Seven Wheelchairs: A Life beyond Polio

27 10 2008

From the author of a new worthwhile book: Seven Wheelchairs: A Life beyond Polio, recently released by The University of Iowa Press.

The memoir is a history — an American tale — of my fifty year wheelchair journey after being struck by both bulbar and lumbar poliomyelitis after a vaccine accident in 1959. The Press says Seven Wheelchairs gives “readers the unromantic truth about life in a wheelchair, he escapes stereotypes about people with disabilities and moves toward a place where every individual is irreplaceable.”

Other reviewers have called Seven Wheelchairs “sardonic and blunt,” “a compelling account,” and “powerful and poetic.”

You can find it through your favorite online bookseller if you want to check it out.

Disability and Architecture

8 10 2008

David Gissen has an amazing post about his relationship as a mobilly disabled person to buildings, especially Paul Rudolph’s brand of “heroic architecture.”

L.M. Montgomery Suffered from Depression and Took Her Own Life

22 09 2008

Having grown up with her novels, this revelation, while sad is encouraging in the way her granddaughter meant it be:

I have come to feel very strongly that the stigma surrounding mental illness will be forever upon us as a society until we sweep away the misconception that depression happens to other people, not us – and most certainly not to our heroes and icons.

The Economy Takes a Mental Toll

17 09 2008

NPR reported today on the mental cost of the recent economic woes in America. While we all know that a tight pocketbook or out-of-control credit card debt can cause anxiety, psychiatrists discuss how depression, addiction, eating disorders, and a host of other maladies can be triggered by monetary stress.  And, for those who may lose their jobs during this time of belt-tightening, health insurance that covers the expense for treating these illnesses will also become harder to get. Do the newly unemployed pay exorbitant COBRA fees? What do they do if their income does not qualify them for Medicaid? Will they seek treatment at all if their options seem limited?

The Largest Mental Institution in the United States.

14 08 2008

NPR has spoken to inmates and employees of the Los Angeles county jail about the fact that one of the two “twin towers” (both are built on the idea of Jeremy Bentham’s idea of the panopticon) is occupied by the mentally ill. The Los Angeles County Sheriff is dedicated to giving prisoners the care they need, but he wishes that the closing of insane asylums in the late 70s (often horribly maintained and run) had not meant turning many of the mentally ill into homeless persons. The gap created by the closing of these public hospitals has yet to be filled, and in the interim, our prisons and streets continue to be populated by people who could be functioning members of society if they were getting the support they needed.

“Tropic Thunder” to Be Boycotted by Disability Rights Groups

11 08 2008

The movie consistently uses the word “retard” and even had an advertising slogan that read, “Once upon a time there was a retard.” The site using that slogan has since changed, but as reported in The New York TImes, the movie makes see the word use as irony akin to other humor in the movie, such as Robert Downey Jr. donning black face. Having only seen the trailer, my first sense is that there is irony in Downey’s portrayal and the racial stereotyping that is used deliberately. However, “retard” seems to be used at will just because it’s a slightly funny work–to Ben Stiller and crew.

Is Being an Albino a Disability?

22 07 2008

In Tanzania people who are albinos are being killed for their body parts. Witch doctors claim they can be used to make the purchaser of said parts rich. The BBC has reported that over 30 people have been killed in Tanzania so far this year. The last was a seventh-month-old baby. In Tanzania, being an albino can lead to ostracism by family and community. There is a center for cancer treatment in Dar Es Salaam that treats albinos’ medical conditions caused by their lack of pigment, and many have left their rural homes to congregate there. However, this practice brings to mind other cultures’ fetishes with the “abnormal” and the ways in can become mysticism, even if this fetishism is often not so violent. Does the extent to which people will go to obtain albino body parts point a finger at all who have both gawked at, been drawn to, and used those who are abnormal? What does this particular instance of a culture’s belief system say about the dangers of over-emphasizing divergence from the norm?

FDA Decides Not to Black Box Epilepsy (and Bipolar) Meds

11 07 2008

The FDA reviewed 199 studies on the effects of many drugs used to combat epilepsy (what most were designed for) and now used as frontline treatments for bipolar disorder, among others. While the study found that users of these drugs were about twice as likely to have suicidal thoughts versus those on placebos, I have to question the inclusion of bipolar folks in the study. How do you monitor a group who has suicidal thoughts prior to medication? (This has clearly been a problems with teens and SSRIs.) Especially when many have to try a number of drugs and cocktails before achieving some kind of stability? In the process of waiting for these drugs to work (what was the duration of most of the studies conducted?) were side effects bad enough to encourage suicidal ideation? How do these groups stack up against each other in terms of basic percentages? Are 50% of Depakote users epileptic? My gut reaction is that the number is lower. Just food for thought as the FDA probably made the right call, but the media oversimplified a complicated analysis.

A Brooklyn Hospital Psychiatric Ward Does Nothing for Dying Mental Patient

3 07 2008

This story has at least made the national news because there is video of the patient collapsing after waiting over 24 hours for medical attention. The incident has prompted a review of the whole ward and the hospital has settled out of court after the the suit accused the hosptial of “keeping psychiatric patients in filthy conditions, systematically neglecting them and drugging them into submission.”

With so few long-term care options available to patients, it’s discouraging to see how one hospital manages the mentally ill. However, the furor aroused nationally makes one hope that this death may be able to prompt beneficial changes in psychiatric wards across the country.

Growing Up Bipolar

10 06 2008

Newsweek has an article about a 10-year-old named Max who first tried to commit suicide when he was 7. The article is a balanced look into the life of a child diagnosed early who has already battled his way through 38 medications and seems to have had every label in the book pinned to him. What becomes clear is how little we know about the disease, its manifestations, and even the modes of treatment among drugs that do work. All that is readily apparent is that a bipolar brain is miswired. While the disease is diagnosable, no two people seem to experience it in the same way, making a panoply of drugs necessary before the right cocktail is hit upon.

For those diagnosed in early adulthood, the journey is often easier as there is a sense of “when I was normal” to compare the feelings of mania and depression to. For kids like Max, however, stasis is something to strive for but difficult to achieve because they have never known it.