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August 2011



Recent Posts


Archive for August, 2011

By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on August 12, 2011


A new research report finds that depressed women may be at a higher risk for a cerebrovascular accident (CVA) or stroke.


Researchers following women participating in the Nurses’ Health Study discovered a history of depression was associated with a 29 percent increased risk of total stroke — even after considering other stroke risk factors.


Their findings are reported in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.


Researchers also discovered women who use selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) class of anti-depressant medication, such as Prozac, Zoloft, and Celexa, had a 39 percent increased risk of stroke.


Anti-depressant medication use may be an indicator of depression severity, said Kathryn Rexrode, M.D., the study’s senior author. “I don’t think the medications themselves are the primary cause of the risk. This study does not suggest that people should stop their medications to reduce the risk of stroke.”


Read in Full:



Antidepressants Bad for Babies


By | Editor Shaheen E Lakhan


Recently, two studies reported that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), a common class of antidepressant medication, increase the risk for congenital malformations and developmental disorders among children when taken by mothers during pregnancy.


The first study, published in Obstetrics and Gynecology, evaluated more than half of a million offspring over 11 years. Of these, just over 1% of the children were exposed to an SSRI during the first trimester of pregnancy. The study provided evidence for a two- to four-fold increased risk of cardiac and neural tube defects with specific SSRIs. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders were also 10 times more likely in children exposed to an SSRI during pregnancy.


Read in Full:



Childhood Maltreatment Linked to Long-Term Depression Risk and Poor Response to Treatment


ScienceDaily (Aug. 13, 2011) — People who have experienced maltreatment as children are twice as likely to develop both multiple and long-lasting depressive episodes as those without a history of childhood maltreatment, according to a new study. The research, led by a team at King’s College London Institute of Psychiatry also found that maltreated individuals are more likely to respond poorly to pharmacological and psychological treatment for depression.


The results, to be published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, have emerged from a combined analysis of 16 epidemiological studies involving more than 20,000 participants and of 10 clinical trials involving more than 3,000 participants.


Depression ranks among the most common psychiatric disorders worldwide, with one in ten children exposed to maltreatment including psychological, physical or sexual abuse or neglect. By 2020, depression is predicted to be the second leading contributor to the global burden of disease across all ages, according to the World Health Organisation. The societal impact of depression is largely accounted for by individuals who develop multiple and long-lasting depressive episodes.


Read in Full:



Children of Depressed Mothers Have a Different Brain: MRI Scans Show Their Children Have an Enlarged Amygdala

ScienceDaily (Aug. 15, 2011) — Researchers think that brains are sensitive to the quality of child care, according to a study that was directed by Dr. Sonia Lupien and her colleagues from the University of Montreal published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The scientists worked with ten year old children whose mothers exhibited symptoms of depression throughout their lives, and discovered that the children’s amygdala, a part of the brain linked to emotional responses, was enlarged.


Similar changes, but of greater magnitude, have been found in the brains of adoptees initially raised in orphanages. Personalized attention to children’s needs may be the key factor. “Other studies have shown that mothers feeling depressed were less sensitive to their children’s needs and were more withdrawn and disengaged,” explained Drs. Sophie Parent and Jean Séguin of the University of Montreal’s, who followed the children over the years.


Read in Full:



Program Helps High School Students Overcome Depression and Thoughts of Suicide

ScienceDaily (Aug. 12, 2011) — A suicide prevention program developed at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center has significantly helped teens overcome depression and thoughts of suicide, according to a new study.


The study, published in the September 2011 edition of the Journal of School Health, shows that students who have gone through the program, Surviving the Teens®, are significantly less likely to report that they are considering suicide, planning suicide or have attempted suicide than before participating in the program.


The study, conducted by Keith King, PhD, a professor at the University of Cincinnati College of Education, Criminal Justice and Human Services, will be published online Aug. 11 and in the print edition Aug. 16.


“The overwhelming majority of students felt Surviving the Teens helped them to learn suicide warning signs, suicide and depression risk factors, how to effectively cope with stress, steps to take if they or a friend felt suicidal, and how to talk to their parents and friends about their problems,” says Cathy Strunk, RN, suicide prevention expert in the division of Psychiatry at Cincinnati Children’s who developed Surviving the Teens.


The program is one of the few suicide prevention programs to have data supporting its effectiveness.


Strunk taught the Surviving the Teens curriculum to more than 6,000 high school students in Warren, Butler and Hamilton counties during the 2008-2009 school year. For this study, more than 900 were surveyed before going through the program and after completing the program. More than 400 were surveyed three months later.


Among the findings in self-reported behaviors, feelings, intentions and attitudes three months following the program compared to pre-test:


  • *Students who reported considering suicide decreased 65 percent, from 4.2 percent of students to 1.5 percent.
  • *Students who reported planning to attempt suicide decreased 48 percent, from 9.9 percent of students to 5.2 percent.
  • *Students who reported having attempted suicide decreased 67 percent, from 5.2 percent of students to 1.7 percent.
  • *Students who reported feeling sad and hopeless decreased 26 percent, from 22.6 percent of students to 16.8 percent.


