Disability rolls skyrocket

More workers across California are leaving the workforce and applying for federal disability benefits – and the Sacramento region is leading the way.

About 57,000 residents in the four-county area receive monthly Social Security disability benefits, double the number from 15 years ago, new federal data show. Working-age adults in Sacramento are 40 percent more likely to be on disability than workers elsewhere in California.

Many of the same factors driving up disability rolls across the state are playing out in a more pronounced way here: an aging workforce; a rough economy; and expanded regulations regarding who is eligible.

The trend, which is also occurring nationally, encompasses the blind, deaf, physically handicapped and others with injuries and conditions traditionally associated with the Social Security disability program. But it also includes scores of aging baby boomers with myriad physical ailments, a growing number of people diagnosed with debilitating stress or mental illness, and an increasing number of people who cite chronic back pain.

These residents aren’t getting rich – the average monthly disability payment is about $1,150 – but the sharp increase in the Sacramento region and nationwide has stirred debate: Could some of the newly disabled still hold a job?

For Joseph Barry, a Sacramento resident with a disability that causes his bones to deform and easily break, it’s not a simple question.

Barry, 34, breaks between two and eight bones a year stemming from a genetic condition. He often has struggled to find employment but now works part time for the state Employment Development Department.

Barry knows the difficulty of working through pain and believes in a robust safety net for the disabled, but he also has witnessed a sea change in how disability benefits are awarded.

“In the past, if you couldn’t walk, you were disabled. It was kind of a black-and-white thing,” said Barry, who is finishing a master’s degree in disability studies from California Baptist University in Riverside.

“Now doctors are starting to take into account the social dynamic,” Barry said. “We have to be real careful with how liberal we get. But we also have to be respectful and understanding.”

Initiated in 1956, the federal Social Security disability insurance program provides benefits to those with an employment history who can show they are no longer able to work due to injury or illness. Workers and their employers pay into the system through payroll taxes.

To qualify for disability funding, workers must prove that their disability will last for at least one year or is expected to result in death within a year. The approval process can take years – many hire lawyers to fight their initial rejections.

The criteria used by the federal government to determine who qualifies as disabled changed significantly in 1984, making it easier for many – particularly those with mental illness diagnoses – to obtain benefits. Since then, the number of people on Social Security disability has risen at a faster pace.

About one Sacramento resident took disability for every 17 still on the job in 2012, the latest federal statistics show. Across California, the rate was one disabled resident for every 24 workers.

None of the other 10 largest counties in the state had a higher rate of disabled workers than Sacramento County. And no other county in the state saw more growth in disability rolls during the last decade than Placer County.

Big share of boomers

Researchers and disability advocates cite several factors for those high numbers.

Sacramento has a higher proportion of baby boomers than the statewide average, and the rise of the baby boomer generation is directly related to the rise in disability payments.

The reason is basic: Older workers are more likely to sustain disabling injuries or illnesses.

“There are more in that age group beginning around 2000,” said Paul Leigh, professor of health economics at the UC Davis Center for Healthcare Policy and Research. “It’s simply a matter of arithmetic.”

Gisele Brown, a 50-year-old Sacramento resident who suffers from lupus, illustrates the trend. She said she worked through the disease for years while employed as a mental health worker in Sacramento and Placer counties, but as she aged the disease did more damage to her body. She’s now on disability.

“I was just a workaholic,” said Brown, who draws about $1,200 a month in disability income. “I have had two heart surgeries and everything else that comes with lupus.”

Brown also was hurt by the recession – another factor cited by researchers for rising disability numbers. When her lupus worsened, Brown said, she was already unemployed, having lost both of her jobs – and her home – during the downturn. She was back in school for retraining when the illness flared.

Frances Gracechild is executive director of Resources for Independent Living, a Sacramento-area nonprofit. She said it can be more difficult for people with disabilities to find work in an economic downturn, when competition for jobs grows more fierce.

The Sacramento region saw slightly higher unemployment during the recession than the state average. And the unemployment rate among Sacramento-area residents with a disability still in the labor force was 25 percent in 2011, roughly double the rate for those without a disability, according to the latest census data.

