Hello! I've missed you. I'm happy to report that during my break there was some action in the comments which always warms the cockles of my heart. Thank you. What a lovely gift they were and they kept me on my toes.
I hope you are well and thriving now that the 2009 holidays are history. I hope they were smooth and whizzed by without any major bumps. Now you can look forward to Family Day, our nice innocuous statutory holiday on Monday, February 15, the day after Valentine's Day this year. A real double-header. It coincides with Presidents' Day in the U.S.
For those who are given this day off, it will be a lovely mid-winter day to relax, recharge, go to a movie, ski, snowboard or simply snuggle up with a good book.
I feel in my gut that MMX, as the Roman's would say, is going to be an exciting year. As soon as it starts for me. Gut is the operative word here. Mine is not in terrific shape at the moment.
You see, it's been a long, hot (as in high temperature, mine) holiday in our house, mainly because I've been sick. Still am. You don't want to know the details, but let us say that "rest" is what the doctor ordered and "rest" is not one of my strong suits. In school, I would fail "rest" and I would ace multitasking.
Oh well. That's the story.
There is an interesting item in today's New York Times by one of my favourite mental health writers Benedict Carey. The headline says it all – Popular Drugs May Help Only Severe Depression. By no means a new story, it's based on a new report published today in The Journal of the American Medical Association.
It certainly supports the strong contention I have about quick-fix, pill-popping approaches to mental health recovery. For cases of severe depression, this report finds quite conclusively that antidepressants are substantially more effective in cases of severe depression than in cases of mild or moderate depression.
This has been debated for some time and now a large and wide-ranging randomized study has come up with some conclusive findings. I have always sensed this to be true and further, than when antidepressants are prescribed, psychiatrists should be monitoring their patients closely and talk therapy should be part of the healing regimen. It is no secret that pills without therapy are never as effective as pills in combination with therapy. And that doesn't mean "a 15 minute appointment and prescription." That's not psychotherapy.
Carey sites Dr. Erick H. Turner, a psychiatrist at Oregon Health and Science University, who says, "I think the study could dampen enthusiasm for antidepressant medications a bit, and that may be a good thing. People's expectations for the drugs won't be so high, and doctors won't be surprised if they're not curing every patient they see with medications."
Dr. Turner adds, "The findings shouldn't dampen expectations so much that people refuse to even try medication."
Turner's last comment intrigues me. Mental health issues like depression are treatable, yes. But curable? Such a curious word for what most medical doctors consider mental illnesses to be – namely chronic, "like diabetes." Oh, how I hate that comparison.
One can go into recovery through medication, therapy, peer support, the process of self-actualization through meaningful and fulfilling work and having a stable family and home life. Recovery is a process. Not a pill. Not a cure. It's ongoing. It means many things, as I have often written. Have a look at The 10 Fundamental Components of Recovery from the U.S. National Consensus Statement on Mental Health Recovery.
Among them: Self-Direction, Empowerment, Peer Support, Respect, Responsibility and Hope. Similar to those underlying fundamentals of recovery at The Krasman Centre in two locations just north of Toronto. These centres are staffed completely by people in recovery from mental health issues.
As I reported last year in my story about mental health recovery in The Walrus magazine, "Today recovery is a fully realized and internationally recognized approach to attaining wellness... Still, it's hard to pin down an exact definition of recovery.
"Tanya Shute, the executive director of Krasman and a survivor, describes it as 'a person's ability to self-actualize, with or despite one's mental health experience.' Elaine Amsterdam of Toronto's Gerstein Crisis Centres says, 'It's about living well,' adding, 'The meaning of that is different for everyone and can include a range of different approaches.'
"But the whiteboard that hangs on the Krasman Centre's kitchen wall (in it's Richmond Hill location) notes five key concepts in indelible black ink: hope, personal responsibility, education, self-advocacy, and support."
We must all find our own way and it is that processing that we can begin experiencing recovery.
As Carey stresses, in some cases certain antidepressant are very helpful, in severe cases of depression. In his story today, he concludes with the words of one of the team of researchers in this study which included psychologists "who favour talk therapy and doctors who consult widely with drug makers."
On is Dr. Robert J. DeRubeis of the University of Pennsylvania, who stated, "The message of patients with mild to moderate depression is, 'Look, medications are always an option, but there's little evidence that they add to other efforts to shake the depression – whether it's exercise, seeing the doctor, reading about the disorder or going for psychotherapy."
This is such a positive message. Depression which isn't severe responds to many different and very accessible approaches, not the least of which is knowledge and understanding, learning about depression, facing it plus, peer support, doing things that make you feel better which can be anything from reaching out to an organization like the Mood Disorders Association of Ontario or joining your local community centre and signing up for Belly Dancing classes. Taking a class in Mindfulness Meditation, perhaps, or knowing when the best medicine is a lovely warm bubble bath or listening to your favourite music or a walk in the park with your dog or with a friend or with your thoughts.
Recovery is within reach. As long as you're willing to reach out.
Isn't this going to be a good year? Full of hope.
Now, I'm back to my bed.
Speak soon and be well.