Friday, September 5, 2008

Weekly Psych News Roundup

Three Cheers for this Doctor
Dr. Raj Sherman, parliamentary assistant to Canadian Health Minister Ron Liepert, spoke publicly and boldly about his own suicide attempt at 16 years of age. He told his story as he announced that the government will invest $50 million over the next three years into children's mental health services. Read it online at the Edmonton Journal.Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Updates on Yolanda's Law & Suzy's Law

Now that I've returned from hiatus, I want to give you the latest developments on two stories I'd covered on this blog during the summer months.

Earlier in the summer I had written about Yolanda's Law in Massachusetts. At the time, the legislation was just about to come up for a vote. You may recall that the law provides training for teachers, guidance counselors and nurses to better identify students with mental health issues and, consequently, help them receive the treatment they need. It was named after 16-year-old Yolanda Torres who suffered from bipolar disorder and ultimately committed suicide. I'm happy to report that last Thursday, August 21, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed Yolanda's Law into reality.

Back on July 22, I had written about Mike and Mary Gonzalez going to Washington, DC to beef up support for Suzy's Law. This controversial piece of legislation would create penalties for any individual who provides information via the Internet detailing how one can commit suicide and encouraging them to do so. Five years ago, Mike and Mary's 19-year-old daughter Suzy committed suicide with the encouragement and detailed planning provided by individuals on a pro-suicide website. Although the Gonzalezes state that Suzy's Law will not violate freedom of speech, critics continue to argue that such legislation perches our nation on a slippery slope of censorship. Now, as I return from hiatus, Suzy's Law has seven Congressional sponsors.Sphere: Related Content

Monday, September 1, 2008

September 1: Back to Work

After being hiatus for most of August, I'm back and we have a lot of 5150 news to cover. Elections, mental health law developments, and new public policies are just the beginning.
Happy Labor Day and I'll see you here daily!
Photo:Geri-Jean BlanchardSphere: Related Content

Mental Health Takes Front Seat In Elections

This may be the year Psyche takes center stage in politics, both domestically and internationally. Two storms have been brewing in the last few days, one over John McCain's mental state and the other over Pakistani presidential candidate Asif Ali Zardari's mental fitness to be in the nuclear chain of command.

John McCain & the Palin Factor
John McCain may have just conceded the election with his choice of Sarah Palin as his VP hopeful. For him, though, the real tragedy is his cluelessness.
Of all the pundits and bloggers feeding on his choice, Erik Ose nailed it squarely last week asking, Is John McCain Mentally Fit To Be President? McCain’s selection of running mate was just an icebreaker. We do have to question the judgment of a man who, wanting to woo one-time Hillary supporters, would pick an unknown, ultra-right wing woman with barely any experience in public service and whose only correlation to Clinton is chromosomal. Not to mention that Palin, who McCain only met casually once in February, is under investigation, Troopergate, for abuse of power in her home state of Alaska. Then there was the matter of her phone-in to the Bob and Mark Show on Alaska radio in January of this year. Palin sat back and laughed heartily as one host calls her political rival a "cancer" (she was a cancer survivor) and a "bitch." Play the video below to hear for yourself. The collective weight of all this means McCain's choice just doesn’t make much sense.

Ose then details McCain’s known problems with memory and occasional states of confusion. He uses Ronald Reagan’s frequently foggy-minded states as a reference point and wonders whether McCain may be displaying the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease.
This becomes all-too-disturbing when Professor John Banzhaf of George Washington University estimates that Sarah Palin has as much as a 40% chance of becoming president in a McCain administration.

An ordinary McDonald's franchisee wouldn't hire a manager who makes such poor personnel decisions. Should we trust a man with similarly poor judgment to be commander-in-chief?

Zardari's Record of Mental Illness

Benazir Bhutto's widower, Asif Ali Zardari, is running for president of Pakistan and has been expected to win. What may become a fatal bump in his road to victory are medical records which have been released documenting an extensive psychiatric history. Newsweek's issue dated September 8, 2008 contains an excellent accounting of this story.

Among the records are documentation of his depressive episodes, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. Why is this a matter of concern for the US? Rep. Pete Hoekstra, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, told Newsweek, " 'Typically, [the U.S.] wouldn't want that kind of person' involved in a nuclear chain of command."
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