“We see a lot of people that if they could find a job, they would work,” Gracechild said.

Many lack support system

Disability can strike anyone, Gracechild said, but a high number of those getting federal disability benefits are poor and middle-class residents who don’t have the income or support system to manage their disabilities.

Bill Walker of the Sacramento Employment and Training Agency said his office noticed that connection when Campbell Soup Co. recently closed its factory in south Sacramento, leaving about 700 area residents without a job.

Many in the Campbell Soup workforce were blue-collar laborers approaching retirement and had trouble finding a new job.

“They are having some depression from not being able to find work,” Walker said. “They have been looking at disability as an alternative.”

Diagnoses of depression, anxiety and other mood disorders are key drivers in the rise in disability awards.

About 32 percent of Social Security disability recipients nationwide have been diagnosed with mental illness and stress disorders, a higher rate than any other diagnostic category. Close behind are musculoskeletal disorders, a category that includes back pain.

The trend relates to mental disability criteria changes made by Congress in the 1980s that put less weight on medical factors and more emphasis on the ability of a person with psychological problems to function. The changes also allowed judges to consider the sum effects of multiple conditions, even if any one condition doesn’t cause complete disability.

The year after the changes occurred, the proportion of disability claims awarded for mental illness rose from 18 percent to 30 percent.

“In the old days, people who came to see us were in wheelchairs,” Gracechild said. “Now, I have mentally ill people coming in here on psychotropic drugs.”

Carroll Jones-Price, 56, is among thousands of Sacramento-area residents who have been helped by the rules change.

Jones-Price went on disability earlier this year with a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder. She said she has suffered with the condition for the last decade, stemming from a physical altercation with a co-worker. A former respiratory therapist, she has lived in her car with her small dog, Spirit, for the last several months.

“I lost everything,” she said. “I lost myself.”

The back seat of her 1995 Ford Escort is stuffed with bedding, and the trunk with bags of her belongings. She makes extra cash by redeeming water bottles at a recycling center. She parks the car in different places every night – mostly fast-food lots – to avoid problems with police.

Jones-Price, who also has lupus, said she would prefer to be working and that living on disability benefits is a survival tactic, not a luxury.

“My work record speaks for itself,” she said.

Randy John Hicks, 48, of Sacramento said he, too, would rather work than live on disability. Like Jones-Price, his benefit pays him about $950 a month.

“Not a dime that I spend goes to something frivolous,” he said. “It’s all needed.”

Hicks, who has been diagnosed with a variety of mood disorders, said he has lost six jobs in the last 15 years because of mental illness.

“I got fired,” he said. “I couldn’t work due to panic disorder, anxiety disorder, OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder). I’m diagnosed with all those conditions. I can’t focus. I can’t concentrate.”

Are criteria being met?

The sharp increase in disability claims has raised concerns among some researchers, who note it isn’t always clear if those diagnosed with mental disorders or chronic pain meet the criteria for federal disability.

Partially as a result, different administrative law judges approve disability awards at different rates, said Jagadeesh Gokhale, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based libertarian think tank.

Judges in the Sacramento region approved awards in about 62 percent of cases heard this fiscal year, slightly higher than the U.S. average.

“Many people who could have some work capability despite their impairments are being awarded benefits,” Gokhale said.

He is among a chorus of critics who say the current system is not sustainable. Program administrators told Congress earlier this year that at the current pace of growth, the Social Security Disability Trust Fund will be insolvent within three or four years.

“All is not well with the system,” Gokhale said.

Mary C. Daly, associate director of research at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, cited academic studies showing that a quarter of those who apply for disability are marginal cases who may still be able to work. Many get into the system anyway.

Daly, who has written extensively on Social Security disability, said the increase in benefit recipients “is not related to health. What has changed is the program policies that have made it easier for people to obtain benefits based on nonmedical, subjective factors.”

Daly proposes raising the payroll tax on employers with a history of producing disabled workers, and lowering it for those who succeed at keeping such workers on the payroll through intervention.

