Megan’s Story: A Child’s Story Of Schizophrenia

Taken from   NAMI    which is located    HERE.

The children sat quietly in their first grade classroom completing a Thanksgiving coloring project. Most of the students at age 6 needed to improve their fine motor coordination, so sometimes coloring within the lines represented a challenge. When the brown crayon Megan used to color her turkey rolled over the line, she believed that her turkey was ruined. A disaster ensued.

Megan uncontrollably leaped out of her seat and grabbed the box of crayons that lay on her desk. In anger, she screamed and threw the crayons one by one into the classroom wall with great force. Since incidents like this had previously occurred, the teacher, Mrs. Hill, was prepared. She used the school contact system and summoned the security guard.

Within minutes, Megan was removed from the classroom and made to sit outside the principal’s office, as she had done many times before. Here she remained for the next 90 minutes until the principal believed that she was calm enough to return to class.

As the months of the school year progressed, Megan became known as “the bad one” by both the teaching staff and the other first grade parents. With this reputation, she was excluded from birthday parties and play dates. When she became upset at a Brownie troop meeting and stomped on a cupcake that she had dropped, the troop leader contacted Megan’s parents and advised them that Megan was no longer welcome to be a member of the troop.

Megan’s parents, Sandra and Daniel, became deeply concerned about Megan’s behavior and outbursts both at school and at home. Hyperactive and distractible, her tantrums frequently dominated her days. She seemed unable to focus or complete tasks assigned to her. In addition, she had trouble sleeping and kept them awake night after night. It was time to seek help.

The evaluations seemed endless. They began with the psychologist and pediatrician. They continued with neurologists and specialists in the field of cognitive and executive functioning. Megan was questioned extensively to determine if she had been sexually abused, and given an MRI of the brain to detect abnormalities. She was also interviewed and tested by the special education team in her school.

Time passed. No diagnosis, only ideas. And Megan’s life deteriorated as she isolated herself more and more from the pressures of her stressful world. Fearful of people and life outside the home, sadness and depression now dominated her thoughts.

Sandra and Daniel had one more idea. Desperate, they made an appointment with a renowned child psychiatrist. Dr. Evelyn Smith led Megan to her private office and began with a series of questions.

“Megan, do you ever hear anyone talking to you even though you cannot see them?”

Megan was completely surprised but seemed relieved to hear this question. A smile appeared upon her face. “Yes, I do,” she replied. “How did you know?”

“Is it just one person that you hear, or more than one?”

“It’s always the same one.”

“Does this person have a name?”

“His name is Jason but I call him J.”

“Does J ever ask you to do anything that you do not want to do?”
Tears came into Megan’s eyes and began to stream down her cheeks. “Yes, sometimes he tells me to hurt my Mommy and once he told me to kill my cat. But I love Mommy and my pet cat and I didn’t want to do it.” She folded her arms and buried her head in her lap.

“When do you hear J speaking?”

“All different times. I hear him in school a lot when the teacher is talking. I hear him in bed at night and I get afraid and can’t sleep because he scares me. Mostly I hear just J but sometimes I hear loud noises in my ears and I can’t get them to stop.”

Dr. Smith completed her interview, and Sandra and Daniel had a diagnosis for their child at last: early onset schizoaffective disorder, most likely caused by an imbalance of chemicals in the brain. Megan had been experiencing a series of psychotic episodes. No one, including Megan, had understood what was happening to her. She did not know how to distinguish reality from the character that existed only in her mind.

Megan had been experiencing the symptoms of an illness, but society had blamed her for its ravaging effects. Now Megan’s family needed to seek answers and learn how to provide for her special needs. This would be the only path to Megan’s chance at a normal life. First, Megan needed to be stabilized on medication. The second step was to work with the special education team in Megan’s school district to provide a safe and successful school environment with small classes and an appropriate IEP.

The new medication successfully stabilized Megan’s moods, but it failed to address the issues of psychosis, and soon Megan began to have further experiences with imaginary beings. Her parents recall the day when they heard Megan’s screams coming from the bathroom.

“Mommy! Daddy! Help me! I see them now. Come and look! The vampires are in the toilet bowl!” Her parents followed her into the bathroom to investigate, but saw nothing. Sandra picked up her daughter and hugged her.
“It’s OK, Megan. There is really nothing there that will hurt you. The next time you need to use the restroom, come and get me, and I will be there with you always, to keep you safe from harm.”

