South Korea’s High Suicide Rate & The Recent Ferry Boat Tragedy


Taken from  CNN  which can be found   HERE.

The grief of any parent who loses a child is unimaginable. But that pain is amplified now in South Korea, due to the uncertainty over the fate of hundreds — many of them children on a school field trip — on a sunken ferry and how this east Asian nation’s culture copes with such heartache.

For proof, one need look no further than hospital beds where some parents are hooked up to IVs because their sorrow is so great that they have refused to eat.

Some say they don’t want to live.

“If I don’t have my younger child, I want to jump in the sea,” one woman said. “Thinking about my child in the sea, how can I, as a parent, eat or drink. I hate myself for this.”

In South Korea, suicide is a real threat.

It has the highest suicide rate among the 34 countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Some point to South Korea’s ultra-competitive society or an unwillingness to accept failure as factors that contribute to this reality.

Kin give out DNA

It is a culture where shame carries a heavy burden, and where there is simply a societal acceptance of suicide.

Officials have made mental health workers available to the families, but despite the enormity of the tragedy, they find themselves not busy.

“No one came to us for counseling. The families don’t care about their safety or well-being,” said Han Kee Rae, a psychology volunteer.

Counselors hope more people will come for help, especially in light of the high number of suicides in the country.

There are fears that some may follow the example of Kang Min Kyu, the vice principal of Seoul’s Ansan Danwon High School.

The 52-year-old Kyu was among the first to be rescued from the sinking ship.

Then, two days later, he was found hanging from a tree.

Police said he used a belt to apparently hang himself from a tree near a gymnasium in Jindo, where the distraught relatives of missing passengers have been camping out.

In a note, Kang wrote that the field trip had been his idea and that the deaths of the students were his fault.

His suicide is hardly the first, nor the most high-profile, in recent memory in South Korea.

Former President Roh Moo Hyun jumped to his death in 2009 in the wake of a financial scandal. And Hyundai Group Chairman Chung Mong Hun leaped from a building in the midst of a corruption investigation in 2003, ending his life.

Wherever it leads, the despair was palpable at the site where grieving family members of the capsized ferry’s passengers have been gathering.

For some, the sadness is mixed with anger. And desperation abounds.

As one woman, during a briefing by maritime officials, shouted: “How are we going to live now?”

Psychiatric Foster Care: A Whole City Gets Involved


Taken from  Schizophrenia. Christianity. Hope  which is found   HERE.

Author: I. Holger

An annual reggae festival takes place by the town center of Geel, Belgium, and Janssen Pharmaceutica has a factory here.  Orchids grow in the fertile soil and three windmills churn in the wind.  Though Janssen manufactures Risperdal™, Invega™, and Concerta™ for mental illnesses, in this town, charity is the overriding treatment.

Hundreds of families in this town of 38,000 people take in psychiatric patients as “boarders.”  In the 1930s when the population numbered 15,000, “a quarter of the town was noticeably mentally ill,” says Karin Wells of CBC News.¹ Three thousand eight hundred boarders.  Hard to imagine?  One current resident points out the normalcy of the arrangement:  “No one really notices them.  Not in a negative way.”


One fifth of the boarders have a diagnosis of schizophrenia and many have bipolar disorder.  If a person wants to become a boarder, he or she must first move to an observation house staffed by a local psychiatric hospital which then places the person in the home of a Geel resident.  No one with violent tendencies is placed in a home.  If the match does not work well for the resident, the patient is placed in another home. The Not-In-My-Back-Yard mentality does not exist here.

Resident Toni Smit remembers a boarder with OCD who spent 1 1/2 to 2 hours scrubbing himself with bleach every time he used the bathroom.  She found his habits too difficult to live with but she has two boarders now, one who also has OCD.  “They are part of the family – we love them,” she says.

