Mindy McCready Suicide Creates Celebrity Rehab, Dr. Drew Backlash on Twitter


Image Courtesy of VH1

Image Courtesy of VH1

It’s been awhile. I’ve been pre-occupied with various projects– the latest of which is my first documentary film, “Because Of Xena.” But last night was different; last night I was pre-occupied with the news of Mindy McCready’s suicide, and the (mostly negative) reactions blowing up the Twitterverse.

Here’s the kicker–the reactions weren’t aimed at the troubled country star herself. The outpouring of negative reactions were aimed at Celebrity Rehab addiction specialist, Dr. Drew Pinsky.

I’ll admit, when I first heard of the tragic news, I retweeted the breaking news article with these words: “Another of @drdrew patients gone.” My intentions were not meant to be malicious however– not like the thousands of tweets which followed.

Here are just a few of  those tweets.

McCready Tweet

McCreadyTweet2McCreadyTweet3McCreadyTweet4

Dr. Drew has since been compared to Dr. Kevorkian.

The unflattering comparison was reported by Perez Hilton some 10 hours ago via washed up musician, Richard Marx. Hilton’s opening statement, “Whoa. This might be a bit harsh,” is 100% accurate. The slew of hateful comments directed at Dr. Drew, along with Marx’s Kevorkian comparison, are grossly unjust. The aforementioned accusations only prove how seriously uneducated society is when it comes to mental illness and drug addiction. It is because of this that stigma continues to linger in the 21st century.

What of those who are not celebrities? I hate to break it to you, but there are thousands of faces in the crowd suffering in silence.

Here are a few facts from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention— for those of you so inclined to learn.

  • Every 13.7 minutes someone in the United States dies by suicide.
  • Nearly 1,000,000 people make a suicide attempt every year.
  • 90% of people who die by suicide have a diagnosable and treatable psychiatric disorder at the time of their death.
  • Most people with mental illness do not die by suicide. (I.e. Accidental Overdose)
  • Recent data puts yearly medical costs for suicide at nearly $100 million (2005).
  • Men are nearly 4 times more likely to die by suicide than women. Women attempt suicide 3 times as often as men.

Now here’s a sad truth: It wouldn’t have mattered whether it was Dr. Drew, Carl Jung, or Freud himself who treated Mindy McCready. The patient must be held accountable for their own actions. They must choose to continue treatment and follow doctors orders. Does this mean they will? Certainly not. That’s the price of mental illness itself and the stigma which follows behind it.

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Another One Bites the Dust- Hollywood in Hades Pt.2


Hollywood in Hades

A continuation of Pt. 1- “Hollywood in Hades” .

Let’s take a look at a few of the more high brow celebrity deaths from 2009-2010 (so far) which have related in some form or another, to prescription drug use or abuse, lifestyle and suicide.

1. The “King of Pop” Michael Jackson– Died June 25, 2009. Official cause of death ruled a homicide (although, my belief is, at some point the person taking, or requesting the drugs, must be held accountable as well) caused by acute propofol intoxication, along with other sedatives such as ativan and valium. (Commonly used for anxiety disorders.)

2. Popular actress Brittany Murphy– Found unconscious in the bathroom of her shared apartment with husband Simon Monjack, and mother, Sharon Murphy, on December 20, 2009. She was pronounced dead on the scene after frantic CPR efforts on behalf of her husband failed. Murphy’s death was officially ruled an accident, caused by the combined effects of community acquired pneumonia and multiple drug intoxication. Drugs included were over the counter flu medications and hydrocodone, (a schedule I narcotic pain-killer) all of which registered at elevated levels in her toxicology report. Murphy was just 30 years old.

3Socialite and Johnson & Johnson heiress, Casey Johnson– Found dead in her California home on January 4, 2010, apparently having been in a diabetic coma for days before her demise. Johnson’s official cause of death was caused by diabetic ketoacidosis, the result of a lack of insulin and high blood sugar. In other words, she died of self neglection. Johnson was a regular in the LA party scene and struggled with drug addiction throughout her 30 years of life.

4. English fashion designer Alexander McQueen–  Named designer of the year four times, and  beloved by many in the world of fashion for his “dramatic statement pieces,” McQueen was found dead in his London home on February 11, 2010. According to the Huffington Post, “A bereaved Alexander McQueen left a note, then hanged himself in his apartment on the eve of his mother’s funeral, a coroner’s inquest said Wednesday, giving the cause of the fashion designer’s death as asphyxiation and hanging.” Other sources also mentioned a recent break up with a man whose name he tattooed on himself.

