Seniors: Improve your health by going to the dogs

By Laurie Edwards-Tate

Dogs Help Seniors HealthAmericans love their dogs. Four out of ten households in the U.S. own at least one dog, a total of 77.5 million dogs. Study after study finds that pets bring many benefits to people. They offer companionship, encourage exercise, foster social contact, and help people cope with stress.

Pets provide special enrichment to the lives of seniors. A study in the Journal of American Geriatrics demonstrated that “seniors living on their own who have pets tend to have better physical health and mental well-being than those who don’t. They are more active, cope better with stress and have better overall health. They also reported shorter hospital stays and less health care costs than non-pet owners.”

In another study by British psychologist Dr. Deborah Wells, she confirms through a review of numerous health studies that pet owners are in better general health than people who do not own pets.

Full story at The Washington Times

Study: Trauma, stress may contribute to bowel disorder

By Robert Preidt

Stress Contributes to Bowel DisorderMajor psychological and emotional events experienced over a lifetime may contribute to the development of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), according to a new study.

Researchers looked at 2,623 people and found that psychological and emotional traumas — such as divorce, death of a loved one, house fire, car accident, and mental or physical abuse — were more common among adults with IBS than those without the condition.

Dr. Yuri Saito-Loftus, of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., was scheduled to present the findings Monday at the annual scientific meeting of the American College of Gastroenterology in Washington, D.C.

“While stress has been linked to IBS, and childhood abuse has been reported to be present in up to 50 percent of patients with IBS, at a prevalence twice that of patients without IBS, most studies of abuse have focused on sexual abuse with sparse detail and also have not looked at other forms of psychological trauma,” said Saito-Loftus in an ACG news release.

Full story at USA Today

Jails shouldn’t be warehouses for mentally ill

Ledger Enquirer

Jail House Mental IllnessAsk veteran corrections officials what has crowded jails to bursting, and one answer you’re likely to get (after mandatory minimum sentencing) is mental illness.

Foremost among the objections to closing mental health facilities like West Central Georgia Regional Hospital is the fact that law enforcement often has no alternative for dealing with mentally ill offenders other than put them in jail.

That’s an ineffective,self-defeating, incredibly expensive and sometimes dangerous course. Paul Morris, R.N., longtime administrator of the clinic at Muscogee County Jail, estimates that roughly one-sixth of the jail population is “severely” mentally ill — clinical depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder. That means that out of the 1,200 prisoners in the jail on any given day, between 180 and 200 suffer from what Morris calls “persistent” mental illness.

Some of these mentally ill people coming into the jail are suicidal; others pose a danger to jail staff and other inmates. Either way, they can’t just be thrown into the jail population.

Morris and others at the local level are trying to do better — to hold prisoners accountable for their crimes, but still address the mental problems that have contributed to their behavior and stand in the way of their recovery and rehabilitation.

Full story at Ledger Enquirer

Discussions of suicide: Speak with caution

By John Sullivan

Suicide PreventionCall for help: Those having thoughts about suicide should call 800-273-TALK.

Few deaths scar a community as deeply as a teen suicide. Even so, Ann Marie D’Aliso, who lost her son Patrick, 16, to suicide in 2004, had difficulty finding a school that would allow her to talk to kids about her family tragedy.
“It was a topic that the schools didn’t know how to handle,” D’Aliso said of suicide. “It was the fear that if you talk about it, it will happen.”

Doors have opened for D’Aliso, albeit slowly, triggered in some cases by more tragedy, such as two suicides in the Monroe-Woodbury School District last year. D’Aliso and other suicide survivors have been opening the eyes of school officials and other leaders about the need for more awareness about suicide in communities where mention of the topic was once considered anathema.

She is part of a growing group of suicide survivors in our region who are making up the heart, as well as the muscle, behind a rapidly evolving awareness and prevention campaign that state mental health officials say is helping to keep New York’s suicide rate one of the lowest in the nation.
Driven by their grief, these survivors rally behind the belief that more talk, not less, will help remove the stigma associated with suicide, and possibly even help eradicate the problem.

In doing so, they are challenging long-held conventions about how to address the topic among vulnerable populations, even as they help energize the movement to spread the word about the issue in town squares, churches and local governments, and among businesses.

Full story at Times Herald-Record

Lighting the way out of mental illness’ darkness

By Jerold Leblanc

Mental Illness DarknessThe coolness of the onslaught of fall weather did not deter a special event designed to shine light on a problem that has been kept in the dark for far too long.

Just over a dozen people took part in the first ever candlelight vigil illuminating mental illness, held Oct. 7 at Jubliee Park in Wetaskiwin.

The sunset ceremony was hosted by officials of the local Touchstone Place Clubhouse, one of six such facilities in Alberta.

Director Colleen Angus said Mental Illness Week is a national initiative, which the group takes part in on an annual basis.

Vigil a bright idea

“This year, (it was) how can we reinvent the wheel each time, and do something different. Maybe we should start something annual, and we can make it grow, and people expect it every year and look forward to it.

Full story at The Wetaskiwin Times