Mental Health & Politics?

Hello Everyone -

I never thought I would be writing a blog someday about the impact of the media and politicians on our mental health. Friends have told me they can no longer watch news on television - because they get depressed or agitated. Clinician friends of mine have told me patients are seeking advice on how to deal with their relatives at holidays who have opposing political views. I have personally attended low key cocktail parties and dinners which turn into highly charged political debates. 

What is really insane is our current day political environment. I have my own theory on why things have gotten so toxic, and a little advice for those who are getting depressed or agitated about politics.

There are two very large - influential groups (media and politicians) who have a huge incentive to make and keep our country divided. I personally dislike seeing millions of Americans fall for the damaging game these two large institutions are playing. 

I don't care if you are watching Fox News or MSNBC - their goal is to make you agitated with anyone who may have opposing political views. They will use fear or any other tactics to get you into their "echo chambers". The media has never done so well until they found this magic formula of bashing either the liberals or conservatives. However, you must realize you are being manipulated. The "paragons of virtue" in the media have abandoned truth as an key tenet of their work. Investigative journalism has almost disappeared and opinion journalism now reigns the airwaves, print, and social media. It is all about the media making more money. However, lets not have them cause more mental health issues than we are already facing.

Mental health professionals are advising patients to watch less news. If you do watch news, I encourage you to step back and watch how they are trying to manipulate you. Print and social media are both following the same playbook. My advice is to be aware of the game they are playing and laugh at some of their ridiculous stories and techniques. The link at the bottom of this blog really demonstrates how the media has been successful in manipulating Americans.

The second major institution causing significant divisiveness within America is an even more hideous group of characters - our Washington Politicians. When Ross Perot garnered enough votes (18.9%) to knock out George H.W. Bush in the 1992 election - the Republicans and Democrats came together to raise more barriers for any third party. These hurdles make it virtually impossible for a third party to ever have a real chance of winning. They changed ballot laws, registration fees, debate rules, and other elements to ensure a two party system. An evenly divided America is great for a two party system - and they want to keep it that way. Isn't it interesting how politicians can come together on the issue of limiting our choices? In many ways - I believe we have a one party system. The two parties actually agree on many things which are bad for those they are supposed to serve. Both parties agree on No term limits, reckless spending, premium healthcare for themselves, and more perks than I have time to list. 

I realize just watching our politicians in action can be depressing. However, the "cock roaches" in Washington are really scampering these days due to the current (and long overdue) cultural revolution taking place. 

Should you be spending holiday time with any family member(s) who may have opposing political views, I encourage you to not fall for the "lets divide America bait". I would point out to your friends and family how the media and the two party system has incentive to divide us. Since most Americans don't trust the media or politicians, let's enjoy our holidays by coming together and denouncing these two self serving institutions. They should be our targets of our frustration - not each other. 

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/politics-driving-you-crazy-mental-health-conundrum_us_58c98238e4b02c0695732940

Douglas Colbeth Comment
Did Your Mania Make You Wealthy?

I get this question often - because people often hear about successful people they believe had one of the forms of bipolar disorder. Before I answer the question - it is good to know what the multiple types of bipolar disorder (and associated terms) are:

  1. Bipolar I - A person affected by bipolar I disorder has had at least one manic episode in his or her life. Most people with bipolar I disorder also suffer from episodes of depression.
  2. Bipolar II - In bipolar II disorder, the "up" moods never reach full-blown mania. These less-intense elevated moods are called hypomanic episodes.
  3. Rapid Cycling - In rapid cycling, a person with the disorder experiences four or more episodes of mania or depression in one year. This can occur at any point in the course of bipolar disorder.
  4. Mixed Bipolar - A person with mixed bipolar episodes has symptoms of both mood "poles" -- mania and depression -- at the same time or in rapid sequence.
  5. In Cyclothymic disorder, moods swing between short periods of mild depression and mania.
  6. Bipolar Spectrum - The bipolar spectrum refers to conditions that include not only bipolar disorder but also other types of mental conditions that involve depression or mood swings.

