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Monthly Archives: October 2013

How to Identify Mental Health Concerns in the Elderly

Mental Health 9Mental illness affects individuals of all ages, including the elderly. While it may come as no surprise that dementia stemming from Alzheimer’s disease is the most prevalent form of mental illness in the aging population, what might be unexpected is that many older individuals also experience a number of mood disorders and depression.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as many as one in five adults in their mid-fifties report a mental illness of some type. However, almost a third of this population does not get the needed help.

One factor inhibiting the elderly from getting treatment is that they are less apt to report psychological symptoms than they are physical health concerns. But poor physical health can also take a toll on mental health. For instance, feeling physically unwell can increase one’s risk for developing symptoms of depression.


According to the Geriatric Mental Health Foundation, there are several factors that could compromise an elderly person’s mental health:

•           Losing independence or being relocated because of an inability to care for oneself

•           Experiencing the death of a spouse or other loved one

•           Taking medications that interfere with one another

•           Engaging in substance abuse

•           Not maintaining a healthy diet

•           Living with a disability or chronic illness

It’s important to learn the facts about senior mental health. Oftentimes mental illness is confused with the natural process of aging. But depressive symptoms that persist beyond two weeks or a sudden loss of concern for things once important could be red flags of something more serious. Other factors to lookout for include thoughts or talk of suicide or worthlessness, changes in appearance, housekeeping, or grounds maintenance, lack of energy with no explanation, altered sleep patterns, and withdrawal from the outside world.

Armed with knowledge, caregivers and family members can stay vigilant of changes in aging loved ones so that they can get support in the event of a problem. If you suspect something out of the ordinary, contact Family Guidance Center.

NFL Bear’s Brandon Marshall Sports Green Shoes in Support of Mental Health Awareness

Mental illness can affect anyone regardless of income, sex, or ethnicity. No one knows this better than Brandon MarshallBrandon Marshall who plays wide receiver for the Chicago Bears. Marshall was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD) in June 2011. Marshall says that mental illness is something that impacts all of us as human beings, regardless whether it’s something that is experienced personally, with family or friends, or within the greater community.

That’s why the football star made a risky move and wore green shoes originally banned by the NFL at the October 10 game where the Bears battled the New York Giants. Marshall said the shoes were to bring awareness and support to Mental Health Awareness Week. Prior to the game, the NFL sent Marshall a letter backing off the original ban but advised that it would issue a hefty fine for breaking the rules. And indeed, it did – Marshall was later fined $10,500, which he said he planned to match with a donation to his charity, the Brandon Marshall Foundation and Project Borderline.

It is estimated that as many as 20 percent of the population has some type of mental health problem. Yet, the topic continues to remain something that is difficult for some people to talk about. Marshall hopes to change all that by publicly sharing his own personal journey with BPD and doing his part to raise awareness for those silently living with mental illness for fear of confronting stigma.

For a long time, Marshall didn’t know what was causing his volatile mood swings, lack of joy despite his career success, feelings of loneliness and boredom, and intense fear of abandonment. He described his diagnosis as a light in his “dark room,” allowing him to better understand his thoughts and emotions. For some, BPD leads to self-harm behaviors and suicidal tendencies.

Marshall has said that football is not his purpose in life, but rather his platform to raise awareness and help for others also living with mental illness. If you or someone you know just feels that something isn’t quite right, don’t ignore it. Contact Family Guidance Center to learn more about issues affecting mental health.


Army Designates Month of October For National Depression Awareness

11183369_sDepression affects individuals in every profession and walk of life, including the military. As part of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, all soldiers deploying or coming home after being displaced have to be screened for depression. Depression can be easy to overlook as everyone has periods of being down, especially when being separated from family.

Per an Army resource, 67 percent of those with depression don’t get the help they need. For that reason, the Army has designated the month of October as National Depression Awareness Month. During this time, free mental health screenings are available and the focus shifts to educating soldiers and their families regarding the signs of depression.

Depression symptoms persist for an extended period of time and can include feelings of hopelessness, sadness, anxiety, negative thoughts, lack of concentration, disrupted sleep patterns, and the use of drugs and alcohol to help self-medicate. Screenings offered by the government can help affected individuals identify when there is a problem and determine the proper course of treatment. The Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs are sources for screenings as are local community health agencies.

