Bipolar in the workplace: ‘I was asked whether I was taking crazy people’s meds’

Michelle Lewis* has experienced a great deal of discrimination against her in the workplace for having a mental illness. In 2016, she suffered suicidal thoughts and knew she needed help. She was diagnosed with bipolar and admitted to a clinic.

“When I was discharged from the clinic, I returned to work as normal. Before my official diagnosis, there were no complaints about my quality of work,” Lewis says. But when she returned to the office she realised something wasn’t right.

She was called into a meeting and asked what was wrong. She believed that because she had worked for the company for six months, she assumed she could be honest.

Full story at Health 24

Researchers identify risk factors that predict violence in adults with mental illness

Researchers have identified three risk factors that make adults with mental illness more likely to engage in violent behavior. The findings give mental health professionals and others working with adults with mental illness a suite of characteristics they can use as potential warning signs, allowing them to intervene and hopefully prevent violent behavior.

“Our earlier work found that adults with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators — and that is especially relevant to this new study,” says Sarah Desmarais, an associate professor of psychology at North Carolina State University and co-author of a paper describing the work. “One of the new findings is that people with mental illness who have been victims of violence in the past six months are more likely to engage in future violent behavior themselves.”

The researchers compiled a database of 4,480 adults with mental illnesses — including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression — who had answered questions about both committing violence and being victims of violence in the previous six months. The database drew from five earlier studies that focused on issues ranging from antipsychotic medications to treatment approaches. Those studies had different research goals, but all asked identical questions related to violence and victimization.

Full story of risk factors that predict violence in mental illness at Science Daily

Healing plants inspire new compounds for psychiatric drugs

Treatments used by traditional healers in Nigeria have inspired scientists at Northwestern University to synthesize four new chemical compounds that could one day lead to better therapies for people with psychiatric disorders.

In a paper published online in the journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition, the scientists detail how they created these natural compounds by completing the first total syntheses of two indole alkaloids — alstonine and serpentine. These alkaloids, found in various plant species used by healers in Nigeria to treat people with conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, have antipsychotic properties that have potential to improve mental disorder treatments.

The current drugs used for schizophrenia effectively treat delusions and hallucinations but are only partially effective for cognitive impairment. Early experimental research of these new compounds in animal models shows promise in improving cognitive impairment, the Northwestern scientists said.

Full story of healing plants to use for psychiatric drugs at Science Daily

YouTube as peer support for severe mental illness

People with severe mental illness such as schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder or bipolar disorder use a popular social media website like YouTube to provide and receive naturally occurring peer support, Dartmouth researchers report in the journal PLOS ONE.

“What we found most surprising about our findings was that people with severe mental illness were so open about their illness experiences on a public social media website like YouTube,” said lead author John Naslund, A PhD student in health policy at The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice. “We saw that people with severe mental illness did not appear to be concerned about the risks of openly sharing their personal illness experiences because they really wanted to help others with similar mental health problems.”

Naslund and colleagues found that people with severe mental illness used YouTube to feel less alone and to find hope, to support and to defend each other, and to share personal stories and strategies for coping with day-to-day challenges. They also sought to learn from the experiences of others about using medications and seeking mental health care.

Full story of YouTube peer support for mental illness at Science Daily

New approaches needed for people with serious mental illnesses in criminal justice system

Responding to the large number of people with serious mental illnesses in the criminal justice system will require more than mental health services, according to a new report.

In many ways, the criminal justice system is the largest provider of mental health services in the country. Estimates vary, but previous research has found that about 14 percent of persons in the criminal justice system have a serious mental illness, and that number is as high as 31 percent for female inmates. Researchers are defining serious mental illnesses to include such things as schizophrenia, bipolar spectrum disorders and major depressive disorders.

“It has been assumed that untreated symptoms of mental illness caused criminal justice involvement, but now we’re seeing that there is little evidence to support that claim,” said Matthew Epperson, assistant professor at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration. Specialized interventions for people with mental illness in the criminal justice system have been developed over the past 20 years, such as mental health courts and jail diversion programs, Epperson said.

Full story of mental illness in the criminal justice system at Science Daily