Ok, back to - Did Mania Make You Wealthy:

I do believe my high energy (manic) periods PARTIALLY helped in a couple of ways. I do experience more creativity during my high energy periods, and I could work for days with very little sleep. However, the little sleep issue can also cause big problems - which is why you want effective treatment.  

However, we do not talk enough about how everyone's PERSONALITY can play a huge role in their success and quality of life. Every Bipolar patient also has a unique personality - and we must not forget this fact. I am not sure why - but I always hated to lose at anything. I believe this hatred of losing helps you push thru business challenges - where many others would quit. My dislike of losing is much greater than the good feeling of winning. Start up companies often have multiple near death experiences. In the case of Spyglass even our investors gave up on the company (for a while), 

I also like to tell people that I never dreamed about making hundreds of millions of dollars. However, I did (and still do) think about creating extremely successful businesses and charitable entities which make a huge impact.

You also can't talk about success of any kind without talking about your willingness to "Accept RISK". I understand most people do not like risk. However, for those who are contemplating a risky venture - I want to close with the advice I have given to many others. 

I call it the "Rocking Chair" test. When you are 75 years old and sitting in a rocking chair - I hope you don't say "I wish I had tried that idea". As my 97 year old mother has always said - the only failure in life is not trying something you really wanted to do! 

Good luck....

 

 

 

 

Douglas Colbeth
Addiction & Mental Health - The Big Crossover

Hello All - 

Don't we all know someone (I just have to look in the mirror) who faces addiction and/or mental health challenges? I believe credentialed organizations may only be capturing a fraction of those who are suffering from mental health disorders or addiction. To be fair they have to be more conservative in their calculations, but their estimates seem very low.

The World Health Organization claims 5.4% of the world population faces addiction issues. Maybe the places I live have higher rates, but I would guess 10% of the U.S. population faces drug or alcohol addiction. Even if I am high in my estimate - it is likely at least 20-30 Million people in the U.S. suffer from addiction and/or mental health conditions. In addition, we can't forget those who wrestle with prescription drug addiction. 

The Big Crossover - Authorities do agree about 30%-50%  (depending on age group) of those facing addiction issues - also suffer from mental health conditions. I refer to this as getting the "daily double" genetic gift. For example, Depression and Alcoholism often reside together at a 50% rate. The co-morbidity rates of Bipolar disorder and Alcoholism is even higher. People often ask me why this is the case with bipolar disorder and alcohol abuse. In my teens and twenties I found my bipolar "Nascar Race Mind" could be "slowed down" by large amounts of alcohol consumption. However, the long term impact of alcohol abuse on a bipolar patient can be catastrophic. Suicide rates among bipolar-alcoholics is 50% higher than general population - not to mention they have shorter life spans (8.5 years among middle age adults). We often lead unhealthier lifestyles and develop other health issues like diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.

It is estimated only 15% of those who need treatment for drugs, alcohol abuse, and mental health actually receive treatment. I think we all know people who have never received treatment or have stopped complying with a treatment program. 

What comes first - mental health or drug/alcohol abuse? Experts disagree on this question. However, I believe addressing depression or bipolar disorder gives you a "better chance" to tackle addiction challenges. I am not a believer in "pill only" treatment for depression or bipolar disorder. I think medication can play an important role, but in my case I needed a much more comprehensive program. A future blog will detail my personal approach to effective treatment of bipolar and alcohol abuse.  

In closing, I encourage all of you to use the MedCircle (www.medcircle.com) app for receiving the latest credentialed information on these health disorders. In addition, MedCircle lets you select from over 200 common health topics - where the news is delivered to you (no searching required). 

Cheers! 

 

Douglas Colbeth
Mental Health & Violence

Hello All - 

Many of the recent questions I have been receiving are about the horrific event in Las Vegas last week. In the media the conversation moves immediately to gun control (mostly) and maybe mental health (but less so). This is unfortunate because Mental Health is a critical issue for our society, but it always seems to take a back seat from a political and media standpoint. 