Chosen by God

Geel’s history of caring for people with symptoms of mental illness began centuries ago after a religious shrine was erected in honor of St. Dymphna.  The people of Geel, says Frieda van Ravensteyn, curator of the Dymphna museum, “thought they were chosen by God to help people with mental illness.”  When the church could not contain the number of people who traveled to Geel for help, local families began to open their doors.  The hospital has records on almost 50,000 boarders who received the community’s care.

Residents don’t need special training nor do they know what diagnosis their boarders have.  A treatment team from the hospital drops in unannounced every few weeks and leaves any necessary medication for the family to dispense.  The hospital also provides an assortment of therapies—cooking, sports, music, work, and blossom therapy (otherwise known as gardening)—and takes the boarders on vacation.

And If We’re Not Chosen

Geel’s foster program has been implemented in Montreal, Germany, Italy, and Japan.  Journalists from Milwaukee visited recently, according to Johann Claeys, hospital spokesman. Their main concern was the issue of violence.  “In ten years,” said Claeys, “they had three interventions and it had nothing to do with violence, not at all.”

In the article written by Karin Wells, none of the residents interviewed spoke of having a calling from God.  The foster families receive a stipend along with hospital support and oversight.  There are no therapeutic goals to reach, just sharing life as a member of a family.

“They’re just people,” said Toni Smit.  “They need caring for too.”

¹ “Psychiatric Community Care:  Belgian Town Sets Gold Standard,” by Karin Wells, CBC News, March 9, 2014.     This link also provides an audio documentary.

Special Forces’ Suicide Rates Hit Record Levels- Casualties Of ‘Hard ‘Combat’

Taken from  the  Washington Times  which can be found    HERE.

The suicide rates for U.S. military members who serve in special forces, like the Navy SEALs and the Army Rangers, have hit all-time highs, said Adm. William McRaven, the head of Special Operations Command.

The rate’s been high for two years, he said, Newsmax reported.

“And this year, I am afraid, we are on path to break that,” he went on at a conference in Tampa. “My soldiers have been fighting now for 12, 13 years in hard combat — hard combat — and anybody that has spent any time in this war has been changed by it. It’s that simple.”

He didn’t provide hard data for the suicide rate, but prior military statistics show that in 2012, more active duty service members died by their own hands — about 350 — than in combat, Newsmax reported. That trend seems to be showing the same for 2013, when 284 service members killed themselves between January and Dec. 15, 2013.

The admiral also said it could take a year or even longer to gauge the true and full effect of sustained combat operations on special forces.

Adm. McRaven’s command includes elite forces operating in 84 different countries, and between the four main branches — Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines — there are a total of 59,000 special ops members, Pentagon statistics show, Newsmax reported.

Misdiagnosed Biolar: One Girl’s Struggle Through Psych Wards Before Standford Doctors Make Bold Diagnosis And Treatment

Taken from  the  Times-Herald  which can be found   HERE.

One day, Tessa Gallo was a typical sixth-grader, performing in school plays, running on the track team, goofing around with her two sisters and giggling with girlfriends at sleepovers.

The next, said her mother, Teresa, “She was psychotic and mentally retarded.”

In bizarre and frightening scenes, Tessa acted as frantic as a caged animal, darting out of the family car into traffic, jumping fences and hiding in neighbors’ bushes. At times she seemed catatonic, with food falling out of her mouth because she somehow couldn’t swallow. She repeated the same few sentences over and over, worried about her braces, wanting to go home.

And finally, she said nothing at all. For nine months, Tessa stopped talking. Not a word.

Doctors diagnosed her with bipolar disorder, prescribed psychiatric drugs that didn’t work and sent the San Jose family on a nightmarish odyssey through psych wards, group homes and isolation rooms.

Then, suddenly, more than 10 months into the Gallos’ terrifying ordeal, a pair of Stanford University doctors told the family that Tessa wasn’t bipolar at all. She was probably suffering from a tragically misdiagnosed condition that mimics mental illness in a way doctors are only starting to understand.