“We have two choices,” she said, referring to the upcoming insolvency in the disability trust fund. “We can enact one-time fixes, or we can make some more fundamental reforms. I’m in the second camp.”

Gracechild, the Sacramento disabilities advocate, disagrees that the disability system is the problem. She said the trend toward more claims has more to do with the fraying of the social safety net.

To stem the tide of workers taking benefits, she said, society needs to do more to support people with disabilities who are trying to keep a job and have fallen on hard times. Otherwise, she said, they will have no choice but to seek income through disability benefits.

“We’ve got these very, very poor folks,” Gracechild said. “Poverty is very related to disability.”


Call The Bee’s Phillip Reese, (916) 321-1137.

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Living with OCD

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OCD: Some sufferers feel the compulsion to wash their hands over and over.



Milton’s first memories of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder are from when he was 10 years old. He remembers sitting on the floor with the compulsion to put a Lego block in his mouth in the attempt to swallow it, hoping he might choke.

Now he’s 46 years-old and draws on his struggles with OCD to help others as an ambassador for The Anxiety Recovery Centre Victoria.

OCD’s severity can vary, for chronic sufferers it can seriously impact their ability to lead fulfilling lives.

The obsessive compulsiveness stems from persistent, intrusive and distressing thoughts, images or urges that enter the mind. It can be classified as a mental illness and an emotional disorder that can be triggered at any time during one’s life.

Milton says realising he was gay was his trigger, “I was fraught with renouncing thoughts about my sexuality, I was scared I would go to hell for being gay and conflicted by the suicidal thoughts I was having because that would send me to hell too.”

In his late teens Milton became an alcoholic, while seeking treatment for his addiction, his OCD was also diagnosed.

“For years there was a great lack of understanding and support in the health system for OCD sufferers, while progress is being made [in Australia] with groups like ARCVIC, I believe the human element in treatment for more extreme cases is still missing,” asserts Milton.

Milton has sought a number of therapies and treatments over the years but still battles daily with the illness.

“My compulsions range from contamination concerns, repeatedly checking to see if my fly is done up when I’m driving,” says Milton.

Anxious about the safety of others or being left with a flat battery, he admits to repeatedly checking the park brake is on and the interior light is off before exiting the car.

He also acknowledges his OCD can make communication and relationships difficult, “I can ask the same question over and over, it’s like my brain doesn’t hear the answer the first time. Sometimes I say nothing, to avoid that repetitive loop,” confesses Milton.

Milton believes OCD is an illness that deserves greater awareness to assist in lifting the stigma, “I know I will struggle with my OCD for the rest of my life however since working with ARCVIC and being able to share my story with other sufferers I have felt an overwhelming sense of worthiness that I’ve never had,” says Milton.

Clinical psychologist, Dr Alison Mahoney, works at the Clinical Research Unit for Anxiety and Depression at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney, specialising in OCD.

“There’s no definitive answer for what causes OCD, however a number of biological, genetic, chemical and environmental factors can contribute to activating the illness,” Mahoney says.

She explains symptoms of OCD can include; repetitive or obsessive thoughts or ritualistic behaviours such as; checking, touching, hoarding.

The person uses these behaviours as coping mechanisms in an attempt to reduce the focus from what they’re worrying about.

If you are living with someone with OCD, Mahoney recommends education; “you can be of great support, when you understand what OCD is. However while you think they need help, they might not want it, so gentle encouragement goes a long way.”

“There are many ways to treat OCD; medication, books, and a wide range of different therapies and programs that can help,” says Mahoney. “Be supportive but don’t be an enabler, try not to involve yourself in the compulsion or obsessive behaviour.”

Mahoney recommends OCD is best diagnosed by a mental health professional or GP qualified in the area.

While there is no cure for OCD, Mahoney stresses, “a number of options are available to significantly improve quality of life, reduce anxiety and assist with making the illness more manageable. Combined with a great support network, people who suffer from OCD can certainly regain control of their lives, there is no need to suffer in silence!”

For help, visit Phobic.org.nz.

– FFX Aus



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The ABC of OCD

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OCD: Some sufferes feel the compulsion to wash their hands a certain number of times.