“The program taught students how to have more self-confidence and how to engage in positive behavior, which lessens the risk of them contemplating suicide,” says Strunk.


Read More …



What Does a Depression Diagnosis Mean to You?

John Folk-Williams Updated: Aug 11th 2011


Getting a depression diagnosis is a big step in dealing with the illness. Up to that point you may have tried to ignore the symptoms or hoped they’d go away. By trying to find out more, you’ve taken action and broken the paralysis that often keeps people from getting effective treatment.


The diagnosis itself is simply a name given to a set of symptoms, but you’ll likely receive several messages along with the bare definition of what’s been happening to you. Some of those messages are hopeful, but some may be discouraging. What you hear depends on the attitudes and beliefs of the diagnosing physician. It’s easy to confuse the diagnosis with the message.


Some physicians, whether in primary care or psychiatry, are compassionate by nature and convey messages of hope and encouragement. Others express support by emphasizing their medical expertise and the importance of following their guidance for treatment. Still others reflect indifference to your emotional state and see you only as an example of a mental disorder, not as an individual.


The messages I found most hopeful were the most basic of all.


  • *You have a well-defined illness. The moods and negative beliefs about yourself, and the rest of the problems you’re living with, are all symptoms of depression.



  • *You’re not alone. Millions of people around the world also have the illness.



  • *Depression is treatable.


These are crucial messages of hope and support.


Read in Full:



Some Further Thoughts on Depression and Suicide

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Aug 10th 2011


People have a natural tendency to empathize with those who are in the midst of painful depression. They have the same tendency to empathize with, and feel sorrow for, those who attempt or commit suicide because of the terrible suffering that caused them to commit such a tragic act. However, with full respect and feelings for those who are deeply depressed and who entertain thoughts of suicide, we need to look at some features that may make me appear to the reader as somewhat callous to their plight.


Most of us can agree with the fact that depression and suicide have to do with the individual feeling empty, hopeless and deeply despairing. Most of us subscribe to the well known theory that depression is anger turned inward, against the self, and that suicide is an attack on or murder of the self.



Read in Full:



The Great U.S. Depression: Antidepressant Pill Popping Numbers Up

Article Date: 05 Aug 2011 – 2:00 PDT


Antidepressants such as Prozac, Paxil and Lexapro are now the third most widely prescribed group of drugs in the United States, and Americans are popping more antidepressants than ever before. The increase doesn’t necessarily mean that the drugs are being used inappropriately, but it’s necessary to understand why antidepressant use is growing. More than 10% of Americans now take antidepressants in any given year.


Using data from annual surveys by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the researchers reviewed the records of 233,144 adult patients who made doctor visits between 1996 and 2007.

The study found that the percentage of prescriptions for antidepressants written by non-psychiatrists more than doubled from about 4% to almost 9% over the 12 year period. This included 9,454 antidepressant prescriptions for patients without a diagnosis of depression or other mental illness typically treated with the medication. For that group, the rate jumped from 2.5% at the start of the study period to 6.4%.


Read in Full:



Antidepressants Overprescribed in Primary Care

By John M. Grohol, PsyD
Founder & Editor-in-Chief


Antidepressants have long enjoyed a reputation as being a quick and “easy” treatment for all types of depression — from a mild feeling of being a little down, all the way up to severe, life-debilitating depression.


But like all medications, they have side effects and instances where they should not be prescribed. Hence their continued need for a prescription after seeing a doctor.


So what does it mean when primary care physicians are handing them out like candy?


It suggests that your family doctor doesn’t really understand how antidepressants work, or what they are approved to treat. In short, it suggests that antidepressant medications are being over-prescribed by well-meaning doctors who are simply not using very good judgment.


Read in Full:



Bipolar Disorder Missed When Presenting with Depression?

By John M. Grohol, PsyD
Founder & Editor-in-Chief


Coming as a surprise to more than a few mental health professionals, a new study out today suggests that bipolar disorder is often missed in patients who present only with major depression. The study examined 5,635 adults seen at community and hospital psychiatry departments in a number of different countries.


The discrepancy was reported because of the use of “bipolarity specifier criteria” that are broader than the DSM-IV criteria, the standard for diagnosis of mental disorders by mental health professionals.


Using the broader bipolar criteria developed by the researchers found an additional 31 percent of patients who could have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.


So what’s really going on here? Are professionals really “missing” bipolar disorder? Or have the researchers stacked the deck in this study simply to suggest it is so?


Read More …



Depression’s Other Symptoms

By Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.
Associate Editor


The hallmark symptoms of clinical depression are no doubt sadness and loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed. Many people also are familiar with appetite and sleep changes.


But there’s a whole set of other physical symptoms that are less known but just as debilitating. In fact, depression can literally hurt. According to a study conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, up to about 76 percent of people who report the typical emotional symptoms also report physical signs, such as stomach problems, headaches, backaches and chest pain.