I believe we will learn this man who committed such a heinous act did not "snap" - as many like to say. In fact, we will likely find he was speaking or displaying bizarre behavior for weeks or months leading up to this horrific event. To those who had not interacted with him prior to the event - it does look like he snapped. However, there is usually a progression of bizarre behavior (or speech) before someone takes violent actions. Strangers will understandably distance themselves from someone acting and or making violent, delusional, or paranoid comments. Family members, co-workers, and even companies become very uncomfortable and often do not know what to do with the person. 

I have personally experienced (over a period of months) the progression of someone moving from depression to psychosis and ultimately to a violent act. It was extremely fortunate no one was badly injured, and the person went on to receive excellent mental health services. 

While the police can't lock someone up who has yet to commit a violent act, I still recommend calling the authorities if you hear someone making any references to violence. Calling authorities can alert family members to more closely monitor the person. In the case of someone with no family nearby, we can at least begin to alert others in the immediate community. This can include community health workers or homeless shelters, since many in the homeless population suffer from untreated mental health conditions.

While I don't expect the average person to approach people speaking in bizarre or violent ways, I have done so more than once. I only do this to hopefully prevent a person from hurting others and/or themselves. I first listen to what will probably make no sense, but it gives me an idea of who to alert. At one of my companies (20 years ago) we had a great employee who was experiencing a severe mental health condition. His behavior was completely different than the person we knew. We immediately alerted his wife and ensured he got excellent medical help beginning at a nearby emergency room. About 10 years ago in downtown Chicago I was confronted by an angry homeless man. I went to a nearby homeless shelter and they came back with me to engage with the young man. Ultimately, they got him to a nearby mental health services organization.

While 99.99% of people suffering from mental health conditions never become violent, I hope someday people become less afraid to take an action when they see extremely bizarre behavior or hear someone speaking violently. In these situations I always suggest engaging professionals right away. Don't play the role of the police or mental health professional. 

Sadly, we are all surrounded each day by many suffering from non-violent - but still serious mental health conditions. Many of the people we encounter each day feel extremely anxious, lonely, and often full of despair. Just a simple "hello" or a "how are you doing today" can go a long way. 

Douglas ColbethComment
Mental Health & Violence

Hello All - 

Many of the recent questions I have been receiving are about the horrific event in Las Vegas last week. In the media the conversation moves immediately to gun control (mostly) and maybe mental health (but less so). This is unfortunate because Mental Health is a critical issue for our society, but it always seems to take a back seat from a political and media standpoint. 

I believe we will learn this man who committed such a heinous act did not "snap" - as many like to say. In fact, we will likely find he was speaking or displaying bizarre behavior for weeks or months leading up to this horrific event. To those who had not interacted with him prior to the event - it does look like he snapped. However, there is usually a progression of bizarre behavior (or speech) before someone takes violent actions. Strangers will understandably distance themselves from someone acting and or making violent, delusional, or paranoid comments. Family members, co-workers, and even companies become very uncomfortable and often do not know what to do with the person. 

I have personally experienced (over a period of months) the progression of someone moving from depression to psychosis and ultimately to a violent act. It was extremely fortunate no one was badly injured, and the person went on to receive excellent mental health services. 

While the police can't lock someone up who has yet to commit a violent act, I still recommend calling the authorities if you hear someone making any references to violence. Calling authorities can alert family members to more closely monitor the person. In the case of someone with no family nearby, we can at least begin to alert others in the immediate community. This can include community health workers or homeless shelters, since many in the homeless population suffer from untreated mental health conditions.

While I don't expect the average person to approach people speaking in bizarre or violent ways, I have done so more than once. I only do this to hopefully prevent a person from hurting others and/or themselves. I first listen to what will probably make no sense, but it gives me an idea of who to alert. At one of my companies (20 years ago) we had a great employee who was experiencing a severe mental health condition. His behavior was completely different than the person we knew. We immediately alerted his wife and ensured he got excellent medical help beginning at a nearby emergency room. About 10 years ago in downtown Chicago I was confronted by an angry homeless man. I went to a nearby homeless shelter and they came back with me to engage with the young man. Ultimately, they got him to a nearby mental health services organization.