“I’ve seen cases like this before,” Dr. Jennifer Frankovich of Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital told the Gallos. “I think I can bring her back.”

Controversial diagnosis

What Frankovich, a pediatric rheumatologist, and Dr. Kiki Chang, a child psychiatrist, concluded was that Tessa likely had an infection or other trigger that caused her immune system to mistakenly attack her brain, dramatically changing Tessa’s behavior overnight. It’s a condition called PANS — pediatric acute-onset neuropsychiatric syndrome — that in some cases, if caught early enough, could be cured by commonly used antibiotics. Without early treatment, they say, children can suffer needlessly.

It would take a mother’s stubborn devotion and the conviction of two doctors willing to stake their reputation on a controversial treatment to bring Tessa back from the brink. At the same time, they believe cases like Tessa’s could help unlock the mysteries of the brain and reveal how something as common as an infection could be behind a growing number of psychological disorders.

PANS is so new and so misunderstood, that there are no reliable estimates of how many children are affected. A national PANS parent support group believes the number nationwide could be more than 150,000, or about a quarter of the children who have obsessive compulsive disorder or other tics.

But skeptics within the medical community question whether PANS even exists. At a symposium in Burlingame on Saturday, Teresa Gallo and Frankovich will try to dispel the lingering controversy that has thwarted efforts to legitimize the diagnosis, fund research and spread the word about possible treatments.

“To know how many patients are in mental institutions that have treatable diseases,” Frankovich said, “we can’t even wrap our head around this.”

‘You need to come home’

At the Gallo home in the east San Jose foothills, Teresa Gallo dumps out a shopping bag filled with half-empty bottles of Tessa’s psychiatric drugs. Nothing worked. Not the Ativan or Lexapro for her anxiety. Not the Haldol to calm her and curb her aggression. Not the Ambien to help her sleep. They just made Tessa more manic. Her bright blue eyes turned dull and vacant.

Before Tessa’s illness, life was good for the Gallo family: Teresa worked as a Weight Watchers leader, her husband as an engineer, their three daughters attended Catholic school. They loved to entertain in their backyard and keep up with Tessa’s Girl Scouts and track meets. The household was happy and bustling.

That changed on July 8, 2011. The couple was on a vacation in New Orleans when Teresa received a call from her mother, who was watching the girls in San Jose.

“Tessa’s not sleeping. She’s not eating. She seems obsessed about her teeth,” her mother, Kathy Downing, said. “You need to come home.”

They took Tessa, who was 13, to the emergency room, where doctors asked whether Tessa had suffered something traumatic. Nothing, Teresa said. Tessa was given anti-anxiety medication and told to go home.

Day by day, Tessa’s behavior grew worse. Riddled with obsessive behaviors, she wiped her hand across her face repeatedly. The teenager who was once so concerned with her hair and hygiene wouldn’t bathe. When Teresa put Tessa in the shower and shampoo in her hand, Tessa would drop her arm to her side, the shampoo running down her leg. She cried nonstop. She started to hit her mother and family members until they were bruised. Teresa lay in bed with her all night, trying to calm her and make sure she didn’t run out of the house. They were lucky to sleep two hours.

Tessa barely ate. She became dehydrated. Her lips cracked and bled.

So desperate after one month, Teresa begged the staff at Valley Medical Center in San Jose to admit her daughter. They were reluctant, saying all they had was an 8-by-8 windowless room. But they could keep her briefly, monitored and safe. It took five large male attendants to restrain the flailing, angry, wisp of a girl.

“Stay back, stay back!” one of them yelled as they carried the kicking and screaming child away.

Teresa crumbled to the floor. “It was the first and only time in my life I just dropped,” Teresa said, “the vision of her being taken away like that and hoping it was the right decision.”

