Great therapy on the cheap

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I still get depressed.

Not every day.  Not every week.  Not even every month.

In fact, I haven’t visited a therapist in ages.  I don’t take anti-depressants.

But I’ve found the secret to beating depression.   Cheaper than pills.  Lots cheaper than a trip to the therapist.

I jog.  About four days a week, starting out about 7 a.m. I head for our nearby part and cover a little more than four miles.  When I run out of breath, I walk.  And you know what?  When I get back home, any worry, any inkling of depression has melted away.

I was reminded of how I handle depression when I saw the recent New York Times article titled, “Getting mental health care when money is tight.”

Given the current economic climate,  the piece was particularly addressed to persons who had lost their job or feared losing their job.

But the tips could very well help anybody struggling with occasional depression or anxiety.  Even if you’re depression is major, simple things like exercising or finding a support group can help get you moving toward professional help.

Most members of the clergy have been trained to listen to troubled souls.  Pastors and rabbis should spot major problems and connect you with the right professional.

You can talk with your family doctor.  The caveat here is that many medical doctors aren’t very good at diagnosing a mental illness.  Nevertheless, a conversation might well open the door.

If cost truly is an issue, you should know that most people who don’t get help for a mental health problem avoid it because of what they expect to be the cost.  Until recently, health insurance hasn’t been very good about covering such problems.

I should also mention that most communities have agencies, such as Mental Health America and a community mental health center, that can direct you to help – often at minimal cost or even no cost.

Another way to make the connection is by calling the national suicide prevention hotline.  Most of their calls aren’t from persons threatening suicide.  And the persons answering the calls are trained to direct you to somebody who can help.

That number is 1-800-273-TALK.

Through the years, jogging has spared me much heartache.   Meantime, on those many outings, I’ve solved problems, planned books and kept myself in excellent health for a person in his 70s.

You might say I’m a believer.

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The wrong side of history

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I just knew Senate Democrats would stick together and pass the move to bring up health care for debate on the floor.

And I figured Republicans would stand together against holding the debate. No lone member of the Grand Old Party would give the go ahead to this historic debate on a matter that affects all Americans.

Frankly, Americans shouldn’t be surprised.  With few exceptions, Republicans opposed the creation of Social Security.  They opposed Medicare.  They were against Medicaid.  They opposed the Great Society programs, such as food stamps and Head Start.    And in this debate, we’ve heard the most outrageous claims, yes, lies from Republican leaders.  They’ve stoked divisions and fostered ignorance.

That’s been the party of Lincoln since the Great Depression – and before.

You’d think the opponents of health care reform would want to get the issues out for a full, robust debate.  You’d think they’d want a crack at changing things they didn’t like about the bill.   Only one House Republican joined a narrow majority of Democrats to pass the more comprehensive bill.  No GOP help in the Senate.

Well, there’s going to be a debate. It will last through the holidays, maybe into the New Year.  But what should promise to be an inspiring, enlightening exercise in democracy likely will be a replay of the acrimony and demagoguery that have characterized the Republican contribution to this point.   So there you have it.  The GOP, once again, on the wrong side of history.

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No coverage, no care

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I don’t believe it.  Now critics of health care reform claim that the new screening recommendations for breast and cervical cancer claim these are the prelude to rationing health care.

This is too much. Here these independent panel of cancer experts issue their reports completely independent of the legislation moving through Congress. Their recommendations are advisory, not prescriptive.  This is rationing?

You want hear about rationing.  What of those with serious disabilities who don’t qualify for Medicaid. I know persons with a mental illness who get turned down or just don’t apply for the government run program. So they don’t have health insurance. Any. Even if they’re working, it’s likely at low-end wages that don’t come with health insurance.

Besides, Congress can always tell insurance companies they can’t dictate at what age they’ll pay for cancer screening.

As for rationing health care: What do the critics think is going on now?

I just ordered new hearing aids. They cost around $5,000. The aids let a person hear plays, music, TV and what your wife just asked you to do.

Thank goodness, I can afford to buy the new aids. But I won’t get a penny toward this considerable expense from Medicare or from my Medicare Advantage plan.

