COVID-19 update as we start to leave our cocoons by Dr. James Stein- Cardiologist at UW

Forward by Laurie Goldstein

With all the noise in the media and the conflicting advice, it is hard to determine facts from fiction regarding the spread of COVID and how to protect yourself. As with many choices in life, it depends. It depends on your risk factors and your comfort level.

It appears that this disease will be with us for some time, and I think there is also harm (both mental and physical) from social isolation—a quandary for sure.

I enjoyed the article by Dr. James Stein as it provides a reasonable approach to rejoining society.? Enjoy this article as I have.

Laurie Goldstein

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The purpose of this post is to provide a perspective on the intense but expected anxiety so many people are experiencing as they prepare to leave the shelter of their homes. My opinions are not those of my employers and are not meant to invalidate anyone else’s – they simply are my perspective on managing risk.

In March, we did not know much about COVID-19 other than the incredibly scary news reports from overrun hospitals in China, Italy, and other parts of Europe. The media was filled with scary pictures of chest CT scans, personal stories of people who decompensated quickly with shortness of breath, overwhelmed health care systems, and deaths. We heard confusing and widely varying estimates for the risk of getting infected and of dying – some estimates were quite high.

Key point #1: The COVID-19 we are facing now is the same disease it was 2 months ago. The “shelter at home” orders were the right step from a public health standpoint to make sure we flattened the curve and didn’t overrun the health care system which would have led to excess preventable deaths. It also bought us time to learn about the disease’s dynamics, preventive measures, and best treatment strategies – and we did. For hospitalized patients, we have learned to avoid early intubation, to use prone ventilation, and that remdesivir probably reduces time to recovery. We have learned how to best use and preserve PPE. We also know that several therapies suggested early on probably don’t do much and may even cause harm (ie, azithromycin, chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine, lopinavir/ritonavir). But all of our social distancing did not change the disease. Take home: We flattened the curve and with it our economy and psyches, but the disease itself is still here.

Key point #2: COVID-19 is more deadly than seasonal influenza (about 5-10x so), but not nearly as deadly as Ebola, Rabies, or Marburg Hemorrhagic Fever were 25-90% of people who get infected die. COVID-19’s case fatality rate is about 0.8-1.5% overall, but much higher if you are 60-69 years old (3-4%), 70-79 years old (7-9%), and especially so if you are over 80 years old (CFR 13-17%). It is much lower if you are under 50 years old (<0.6%). The infection fatality rate is about half of these numbers. Take home: COVID-19 is dangerous, but the vast majority of people who get it, survive it. About 15% of people get very ill and could stay ill for a long time. We are going to be dealing with it for a long time.

Key point #3: SARS-CoV-2 is very contagious, but not as contagious as Measles, Mumps, or even certain strains of pandemic Influenza. It is spread by respiratory droplets and aerosols, not food and incidental contact. Take home: social distancing, not touching our faces, and good hand hygiene is the key weapons to stop the spread. Masks could make a difference, too, especially in public places where people congregate. Incidental contact is not really an issue, nor is food.

What does this all mean as we return to work and public life? COVID-19 is not going away anytime soon. It may not go away for a year or two and may not be eradicated for many years, so we have to learn to live with it and do what we can to mitigate (reduce) risk. That means being willing to accept some level of risk to live our lives as we desire. I can’t decide that level of risk for you – only you can make that decision. There are few certainties in pandemic risk management other than the fact that some people will die, some people in low-risk groups will die, and some people in high-risk groups will survive. It’s about probability.

Here is some guidance – my point of view, not judging yours:

  1. People over 60 years old are at higher risk of severe disease – people over 70 years old, even more so. They should be willing to tolerate less risk than people under 50 years old and should be extra careful. Some chronic diseases like heart disease and COPD increase risk, but it is not clear if other diseases like obesity, asthma, immune disorders, etc. increase risk appreciably. It looks like asthma and inflammatory bowel disease might not be as high risk as we thought, but we are not sure – their risks might be too small to pick up, or they might be associated with things that put them at higher risk.