Depression also is a chameleon. It can look like various other illnesses and conditions, even, for instance, the flu. Which, not surprisingly, makes diagnosing depression tricky, and thereby finding the right treatment a big problem.



As Jodi Helmer writes in the fall 2010 issue of Esperanza, a magazine on coping with anxiety and depression:


Read More …



Smile! Parental happiness and teen depression… and other summer updates.

By On August 4, 2011


Hello everyone! It has been a while since my last posts and I have a few updates before I share with you some thoughts on a recent study on parental emotions and teen depression.


I wanted to start by thanking Dr. Anita Schimizzi, who has done an incredible job keeping child-psych running throughout the summer. We are very lucky that she is part of this project and I appreciate her very thoughtful and useful parenting posts. As I’m sure you are too, I’m looking forward to reading her posts every week.


Personally, my summer has been quite busy. Early this summer my job at the University of Michigan kept me away from child-psych. However, I’m now back but my role at child-psych will change slightly. Dr. Schimizzi will continue to post about parenting issues in general, while I will focus most of my posts on issues related to childhood and teen mood disorders (my primary area of research), and to a lesser degree, early childhood disruptive behavior problems (my primary area of clinical work).


On a more personal note, my summer was also quite busy due to some exciting life transitions. On May 29 I got married to an amazing woman and we spent some time traveling in Thailand and Japan. We are now settling back at home and getting ready to start the new academic year in September.


Ok, now for some quick thoughts on parental happiness and teen depression.


The Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology recently published a research report of a study by a team at the University of Melbourne in Australia that examined the impact of parental expression of emotions on their teen’s risk for mood disorders.


Read in Full:



Treating Depression By Harnessing The Power Of Positive Thoughts And Emotions

Article Date: 05 Aug 2011 – 1:00 PDT


Positive activity interventions (PAIs) offer a safe, low-cost, and self-administered approach to managing depression and may offer hope to individuals with depressive disorders who do not respond or have access to adequate medical therapy, according to a comprehensive review article in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, a peer-reviewed journal published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.


More than 100 million people worldwide suffer from depression, and an estimated 70-90% either do not receive sufficient medical treatment, do not respond to therapy, or do not have access to quality care. As a result, there is an immense unmet need for alternative, economical, and effective strategies for treating major and minor depression.


Read in Full:



Newer Antidepressants May Be Riskier for Seniors

By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on August 4, 2011


A new UK study finds that among individuals 65 or older, taking new generation antidepressants (SSRIs) is riskier than older tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), increasing the likelihood of stroke, falls, even death.


Increased risk associated with SSRIs include dying or suffering from a range of serious health conditions including stroke, falls, fractures and epilepsy, say researchers at The University of Nottingham.


The research is published by the British Medical Journal website bmj.com.


The authors said the risks and benefits of different antidepressants should be carefully considered when prescribing these drugs to elderly patients. Additional research has been called for to further investigate the findings.


Read in Full:



25 Percent of Ontarians Hospitalized for Depression Required ER Visit or Readmission Within 30 Days

ScienceDaily (Aug. 3, 2011) — Twenty-five percent of people who were hospitalized for depression were readmitted or visited an emergency room again for depression within 30 days of discharge, according to a new study by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). The results are published in this month’s edition of the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry.


A team led by Dr. Elizabeth Lin, Scientist in CAMH’s Social and Epidemiological Research Department, tracked hospitalizations for depression across Ontario and found that one-third of patients did not receive follow-up care. “The data tell us that while 63% of people who were hospitalized did see a physician within a month of leaving hospital, many did not, resulting in increased visits to the ER or repeat hospital stays,” said Dr. Lin. “We also found that men, older people and those who live in rural communities were more likely to fall into this group.”


The period immediately following discharge from an acute incident of depression is the most critical time for monitoring risk of relapse and suicidal behaviours. The data shows that more than 13,000 people were discharged from a hospital stay for depression and of these nearly 5,000 people did not receive appropriate follow-up care.


Read in Full:



Blue in the Brain – The Upside of Depression

By | Editor Shaheen E Lakhan


“You watch the world bang door after door in your face, numbly, bitterly. You have forgotten the secret you knew, once, ah, once, of being joyous, of laughing, of opening doors.”


— Sylvia Plath

Depression is generally associated with a poor intellectual and physical performance. The assumption that negativity and lack of interest in the outcome of one’s efforts are inherent to depressive states is partly accountable for this reputation. However, a recent study argues that there are certain cognitive abilities for which individuals diagnosed with depression measure better than non-depressed ones.


In a study published in 2009 — and immediately transformed into a popular story by prominent media such as The New York Times — evolutionary theory advocates forwarded the notion that depression could be seen as an evolutionary trait, developed to solve complex problems.


Read in Full:


Article Date: 12 Aug 2011 – 1:00 PDT

Short-stay inpatient hospitalizations for children and adolescents with a psychiatric diagnosis increased significantly over a 12-year period (1996 to 2007) and decreased for the elderly, according to a report in the early online edition in Archives of General Psychiatry by Joseph C. Blader, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Science at Stony Brook University School of Medicine. The article describing the research, “Acute Inpatient Care for Psychiatric Disorders in the United States, 1996 Through 1997,” will also appear in the journal’s December 2011 print edition.