‘Just wanted my sister’

Across the Bay Area, four psychiatrists diagnosed Tessa with bipolar disorder and one suggested it might be schizophrenia. There were months at psychiatric wards and tortured stops at group homes, from Concord to San Mateo to Fremont. There were long stretches at home, locked with a caregiver in the family room so Tessa wouldn’t escape. They shut off the water because Tessa was drinking obsessively. She even drank liquid soap and a bottle of nail polish remover.

Friends and neighbors carpooled her sisters, Briana and Julia, to their activities and brought over dinner casseroles to help the family cope.

“When someone is basically gone, it’s hard to be positive,” the youngest, Briana, said. “I just wanted my sister, to see her and have her back once again.”

It’s been so hard, Teresa’s husband doesn’t like talking about it and asked that his name not be included. Every Sunday, St. John Vianney parish would say Mass in Tessa’s name. And every time, Teresa would break down in tears and run outside, sit on the steps and cry.

Finally, 10 months after Tessa’s first episode and six months after Teresa first sought him out, Chang’s office called. The noted pediatric bipolar expert could see Tessa. Heavily sedated, she curled up on the exam room floor and drooled.

Teresa explained how her daughter had changed overnight, how nothing helped, how hopeless they felt. Chang listened closely, studied Tessa, then told them something shocking.

“This is not bipolar,” Chang said. “This is an autoimmune disease, and I’m so sorry it took me this long to see you.”

First PANS clinic

He made her an appointment with Frankovich, the rheumatologist with whom he was working to help diagnose and treat PANS cases. When Tessa met Frankovich for the first time, she socked her in the arm.

It was 2012 and Chang and Frankovich were preparing to open the world’s first PANS clinic, but the hospital provided only enough funding to operate a half day a week out of a room in the rheumatology department. Soon, there were 60 patients and a five-month waiting list. The two doctors, plus their mostly-volunteer staff, began working nights and weekends answering desperate calls from parents and pleading with insurance companies to fund novel treatments.

Since her medical school days at the University of Nevada in the 1990s, Frankovich had a hunch that a biological trigger could be underlying some psychiatric diseases. Once during her rotation through the psych ward back then, a boy who had the flu suddenly turned psychotic.

“I remember being on the ward and telling these families there’s nothing we can do. Your child has a mental illness and has to go to the mental ward,” Frankovich said in a recent interview. “It never felt right to me, but I had to say it because that was what I was trained to say.”

But there had to be a connection, she thought.

About the same time, at the National Institute of Mental Health outside Washington, D.C., Dr. Susan Swedo was grappling with the same phenomenon. While many children exhibited signs of extreme anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder, the ones who were particularly puzzling had symptoms that appeared almost overnight, within 24 to 48 hours. Parents described their children as acting like they were “possessed.”

Swedo linked the sudden onset of these OCD symptoms to the strep infection and in 1998 coined the term PANDAS — pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with strep. But some children had all the signs of PANDAS without the strep infection, and in 2010 she broadened the diagnosis to include the possibility of other infections triggering psychosis, calling it PANS.

Critics, including some noted neurology experts, have long disputed the connection between strep and mental illness, and say the broader PANS diagnosis is no more than a hypothesis. “No one has established that it’s true,” said Dr. Roger Kurlan, a New Jersey neurologist specializing in Tourette syndrome. “No one has established what the infection is that brings it out or which antibodies bring it out.”

In the meantime, the mainstream medical community remains largely unaware of PANS or reluctant to diagnose and treat it, waiting for the research to catch up and the controversy to quell.

A brief awakening

Tessa’s is an extreme case and Frankovich is the first to admit there’s a lot she and Chang don’t understand. But when she began treating Tessa with the same autoimmune and anti-inflammatory therapies she used on her lupus patients — whose immune systems become hyperactive and attack healthy tissues — Tessa started getting better.

“Nothing worked for 10 months in the psych wards,” Frankovich said of Tessa, “but after three days of an infusion of steroids, it was a pretty dramatic improvement that was sustained.”