People over 60-70 years old probably should continue to be very vigilant about limiting exposures if they can. However, not seeing family – especially children and grandchildren – can take a serious emotional toll, so I encourage people to be creative and flexible. For example, in-person visits are not crazy – consider one, especially if you have been isolated and have no symptoms. They are especially safe in the early days after restrictions are lifted in places like Madison or parts of major cities where there is very little community transmission. Families can decide how much mingling they are comfortable with – if they want to hug and eat together, distance together with masks, or just stay apart and continue using video-conferencing and the telephone to stay in contact. If you choose to intermingle, remember to practice good hand hygiene, don’t share plates/forks/spoons/cups, don’t share towels, and don’t sleep together.

  1. Social distancing, not touching your face, and washing/sanitizing your hands are the key prevention interventions. They are vastly more important than anything else you do. Wearing a fabric mask is a good idea in crowded public place like a grocery store or public transportation, but you absolutely must distance, practice good hand hygiene, and don’t touch your face. Wearing gloves is not helpful (the virus does not get in through the skin) and may increase your risk because you likely won’t washing or sanitize your hands when they are on, you will drop things, and touch your face.
  2. Be a good citizen. If you think you might be sick, stay home. If you are going to cough or sneeze, turn away from people, block it, and sanitize your hands immediately after.
  3. Use common sense. Dial down the anxiety. If you are out taking a walk and someone walks past you, that brief (near) contact is so low risk that it doesn’t make sense to get scared. Smile at them as they approach, turn your head away as they pass, move on. The smile will be more therapeutic than the passing is dangerous. Similarly, if someone bumps into you at the grocery store or reaches past you for a loaf of bread, don’t stress – it is a very low-risk encounter, also – as long as they didn’t cough or sneeze in your face (one reason we wear cloth masks in public!).
  4. Use common sense, part II. Dial down the obsessiveness. There really is no reason to go crazy sanitizing items that come into your house from outside, like groceries and packages. For it to be a risk, the delivery person would need to be infectious, cough or sneeze some droplets on your package, you touch the droplet, then touch your face, and when it invades your respiratory epithelium. There would need to be enough viral load and the virions would need to survive long enough for you to get infected. It could happen, but it’s pretty unlikely. If you want to have a staging station for 1-2 days before you put things away, sure, no problem. You also can simply wipe things off before they come in to your house – that is fine is fine too. For an isolated family, it makes no sense to obsessively wipe down every surface every day (or several times a day). Door knobs, toilet handles, commonly trafficked light switches could get a wipe off each day, but it takes a lot of time and emotional energy to do all those things and they have marginal benefits. We don’t need to create a sterile operating room-like living space. Compared to keeping your hands out of your mouth, good hand hygiene, and cleaning food before serving it, these behaviors might be more maladaptive than protective.
  5. There are few absolutes, so please get comfortable accepting some calculated risks, otherwise, you might be isolating yourself for a really, really long time. Figure out how you can be in public and interact with people without fear.

We are social creatures. We need each other. We will survive with and because of each other. Social distancing just means that we connect differently. Being afraid makes us contrast and shut each other out. I hope we can fill that space created by fear and contraction with meaningful connections and learn to be less afraid of each other

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Phoenix Arizona Feb 2020

Schizophrenia Symptoms

Examples of physical symptoms:

  • A blank, vacant facial expression. An inability to smile or express emotion through the face is so characteristic of the disease that it was given the name of affective flattening or a blunt affect.
  • Overly acute senses- lights are too bright, sounds are too loud.
  • Staring, while in deep thought, with infrequent blinking.
  • Clumsy, inexact motor skills.
  • Sleep disturbances- insomnia or excessive sleeping.
  • Involuntary movements of the tongue or mouth (facial dyskinesias). Grimacing at the corners of the mouth with the facial muscles, or odd movements with the tongue.
  • Parkinsonian type symptoms- rigidity, tremor, jerking arm movements, or involuntary movements of the limbs.
  • An awkward gait (how you walk).
  • Eye movements- difficulty focusing on slow-moving objects.
  • Unusual gestures or postures.
  • Movement is sped up- i.e., constant pacing.
  • Movement is slowed down- staying in bed (in extreme cases, catatonia).

Examples of feelings/emotions:

  • The inability to experience joy or pleasure from activities (called anhedonia).
  • Sometimes feeling nothing at all.
  • Appearing desireless- seeking nothing, wanting nothing.
  • Feeling indifferent to important events.
  • Feeling detached from your own body (depersonalization).
  • Hypersensitivity to criticism, insults, or hurt feelings.

