A conversation about mental illness ~ new research, living with and Active Minds
Results of largest assessment of substance use among the severely mentally ill
On January 1, 2014, the results of new research were published in JAMA Psychiatry: Comorbidity of Severe Psychotic Disorders With Measures of Substance Use. The study was conducted by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the University of Southern California. According to the press release issued by Washington University in St. Louis the study’s parameters included:
- Analyzing smoking, drinking and drug use in almost 20,000 people
- 9,142 of these were psychiatric patients diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or schizoaffective disorder – which is characterized by symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions, and mood disorders such as depression.
- 10,000 subjects without mental illness were also assessed for their nicotine use, heavy drinking, heavy marijuana use and recreational drug use
The study’s results:
- 30% of those with severe psychiatric illness engaged in binge drinking, while only 8% of the general population engages in binge drinking.
- 75% of those with mental illness smoked cigarettes, while only 33% of the control group smoked cigarettes.
- 50% of those with mental illness used marijuana heavily, while only 18% of the control group did so.
- 50% of those with mental illness used illicit drugs, while only 12% of the control group did so.
- Also, researchers found that once a person develops a psychotic illness, protective factors of race or gender did not influence the substance use.
The lead author, Sarah M. Hartz, MD, PhD, offered the following observations:
“These patients tend to pass away much younger, with estimates ranging from 12 to 25 years earlier than individuals in the general population. They don’t die from drug overdoses or commit suicide — the kinds of things you might suspect in severe psychiatric illness. They die from heart disease and cancer, problems caused by chronic alcohol and tobacco use. Some studies have shown that although we psychiatrists know that smoking, drinking and substance use are major problems among the mentally ill, we often don’t ask our patients about those things. We can do better, but we also need to develop new strategies because many interventions to reduce smoking, drinking and drug use that have worked in other patient populations don’t seem to be very effective in these psychiatric patients.”
Living With celebrates the millions living with mental disorders…
We invite you to visit the Living With website. We learned about this site yesterday in a Slate online article: Can a T-Shirt Change the Conversation About Mental Illness? The article introduced us to Dani Balenson who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and is a recent graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). Dani encourages people to “wear your brain on your chest and your heart on your sleeve. Encourage, engage, and support new conversations about mental health.”
“Living With: is a project dedicated to empowering anyone dealing with mental health to be confident in themselves and their approach to handling daily obstacles. It started as a college thesis and it’s grown to become a nationwide social endeavor that sparks new conversations and new perceptions about mental health.”
Don’t we all have our favorite T-shirts? You know the one you bought last year at a museum, or one you still have from your college days, your children’s team shirts, or maybe you ran a 10-K for a cause like heart disease or breast cancer. Did you ever notice that when you wear these shirts almost always someone along the way will engage you in a conversation? Maybe the person went to the same college, or maybe they ran in the same 10K…the possibilities are endless. So why not think about buying one of Dani’s shirts…make a difference, put on a t-shirt! Currently there are shirts that represent bi-polar, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), depression and ADHD. And more are in the works.
And here is even better news, not only can you start a conversation about mental health, but for each shirt that is sold Living With will donate $2.00 to Active Minds.
Active Minds…changing the conversation about mental health
Active Minds is a 501(c)3 organization which was founded in late 2003 and is headquartered in Washington, D.C. It was started by Alison Malmon, who at the time was a junior at the University of Pennsylvania and her older brother had committed suicide in 2000. This Active Minds video tells the story beautifully.
If you are having trouble viewing the video, you can see it here.
If you are looking to find an Active Minds chapter at a college in your town/city, you can look here. The chapters are there to empower students to change the perception about mental health on college campuses.
In the past year we have published at least a dozen posts about mental health. Almost always, we implore you to start the conversation. If you see a family member or a friend struggling…speak up and reach out.