5Best known as “Boner” from the 80’s sitcom “Growing Pains,” Andrew Koenig– According to People.com, on February 16, 2010, Walter Koenig (actor and father of Andrew) received a disturbing note from his son, who was supposed to arrive back home in LA on February 14th after a trip to Canada. He never returned. On February 25, Andrew Koenig’s body was found at Vancouver’s Stanley Park by friends. Despite the Canadian police department’s decision not to release a cause of death, (coroner’s investigation pending) Andrew’s father, Walter, appeared at a press conference with tears in his eyes declaring that his son took his own life. Mr. Koenig had good reason to claim suicide as his son’s cause of death. Left behind was a long trail of clues implicating  Andrew’s own hand in his death.  He had also battled severe depression for a number of years, but chose not to continue treatment for his disorder(s).

6Michael Blosil, son of Marie Osmond, one half of the famous Osmond Family– Just one day after Andrew Koenig’s body was found, on February 26, 2010, Marie Osmond’s son, Michael, committed suicide by jumping to his death from his 8th floor apartment. He left a note intending his suicide, and labeled his life long battle with severe depression as the reason. Blosil had also been in a drug rehabilitation center at age 16. He was just 18 years old at the time of his death.

There is a clear and visible pattern here that should be easily recognized -but, hidden within the pattern are shades of elusiveness, undetectable by the naked eye.

Here are some important facts that are widely dismissed by the media and other such outlets.

  • According to the National Drug Intelligence Center , “Many chronic drug abusers often simultaneously suffer from a serious mental disorder.”  Medical professionals call this a co-occurring disorder, or a dual diagnosis. A dual diagnosis can also be used in conjunction with a person suffering from more than one mental disorder.
  • Co-occurring disorders are more common than people think. A 2002 survey estimated “4.0 million adults met the criteria for both a serious mental illness and substance abuse.”

The recent spate of celebrity suicides spawned Psychcentral.com to dedicate a few blogs to the subject, which include some startling statistics. For example, suicide remains the third-leading cause of death among older teenagers in the United States. Young men are four times more at risk than young women.

To put it another way, “over 4,000 teens and young adults take their lives every year here in the U.S. (an additional 26,000+ adults do so.”)

Another blog on Psychcentral.com, written by fellow blogger, Christine Stapleton, hits a real hot spot in regards to the media and their aiding in the negative stigmatization of mental illness, drug abuse and suicide.

Mental illness is not discriminatory. Whether you’re a celebrity, a regular joe/jane, poor, rich, black or white, religious or atheist, doesn’t matter. When mental illness and suicide are covered in the media, it shouldn’t only apply to celebrities- or, as Ms. Stapleton says, “when a suicide affects the public- for instance, when a tortured soul jumps off an overpass during rush hour and brings traffic to a halt.” It shouldn’t have to take a celebrity, or a shockingly gruesome, self-inflicted death to grab the media’s attention. But, since it does, it should be used appropriately.

The question that remains now is, how many highly publicized deaths are going to have to take place before media outlets address the real issue?

Like several physical illnesses, mental illness does not yet have a cure, but it can be managed.

Another One Bites the Dust- Hollywood in Hades Pt. 1


Hollywood in Hades

Famed 80’s heart-throb Corey Haim, actor in films such as License to Drive”, “Prayer of the Rollerboys”, Dream a Little Dream I & II”, (my three favorite Haim films) and cult classic “The Lost Boys,” dead at 38.

This has been the buzz around Tinsel Town and entertainment media outlets since he collapsed in his apartment in North Hollywood on March 10th, 2010. Haim was pronounced dead at St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Burbank, LA around 3 A.M. in the morning.

Of course, the first speculations on Haim’s death were related to a drug overdose because of his public and storied past with drug addiction. Haim himself has spoken quite openly about his struggles. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Haim acknowledged his battle with addiction back in 2004 to a British tabloid, and continued to speak about it up until his untimely death.

“I was working on ‘Lost Boys’ when I smoked my first joint,” Haim once told the Sun. “I did cocaine for about a year and a half, then it led to crack.”

Haim had also been in and out of drug rehabilitation centers for years, according to other sources. In rehabilitation he was put on prescription sedatives and antipsychotics by a psychiatrist.

“I started on the downers, which were a hell of a lot better than the uppers because I was a nervous wreck,” Haim had said.

Haim had also confessed to having problems with Valium (a sedative used for anxiety) and Soma (a muscle relaxant) during a taping of A& E’s reality t.v. show, “The Two Corey’s,” featuring himself and Corey Feldman. (His best friend and former co-worker on multiple films.) And- according to TMZ.com,  four prescription bottles, Valium, Soma, Vicodin, (a schedule I narcotic pain-killer) and Haloperidol (an anti-psychotic) were prescribed to Haim just a few days before his death.

Since then, however, two other significant pieces of information have been released.

 After the initial autopsy was performed, the LA County’s Coroner’s Office determined that Haim had pulmonary congestion, an enlarged heart, and fluid in his lungs- the former two being symptoms of pulmonary congestion. Although, the Coroner has not determined this to be the cause of death. The case will be deferred until toxicology reports are complete.