Examples of mood:

  • Sudden irritability, anger, hostility, suspiciousness, resentment.
  • Depression- feeling discouraged and hopeless about the future.
  • Low motivation, energy, and little or no enthusiasm.
  • Suicidal thoughts or suicidal ideation.
  • Rapidly changing mood- from happy to sad to angry for no apparent reason (called labile mood).
  • Severe Anxiety.

 Changes in behavior associated with schizophrenia:

  • Dropping out of activities and life in general.
  • Inability to form or keep relationships.
  • Social isolation- a few close friends, if any. Little interaction outside of the immediate family.
  • Increased withdrawal, spending most of the days alone.
  • Becoming lost in thoughts and not wanting to be disturbed with human contact.
  • Neglect in self-care- i.e., hygiene, clothing, or appearance.
  • Replaying or rehearsing conversations out loud- i.e., talking to yourself (prevalent sign).
  • Finding it difficult to deal with stressful situations.
  • Inability to cope with minor problems.
  • Lack of goal-directed behavior.

Not being able to engage in purposeful activity 

  • Functional impairment in interpersonal relationships, work, education, or self-care.
  • Deterioration of academic or job-related performance.
  • Inappropriate responses- laughing or smiling when talking of a sad event, making irrational statements.
  • Catatonia- staying in the same rigid position for hours, as if in a daze.
  • Intense and excessive preoccupation with religion or spirituality.
  • Drug or alcohol abuse.
  • Smoke or have the desire to want to smoke (70-90% do smoke) – note: this is a very typical behavior for people who do not have schizophrenia also!
  • Frequent moves, trips, or walks that lead nowhere.

Examples of cognitive problems associated with schizophrenia:

  • Ruminating thoughts- these are the same thoughts that go around and around your head but get you nowhere. Often about past disappointments, missed opportunities, failed relationships.
  • Making up new words (neologisms).
  • Becoming incoherent or stringing unrelated words together (word salad).
  • Frequent loose association of thoughts or speech- when one thought does not logically relate to the next. For example, “I need to go to the store to buy some band-aids. I read an article about how expensive AIDS drugs are.   People take too many street drugs. The streets should be clean from the rain today, etc.” The need to go to the store to buy band-aids is forgotten.
  • Directionless- lack goals, or the ability to set and achieve goals.
  • Lack of insight (called anosognosia). Those who are developing schizophrenia are unaware that they are becoming sick. The disease damages the part of their brain that should recognize that something is wrong.
  • Racing thoughts.
  • In conversation, you tend to say very little (called poverty of speech or alogia).
  • Suddenly halting speech in the middle of a sentence (thought blocking).
  • Trouble with social cues- i.e. not being able to interpret body language, eye contact, voice tone, and gestures appropriately.
  • Often not responding appropriately and thus coming off as cold, distant, or detached.
  • Difficulty expressing thoughts verbally. Or not having much to say about anything.
  • Speaking in an abstract or tangential way. Odd use of words or language structure.
  • Difficulty focusing attention and engaging in goal-directed behavior.
  • Poor concentration/ memory. Forgetfulness.
  • Nonsensical logic.
  • Difficulty understanding simple things.
  • Thoughts, behavior, and actions are not integrated.
  • Obsessive-compulsive tendencies- with thoughts or actions.
  • Thought insertion/ withdrawal- thoughts are put it or taken away without a conscious effort.
  • Conversations that seem profound, but are not logical or coherent.

Examples of delusions:

The most common type of delusions or false beliefs is paranoid delusions.

These are persecutory in nature and take many forms:

  • Overpowering, intense feeling that people are talking about you, looking at you.
  • Overpowering, intense sense you are being watched, followed and spied on (tracking devices, implants, hidden cameras).
  • Thinking that someone is trying to poison your food.
  • Thinking people are working together to harass you.
  • Thinking that something is controlling you- i.e. an electronic implant.
  • Thinking that people can read your mind/ or control your thoughts.
  • Thinking that your thoughts are being broadcast over the radio or tv.
  • Delusions of reference- thinking that random events convey a special meaning to you. An example is that a newspaper headline or a license plate has a hidden meaning for you to figure out. That they are signs trying to tell you something.
  • Religious delusions- that you are Jesus, God, a prophet, or the antichrist.
  • Delusions of grandeur- the belief that you have an important mission, special purpose, or are an unrecognized genius, or famous person.
  • Delusions that someone, often a famous person, is in love with you when in reality, they aren’t. Also called erotomania or de Clerembault syndrome.

