Preventing Stage 4 Mental Illness—Call your congressional representative and let them know it is possible

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Morning Zen Guest Blog Post ~ Dennis D. Embry

What is Stage 4 mental illness? Surprisingly, the answer to that question had not occurred to me until Paul Gionfriddo spoke at the national conference of the Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health—just before Thanksgiving. For those who don’t know, Paul is the CEO of Mental Health American and the father of a child with a serious mental illness. There were no dry eyes as Paul spoke, unless their eyes were made of stone.

I know what Stage 4 is. I am a cancer survivor. I had Stage 1 of a rare and dangerous melanoma, and it scared the crap of me. And I know all about mental illness from my own family and my professional life as a psychologist.

A giant zap went through my brain as Paul spoke. “YES! We can prevent Stage 4 mental illness. The gold-standard prevention science for that is published and easily available at www.pubmed.gov.”  The science has been funded by the National Institutes of Heath. I’d never thought about it that way, even though I am a prevention scientist and a psychologist. I wanted to shout at the top of my lungs, “Paul, we can prevent Stage 4 mental illness!” We probably cannot in every case of mental illness, any more than we can prevent every case of Stage 4 cancer.

How do I know we can prevent Stage 4 mental illness? Well, the work of my colleagues at Johns Hopkins shows that a simple first-grade preventive strategy that teaches self-regulation and peer cooperation prevents suicide 10 to 20 years later (1-4). Amazingly, the same first-grade preventions strategy averts really violent, anti-social behavior associated with homicides 10-20 years later (2, 5). Check these out www.pubmed.gov.

Ah, maybe that strategy is a fluke. Well, it’s not. The next day after Paul Gionfriddo told his heart-wrenching story, Dr. Joseph Hibbeln from the National Institutes of Health told the same prevention-science story, except it involved a completely different mechanism—dietary intake of fatty acids. He called his presentation, Oiling the Brain. You can read that science by Hibbeln and other researchers at pubmed. Dr. Hibblen and his colleagues absolutely show that reducing omega-6 fatty acids in the brain and increasing omega-3 increase mental health, reduce violence and reduce suicide.

The world should be celebrating that two completely different methods are absolutely proven to prevent Stage 4 mental illness. This should be headline news on the front page of every newspaper in America, and the focus of every TV news program. When the first returns of the Salk vaccine showed it could prevent polio, the world rejoiced. So after, the nation and the world mobilized to eradicate polio—which we’ve almost done 50 years later. We have the caliber of science to prevent Stage 4 mental illness, though we cannot do that overnight.

Could everyone reading this please, please, please start telling everyone you know: “We don’t just have to focus on treatment of serious mental illnesses after the have a crises that requires forced treatment for people like so many of the shooters. We don’t have to have legislation just focused on iron lungs, braces and wheel chairs for people’s broken brains.

What to do? Start by calling (202-225-2301), faxing (202-225-1844), emailing or writing Congressman Tim Murphy to tell him he can be the nation’s hero by preventing Stage 4 mental illness rapidly and inexpensively—based on gold-standard science funded by the National Institutes of Health and described in the 2009 Institute of Medicine Report on Preventing Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Disorders Among Young People.  And, please, share this same message with your Congressional representative, Senators, Governor and State Legislature. And call your Mayor and city council, too. Tell you’re your local hospitals to hold grand rounds about preventing major mental illnesses. We have good enough science to start preventing Stage 4 mental illnesses. Let’s do it. #SaveAllKids

References

1. H. C. Wilcox et al., The impact of two universal randomized first- and second-grade classroom interventions on young adult suicide ideation and attempts. Drug & Alcohol Dependence, 14 (2008).

2. S. G. Kellam et al., The good behavior game and the future of prevention and treatment. Addict Sci Clin Pract 6, 73-84 (2011).

3. C. Katz et al., A systematic review of school-based suicide prevention programs. Depression and anxiety 30, 1030-1045 (2013).

4. A. R. Newcomer et al., Higher childhood peer reports of social preference mediates the impact of the good behavior game on suicide attempt. Prevention Science, No Pagination Specified (2015).

5. H. Petras et al., Developmental epidemiological courses leading to antisocial personality disorder and violent and criminal behavior: Effects by young adulthood of a universal preventive intervention in first- and second-grade classrooms. Drug & Alcohol Dependence, 15 (2008).

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embryDennis Embry, President/Senior Scientist at PAXIS Institute – Dennis D. Embry is a prominent prevention scientist in the United States and Canada, trained as clinician and developmental and child psychologist. He is president/senior scientist at PAXIS Institute in Tucson and co-investigator at Johns Hopkins University and the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy. His work and that of colleagues cited in 2009 the Institute of Medicine Report on The Prevention of Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Disorders Among Young People. Clinically his work has focused on children and adults with serious mental illnesses. He was responsible for drafting of the letter signed by  23 scientists, who collectively represent scores of randomized prevention trials of mental illnesses published in leading scientific journals. In March 2014, his work and the work of several signatories was featured in a Prime-TV special on the Canadian Broadcast Corporation on the prevention of mental illnesses among children—which have become epidemic in North America. Dr. Embry serves on the Children's Mental Health Network Advisory Council.


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enbry

Dennis Embry, President/Senior Scientist at PAXIS Institute – Dennis D. Embry is a prominent prevention scientist in the United States and Canada, trained as clinician and developmental and child psychologist. He is president/senior scientist at PAXIS Institute in Tucson and co-investigator at Johns Hopkins University and the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy. His work and that of colleagues cited in 2009 the Institute of Medicine Report on The Prevention of Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Disorders Among Young People. Clinically his work has focused on children and adults with serious mental illnesses. He was responsible for drafting of the letter signed by  23 scientists, who collectively represent scores of randomized prevention trials of mental illnesses published in leading scientific journals. In March 2014, his work and the work of several signatories was featured in a Prime-TV special on the Canadian Broadcast Corporation on the prevention of mental illnesses among children—which have become epidemic in North America. Dr. Embry serves on the Children's Mental Health Network Advisory Council.

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Comments

  1. George Patrin, MD, MHA's avatar
    George Patrin, MD, MHA
    | Permalink
    Thank you Dennis, for responding after hearing a father tell his "Stage 4" story. If only... . If only more people would react when the emotion hits them...go home and DO something proactive, life-saving. As a "Stage 4" survivor father, I have told my Andrew's story so many times...and had absolutely no response except "So sorry for your loss." No, they're not. Being "sorry" is adequate, but not sufficient. We DO know how to stop this terrible epidemic. It doesn't have to continue day in and day out. How do we 'market' this national tragedy so people care as much about this loss as one from cancer or heart failure (as The Parity Act recognizes)? Must say, I've grown weary of telling my 20 year old son's story, and having it forgotten by everyone but my wife and myself when the auditorium curtain and conference door closes. So we are knocking on Congressional doors and consulting, educating, to end mental healthcare discrimination, giving a voice to the voiceless...before it's too late for them and their families. Thanks for your persistence and voice.
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