Dr. Smith responded to the situation by prescribing an antipsychotic. It is sometimes a risk when prescribing such medications to young children, as each individual reacts differently. Megan was one of those rare cases that had a life-threatening reaction to the drug. Within a few days after the initial dose, the muscles in Megan’s body tightened, leaving her unable to move or breathe. After 12 hours of unconsciousness in the emergency room, she survived.

Megan’s journey through her illness did not end there. It was only the beginning. Trial and error of other medications ensued. When she was still not stabilized by the beginning of second grade, Dr. Smith recommended it would be best for Megan to be removed from the traditional school system, and home schooled during her second grade year. With tutoring and family support, Megan successfully completed the state mandated core curriculum of second grade, using her dining room as the learning center.

More challenges lay ahead. With Megan’s wavering moods still out of control, as a last resort her parents placed her into a residential hospital for children. A team of doctors and psychiatrists monitored her behaviors and reactions to various medications. Sandra and Daniel longed for their child, and silence reigned through every hour and day that passed without their precious daughter.

Six months later Megan returned home. When she did, a miracle happened. She had changed. Now she laughed and played and enjoyed the people around her. She was filled with love and hugs and the joys of living. She made friends and for the first time, had a chance to succeed. Megan was now ready to return to school.

Sandra and Daniel had one more challenge in Megan’s recovery. They wanted Megan’s new school experience to be a positive one, so they petitioned Megan’s school district to pay for placement in a private school to address her special needs. Worried about funding, the school district refused. A year long court battle followed, as Megan’s parents learned how to navigate the legal system and fight for their child’s rights to an appropriate education. Finally, Megan was placed in the school where she belongs.

Today Megan is 13 years old. This past June, she graduated from middle school and surprised her family when she was chosen to be the valedictorian of her seventh grade class. She proudly spoke from the stage, thanking her parents for their love, and her special teachers for their support and dedication. After her speech, the principal presented Megan with the President’s Education Award for her outstanding academic achievement.

Megan’s story has touched the lives of all who know her. Family and friends who shared her journey have become enlightened about the stigma of mental illness in our society. They have learned that those living with mental illness can thrive and prosper with appropriate interventions and the ongoing medical research that is available today.

There is hope.

I am Megan’s grandmother.

Streams In The Desert: March 28th, 2015

And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests that bear the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of Jordan, that the waters of Jordan shall be cut off from the waters that come down from above; and they shall stand upon a heap. Joshua 3:13

Brave Levites! Who can help admiring them, to carry the Ark right into the stream; for the waters were not divided till their feet dipped in the water (ver. 15). God had not promised aught else.

God honors faith. “Obstinate faith,” that the PROMISE sees and “looks to that alone.” You can fancy how the people would watch these holy men march on, and some of the bystanders would be saying, “You would not catch me running that risk! Why, man, the ark will be carried away!” Not so; “the priests stood firm on dry ground.” We must not overlook the fact that faith on our part helps God to carry out His plans. “Come up to the help of the Lord.”

The Ark had staves for the shoulders. Even the Ark did not move of itself; it was carried. When God is the architect, men are the masons and laborers. Faith assists God. It can stop the mouth of lions and quench the violence of fire. It yet honors God, and God honors it.

Oh, for this faith that will go on, leaving God to fulfill His promise when He sees fit! Fellow Levites, let us shoulder our load, and do not let us look as if we were carrying God’s coffin. It is the Ark of the living God! Sing as you march towards the flood!
–Thomas Champness

One of the special marks of the Holy Ghost in the Apostolic Church was the spirit of boldness. One of the most essential qualities of the faith that is to attempt great things for God, and expect great things from God, is holy audacity. Where we are dealing with a supernatural Being, and taking from Him things that are humanly impossible, it is easier to take much than little; it is easier to stand in a place of audacious trust than in a place of cautious, timid clinging to the shore.

Like wise seamen in the life of faith, let us launch out into the deep, and find that all things are possible with God, and all things are possible unto him that believeth.

