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  HEALTH and WELLNESS INFORMATION! To Help You Stay Healthy    

Antidepressants Linked to Decline in Suicides
A recent review of data reveals that suicide rates have dropped steadily since Prozac and similar antidepressants hit the market. These findings challenge recent claims that Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, and the other drugs in the class known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) increase suicide risk. Physicians in the United Kingdom are no longer allowed to prescribe these medications to new patients under the age of 18. In the U.S., the PDA recently ruled that SSRIs must carry strong warnings about suicide risk on their package information. Fears of increased risk, combined with these governmental actions and negative press, have led to a dramatic drop in SSRI use among children and adolescents.

Researchers reviewed studies published between 1 960 and 2004. They found that suicide rates rose steadily between 1960 and 1988�the year that Prozac became the first SSRI to be approved for use in the U.S. After 1988, suicide rates began a continuing decline. When they reviewed studies in which blood samples from suicide victims were screened, the researchers found that fewer than 20% showed evidence of recent antidepressant use. UCLA psychiatry professor Julio Licinio, MD, who conducted the review, said "Our findings strongly suggest that these individuals who committed suicide were not reacting to their SSRI medication; they actually killed themselves due to untreated depression." This was particularly true in men and in people under 30.

In a news conference held Tuesday, February 1, 2005, representatives of the nation's top mental health and suicide prevention organizations expressed their concerns that by far the biggest cause of suicide is untreated depression. "When people don't get the treatment they need, the suicide rate is going to start going up again."

These experts believe that untreated depression poses a far greater risk than the use of drugs does and say that the possibility of antidepressant-related suicide can be minimized by monitoring patients closely during the initial phase of drug treatment. That is when they are most vulnerable, because the drugs tend to relieve symptoms of lethargy before they start to improve a patient's sense of well-being. "The last symptom that tends to improve when a person begins antidepressant treatment is the feeling of despair. So in this initial period of treatment, they may be more at risk because they have more energy to act on their feelings and are still depressed." Children and teens may be especially vulnerable because they tend to act more impulsively than adults.

Exercise Good Therapy for Depression
Aerobic exercise can make a big difference in mild to moderate depression, according to an article in the January, 2005 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

In any given year, nearly 19 million adults in America have a depressive illness. Many suffer silently, not getting treatment that could help. The failure to seek and receive treatment is partly due to social stigma associated with treatment, so these researchers studied a socially accepted antidepressant-exercise.

Participants were 80 adults with mild to moderate depression, all 20 to 45 years old and none taking other depression treatments. After 12 weeks of either moderate-intensity or low-intensity fitness programs, the participants were re-screened for depression symptoms. All had lower scores than at the beginning of the study. The moderate-intensity group had the biggest improvement. Working out three or five days a week at moderate intensity for 30-35 minutes per day reduced symptoms by 47 percent. Depression had gone into remission for 42 percent of those participants, according to their depression test scores.

Keep in mind that this study focused on mild to moderate depression in younger adults. It didn't address severe depression or other groups of patients. No one suggests trading talk therapy or prescription drugs for gym memberships. But exercise is definitely another option to consider in planning treatment. It's also a good idea to get your general health checked out before launching a new fitness program.

Keep a journaled record of GAF your progress!
Psychiatrists and Psychologists use a rating scale—
the Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF) - scale to assess how well the individual is able to function in his/her environment.

00-10 persistent danger of hurting self; can't maintain standard of self-care
11-20 danger of hurting self; unable to maintain self-care; impairment in communication
21-30 delusions, hallucinations; major impairment in most areas; lack of judgement
31-40 some impairment in reality testing; major impairment in select areas
41-50 serious symptoms (suicidal ideation but low risk); serious impairment in one area
51-60 moderate symptoms in most areas
mild symptoms; able to function with some problems in relationships and work
71-80 slight impairment; transient symptoms
81-90 good functioning
91-100 happy. healthy, and content
Thanks to PsychologyNET.org for the use of this graph.

Chart your MOOD also—
On a sheet of graph or lined paper, chart your daily, or even hourly moods on a plus-10 to minus-10 scale with Zero in the middle being 'healthy'. Keep in mind that the normal, daily moods range between plus-5 and minus-5. When you know you're above plus-5 on the manic side, take appropriate steps. Likewise, when you feel you're below minus-5 on the down side, do likewise. Do not be afraid to call someone, a friend or confidant, for help and encouragement to get you back on track.

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