Examples of hallucinations:

  • Hallucinations are as real as any other experience to the person with schizophrenia. As many as 70% hear voices, while a lesser number have visual hallucinations.
  • Auditory hallucinations can be either inside the person’s head or externally. When external, they sound as real as an actual voice. Sometimes they come from no apparent source; other times, they come from real people who don’t actually say anything; other times, a person will hallucinate sounds.
  • When people hear voices inside their heads, it is as if their inner thoughts are no longer alone. The new voices can talk to each other, talk to themselves, or comment on the person’s actions. The majority of the time, the voices are negative.
  • Visual hallucinations operate on a spectrum. They start with the over acuteness of the senses, then in the middle are illusions, and on the far end are actual hallucinations.

Disclaimer: The following symptoms overlap with many other diseases such as bipolar disorder, major depression, the various kinds of personality disorders (specifically paranoid and schizotypal personality disorders), and other problems such as brain tumors and temporal lobe epilepsy. There is no “typical” case of schizophrenia. Everyone has different symptoms. Seek the opinion of your doctor always.

Moreover, it is always essential to keep the big picture in mind. Having just a few of these symptoms does not necessarily mean that a person has schizophrenia or any other sort of psychiatric disorder. Almost all of the signs below can be present to a “normal” degree in people; it is when someone displays them to a significant degree that they can become psychiatric symptoms. Think of all of these behaviors as being on a continuum, in which the middle 99% of people displaying varying degrees of the behavior but are still within the “normal” range. The 1% of people on the outer edges have the behaviors in extreme proportion, and/or a significant proportion of the time, and that is when they can become debilitating.

A diagnosis of schizophrenia requires that continuous disturbance (i.e. debilitating symptoms) be present for at least six months, including at least one month of specific key symptoms (active symptoms: delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, disorganized/catatonic behavior, negative symptoms such as severe emotional flatness or apathy).

by Association for the Chronically Mentally Ill

Los Angeles financial district skyscrapers are seen behind a homeless tent encampment, September 23, 2015 in downtown Los Angeles. Los Angeles officials declared the homeless situation a public emergency. making Los Angeles the first city in the nation to take such a drastic step in response to its mounting problem with street dwellers. ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

Date and Time

Tue, March 3, 2020

6:30 PM – 9:30 PM MST

Location:

Harkins Theatres North Valley 16

3420 East Bell Road

Phoenix, AZ 85032

Description

THEATRE OPENS AT 6:30 pm

SCREENING BEGINS 7 pm

PANEL DISCUSSION Post Show

Description:

Ken Rosenberg becomes a filmmaker to show the national health crisis mental illness has become. The film delves into what is happening in LA as Rosenberg follows people suffering from bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and other chronic conditions. The people have shown repeatedly cross the paths of ER doctors and nurses, police officers, lawyers, and prison guards, receiving inadequate, little or no care. Rosenberg depicts the gritty view of the mentally ill encounter in Los Angeles County.

Buy tickets $20.00

Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Thinkstock.       

Association For The Chronically Mentally Ill (ACMI) believes there is sea change going on around mental illness and what has worked and what has areas for improvement.  Among the most promising changes is that SAMSHA and mental health “think tanks” as well as community-based organizations like ACMI are discussing the need for additional research on biomedical aspects of serious mental illness rather than just focusing on “stigma” or general mental health or “wellness.” Not enough research dollars are targeted to investigate the root causes of mental illness and effective treatment modalities from medication to effective interventions in housing and social supports. People living with serious mental illness like schizo-affective disorder are trying to survive this devastating biological brain illness. Often without adequate support.

ACMI is encouraged by the proceedings of the White House Mental Health Summit (Dec 2019) which will provide additional funding dollars designated towards research on Mental Illness research.

 Some advocates believe that  “mental health problems tend to be under-researched, undertreated, and over-stigmatized.