Let us, today, attempt great things for God; take His faith and believe for them and His strength to accomplish them.
–Days of Heaven upon Earth

Praise & Worship: March 26th, 2015

1.  How Can It Be-  Lauren Daigle

2.  I Am Not Alone-  Kari Jobe

3.  Praise To The Lord, The Almighty-  Choir Of King’s College Cambridge

4.  Beautiful-  Vineyard UK

5.  Wasteland-  Needtobreathe

6.  I Will Look Up-  Elevation Worship

7.  Night Season-  David Nevue

8.  Lord I Need You-  Matt Maher/Audrey Assad

9.  In The Night (My Hope Lives On)-  Andrew Peterson

10.  How Deep The Father’s Love For Us-  Selah

11.  Our God Saves-  Paul Baloche

Jonathan & Charlotte Amaze Everyone On Britian’s Got Talent

A friend posted this on Facebook and after watching it I knew I wanted to post it here.  The focus of this video is the overweight 17 year old.  He speaks a little about how he has been treated in his life due to his weight.  Then when he steps on stage the reaction of the audience and Simon Cowell in my mind was mean spirited as well.  Not all overweight people have Jonathan’s talent and if he performed terribly I imagine he would have faced a ton of ridicule.  Yet he took the big step of going on television and delivering a jaw dropping performance.  Jonathan should be accepted the same no matter how well he sings.  How many young people who have been bullied and teased have gone on to have emotional problems in their lives?  Too many!!  That being said I hope Jonathan and Charlotte go on to win this competition and do great things.  Allan

Originally posted in March, 2012

 

 

Mental Health Issues A Huge Challenge For NCAA In Regard To Student-Athletes

Taken from Fox Sports  which is found   HERE.

On Jan. 17, 2014, University of Pennsylvania runner Madison Holleran committed suicide. She was 19. Since this tragedy, the sports community has struggled to address the root cause of Holleran’s death: mental health.

To gauge the current climate inside locker rooms, FOX Sports interviewed more than 25 female student-athletes along with NCAA officials and mental health experts. Though these student-athletes told stories of resilience, they also revealed cautionary tales for the well-being of young women in college sports.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, women are “nearly twice as likely” as men to develop depression, anxiety and eating disorders. Add in the stress of sports commitments and you have a dangerous combination. The majority of women interviewed pointed to eating disorders related to their sport as the top issue.

“We talk about [body image] every day,” said a group of University of Southern California lacrosse players. Anorexia or bulimia is twice as rampant among athletes versus the general population of women, according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD).

The pressures of women to gain muscle in training but stay thin to uphold a standard of beauty outside of sports is irreconcilable. “I’ve never met a gymnast who was in love with their body,” a former D-I gymnast revealed.

In sports, the private issue of women’s body image becomes public. Dartmouthvolleyball player Alexandra Schoenberger’s trainers would hook her up to a machine to track changes in her body fat percentage, which sounded like the sports equivalent of the “jiggle test.”

A D-I swimmer recalled men wore T-shirts that read “Whale watching” in reference to her team. Even in the coverage of Holleran’s death, many were shocked to see the media use photos of the young woman wearing a bikini, taken from her Instagram account.

Bottom line, mental health is a matter of safety, not only because of suicide risk but also the detriment to long-term physical health. Eating disorders are common causes of heart problems and osteoporosis. Anorexia and bulimia have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness according to ANAD. More women have eating disorders than breast cancer, yet every major women’s and men’s sport has a pink ribbon campaign while mental health issues go unnoticed.

So where do these student-athletes go for help? Few women interviewed had used on-campus psychological services because of the stigma surrounding mental health issues.

“No one wants to admit there’s a problem until it’s too late,” Duke basketball player Oderah Chidom said. Most student-athletes viewed professional help as a “sign of weakness.” Those who did seek help found the wait time was up to three weeks to book an appointment.

For a young woman suffering from deep depression, three weeks can be the difference between life and death.

The NCAA is one of the biggest red flags on this issue.

In 2013, Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Brian Hainline declared mental health as the No. 1 health and safety concern in the NCAA. There are more than 200 pages of mental health documents buried deep in the NCAA website — a quarter of which focus on women’s issues alone.

However, not a single student-athlete interviewed was aware of any tangible NCAA resources. This absence has not gone unnoticed. Holleran’s friend and teammate Eliana Yankelev posed the question, “How much is the NCAA willing to ignore as long as they are making money?”

When asked if the NCAA had a responsibility to take a direct hand in the mental health of student-athletes, Mary E. Wilfert, Associate Director of the NCAA Sport Science Institute, stated, “No, intervention cannot come out of the national office … we are not a medical organization.”