Adding to the bizarre-o-meter, on March 12th, TMZ.com broke the news on a fresh lead regarding an investigation of “an illegal and massive prescription drug ring.”

But- Haim’s death is not the core issue.

See Pt. 2 coming soon for some shocking revelations.

Depression and Mood Disorders in Youth: Study Reveals Increase


Fox News, a cable news channel known for being  right-wing biased, while desperately clinging to their “fair and balanced” marketing ploy, took a step in the right direction when they interviewed their psychiatric correspondent, Dr. Keith Ablow early last week.

Dr. Ablow’s segment focused on a study that was released on Monday, January 11th, (2010) in relation to the sizeable increase of mental illnesses found in today’s youth.

The study, lead by San Diego State University psychology professor Jean  Twenge, and involving five other researchers from various universities, found that five times as many high school and college students are dealing with mental health issues than youth of the same age studied in the Great Depression era.

Dr. Twenge and her fellow researchers examined the responses of over 77,500 high school and college students from the years 1938 to 2007, who took the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Iventory test, (MMPI)  a test that is frequently used by mental health professionals to diagnose personality structures and psychopathology.

Along with an increase in depression, Dr. Twenge and company found, not surprisingly, that there was a six percent increase in mood, personality, and anxiety disorders- one percent more than the five percent overall average  increase on the test.

So, just what do these professionals think has caused such an increase in mental health issues? Dr. Twenge has already published a book titled, “Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled- and More Miserable Than Ever Before,” which puts emphasis on the influence pop culture’s pressures have put on young people. Pressures such as wealth, status, and flawless beauty- just to name a few. But Dr. Twenge also notes the rise in divorce among parents and the number of infamous “stage parents” who create unrealistic expectations for their children, which in turn can cause instability, disappointment, grandiosity, anxiety, and a lack of coping skills.

Dr. Ablow, however, places the blame solely on “our young people, who are drugging themselves by the tens of millions every single day with a combination of celebrity worship, dreams of unlimited wealth, and handy ways to stay away from anything like reality. They’re losing their ability to process genuine emotion, diving into a Web of Facebook, YouTube, trophies for everything, iPhones, e-mail and Twitter.”

I can certainly see some of the reasoning behind these allegations, but Dr. Ablow in particular, is leaving out some truly critical factors. Genetics and environment often play a major role in ones propensity to inherit a mental illness. Most of the mental health consumers I’ve associated with have been victims of abusive home environments, whether they’ve been physically or emotionally abused, neglected, or watched their parents violent behavior towards one another. Others still, have been victims of some form of sexual abuse. And some have had a long history of mental illness in their family, or a combination of all of the above.

Whatever the conclusion is, it’s clear that our country needs to put some serious accentuation on mental health and its research, or as Dr. Ablow says, “losing this battle will devastate more than one generation and cost us trillions.”

NAMI Tennessee: In Our Own Voice


The National Alliance on Mental Illness, better known as NAMI, is a grassroots mental health advocacy organization dedicated to ending the stigma associated with mental illness. Established in 1979, NAMI began building their legacy by creating a simplistic, yet affective, mission statement- “support, educate, research.”

Since its incarnation three decades ago, NAMI has expanded with over 1,200 affiliates covering 50 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. The organization now operates at the local, state, and national levels, but their focus on the local and state levels targets each individual state’s needs when it comes to addressing specific issues within the community. One of the highlights that co-occur between affiliates is the vast array of  consumer oriented support programs. Divisions of these include an education, training, and peer support center, a child and adolescent action center, a multi-cultural action center, a legal center, and a veterans resource center, just to name a few.

As part of the education, training, and peer support center, NAMI offers a program called In Our Own Voice, (IOOV) a public education campaign in which consumers are trained to make public speaking appearances at places such as schools, law enforcement agencies, churches, political events, and jails. During these speaking engagements the consumers share their heart wrenching stories of both pain and recovery.

IOOV is a program the state of  Tennessee is pushing in an innovative new direction. Tennessee has 46 NAMI chapters, but it is Middle Tennessee that has set the tone for NAMI affiliates all over the country. By using the popular website Ning, a social networking phenomenon that allows users to create and join their own social networks, NAMI Tennessee’s IOOV has provided an interactive platform for consumers, friends, and families affected by mental illness. It’s a place where peers, along with their friends and family, can find compassion, understanding, and inspiration. They also host a blog of the same name, where you’ll find introductory styled stories, journal type entries pertaining to mental illness, information on IOOV, mental health research news, and other important developments in the mental health field.

Because the NAMI TN Ning site and blog are so new, not many people have caught on yet. Another misconception is that you have to live in the state of TN to join in and participate; on the contrary, the goal of all NAMI affiliates is to “support, educate, and research.”  Don’t be shy, come join in the fight to end the stigma and have some fun while you’re at it!