We need to start focusing on treatment over punishment. Research that will lead to better treatment and outcomes – measured by changes in jail and prison incarceration rates, number and length of hospitalizations, and treatment compliance over a sustained period of time. Mental health treatments remain largely inaccessible to many, especially those from lower socio-economic or disadvantaged groups. These families often lack advocates for their ill family member and can not afford private attorneys to make the system “bend” to become more patient-focused. One estimate by the Epidemiologic Catchment Area Survey reported that 40 percent of adults with severe mental illness did not receive any psychiatric care within a one-year period. Many individuals will continue to suffer from serious mental illness until we can reduce barriers to treatment access. This is a tragedy — and a likely reason for the recent tragedies in which untreated individuals living with serious mental illness engaged in acts of violence against others in the community. The National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH), the nation’s largest funder of mental health research, has seen flat budgets since 2003, and currently funds less than 20 percent of the proposed research trials it receives. This tight funding environment discourages new researchers from entering the mental health arena and slows research progress.

Stigma is important in the general conversation to ensure parents, teachers, physicians and other primary caregivers identify the early signs of mental illness; most are present before the late teenage years.

But, importantly, in Thomas R. Insel, M.D. director of National Institute of Mental Illness directors’ message he indicates the real need for basic research.

This is promising!

If we want to offer the most effective mental health treatments, we need cutting-edge research to test those treatments and understand how they work.

We think it is beneficial for all families to submit comments asking for more research dollars target research for serious mental illness.

CALL TO ACTION!

You can submit feedback online via the NIMH request for information page, or mail your comments to:

NIMH Strategic Planning Team
6001 Executive Boulevard, Room 6200, MSC 9663
Bethesda, MD 20892-9663

From the Treatment Advocacy Center- (December 18, 2019) The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has a history of failing to prioritize serious mental illness in its research. Unfortunately, their recently-released five-year strategic plan draft signals their intention to continue to ignore those with the most impairing disorders.

Despite seeking public comment, the NIMH’s plan, even by the standards of federal reports, is almost unreadable. While the issues are complicated, the explanation of why they are vital shouldn’t be. However, it is not written in a way that is easy to understand or make sense of. For example, Strategy 3.3.C on page 28 reads “Enhancing the practical relevance of effectiveness research via deployment focused, hybrid effectiveness-implementation studies.”

Spearheaded by our founder, Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, the Treatment Advocacy Center has put together a comprehensive analysis of the five-year strategic plan, highlighting how it would fail those with severe mental illness. We identify sixteen concrete examples of research initiatives the NIMH should be pursuing today, initiatives that could help people with serious mental illness recover and live better lives.

Yesterday, the Treatment Advocacy Center submitted our public comment to the NIMH. However, we urge you to submit your own here. Use our comments, but also share your story of how the decisions of NIMH affect you and your loved ones. These stories are vital to help NIMH understand why their proposed priorities are misplaced.

Here are some points to consider:

  • The report fails to reflect the urgency of our national mental health crisis: As Dr. Torrey summarized, “Overall, I would say that this report is promising for people who plan to be affected with a serious mental illness in 2050 or beyond, but for anyone who is currently affected, the report offers no hope. I personally find this unacceptable and inexcusable.”
  • Where are the people who are experiencing the consequences of our failed mental health system? Except for one paragraph on the increasing national suicide rate, there is no indication whatsoever that mental health services for individuals with serious mental illnesses are an increasing public disaster. There is no mention of homelessness, criminalization of mental illness, the fact that emergency rooms are overrun with people with mental illness, or the burden of the failures of the mental health system on law enforcement.
  • Continued misplaced and unbalanced priorities: The strategic plan is strongly weighted towards basic brain science, with a continued strong emphasis on genetic research. It ignores the fact that the genetic research to date has been remarkably unproductive and likely to continue to be so, as described in a paper by Dr. Torrey and Dr. Robert Yolken published in Psychiatry Research in August.

You can submit feedback online via the NIMH request for information page, or mail your comments to: NIMH Strategic Planning Team
6001 Executive Boulevard, Room 6200, MSC 9663
Bethesda, MD 20892-9663

From the National Institute of Mental Health Strategic Plan- here are the four priority areas.

The National Institute of Mental Health
The National Institute of Mental Health
The National Institute of Mental Health
The National Institute of Mental Health

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