Yet every year, the NCAA holds mandatory medical screenings and trainings for all athletes. For example, Sickle Cell Anemia is now covered after a Division II basketball player died in 2011. The Center for Disease Control cites that Sickle Cell affects less than 1 percent of Americans.

Madison Holleran

By contrast, serious mental health issues plague 12 percent of the population, according to the National Eating Disorders Association. Furthermore, the NCAA’s own data states that heart problems (for women, often the result of eating disorders) and suicide as the second and third leading causes of death among student-athletes.

So why is mental health not part of the NCAA’s mandate? Associate Director of Public and Media Relations, Health & Safety Christopher Radford responded, “We can’t just decide to make this part of the guidelines, at every division they’d have to decide on legislation.”

“Concussions get more attention because of the media, the NFL, lawsuits, and Congress … it does not reflect the NCAA attention,” Wilfert added. In other words: money, bureaucracy, and not enough people have sued.

Certainly, Holleran is all the proof the NCAA should need to justify faster resolution.

The student-athletes and mental health experts interviewed largely agreed on the solutions to the mental health epidemic. First, the sports community needs to further the dialogue to stamp out the stigma. Second, the student-athletes themselves need to take better advantage of the on-campus support available. Most important, the NCAA needs to take responsibility as the governing body of college sports to raise awareness, offer tangible resources to students-athletes and set a national standard. Hopefully, all parties will step up to ensure a safer future for women in college sports.

The Fatal Consequences Of Ignoring Mental Illness

Taken from  the Tampa Bay Times  which is found  HERE.

Jason Rios’ family had him committed three times. After each crisis, his family said, he returned home and resumed his role as a dedicated, helpful family member. But last month, Pasco County sheriff’s deputies say, Rios bludgeoned to death his 9-year-old niece and his disabled mother. The family members said they had no indication Rios could be violent.

That violent slide by Rios illustrates the unpredictable nature of mental illness and the dangers of an underfunded state mental health system that fails to provide adequate followup care. The Tampa Bay Times reported on Sunday that the Rios family had been on the Department of Children and Families’ radar for years. The agency’s records paint a picture of a family under tremendous stress, anchored by grandparents who struggled to balance their health issues and unemployment with the needs of their adult children, including a daughter who had four children and a substance abuse problem. DCF caseworkers once removed the four grandchildren from the Rios home when it appeared that caring for them was too much for the grandparents. The children, ages 4 to 14, were returned when the family seemed to stabilize, in part because their uncle, Jason Rios, agreed to help out.

State law requires that all adults in a home where children are placed receive a criminal background check. But beyond that, the agency’s most intense screening is left for primary caregivers unless a crime or claim of abuse draws attention to other adults in the household. This accountability gap represents a huge deficiency in DCF’s child protection plans, particularly in families where other adults live in the same home as caregivers and their children.

Rios, 24, had acute mental episodes. Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco said he was a paranoid schizophrenic. Like many others, the Rios family appeared unclear about the potential consequences of mental illness, a medical field still widely misunderstood.

If DCF caseworkers had known about Rios’ background, perhaps they would have reached a different conclusion about the safety of the home. But under the state’s guidelines, caseworkers can only ask caregivers if other adults in the home have conditions that pose a threat to children’s safety. The answers are self-reported due to federal privacy protections, a flaw that lawmakers and the DCF need to address. Every adult in a household with children under state supervision should be held to the same scrutiny as the primary caregivers.

The Rios incident is one of a sad string of recent tragedies connected by mental illnesses — complex medical conditions that are often difficult to recognize, understand and treat. Judge Thomas McGrady, the chief judge for Pinellas and Pasco counties, recently told the Times that the state needs more comprehensive mental health services, particularly following a spate of crimes committed by people who are mentally ill.

“We see so often that a lot of people that do commit some pretty violent crimes have a long history of mental illness,” McGrady said. “The state has to be committed to having treatment facilities for them.”

Florida ranks 49th among 50 states in per capita mental health spending. For years, lawmakers have cut mental health funding in favor of other projects. The Rios case is a grim reminder of the cost of neglecting mental illness. Lawmakers need to direct more money toward mental health treatment facilities, followup care and education for families. It is in everyone’s best interest that people with mental illness get the help they need.

Four Misconceptions About Mental Illness

Taken from  Relevant Magazine   which is found    HERE.