Clinical depression is not to be taken lightly. Left unchecked, the condition can result in suicidal thoughts or acts. But if there’s one message that Major General Gregg Potter had for his soldiers, it’s that getting help is not a sign of weakness, but rather strength.

Major General Potter served as commanding general for the U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence and Fort Huachuca. He was a keynote speaker at last year’s Stand Down Day for Suicide Prevention held at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. His advice was to reach out and try and talk with those who might be acting differently in an effort to get them the help they need.

Depression is highly treatable. If you know someone who is living with depression, contact Family Guidance Center to learn more about help in your area.

Addiction Takes a Toll

Drugs can interfere with a person’s ability to think and act clearly. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there’s a biological reason for this – compounds in drugs disrupt neurotransmitters in the brain, flooding the brain with the feel good chemical dopamine. Over time, the person using drugs has to have more and more in order to achieve the same high as before. This is because the brain adjusts to the in pouring of dopamine and stops producing as much naturally. Over time, drugs can cause permanent damage to the parts of the brain that control reasoning, judgment, and learning, challenging the user’s ability to think rationally.

Those who engage in drug use may partake in risky behaviors that further put their health and protection in jeopardy. Examples include having sex with numerous partners or not using protection, sharing needles with others, driving while high, or stealing from others to support one’s drug habit, which could result in incarceration. Mental Illness 1

A drug habit makes it hard to focus on the world outside of drugs. It may be difficult to hold down a job or go to school. Parents may neglect their children. Relationships with family and friends suffer and lack of income and stability could result in homelessness.

While the effect of drugs may be pleasurable initially, overtime, they take a toll on a person’s physical and psychological health. Drugs like amphetamines cause double vision, sweating, sleep problems, hypertension, and increased breathing and heart rate. Over time, a person may experience paranoia and loss of touch with reality. Street drugs like cocaine and heroin cause extreme cravings that could lead to overdose. Even household drugs like cough medicines, when abused, can cause nausea, hypertension, deliria, unconsciousness, and permanent brain injury. Breathing inhalants like glue and paint thinners is also extremely toxic and could result in death.

Breaking the cycle of drug abuse is a difficult feat to tackle on one’s own. It requires a strong commitment to getting better and oftentimes, the help of a professional. Family Guidance Center offers both inpatient and outpatient addiction treatment services. To learn more, visit familyguidance.org.


Do the Fall and Winter Months Leave You SAD? Tips for Confronting Seasonal Affective Disorder

SAD 1As fall and winter months approach, the days become shorter and daylight diminishes. Meanwhile, colder weather and bad conditions dictate that individuals spend more time indoors. While this can cause anyone to go a little stir-crazy, some individuals experience a more serious condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is actually a form of depression, and people with the condition find themselves in a persistent sadness that coincides with the change in the seasons.

The signs of SAD are very similar to traditional depression except that with SAD, symptoms are mainly triggered during the more dismal fall and winter months. Affected individuals may experience a loss of interest in things once important, abrupt changes in mood, irritability, changes in appetite and sleep, and lack of focus. SAD may also lead to poor grades at school, diminished performance at work, and a desire to sequester oneself from others.

SAD can be draining, but there are things that can be done to help. Light therapy, a form of treatment where individuals are exposed to a type of light similar to the natural light of the sun, has been known to provide some relief. But perhaps the best line of defense is to be preemptive when it comes to confronting symptoms.

According to Dr. Devin Byrd of South University’s College of Health   Professions, it’s beneficial to be aware of one’s habits, anxiety levels and social involvement. Experts recommend partaking in regular exercise such as yoga or walking, getting sufficient sleep, eating a nutritious diet, and making time for leisure activities with family and friends.

Now that fall is here, if you or someone you know is experiencing an unexplained loss of energy or a feeling of perpetually being down, it may be time to talk to a professional about Seasonal Affective Disorder. Family Guidance Center has therapists trained in providing assistance with various forms of depression. To set up a screening or to get more information about SAD, contact Family Guidance Center.