While 99.99% of people suffering from mental health conditions never become violent, I hope someday people become less afraid to take an action when they see extremely bizarre behavior or hear someone speaking violently. In these situations I always suggest engaging professionals right away. Don't play the role of the police or mental health professional. 

Sadly, we are all surrounded each day by many suffering from non-violent - but still serious mental health conditions. Many of the people we encounter each day feel extremely anxious, lonely, and often full of despair. Just a simple "hello" or a "how are you doing today" can go a long way. 

Douglas ColbethComment
Bipolar Expert Answers - How to diagnose Bipolar Disorder
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Hello Folks - I have been getting many questions from followers which require an expert to answer. I was able to get the best expert I know in the mental health field to answer your questions. Better yet, she has agreed to answer more questions you may have and I will share those answers in future blogs. You can't beat FREE advice from the best. Dr. Mani Pavuluri is not only a Psychiatrist but also has a Doctorate in Developmental psychopathology. This is not only a rare combination, but when you add her tremendous level of compassion there is no better person for advice. I personally know many of her patients (plus I am one) from many referrals. She was also key person who helped us develop the Colbeth Clinic for Children in Chicago. You can also follow her on  https://www.medcircle.com/profile/1979620 where she blogs regularly.

What are the most common symptoms you have seen which would lead you to a diagnosis of bipolar disorder? 

As a good clinician, we must think of normal, before viewing it as potentially abnormal. Therefore, recognizing the gestalt of what looks like and is bipolar disorder must present with a cluster of symptoms than any one observation. Generally, those affected with bipolar disorder has highs called mania (for at least a week) or lows called depression (for at least two weeks). During the highs, they look abnormally happy and giddy or irritable in mood. They can be so demanding, loud and aggressive with qualitative change from their baseline mood and behavior. They tend to talk non-stop with pressure of speech, almost like a forceful push of water stream through a narrow hole. Their thinking is so rapid and flits from one related topic to another incessantly that it becomes impossible to keep calm. They are revved up with high energy and take on too much to do, with inability to realistically accomplish the humongous undertaking. They cannot sleep at night and report needing less sleep. They become generous or indulge in disinhibited risky activity such as shopping sprees or becoming hypersexual. See, overall, it is about increased speed in several realms. 

Severe mania can dissolve into psychosis that is, totally losing touch with reality with grandiose thinking or inflated self-esteem.  They are called delusions and an example would be that they believe they are God or that they can communicate with God or the Pope, endowed with super powers. 

In case of hypomania, the milder version than mania, the symptoms are clearly observed by others. But the changes are not so extensive that their functioning is altered and may just be present for four or more days. In bipolar disorder, mania or hypomania alternate with depression randomly operate like a “yo-yo.” However, you can still diagnose bipolar disorder without ever suffering from depression.

In children and adolescents, there is more irritability, mania mixed with depression simultaneously, with rapid shift in mood states, and high degree of associated attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.  Sadly, it is very hard to keep track of the episodes in youngsters due to the rapid shifts in mood and chronic (persistent) nature of the illness.

It is easy to miss it as ‘just being highly energetic, intense and boisterous’ or ‘explosive teenage conflict.’ But careful in-depth understanding by consulting a clinician will resolve any doubt. 

We look forward to any questions you may have on bipolar or other mental health topics.

Douglas ColbethComment
Is Your "Work Family" - The Next Extended Family?

Over the past decades we have seen the decline of the traditional extended family due to many reasons. The rise of the "Information Age" ushered in a whole new era of mobility and career opportunities. Having two grand parents living in our home put more eyes on me, which was certainly a good thing. While they were additional discipliners which I needed, they were also two people I could go to for help and support. Most children today live in a home with only one or two working parents, with the grand parents living hundreds of miles away. While the focus is often on improving a families income, there is often a mental health cost.