Yet thousands of elderly persons who have major hearing loss, and have no income beside Social Securitysimply do without. Never mind that this is a real, disabling health problem.

This group falls into that category of “under-insured.” And if you add these folk to the nearly 50 million who have no health insurance, you can tack a few more million.

Medicare rations care. Private health insurance rations care, whether you pay or your employer.

Without health insurance, millions of people don’t get health care, at least not when they need it.

Without health insurance, thousands die needlessly ever year.

This is what the debate should focus on. This is what it’s all about. And the lack of health care in a country so rich, so blessed in a thousand ways, is a national disgrace.

For my part, the issue isn’t the cost of health care reform. It’s not the public option. It’s not the deficit. (AS if Iraq didn’t.) It’s about people. It’s about people needing help. It’s about people get sick. It’s about people become disabled. It’s about everyone who doesn’t have health insurance crying out for help and no one, no one is listening.

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Nov. 18: suicide prevention

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Maybe it’s because we nearly lost my son at age 16 to suicide.  How lucky we were.

Stories about the high rate of suicide among soldiers hit home. By the end of  2008, it was 140 active duty men and women.  By mid-November this year, it’s 140, though the Pentagon reports the rate has slowed. Then this week our granddaughter got word that a high school classmate, an honors student, and a former Spanish student of my daughter, killed himself at college.

No doubt, we’ll be talking about the suicide rate in the military at Friday’s meeting of our county’s Suicide Prevention Council. I well remember encouraging our coroner to organize just such a group.  I wrote editorials praising him when he followed through. But it was only the sort of response that Surgeon General David Satcher had called for that year.  Then, retired from the paper, I joined the council, now composed of physicians, a sheriff’s deputy, counselors and advocates.  Our most public event featured Mike Wallace of “60 Minutes” telling his story of depression and thoughts of suicide to an audience of 700 people at Indiana Purdue University.

But for all the meetings and the efforts to train people on suicide prevention, our suicide rate hasn’t changed much.  On any given year, we lose about 30 people, of various ages, to suicide.  That works out to the national average of 10 per 100,000.   That’s more than some countries, fewer than others.

We naturally assume that the recent horrors of combat explains the current high rate within the army.  But the rate is higher among long-time veterans than the civilian population.  

A few years ago, the air force was able to cut that service’s suiciderate, nearly in half.  The psychiatrist who designed the program told me that the main feature was to train officers who managed the airmen and women.  The officers were educated to know when those serving under them were having emotional problems, depression, anxiety and so forth.

By extension, it’s always seemed that training managers and teachersin civilian life along the same lines help avert tragedy.  The watchword is to identify the problems, then see that the person suffering getsprofessional help.

The side benefit is that the more people who are trained in suicide prevention, the better we can combat the stigma. Every community should tackle suicide as a major public health issue, just as we’ve attempted to do in Fort Wayne.   I’ve interviewed a number of family members whose loved ones have committed suicide.  They never comprehend it.  They never really get over it.  I want to say that a suicide always has more than one victim.  

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Ft. Hood – Aftermath

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For starters, here’s my take on Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan’s rampage at Fort Hood:

There’s no evidence so far that he was part of a conspiracy.  There’s no evidence that any jihadi fighter put him up to the killings. Exchanging e-mails with a radical imam in Yemen doesn’t cut it.   There’s no evidence that the military or FBI was negligent in not questioning him for his contacts with a radical Muslim cleric in Yemen. (A  Nor is there evidence that he acted with the thought of changing his upcoming deployment to Afghanistan or any broader U.S. policy.

There is, however, plenty of evidence that Hasan was a deeply troubled man with bizarre ideas, largely living in isolation from others.  Add to that mixture Hasan’s fascination with radical Islam and you can begin to understand how he was able to carry out this unprovoked, murderous rampage.

I recall covering the case of young Joe Corcoran in Fort Wayne.  Acquitted at 16 of murdering his parents, eight years later, he turned an automatic rifle on his older brother and three friends at his sister’s home.   Joe, later assessed as paranoid schizophrenic, explained, “I thought they were talking about me.”

A sick mind can explain a lot of the world’s evil.

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