to offer benefits and coverage of mental health concerns at a level equal to that of physical concerns. Insurance companies are no longer legally allowed to limit outpatient visits for psychotherapy (unless they do so already for other doctor’s visits).
October was also the month when the folks who oversee the Golden Gate Bridge finally approved a suicide barrier for the infamous bridge (in the form of a non-intrusive wire net). The bridge is the most popular landmark in the country from which to take one’s own life and advocates have been calling for some type of barrier for decades. Funding is still needed for the new net, and while we wait, another 2 people each month will end their lives on the bridge.
In February, we noted the 90 Day Jane blog, a hoax website that purported to be the countdown blog for a woman who was going to kill herself after 90 days. She made it seven days, and then the publicity stunt was up, the blog removed, and everyone went on with their everyday lives. That didn’t stop a man from ending his life in November while transmitting live via a webcam. The first such suicide online apparently was conducted in 2003.
In July 2008, we launched our first new blog here at Psych Central, Bipolar Beat with Bipolar Disorder for Dummies authors Dr. Candida Fink and Joe Kraynak. Bipolar Beat has been a great success and enjoys its own following by people who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder (or knows someone who has). In December, we followed that up with the launch of Celebrity Psychings, written by Alicia Sparks.
Lori Drew was found guilty in November for her role in the death of Megan Meier. Megan’s mom and her friends helped start a foundation in her name to try and educate and reduce online bullying (which is far more prevalent and harder to stop than real-life bullying).