As a CEO I felt a large population of our employees where coming to work with a significant mental health challenge. Most corporations would not want to touch this topic and hoped the employees would call a 1-900 number and use the EAP (Employee Assistance Program). The excuse most corporate leaders used was "these are private medical issues so we can't discuss internally". To me that is a cowardly way to deal with a major challenge facing many of your employees. I also believe companies are missing a real opportunity to help others, build loyalty, and improve employee productivity. It just takes some leadership from those who have been granted leadership roles.

While many CEO's would not be comfortable talking about their own mental health challenges - I feel very differently. Some CEO's may have been lucky to avoid significant mental health issues, but many CEO's feel they have to appear "flawless". Regardless, many of their employees come to work every day wrestling with their own (or loved ones) mental health issues. Why shy away from such a pervasive issue facing our society and organizations?

While our Town Hall meetings were mainly about business - I made sure employees knew the company cared about their mental health. Sharing my personal stories was the starting point. Whenever I shared a personal mental health story, I did it to make sure they did not feel alone. I also did it because I want those facing significant mental health issues believe they can become successful business leaders. Those who suffer from significant mental health issues can receive effective help and become extremely productive.

You first have to realize conditions like bipolar disorder and addiction do not "go away" or become "cured".  Initially, becoming a successful CEO or leader may not be "top of mind". However, as you receive effective treatment your life can begin to improve. The younger you get effective treatment the better. My realization and acceptance came later in life - but I have still enjoyed an amazing life. 

How can your Work Family help? There are many ways beyond publishing a 1-900 number in the employee handbook. Executives can lead by sharing personal stories. The organization can support local mental health organizations and encourage employees to join. Employees can become "mental health ambassadors" on topics they are passionate about. An ambassador offers up their time to share their knowledge and help direct people to resources. They are not health care providers, but they can be a resource to help people find health care providers. I have found just listening to employees is a great first step to helping someone. If you suggest various resources for help, that can be a great second step. In future blogs I will share some amazing stories of executives and employees sharing their stories. 

Sharing your personal story can be extremely powerful, but I understand there can be an uncomfortable feeling of being exposed. I suggest to everyone to first seek good help for yourself. Once you are feeling up on your feet - help others who face similar challenges. I have found helping others is much more enjoyable than riding in 600 mph private jets and/or expensive sports cars. The good news is they are not mutually exclusive. 

 

Douglas ColbethComment
PTSD - Vets, Women, and Children (especially Chicago)

We often associate PTSD with our hero veterans returning from war zones, and they certainly deserve the best treatment and empathy we can provide. In addition, there are two other groups who suffer higher proportionate PTSD incident rates. Those are women who have been subjected to trauma (often violence, rape, etc.) and inner city children/teens - who witness violence on a daily basis in our domestic war zones. 

PTSD is 3X more common in women - mainly due to violence (including rape) against women. In fact, one of out ten women experience some form of PTSD during their lives. 

Equally alarming, PTSD rates among inner city children who witness violence is estimated at 35%. I have seen this first hand at the Colbeth Clinic in Chicago. Our clinical workers will see PTSD symptoms in children as young as 4 years old. Can you imagine your child suffering at the age of four with PTSD? This is unthinkable while 5 miles up the road in Chicago's north shore the biggest worry a parent has is - will their child make a traveling sports team or be in enrolled in advanced placement classes. 

While I don't want this blog to be political in nature - I can't help but point out how our politicians (both parties) are failing our inner city children and families in an unimaginable way. We know Chicago is a War Zone killing hundreds each year - but we don't think about the hundreds of thousands of children and adults suffering from PTSD in the same war zone. 

PTSD is an enormous issue in America with over 24 Million sufferers. You are likely close to someone or interact with someone who is suffering from PTSD. There are many private resources and some public resources dedicated to the treatment of PTSD.

I encourage everyone to support our Vets, but don't forget about the violence against women and those inner city children (and adults) suffering from PTSD. I hope someday our politicians don't forget about these two other groups, as they deserve the same access to treatment resources as anyone suffering from PTSD. 

