Tuesday, May 17, 2016

May is Mental Health Month


Read my blog about our Arts Fest here.

Monique Legere, originally from French Canada, and her four dancers, clad in bright red and black, performed a jazz dance in the theater-in-the round at the Willow Grove Giant Supermarket, upstairs classroom, on Mother’s Day.

What a thrill to have Legere, owner of the Professional Dance Academy – view http://www.moniqueandmorley.com/ - perform at the Arts Festival, sponsored by New Directions Support Group.

Ed Lakata overcame his shyness as he strummed his banjo and played his harmonica a l a Bob Dylan. The audience of 25 sang along to his tunes, including “Oh Susannah.”

Ron Abrams, retired attorney, shared his photographs, including one signed by the late George McGovern when he ran for president in 1972. Ron’s photo of two smiling children in Mexico won a coveted award.

Another award-winning photographer, Randy Kane, did a slide show of photos he’d taken in far-flung places like Cuba.

The audience was amazed to view houses painted in vibrant colors, and due to the trade embargo in 1960, a street scene of palm trees and old cars – bright red and blue - which break down, but are quickly repaired.  

Linda Barrett took the stage and everyone applauded her “Ode to Mother,” about her 86-year-old mom.

Rem Murphy, who works at the Roslyn post office, read several poems from his book “Fear of Vision,” including “I Am a Fish” and “Robespierre.”

Especially appreciative was David Kime of Fairless Hills, who recently received the Muse Award from Bucks County Community College for his magazine Transcendent Visions for people in recovery.

People in recovery refers to the one in five individuals diagnosed with mental illness.

Kime read four stunning poems and shared his unusual artwork, made with wallpaper paste and wire, that he has sold in art galleries. He passed around his green and yellow lizard.

For those in recovery, the best treatment is to find a compassionate psychiatrist and psychotherapist. All over the country, low-income folks can find treatment centers that will help them for free or at a nominal cost. Enter your zip code in the search engine and type in “mental health treatment.”

Not everyone does well on medication – terrible side effects – so their road to recovery is much more difficult. New treatments such as “transcranial magnetic stimulation” are available, as well as the much-maligned electroshock therapy. New research indicates a prenatal vitamin may help prevent schizophrenia.

Although most people with mental illness, do not die of suicide, it’s estimated that about 7 percent do. Because of the stigma about visiting a psychiatrist and taking medication, many individuals succumb to despair and take their own lives.

Sharon Katz, of Collaborative Care wellness center in Abington, pioneered a program that helps people avoid the stigma of seeing a psychiatrist. She has established five centers at family doctors’ offices. A quiz determines if a patient needs to seek psychiatric help. Her practice will then see the patient.

Katz says the number of psychiatrists is declining. The field of psychiatry is not a popular one in medical school. In our area, there are long waiting lists to see a psychiatrist.

This is where psychiatric nurse practitioners, who can prescribe meds, like Katz, herself, step in. Their numbers, fortunately, are increasing.  

Just as our mental health is important, so is our overall health. Did you know that people with a mental illness die an average of 20 years earlier than their peers?

Obesity is only one factor. New Directions recently lost a very heavy-set man who was performing comedy onstage. He simply collapsed from a heart attack, doing the thing he loved most. He was 45.

Diabetes is another factor where people die young or get terrible complications. Consult with Mary Ann Moylen, nutritionist, at the Willow Grove Giant. Call her at 215-784-1960. She will guide you about eating foods that are both healthy and delicious.

For example, while watching TV, eat healthy snacks like nuts, dried fruit or popcorn. Drink caffeine-free beverages because caffeine can induce mood swings.

Thirty-six percent of people with mental illness smoke cigarettes, compared to 20 percent of their peers. To quit smoking, enter “smoking cessation classes” into the search engine.

The Arts Festival at the Giant lasted a good three hours. Shelly Quigley from Southampton performed hilarious comedy, stating she’s been “mouthing off” since she was a kid growing up in the Bronx.

In her straw hat, she pulled out her guitar from its case, and sang some politically incorrect songs – about our current presidential contenders – that had the audience roaring with laughter.  

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