OCD: Some sufferers feel the compulsion to wash their hands over and over. Photo: Jennifer Soo

Milton’s first memories of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder are from when he was ten years old.  He remembers sitting on the floor with the compulsion to put a Lego block in his mouth in the attempt to swallow it, hoping he might choke.

Now he’s 46 years-old and draws on his struggles with OCD to help others an an ambassador for The Anxiety Recovery Centre Victoria.

OCD affects between two and four per cent of Australians.  It’s severity can vary, for chronic sufferers it can seriously impact their ability to lead fulfilling lives.

The obsessive compulsiveness stems from persistent, intrusive and distressing thoughts, images or urges that enter the mind. It can be classified as a mental illness and an emotional disorder that can be triggered at any time during one’s life.

Milton says realising he was gay was his trigger, “I was fraught with renouncing thoughts about my sexuality, I was scared I would go to hell for being gay and conflicted by the suicidal thoughts I was having because that would send me to hell too.”

In his late teens Milton became an alcoholic, while seeking treatment for his addiction, his OCD was also diagnosed.

“For years there was a great lack of understanding and support in the health system for OCD sufferers, while progress is being made with groups like ARCVIC, I believe the human element in treatment for more extreme cases is still missing,” asserts Milton.

Milton has sought a number of therapies and treatments over the years but still battles daily with the illness.

“My compulsions range from contamination concerns, repeatedly checking to see if my fly is done up and when I’m driving,” says Milton.

Anxious about the safety of others or being left with a flat battery, he admits to repeatedly checking the park brake is on and the interior light is off before exiting the car.

He also acknowledges his OCD can make communication and relationships difficult, “I can ask the same question over and over, it’s like my brain doesn’t hear the answer the first time. Sometimes I say nothing, to avoid that repetitive loop,” confesses Milton.

Milton believes OCD is an illness that deserves greater awareness to assist in lifting the stigma, “I know I will struggle with my OCD for the rest of my life however since working with ARCVIC and being able to share my story with other sufferers I have felt an overwhelming sense of worthiness that I’ve never had,” says Milton.

Clinical psychologist, Dr Alison Mahoney, works at the Clinical Research Unit for Anxiety and Depression at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney, specialising in OCD.

“There’s no definitive answer for what causes OCD, however a number of biological, genetic, chemical and environmental factors can contribute to activating the illness,” Mahoney says.

She explains symptoms of OCD can include; repetitive or obsessive thoughts or ritualistic behaviours such as; checking, touching, hoarding.

The person uses these behaviours as coping mechanisms in an attempt to reduce the focus from what they’re worrying about.

If you are living with someone with OCD, Mahoney recommends education; “you can be of great support, when you understand what OCD is. However while you think they need help, they might not want it, so gentle encouragement goes a long way.”

“There are many ways to treat OCD; medication, books, and a wide range of different therapies and programs that can help,” says Mahoney. “Be supportive but don’t be an enabler, try not to involve yourself in the compulsion or obsessive behaviour.”

Mahoney recommends OCD is best diagnosed by a mental health professional or GP qualified in the area.

While there is no cure for OCD, Mahoney stresses, “a number of options are available to significantly improve quality of life, reduce anxiety and assist with making the illness more manageable. Combined with a great support network, people who suffer from OCD can certainly regain control of their lives, there is no need to suffer in silence!”

*Dr Alison Mahoney is the author of a new program for Australians suffering from OCD. From August 2013, this online program will be accessible nation-wide to all Australian’s that suffer from OCD. To register for the program email svhvirtualclinic@stvincents.com.au or for more information on OCD contact 1800 18SANE (1800 187263).


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Pet therapist: Treating the obsessive-compulsive dog

I recently met Irie, a beautiful Labrador-hound cross, rescued and brought to Canada from the U.S. Irie’s new owners, University of B.C. students Will and Maurizio, were concerned about one-year-old Irie’s compulsive behaviours.