I sat in the chair in my pastor’s office, listening to him list off strange things I had done recently. My pastor informed me, “the church leadership is not convinced you are mentally stable enough to continue leading your bible study.”

It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. I had come here to talk about the book I was writing, on mental health and spirituality. Instead, I felt bombarded with accusations. I sunk into my chair, listening. All I could do was fight the tears welling up in my eyes. I left feeling judged and misunderstood.

As Christians, we are called to be accepting of marginalized people, but many find this difficult to practice, particularly when it comes to people with mental illnesses. Why is it so hard? What people hear on the media and from society creates a culture of fear around mental illness. This fear is often disproportionate to the reality. God tells us in Isaiah 41:13 “For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.”

Fear is always a bad starting place; it can make us label and distance people from us, blinding us to what is true and good in them. Jesus tells us in Matthew 28:20, “surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age,” we need to trust in His presence as we move outside our comfort zones. Jesus asks believers to reach out to marginalized people, even if it makes us uncomfortable or jeopardizes our social status. What are we to do as the Church, if God is with us and tells us not to be afraid?

Many people with mental illnesses experience discrimination in church settings. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 13 years of age—quite the shock for a teenager with no knowledge of mental illness! My church and Christian friends were supportive of me. At another church, the community respected me, but I exhibited no mental health symptoms at that church. It was only when I became visibly unwell that fear gripped those Christians, so they over reacted.

As someone living with a mental illness, I have learned to extend grace to those who treat me poorly. Their negative reaction often comes from a place of fear and lack of education, rather than intending harm. Many people with bipolar disorder have manic episodes, which are temporary. However, there are cases where delusions are constant. We need to be prepared to interact with those who have chronic mental illnesses as well as milder forms.

Here are a few common misconceptions about mental illness and how Christians can respond.

1. People With Mental Health Conditions are Unsafe.

Most people with mental illnesses are peaceful and respectful of other people. According to the Institute of Medicine, “Although studies suggest a link between mental illnesses and violence, the contribution of people with mental illnesses to overall rates of violence is small, and further, the magnitude of the relationship is greatly exaggerated in the minds of the general population.”

When the news reports a mentally ill person being violent, consider how it would feel if you had a mental illness rather than subscribing to a culture of fear.

2. People With Mental Illnesses are Unpredictable and Difficult to Relate to.

I know many people who have professional jobs, raise stable families and also live with a mental illness. When someone is unwell, they may become unpredictable. This is not their normal way of interacting, and many people with mental illnesses have a plan in case they become unwell—for example, informing a family member and adjusting their medications.

Give someone the benefit of the doubt, assume they will be dependable, show up to meetings and relate well. Extend grace and understanding when they are struggling with their mental health. Some people with mental illnesses may have trouble relating to others. Embrace the challenge of interacting with a human being who may have had more struggles in life than you.

3. Most People With Mental Illnesses are on Welfare or Homeless.

Most people with mental illnesses are not homeless. However, as this article from the Washington Post points out, “because the relatively small number of people living on the streets who suffer from paranoia, delusions and other mental disorders are very visible, they have come to stand for the entire homeless population, despite the fact that they are in the minority.”

If homeless people come to our churches, it is especially important to reach out to them. Treat them as equals, and have a genuine conversation with them, rather than migrating only to people you’re comfortable with.
4. People With Mental Illnesses Would Rather Not Talk About it.

It is surprising how open people can be about their mental health journey. One woman I met in church told me she had a mental illness and shared her experience of discrimination because of it.

This conversation depends on the person; some people are very open, and others are private. You may find you are blessed with more awareness when you listen to the struggles of someone with a mental illness. Respect where the person is at with their ability to share, and be open to hearing their mental health struggles.

Love Your Neighbor (With a Mental Illness) as Yourself

The common stigma against mental illness is exactly what led my pastor and the church leadership to have a negative view of my condition. In light of this, we the people of God have an invitation. In Mark 12:31 Jesus tells us to “love your neighbor as yourself.” I believe welcoming someone with a mental illness into Church is a great place to exhibit this.

Be open to learning about mental illness. Have potentially awkward conversations with newcomers who struggle with their mental health. You won’t regret stepping outside your comfort zone. You will be blessed with stories of struggle, resilience and redemption. If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll even become part of someone’s story of recovery and reconciliation with the Church.

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