November 13, 2009

Friday, November 13, 2009
“It’s called paraskevidekatriaphobia: a morbid or irrational fear of Friday the 13th. It's believed that as many as 25 million Americans will change their behavior today because of superstition: They’ll stay away from shopping malls and won't set foot on airplanes. The cost of all this fear comes close to $800 million per day in lost business, according to the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in North Carolina.”

The word is derived from three Greek words: paraskevi meaning Friday, dekatrels meaning thirteen and phobia, which means fear. From a mental health perspective, a phobia is an intense irrational fear of objects, events or situations.

Friday the 13th appears to be safer than any other typical Friday according to Dutch researchers with the Center for Insurance Statistics as results show that traffic accidents, fires and thefts seem to be fewer on these superstitious days.

A “Finnish study in 2002 found that women have a 63 percent greater risk of dying in traffic accidents on that date.” It seems the reasoning behind this statistic is that a fear that something bad will happen actually increases the likelihood that a person will crash. The British Medical Journal studied traffic accidents on Friday the 6th versus Friday the 13th and concluded that “The risk of hospital admission as a result of a transport accident may be increased by as much as 52 percent. Staying at home is recommended.”

University of California Professor David Phillips has found no significant increase in deaths on Friday the 13th when analyzing death certificates. He did, however, notice an increase of deaths among Americans of Japanese and Chinese ancestry on the 4th of every month. The number 4 is considered an unlucky number among the Chinese and Japanese as this number sounds almost exactly like the word death in Mandarin, Cantonese and Japanese. “Across the United States, he found 13 percent more Asian American cardiac-related deaths on the fourth than expected. In California, where these populations are concentrated, he discovered 27 percent more deaths“.

If anything people should fear those who are superstitious instead of the superstition itself. Results seem to suggest that it might be best to avoid people with paraskevidekatriaphobia as their fear may be the very cause of their own misfortunes.

Should you be afraid of Friday the 13th?

Friday the 13th


November 7, 2009

Saturday, November 07, 2009
The recent tragedy in Fort Hood illustrates the dire need for mental health professionals in the military. “More than two years after the nation's political and military leaders pledged to improve mental-health care, their promises have fallen short at military hospitals around the country, according to mental-health professionals, Army officials, and wounded soldiers and their families.”

This deficiency in staffing escalates all the way the very top where Ellen Embrey can be found temporarily fulfilling the position of assistant secretary of defense for health affairs. Many of her colleagues seem to lack confidence in her ability to improve health care in the military.

In addition, the principal deputy, the deputy for clinical programs and policy, and the chief financial officer post are currently vacant. These vacancies clearly need to be filled as the suicide rate among soldier continues to increase. So far there have been 117 soldiers that have committed suicide this year; already an increase from last year’s total of 103 soldiers.

Despite the clear shortage of appropriate professionals managing the health care in the military, the Pentagon press secretary, Geoff Morrell, insists that more assistance is being offered than ever before. The problem lies in the way in which this help is communicated to those in need.

“Some 34,000 soldiers have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder since 2003, according to the Army surgeon general's office.” The amount of attention given to the mental health of soldiers has certainly increased since the Walter Reed scandal, where a series of allegations against the facility had been made because of unsatisfactory conditions and management.

Since then, the number of mental health professionals are said to have increased as well. According to the Washington Post, “200 behavioral-health personnel are deployed in Iraq and 30 in Afghanistan. The military has also hired 250 additional behavioral-health providers and more than 40 marriage and family therapists in recent months. The Army currently has 408 psychiatrists for its force of 545,000 people.” Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the facility that interned Major Nidal Malik Hasan, has increased their staff by 35% since 2007. That being said, do the numbers add up? Is there sufficient mental health staff available to treat 34,000+ soldiers with PTSD, not to mention the soldiers that may be dealing with other types of mental illness?

Due to such a shortage, many patients are stuck with whatever service they can get. Joe Wilson, a former social worker at Walter Reed, claims that soldiers have no choice but to stick with the psychiatrist they’ve been appointed because a switch could only make matters worse by delaying the determination of whether a soldier should remain in the service or not. This could force patients to keep quiet about poor or unsatisfactory service out of fear they may be deployed.

Not only are patient/doctor relationships somewhat of a dilemma, but many soldiers may have no choice but to accept pharmaceutical treatment because of the persistent shortage of mental health professionals available to treat the military. This leaves most soldiers with post traumatic stress disorder to be treated with medication such as sleeping pills and mood-altering drugs instead of one-on-one therapy.
The wife of an amputee soldier recovering at Walter Reed with traumatic brain injury and PTSD said that mental-health services are so uncoordinated and ineffective that the couple decided to pay for private psychotherapy sessions with a civilian provider at $130 an hour.

The couple sought private treatment elsewhere after spending a few minutes with a Walter Reed psychiatrist, who then referred the soldier to a social worker for treatment.

"It was a joke," said the wife, who asked not be identified because her husband, a sergeant, is still recovering at Walter Reed. "She was a lovely person, but we have a serious problem here and she just didn't get it . . . She essentially directed me to a Web site."
Many soldiers with mental illness may feel ignored in comparison to physically wounded soldiers. Sophia Taylor, a patient at Walter Reed that is currently being processed for dishonorable discharge, claims that amputees get treated, but those with mental illness lack appropriate treatment. “I have a lot of respect for them. But I lost my mind, and I couldn't even get a simple 'thank you for your service.' "

At Walter Reed, a palpable strain on mental-health system


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