At home in the Gallo house, Tessa was coming back to life. She could write and draw again. Her OCD symptoms calmed. And finally, after several months of silence, Tessa spoke.

“I’m hungry,” she said next to a fountain outside Lucile Packard hospital. “I want to go home.”

In her euphoria, Teresa called her family and summoned Frankovich, who came running from a nearby building and shared in the tears.

“I love you,” Tessa told her mom, as the two tightly hugged.

But as surprising as it started, Tessa’s ability to speak lasted only two hours.

“My husband missed it. My parents missed it,” Teresa said. “It was heartbreaking and she didn’t speak for another five or six months.”

More heartbreak followed. Tessa regressed further, as doctors tried to wean her from steroids. For the first time, she started hearing voices.

Frankovich knew she needed more aggressive measures to bring Tessa back. In December 2012, after much debate within Stanford itself, agreement was reached to conduct a three-day treatment called plasmapheresis that would run Tessa’s blood through a machine to clean out toxic antibodies, followed by a powerful immune-suppressing drug called Rituximab.

The goal was stop her immune system from attacking her brain, but suppressing the immune system leaves the body vulnerable to fatal infection, Frankovich said. “We can’t justify using this medicine unless all the doctors involved say there’s no hope for the child.”

Bold treatment

By that point, Tessa was in such a bad mental state she was living in a group home with five autistic boys and teens. When the Gallos brought Tessa in for the procedure, she was kicking and screaming. Teresa needed to hold her down while doctors strapped Tessa to the table.

“This was literally what we thought was Tessa’s last hope,” Teresa said. She prayed it would work.

The early signs of success were subtle. That first night, Tessa slept until morning for the first time in months. By February 2013, she was talking again, and singing. In June, she moved back home.

“Watching Tessa come out of this was like watching a child come out of a coma,” Teresa said.

The once shy girl became an outgoing jokester.

The illness robbed Tessa of more than two years of schooling, but she remembered all her times tables. She attends a special education class at Mount Pleasant High School. She still gets mild cases of OCD, but they’re manageable. Her family is vigilant about infections and wears medical masks at the first sign of sniffles. She had another flare in December, but more immunosuppressants brought her about 80 to 90 percent back. She is still a Girl Scout, plays softball on Sundays and joins a hip hop class on Wednesdays. A boy from her class invited her to the school prom. She plans to wear a light blue dress.

“I feel good,” said Tessa, now 16, who explains that when she “lost her voice” she was “just tired. All I could do is hear what people were saying, but I couldn’t talk back to them.”

These days, Tessa hugs her mother a lot. “She’s a loving person,” Tessa said, “that I will love forever.”

From dark to light

Frankovich and Chang believe their continued work with patients like Tessa will provide answers to the skeptics and build a body of research to help more suffering children get their lives back. But funding is needed for the kinds of scientific breakthroughs and clinical trials to better understand the connections between the psychological and the physical, to find the underlying causes of PANS and to prove their treatment is working. The road ahead is daunting.

“I have had lots of sleepless nights,” Frankovich said. “But I have to tell you, every time Tessa comes to clinic, I feel somewhat validated that I’m doing the right thing.”

When Tessa visited the clinic this month, she showed Frankovich and Chang two pictures she painted. One was almost totally black, created during one of her tortured, manic flares. The other, painted in February, was a bright green and blue heart with splashes of yellow and orange.

Chang asked about the dark one, how Tessa felt when she painted it. But Tessa avoided the question.

Then he pointed to the painted heart. “How were you feeling when you did this one?”

“I was feeling happy,” Tessa said, happy like the song that sticks in her head.