“The study is based on the annual National Hospital Discharge Survey (NHDS), a program of the Center for Disease Control’s National Center for Health Statistics,” said Dr. Blader. “The survey included all non-Federal general and children’s hospitals, as well as other care facilities with a mean length of stay of less than 30 days. We used demographic, clinical and payment data from NHDS on a probability sample of discharges from short-stay facilities. Patients included in the study had a primary psychiatric diagnosis and were grouped as children (ages 5 to 13 years), adolescents (ages 14 to 19 years), adults (ages 20 to 64 years) or elderly individuals (ages 65 years and older). Payers were classified as private, government or other (self-pay, no charge and other payment),” added Dr. Blader, summarizing the study methodology.


Read in Full:


Gail with her daughter Honey, then aged 11 months, in 2003

By Lara Gould

Last updated at 8:55 AM on 15th August 2011


Just after 8am on a spring morning in April, television presenter Gail Porter crouched under a tree on London’s Hampstead Heath and sent a text message to her boyfriend that read: ‘I can’t carry on. I feel suicidal.’


Hours later, the former pin-up girl – whose image was once famously projected on to the side of the House of  Commons – was being bundled into the back of a police van and taken to a psychiatric unit where she would  be sectioned and forcibly held for nearly a month.


The 40-year-old star’s personal  troubles – which have included a battle with the eating disorder anorexia, post-natal depression, being diagnosed bipolar, an acrimonious divorce from her musician husband in 2004 and being left bald by the hair loss condition alopecia – have been well-documented.


But in a searingly honest interview, Gail, a single mother who rose to fame on Saturday-morning children’s television in the Nineties and who was at one time among the highest-paid women on television, today tells how she hit rock bottom four months ago.


It’s a fall from grace almost unimaginable when compared with the fame she once enjoyed.


After being taken to the Royal Free Hospital in North London, Gail’s mental welfare was deemed so unstable she was placed under a 28-day section order which forced her to remain as an in-patient at the Grove Clinic, the hospital’s psychiatric wing, alongside paranoid schizophrenics and violent patients on suicide watch.


Three months after her release, and talking about her ordeal for the first time, the star is still shaken and emotional. She says she has turned a corner in her recovery after leaving hospital and embarking on an intensive counselling programme at The Cabin, a private rehabilitation centre in northern Thailand, which she completed last weekend.


But despite her positivity, her darkest moments still haunt her as she recalls the heavily medicated weeks in hospital with nothing to pass the time except a single television shared between the unit’s 50 patients and cups of instant coffee.


‘The worst part about being sectioned was the lack of structure,’ says Gail. ‘There was no treatment programme – we were just locked in the unit and basically forgotten about.


‘When you are suffering from depression as badly as I was, you genuinely believe you will never come out of a place like that.


‘It felt as if I was in the film One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. I had been forced into this place with some very, very ill people and we were left to our own devices and to fend for ourselves.


‘I had no idea how long I had been in there because each day followed exactly the same pattern as the last.


‘In the morning I was woken at 7am. We would have cereal for breakfast in the common room then the nurses came round with our medication. I was given 5mg of diazepam in a little pot to swallow to keep me calm. I didn’t even know what it was but there was no point complaining because you had to take what you were prescribed.


‘That was followed at lunchtime by clorazepate, an anti-anxiety drug, and in the evening another 5mg of diazepam and 7.5mg of zopiclone  for insomnia.


‘It seemed to me that the nurses didn’t really know what to do with us so it was easier to give us lots of drugs so we were calm and quiet.


‘In three weeks I saw three doctors for ten minutes each. Each time all I was asked was, “How are you feeling?” I told them I felt depressed, they wrote it down and a week later another one came back.


‘There was no treatment programme and nothing to do. It meant patients just focused on their problems instead of getting better. My ex-husband came to visit me and said recently, “You got madder every day you were in there. You were dosed up to your eyes with nothing to do.”


‘I kept myself to myself but there were some very ill people in there. The woman in the room next to mine would get up at  3am every morning and flush the toilet in her room for three hours and talk into the cistern. She said it was her contact to God.


‘Two patients believed they were Jesus and on another occasion a male patient burst into the common room naked because he said he was better.


‘I was desperate to get out but because I had been sectioned it was illegal for me to leave the hospital. I honestly believed I would never leave.’


Read in Full:



by Tommi Avicolli-Mecca


It seems that there’s a new, easy-way-out solution for security people having to deal with troubled kids who act out or cause disruptions in school: Taser them!
That’s right. Zap them with electricity. Elementary and high schools across this great land of ours are hiring security guards equipped with the nasty little weapons that the manufacturers call “non-lethal.” In fact, over 4,000 law enforcement agencies now arm their security people with Tasers.
It may seem like a cute little science-fiction device; its name even rhymes with “phaser,” the futuristic weapon that the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise carried on their intergalactic travels.
In all its years on TV, the Star Trek crew’s phrasers probably never killed as many people as the “non-lethal” Tasers of today: 334 deaths in just seven years, many of them young people. Amnesty International, in a 2008 report, says that those folks died from cardiac or respiratory arrest. The vast majority – 299 – were unarmed.

