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States-of-Mind

Mental-illness delusions

Many people assume that those with psychiatric disorders are likely to be violent and dangerous.

When many people hear about schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, they believe violence is a probable symptom associated with these serious mental illnesses.

Unfortunately, this assumption is the result of misinformation and excessive media coverage of violent crimes. Few people with mental illness – even untreated illness – are violent.

A 2014 study in the Annals of Epidemiology looks at mental illness, gun violence and suicide and discusses evidence-based policy changes that may lead to a reduction in both gun violence and suicide.

Most people believe violence is largely the result of untreated mental illness.

However, as noted by this study’s author, even if schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression were all cured, the rate of violence in the U.S. would only diminish by approximately four per cent.

When we factor suicide into the statistics for gun violence, mental illness is, of course, responsible for a much larger portion of the blame. In the U.S., 61 per cent of all gun fatalities is the result of suicide and the most suicide is the result of mental illness.

Substance abuse is a strong risk factor for both violence and suicide and access to a gun is also considered an independent risk factor for suicide.

Our policies dealing with mental illness and violence, both here in Canada and elsewhere, should focus on evidence rather than fear.

We must deal with preventing the social and behavioural causes of violence.

This means addressing substance abuse, reducing access to weapons such as firearms and working on suicide prevention.

We also need to work to change public perception of mental illness. Not only do stigma and misinformation lead to people being fearful of those with psychiatric conditions, but they also lead to individuals being hesitant to seek help when it is needed.

Mental illness is a serious problem and we need to work harder to provide access to mental health services for all affected.

Our goal should be to provide compassionate, effective and timely care and to restore daily functioning as much as possible.

In order to do this, all levels of government need to be proactive and cooperative in creating an environment conducive to care and support rather than one of protectionism and fear.



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Diagnosis incorrect

Most people are wrong about the mentally ill.

Many believe that people with psychiatric disorders are likely to be violent and dangerous.

When they hear about schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, they believe violence is a probable symptom.

Unfortunately, this assumption is the result of misinformation and excessive media coverage of violent crimes. Few people with mental illness — even untreated illness — are violent.

A 2014 study in the Annals of Epidemiology looks at mental illness, gun violence and suicide and discusses evidence-based policy changes that may lead to a reduction in both gun violence and suicide.

Most people believe violence is largely the result of untreated mental illness. However, as noted by this study’s author, even if schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression were all cured, the rate of violence in the U.S. would only diminish by approximately four per cent.

When we factor suicide into the statistics for gun violence, mental illness is, of course, responsible for a much larger portion of the blame. In the U.S., 61 per cent of all gun fatalities is the result of suicide and the most suicide is the result of mental illness.

Substance abuse is a strong risk factor for both violence and suicide and access to a gun is also considered an independent risk factor for suicide.

Our policies dealing with mental illness and violence, both here in Canada and elsewhere, should focus on evidence rather than fear.

We must deal with preventing the social and behavioural causes of violence. This means addressing substance abuse, reducing access to weapons such as firearms and working on suicide prevention.

We also need to work to change public perception of mental illness. Not only do stigma and misinformation lead to people being fearful of those with psychiatric conditions, but they also lead to individuals being hesitant to seek help when it is needed.

Mental illness is a serious problem and we need to work harder to provide access to mental health services for all affected.

Our goal should be to provide compassionate, effective and timely care and to restore daily functioning as much as possible.

In order to do this, all levels of government need to be proactive and cooperative in creating an environment conducive to care and support rather than one of protectionism and fear.

 



Connecting intelligence dots

Intelligence and creativity are wonderful qualities to find in another person.

These traits tend to shine through in conversation on any number of topics and are not necessarily tied to educational achievement.

So what is behind general intelligence and creativity?

Observation has long suggested intelligence involves a combination of knowledge and experience. Many well-known creative thinkers talk about this interplay and the importance of experience to connect the dots between different pieces of knowledge.

Several studies in brain activity seem to corroborate this theory. In a 2010 study from the California Institute of Technology, IQ and brain imaging data from more than 200 patients with brain injuries was examined to produce a map of brain regions involved in intelligence.

Not surprisingly, researchers found general intelligence was not tied to one particular part of the brain, but was determined by a network of regions across both sides of the brain.

This finding is consistent with results of intelligence testing. People tend to have similar scores on many different kinds of tests either scoring generally high or low across the board.

This doesn’t mean intelligence is tied strictly to general whole brain functioning. Rather, it bears out a theory called parieto-frontal integration theory, which says general intelligence depends on the brain’s ability to integrate several different kinds of processing such as working memory.

So our brains need to have high-functioning areas as well as the ability for those areas to communicate well with one another.

Alongside these physical characteristics, the intelligent or creative thinker needs to have a good variety of knowledge and experiences from which to make these connections.

Here is where education and life experiences come in handy. The more curious we are to learn about a broad array of subjects, the more raw material we have at our disposal and the more varied our building blocks for creative thought.

That’s another great reason to keep learning new things, read a lot, and get out of the house and experience the world around us.

Although many creative people will tell you that nothing is truly new, we do have the potential for creative contributions because of our unique combination of knowledge and experience.

 

 

 

 

 



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Fighting Alzheimer's

Study finds clues to future cognitive impairment

As our population gets older and rates of age-related conditions like Alzheimer’s climb, we are working hard to learn more about what causes dementia and how we can prevent it.

We still have a lot to learn about this frightening condition, but research may be giving new insight.

A study of more than 1,500 individuals aged 70 and older has discovered a link between non-psychotic psychiatric symptoms and later mild-cognitive impairment.

Mild-cognitive impairment (MCI) refers to impairment in one or more domains including executive function, memory, language or visuospatial while still maintaining normal daily functioning. Usually, concerns about MCI are self-reported or brought up by a loved one or physician.

MCI is important because it is considered an intermediate stage between normal aging and the development of dementia. Those who experience this mild impairment as they age have a 10-15 per cent chance per year of developing dementia compared to only a one to two per cent chance per year among the general population.

It seems to be an important link in our understanding of how and why more serious dementias develop.

This study discovered that non-psychotic psychiatric symptoms such as depression, anxiety, agitation, apathy and irritability increased risk for later mild cognitive impairment.

Further analysis on a smaller group of subjects also showed euphoria, disinhibition and nighttime behaviours were linked with non-memory-related cognitive impairment whereas depression was linked with memory-related impairment.

More research will be necessary to determine the mechanism for this link between earlier mental health symptoms and later impairment.

It will also be interesting to learn whether treatment of psychiatric conditions does anything to slow or prevent future cognitive impairment.

Increased understanding of risk factors is helpful in equipping us for better early intervention and prevention strategies.

 

 



More States of Mind articles

About the Author

Paul Latimer has over 25 years experience in clinical practice, research, and administration.

After obtaining his medical degree from Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, he did psychiatric training at Queen's, Oxford and Temple Universities. After his residency he did a doctorate in medical science at McMaster University where he was also a Medical Research Council of Canada Scholar.

Since 1983 he has been practicing psychiatry in Kelowna, BC, where he has held many administrative positions and conducted numerous clinical trials.

He has published many scientific papers and one book on the psychophysiology of the functional bowel disorders.

He is an avid photographer, skier and outdoorsman.

Like us on Facebook: facebook.com/oktrials

Follow us on Twitter: @OCT_ca



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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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