Douglas Colbeth
Mental Health - Why Not Call it Brain Health?

I am often asked - why are the stigmas associated with mental health so negative and long lasting in our society? I think there are a few explanations, but I personally like to use the term "brain health" since it is actually more accurate. I think one reason the stigmas have lasted so long is the term "mental health" - which is ironic because the underlying causes are physical in nature. We also know some of the symptoms of mental health conditions (voices, delusions, aggression, etc.) scare people - thus perpetuating the stigma. A third reason is diagnosing these conditions can be more difficult than other health conditions, where a simple blood test can be sufficient. However, there are great strides being made on earlier diagnosis of certain conditions (more this topic in a future blog). 

Conditions such as autism, bipolar disorder, depression, OCD, ADD, ADHD, and anxiety are pervasive in our society. Conservatively, we are talking about over 40 Million people in North America alone. Many would argue current government statistics represent only a third to half of those truly suffering with a mental health disorder. 

Without exception when I speak about mental health disorders, a person will come up to me and privately share a story about themselves or one of their loved ones. The first step is to listen carefully to the person (which isn't always easy for a bipolar person!). The second step is to urge that person to seek the best possible medical care. The third step is to encourage them (or their loved one) to develop a personal program for managing their specific condition. Once you or your loved one has experienced improvement in the condition (which can take months) - I believe it is then therapeutic to help others. Millions of people are living in a "quiet desperation", and helping others can help you feel stronger and more positive. A patient needs to take care of themselves first - so they are better equipped to help others. It is kind of like the short speech flight attendants give before takeoff "pull down and attach your own oxygen mask first - before helping your child".

I doubt the government will ever change the term mental health to brain health. In fact, the government has not figured out how to effectively deal with mental health. Let's not wait for the government to develop an effective strategy and then execute on that strategy. I have much more hope that organizations and individuals will be the best weapons for taking on mental health challenges and erasing the stigmas. Organizations including corporations will have to become more effective in supporting employees with mental health challenges. In order for Human Resource productivity to improve - companies will have to get much better at recognizing, advocating, and assisting those large number of employees who are living in quiet desperation. 

I believe the most powerful factor for addressing mental or brain health challenges will be our society. There is a small and rapidly growing advocacy movement on the rise in America. I can tell you these advocates are not only passionate, but they look at others who suffer as part of a family. This is great news - because we all know the traditional family has been on the decline in America. We need a new type of family to emerge in our society. I believe mental health advocates could be a great starting point for us to develop what I call "community families".

I encourage your comments and to follow mental health topics on www.MedCircle.com. There are so many new developments in this arena, so staying up to date is helpful. Cheers!

Douglas Colbeth
Bipolar Employee - Disruptive or Productive?

The answer can be BOTH. Managers have often asked me how to deal with an employee who is disruptive (that does not necessarily mean all disrupters have a bipolar condition). I ask them two questions; Is the employee often extremely productive? Have you had a private discussion with them to see if there is some event in their life causing a high stress level or anxiety? Anxiety disorder has become one of the most common mental health conditions. 

Managers often tell me the disrupter is extremely productive. Many times the manager has not reached out to the employee to see if there is something in their life causing high stress or anxiety.

Reaching out to a disruptive employee can actually yield tremendous benefits for them and your organization. You are showing an interest in the person - which can build trust and loyalty. This can then lead to behavior modification by the employee which benefits all. Sometimes we want to avoid these kinds of difficult conversations, but they usually work out well for everyone. Try it someday! 

I have found "disrupters" too often provide real value to our companies. They challenge the status quo - which can be really beneficial to companies. However, if they are disruptive only for the sake of disruption - I may ask them to leave the office and think about a few things. You also have to think about the other employees and sometimes lay down some reasonable rules. However, don't first think about terminating someone who can continue to be a productive employee. Most employees have their highly productive and less productive periods - regardless of their personality or health condition.  

 

Douglas Colbeth