According to a 2007 British committee on less lethal weapons report, children are more vulnerable to serious injury or death from Tasers. “Until more research is undertaken to clarify the vulnerability of children to taser currents,” the report said, “children and persons of small stature should be considered at possible greater risk than adults.”

Taser Articles

Taser Way Not The Way To Treat People

“Tasers: MET Police deployment of tasers set to begin amid storm of international controversy”:
 “Police Taser Autistic Teen”:

“Police Taser Use ‘Abusive’: Lawyer”

TORONTO – An autistic man was allegedly punched and Tasered at least five times by police who were executing a search warrant in his home, according to a lawsuit — filed by George Lochner and his family — seeking $9-million in damages from Toronto police.

“TNT – TRUTH … not TASERS: Settlement reached in autistic man’s death from taser”:

“Deputies use Taser to Subdue Autistic O.C. Boy Who Was Running In Traffic”:

… But Doris Karras, mother of Taylor Karras, said deputies did not need to use the Taser gun, particularly because she had called various police agencies to alert them that her son was missing. She said her son would have followed deputies’ directions if he hadn’t felt threatened.

“This was a very aggressive response,” she said. She said her son “didn’t have any weapon on him. He didn’t even have a pencil.”http://articles.latimes.com/2007/sep/19/local/me-taser199

US police use Taser and pepper spray on disabled man


Alabama officers say they weren’t aware man was also deaf when trying to force him from store’s bathroom

Tuesday 28 July 2009 17.21 BST

Officers who used pepper spray and a Taser to remove a man from a store bathroom found out only later he was deaf and mentally disabled and didn’t understand they wanted him to open the door, police said today.

A spokesman for the Mobile, Alabama police department said the officers’ actions were justified because the man was armed with a potential weapon: an umbrella. But relatives of Antonio Love, 37, have asked for a formal investigation and said they plan to sue both the police and the store.
“I want justice,” Love’s mother, Phyllis Love, said today.
The woman said her son hears only faintly, has the mental capacity of a 10-year-old and didn’t realise that it was the police who were trying enter the bathroom.
Read in Full:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jul/28/usa

Taser gun used on 10-year-old girl who ‘refused to take shower’

A police officer used a Taser stun gun to subdue a 10-year-old girl in her own home.


By Nick Allen in Los Angeles
Published: 12:12AM GMT 19 Nov 2009
The officer had been called to the girl’s home in Ozark, Arkansas, by her mother because she was behaving in an unruly manner and refusing to take a shower.
In a report on the incident the officer, Dustin Bradshaw, said the mother gave him permission to use the Taser.When he arrived, the girl was curled up on the floor, screaming, and resisting as her mother tried to get her in the shower before bed.“Her mother told me to take her if I needed to,” the officer wrote.The child was “violently kicking and verbally combative” when he tried to take her into custody and she kicked him in the groin.He then delivered “a very brief drive stun to her back,” the report said.The girl’s father, Anthony Medlock, who is divorced from her mother, said the girl showed signs of emotional problems but did not deserve to be “treated like an animal”. He said: “Ten years old and they shot electricity through her body, and I want to know how the heck in God’s green earth can they get away with this.“If you can’t pick the kid up and take her to your car, handcuff her, then I don’t think you need to be an officer. She doesn’t deserve to be treated like a dog. She’s not a tiger.” Local Mayor Vernon McDaniel said the FBI should investigate.He said: “People here feel like that he made a mistake in using a Taser, and maybe he did, but we will not know until we get an impartial investigation.” The local Police Chief Jim Noggle said no disciplinary action was taken against Bradshaw.“We didn’t use the Taser to punish the child, just to bring the child under control so she wouldn’t hurt herself or somebody else,” he said.He said if the officer tried to forcefully put the girl in handcuffs, he could have accidentally broken her arm or leg.Mr Noggle said the girl will face disorderly conduct charges as a juvenile.

 Advocate criticizes use of stun gun
Autistic man’s death unnecessary, he says

By Brendan McCarthy, Tribune staff reporter.
Freelance reporter Carolyn Rusin contributed to this report
Published November 30, 2005

A disability rights advocate said Tuesday that better training may have prevented an incident last week in which an autistic man died after Des Plaines police officers used a stun gun in their attempts to subdue him.

The circumstances surrounding the death of Hansel Cunningham, 30, remain under investigation by Illinois State Police, and officials said the probe could take a year to complete.

Cunningham, a resident of a group home in Des Plaines, died Nov. 20 after he was shocked twice with a Taser by police officers who had responded to a 911 call from a caregiver at the home. Officers also used pepper spray and tackled him before paramedics injected a sedative.

Don Moss, a disability rights advocate who works with Evanston-based Rimland Services for Autistic Citizens, which operates the group home, questioned the use of force and the judgment of Des Plaines police officers and paramedics.