To attend PANS Syposium: Saturday, April 26, at Embassy Suites, Burlingame, or go to
To learn more about it: PANS Question and Answer: or call 650-497-9063.
To donate to the PANS Clinic:



Stand Still: Streams In The Desert, April 19th, 2014


Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord”  Exodus 14:13

These words contain God’s command to the believer when he is reduced to great straits and brought into extraordinary difficulties. He cannot retreat; he cannot go forward; he is shut upon the right hand and on the left. What is he now to do?
The Master’s word to him is “stand still.” It will be well for him if, at such times, he listens only to his Master’s word, for other and evil advisers come with their suggestions. Despair whispers, “Lie down and die; give it all up.” But God would have us put on a cheerful courage, and even in our worst times, rejoice in His love and faithfulness.
Cowardice says, “Retreat; go back to the worldling’s way of action; you cannot play the Christian’s part; it is too difficult. Relinquish your principles.”
But, however much Satan may urge this course upon you, you cannot follow it, if you are a child of God. His Divine fiat has bid thee go from strength to strength, and so thou shalt, and neither death nor hell shall turn thee from thy course. What if for a while thou art called to stand still; yet this is but to renew thy strength for some greater advance in due time.
Precipitancy cries, “Do something; stir yourself; to stand still and wait is sheer idleness.” We must be doing something at once–we must do it, so we think–instead of looking to the Lord, who will not only do something, but will do everything.
Presumption boasts, “If the sea be before you, march into it, and expect a miracle.” But faith listens neither to Presumption, nor to Despair, nor to Cowardice, nor to Precipitancy, but it hears God say, “Stand still,” and immovable as a rock it stands.
“Stand still”–keep the posture of an upright man, ready for action, expecting further orders, cheerfully and patiently awaiting the directing voice; and it will not be long ere God shall say to you, as distinctly as Moses said it to the people of Israel, “Go forward.’
“Be quiet! why this anxious heed
About thy tangled ways?
God knows them all. He giveth speed
And He allows delays.
‘Tis good for thee to walk by faith
And not by sight.
Take it on trust a little while.
Soon shalt thou read the mystery aright
In the full sunshine of His smile.”
In times of uncertainty, wait. Always, if you have any doubt, wait. Do not force yourself to any action. If you have a restraint in your spirit, wait until all is clear, and do not go against it.

Easter Praise & Worship: April 18th, 2014

Song List

1.  My Redeemer Lives-  Nicole C. Mullen

2.  Above All-  Michael W. Smith

3.  O Sacred Head Now Wounded-  Fernando Ortega

4.  When I Survey The Wondrous Cross-  Choir Of King’s College, Cambridge

5.  The Victor-  Keith Green

6.  Awesome God-  Rich Mullins

7.  Nothing But The Blood-  Jesus Culture

8.  Were You There? (When They Crucified My Lord)-  Marion Williams

9.  The Wonder Of The Cross-  Vicky Beeching

10.  Glorious Day ( Living He Loved Me)-   Casting Crowns

11.  The Old Rugged Cross-  B.J. Thomas

12.  He’s Alive-  Don Francisco

Seahawks Running Back Christine Michael Takes Girl With Autism To Her Prom

A couple months after being part of a Seahawks team that won a Super Bowl, Christine Michael couldn’t have looked any happier dancing at a high school prom.

His date, Taylor Kirkwood, looked even happier.

Kirkwood, from Houston, is autistic and suffered from scoliosis until surgery a couple years ago. Michael, a former running back at Texas A&M, was a friend of the family and gladly accepted an invitation to be Kirkwood’s prom date, according to a story on

That’s how the running back, a second-round pick of the Seahawks last year, ended up at Anahuac High School getting down in a pink shirt that matched Kirkwood’s dress.

“I’m just here for Taylor,” Michael told “It’s a blessing. Like I said, she’s a beautiful kid. I’m very proud of her.”

It isn’t too unusual for a high school senior to go to prom with a football player, it’s just rare that the player is already in the NFL. Good for Michael. It definitely gives Kirkwood a pretty cool story about her high school prom to tell for years to come.


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