Cunningham “never had a history of violence but was sensitive to people touching him,” said Moss, who also is executive director of United Cerebral Palsy of Illinois. “The force likely caused more agitation to Hansel. It’s common for people with autism to be sensitive to sounds, to bright lights, to touch.

“This type of force was not needed, the action was not necessary. The restraint was not protocol. Apparently the police were aware it was a home for autistic adults. But perhaps the police weren’t framed or trained in less violent techniques.”

Des Plaines Police Chief Jim Prandini said officers used appropriate force to subdue Cunningham, who had bitten his caregiver and, according to Prandini, was combative and could have harmed himself or others.

“Our position is that we followed everything according to our guidelines. I believe the Fire Department did, too, but that is part of the investigation,” Prandini said. “Hopefully, we will find some results that will show why this unfortunate situation happened. We sincerely want the family to know that the Police Department, the entire city, offers its condolences and that we feel terrible about this.”

The Cook County medical examiner’s office has postponed ruling on the cause and manner of Cunningham’s death, pending further police investigation.

“I really would like to know,” Prandini said “If they point to the direction of a Taser, let’s make a Taser change. If they point to the direction of training, let’s make a training change.”

Cunningham was a five-year resident of the Rimland home. After he was subdued, he had breathing problems. Paramedics were unable to revive him, and he was pronounced dead at Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights.

Paramedics initially were called to the home to treat the caregiver.

“He bit the hands and arms of the staff member,” said Moss, who was briefed by the not-for-profit agency and is familiar with the case. “I understand there was a lot of blood. He had bitten him two or three times.”

Moss said Cunningham did not have a history of violence and was familiar with the caregiver, who had been working at the home for more than three years.

The state police’s public integrity unit, a task force of investigators from the state police and the Cook County state’s attorney’s office, is investigating and has begun interviewing police officers, emergency personnel, witnesses and family members.

Lt. Lincoln Hampton, public information officer for the state police, said there is no timetable for the investigation and that it could take a year to complete.

“They’re going to do a thorough investigation to get to the bottom, to discover exactly what happened in this case,” Hampton said.

A final report will be turned over to the state’s attorney’s office, which would determine if charges are to be filed.

Des Plaines police and the Illinois Department of Public Health, with the assistance of the Northwest Community Emergency Medical Services system, which oversees paramedic procedures in the northwest suburbs, are conducting internal investigations.

Dr. John Ortinau, medical director of the Arlington Heights-based Northwest Community EMS system, said the paramedics involved would be interviewed within the next week.

“Everything looks like it was done to protocol,” he said, referring to the EMS rescue and ambulance report.

Attempts to reach Cunningham’s family for comment were not successful. A Rimland spokeswoman said a funeral for Cunningham was held Tuesday.



Update: Latest Reported Taser Death

Police Watchdog To Probe Taser Man’s Death


Thursday 18th August, 2011.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has launched an investigation following the death of a man after he was tasered by officers.
Police had been trying to arrest Dale Burns on suspicion of causing criminal damage at his flat in Barrow-in-Furness on Tuesday night.
The 27-year-old was tasered several times and sprayed with pepper spray during the attempted arrest.

He was taken to hospital but pronounced dead. A post mortem is due to be carried out as soon as possible.

Cumbria Police said officers were called to an address on Hartington Street in Barrow on Tuesday evening following reports of a man causing a disturbance.
The IPCC said: “Police attempted to arrest the man on suspicion of causing criminal damage at the flat.

“During the arrest one officer discharged a taser at the man a number of times.

“Another officer deployed Pava spray (commonly known as pepper spray). The taser deployed is understood to be a conventional police weapon.”


Last updated 14:29 18/08/2011


Plenty of opinion pieces have been published in recent years on the autistic spectrum condition known as Asperger’s syndrome.


It has been interesting to see the proliferation of an Asperger’s diagnosis of both adults and children throughout this decade, but it has raised serious questions for me when Asperger’s is confused with giftedness.


Diagnosis of any psychological, emotional or social condition is made on the basis of the behaviours of individuals and their reporting of their thoughts and feelings. When the same behaviours, thoughts and feelings can be attributed to more than one condition, it can be difficult to determine the cause.


When one significant condition is not well understood, the chances are that the diagnosis will be incomplete. The explanation that is not considered in the case of children and adults of high ability expressing concerns about their social engagement is that they may be gifted.


This is generally because being gifted and its attendant difficulties are not well understood within the medical or educational communities.


For centuries, writers and researchers have observed and recorded how very high ability, particularly in the cognitive domain, leads to asynchronous development in the emotional, social and physical domains.


Long before Dr Asperger identified behaviours related to an inability to relate to others and social difficulties, many gifted individuals had spoken of how their intellectual drive made it difficult to connect with the mundane aspects of life.


They found that connecting to people with whom there was little in common, or sharing ideas which were new, complicated and demanding in a way that others could follow was problematic and made communication awkward.


Gifted children can appear to have the same behaviours as those with Asperger’s. They have good language skills and great memories. They have areas of deep interest, and can have great imaginations so are often dreamy and out of tune with what’s around them or be so logical and straightforward in their thinking that imagination and pretence are a mystery to them.


Many gifted children fidget, since it can help keep the brain occupied and allow them to organise their thoughts more easily, while others may hum, sing or talk to themselves to achieve the same effect.


They need time to engage in the activities that they are most satisfied by. If there are other children who also enjoy those activities, they will play with them, but most often there are not.


Gifted children will often share, at length, their interests and ideas before recognising the lack of understanding others have in the topic, so seem to be talking at, rather than with, them. They are often difficult to manage when their needs clash with the expectations and needs of others. They are protective of their time and resist being organised into joining in with children or activities they don’t relate to.


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Seizures are a common co-existing condition with autism, as many as one in every four people with autism will develop seizures. While some children may have seizures when very young, they may develop or increase during puberty. It isn’t understood exactly why but it is thought to be at least partially due to changing hormones.


Some seizures are accompanied by convulsions and there is little doubt that your child is having a seizure. Many seizures, called subclinical seizures, go unnoticed because of the mild symptoms or the complete lack of symptoms. There are some behaviors which can signal seizure activity:


  • *Changes in behaviors, such as increased aggression, self-injury or melt-downs
  • *Slowing down or lack of forward progress in academic work as compared to previous years
  • *Losing cognitive gains


A child having a subclinical seizure may seem to be staring or in a daze for a few minutes. The may look like he is daydreaming or seem like he is deliberately ignoring you. The seizure can be over within seconds and although he was unaware of what was going on around him during the seizure, he quickly has full awareness once the seizure has ended. This type of seizure  often goes unnoticed because parents see this behavior as a symptom of the autism rather than a seizure. An EEG may not pick up on seizure activity, unless your child is having a seizure at the time of the EEG. If your child is suspected of having seizures, his doctor may order an extended EEG, where he is monitored for 24 to 48 hours.


Studies have shown that vitamin B6 and magnesium supplements and dimethylglycine (DMG) can help to reduce seizures and according to the Autism Research Review International, these supplements should be tried. [Autism Research Review International, 2005, Vol. 19, No. 1, page 3]. Magnesium supplements have also been found to help reduce hypersensitive hearing. Because these supplements should be taken based on your child’s weight, you should speak to your doctor about the correct dosage.


Some seizures can also be your child’s reaction to severe pain. Because late-onset autism is sometimes associated with abdominal pain and GI problems, and children with autism may not be able to communicate their pain to you, it is beneficial to talk with a gastroenterologist to find out if there is any problems that can be corrected which may help your child.

If your child is found to be having seizures, he may be given anti-convulsant medications. Becaus these medications can interact with other medications, it is important to tell your doctor of all medications your child is on. While taking this medication, he may need regular blood tests to monitor the amount of medication in his bloodstream. If your child is having upset stomachs or is feeling dizzy, it can be a sign that the medication dose is too high.




“Autism, Epilepsy & Seizures: How to Recognize the Signs and Basic First Aid When You Do,” Date Uknown, Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation

“Autism, Puberty, and the Possibility of Seizures,” Date Unknown, Stephen M. Edelson, Ph.D. Together for Autism


“Puberty, Aggression and Seizures,” Author Unknown, Autism Research Review International, 2005, Vol. 19, No. 1, page 3


“Revealing Answers Using the Unseen,” 2010, May, Arkansas Children’s Hospital Medical Research Institute

“Seizures, Epilepsy and Autism,” Date Unknown, Author Unknown, Autism-Help.org




By Dalia Colon, HealthyState.org
In Print: Saturday, August 13, 2011




Growing up, Paul McAuliffe says he “felt like a Martian.” He was always saying the wrong thing or overreacting, but he didn’t know why. Then several years ago for his job as a case manager, the Panama City resident started reading online about the symptoms of autism.


“And I said, my God, that’s me,” recalls McAuliffe, now 57.


The doctor’s official diagnosis was no surprise: Asperger’s syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder that impairs social skills. “I joke that one would’ve liked to have had this diagnosis, say, a half century ago,” McAuliffe says. “That would’ve been helpful.”


Still, he focused on the present, devouring in equal measure books about “Aspies” and neurotypicals — people not on the autism spectrum.


“They are the folks we have to interact with in order to live our lives,” says McAuliffe, who is on an advisory board for the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities at Florida State University.


For McAuliffe, a lifelong musician, American Indian flutes help grease the wheels of his interaction with neurotypicals. He travels the Southeast giving a presentation called “Flutes, Autism and a Different Way of Seeing.'”


HealthyState.org is a public media project of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting at WUSF in Tampa.


Parents can help children cope, an ‘Aspie’ says


McAuliffe describes what he has learned about his brain as “empowering.” In hopes of empowering others even earlier, here are some tips he offers for parents of children on the autism spectrum.


1. Always presume intellect. Researchers are finding that even kids who are nonverbal often have high IQs. Be on the lookout for new-tech ways to communicate with your child.


2. Routine is important. Those on the autism spectrum need to know they have safe, comfortable and dependable routines at home even when learning new things and experiencing new situations.


3. Encourage friendships with other children on the spectrum. There’s an intuitive resonance — a bond — between those with autism, and it’s a relief to spend time together and compare stories. Of course, friendships with neurotypical kids are crucial, too.


4. Encourage the child to be neurologically “bilingual.” As kids gets older, reading Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People can be a real eye-opener.


5. Speaking of eyes, children need to learn to fake eye contact. Encourage them to look at the mouth, the forehead, the bridge of the nose — whatever works.


6. Spectrumites tend to really get into certain subjects; that’s why they’re inventors and innovators. Encourage children to get into subjects that will help them in the world as they get older.


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David H. Skuse


A couple of years ago, I was asked about autism by a journalist from the New York Times. The reporter had been travelling the world, discussing the subject with many people who had contributed to our understanding of this fascinating and complex disorder. Why, she asked, was it that this subject aroused such passions? Never before had she come across a group of scientists who criticized each other quite so much as those working in the field of autism. She was astonished, dismayed and perplexed in equal measures.


This controversy forms the backdrop to a recent review of the history of autism, written by Adam Feinstein (2010). His story begins in the birthplace of so many ideas in psychiatry, Vienna in the 1930s. Here, in 1938, Hans Asperger gave a lecture on autistic psychopathy some years before the landmark paper by Leo Kanner (1943), which is often credited with initiating the avalanche of research that followed. Kanner was also born in Austria, but his parents emigrated to Germany when he was still a child, and he left for the USA as a young doctor in the 1920s.


The origins of the term autism are therefore mired in controversy, with some claiming that Kanner plagiarized Asperger’s work. Certainly, he was better known in English-speaking countries for years before the latter’s papers were translated. The term ‘Asperger syndrome’ has since acquired a connotation that is far-removed from what Asperger himself described. It has become a sort of ‘autism for the middle classes’ and is about to be consigned to history. In the 5th revision of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the eponym will be abolished. Lorna Wing, who was responsible for introducing Asperger’s work to the English-speaking world ( Wing, 1981), will not be sad to hear this. …




by: K. M. Lampi, A. Sourander, M. Gissler, S. Niemelä, K. Rehnström, E. Pulkkinen, L. Peltonen, L. Von Wendt


Acta Pædiatrica, Vol. 99, No. 9. (19 September 2010), pp. 1425-1428. doi:10.1111/j.1651-2227.2010.01835.x Key: citeulike:70962333



Abstract Aims:  The aim of the study was to explore the validity of registry-based diagnoses of autism in Finland using the Autism Diagnostic Interview – Revised (ADI-R). This study was designed for the Finnish Prenatal Study of Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorders (FIPS-A), an ongoing research project where registry-based diagnoses will be used for epidemiological studies. Methods:  In this small pilot study, a clinical sample of 95 subjects diagnosed with childhood autism or pervasive developmental disorder/pervasive developmental disorder – not otherwise specified (PDD/PDD-NOS) or Asperger′s syndrome according to the Finnish Hospital Discharge Register (FHDR) was gathered nationwide. A small control group consisting of siblings without any registered diagnoses of those being examined was also included in the study. Diagnoses were further re-evaluated by interviewing parents with the ADI-R.

Results:  The mean scores of autistic subjects clearly exceeded cut-off limits for autism on all three ADI-R domains and 96% of the subjects with registered diagnosis of childhood autism fulfilled the criteria based on the instrument as well. Conclusion:  These results suggest that the validity of Finnish registry-based diagnoses of childhood autism can be considered good. Our findings lay important groundwork for further population- based studies of the aetiology of autism.

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First Published: Friday, August 05, 2011, 7:15 AM     Updated: Friday, August 05, 2011, 7:25 AM]



STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — The state is looking to fire the supervisor whom prosecutors deem criminally responsible in the death of a 27-year-old autistic man in a South Beach mental health unit last December.

Erik Stanley, 37, of Middletown, N.J., has been suspended without pay in the aftermath of the death of Jawara Henry, 27, at the state-run Multiple Disabilities Unit at 777 Seaview Ave. on Dec. 4, said Travis Proulx, a spokesman for the state Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, which runs the unit.


Yesterday, prosecutors announced Stanley’s indictment on charges of criminally negligent homicide, accusing him of putting Henry in a fatal chokehold instead of restraining him properly when he became erratic and started biting people.


“We are seeking Mr. Stanley’s termination, and will unequivocally seek the termination of any employee who is guilty of abuse or neglect of an individual with developmental disabilities,” Proulx said on Wednesday.

The Multiple Disabilities Unit is located on the South Beach Community Campus, a state-owned complex that houses a number of facilities that serve individuals with special needs, including the South Beach Psychiatric Center.


Proulx also commented generally on restraint practices in the unit:


“[The agency] has training and certification for staff in proper techniques and acceptable use of restraint. Recertification is required annually. Training focuses on calming techniques to avoid intrusive restraint.


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