When I attended the house call, the first sign that something was up was the taped-up mail slot and a note to the letter carrier that read “Dog chews mail.�

The behaviour problems had started just a few weeks earlier, around the time Irie and her owners had been playing with a laser pointer. Since then, a light reflection on a wall or the shadow of a bird flying overhead would trigger fixations that even the tastiest treats couldn’t interrupt.

The questions Will and Maurizio asked were very much related to Irie’s welfare. How concerned should they be with this behaviour? Was this something that could escalate into a more severe problem? And most important, what should be done about it?

Irie’s fixation with reflections is classified as a Canine Compulsive Disorder. A study recently published by Tufts University found that dogs with CCDs show brain structural abnormalities analogous to people who have OCDs (Obsessive Compulsive Disorders).

CCDs can manifest in different ways in different breeds. For example, Dobermans tend to “flank suck.� Other breeds lick or chew excessively at their paws or penis, chase their tails, snap at the air, or move stereotypically in fixed patterns. Bird-hunting breeds that look up when they hunt seem especially predisposed to fixations with lights and shadows overhead.

Irie’s hound ancestry was just one risk factor. Others were her age, with CCDs typically occurring in dogs around a year old. Further, CCDs often occur following play sessions with a laser pointer. And when dogs are worriers, like Irie, some CCDs help anxious dogs to self-soothe, much like how a baby is comforted when sucking on a pacifier.

In extreme cases, dogs will self-mutilate and anti-anxiety medications are needed to help break the behaviour. But because Will and Maurizio had acted quickly, and the condition was not yet hazardous, a drug-free behavioural modification plan was implemented.

Irie was given more mental stimulation through feeding enrichment; she now has to work for her food. She was provided with more suitable outlets to self-soothe using chew treats. Laser pointer games were banned. And finally, she was given lots more exercise. Irie was by no means a neglected dog beforehand, but her high drive to work meant that her workout routine needed to be doubled.

Within just a few weeks, Will and Maurizio reported that the plan was working. Irie’s behaviour was markedly improved and the fixations quickly diminishing. Their swift intervention helped alleviate this problem and make Irie a happier dog.

Rebecca Ledger is an animal behaviour scientist, and sees cats and dogs with behaviour problems on veterinary referral across the Lower Mainland. Read her blog at vancouversun.com/pets

Health calendar for Monday, July 15

Chronic Disease Program of the Vanderburgh County Health Department: Blood pressure screenings: Salvation Army Thrift Store at 1931 S. Weinbach Ave., 12:30 to 2 p.m. today; Buehler’s IGA at 4635 N. First Ave., 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday; Schnucks at 3501 N. Green River Road, 1:30 to 3 p.m. Tuesday; and Civic Center Complex at 1 MLK Blvd., 9 to 10:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Alzheimer’s Association Program: “Coping with Challenging Behaviors in Dementia” live, interactive video presentations, 5:30-7 p.m. July 25 at the Owensboro Medical Health System, University of Louisville Classroom B, 811 E. Parrish Ave., Owensboro, Ky. (free). Deadline to register is Tuesday. To register, contact Sarah Tarrant at 859-323-1331 or sarah.tarrant@uky.edu.

Indiana Chapter of the Lupus Foundation of America support group: Meeting 10 a.m. to noon the third Saturday of each month, resource center, first floor at Deaconess Hospital, 600 Mary St. Open to anyone seeking information about lupus or a chronic autoimmune disease. Information: lupieflie@insightbb.com or 812-774-6326.

Support group for adults with anxiety and/or obsessive-compulsive disorder: Meeting at 7 p.m. the first and third Wednesdays of each month, first floor at Deaconess Hospital resource center, 600 Mary St. Information: Mental Health America, 812-426-2640.

Sjorgen’s Syndrome Support Group: Meeting at 1 p.m. the third Wednesday of each month at the Newburgh Senior Center, 529 Jefferson St. Information: Lisa Goff at 812-853-5627 or Vicki Siebe at 812-760-3931.

Support group for bipolar/manic-depressive disorder: Meeting at 7 p.m. the first and third Wednesdays of each month, St. Mary’s Kempf Bipolar Wellness Center, 3700 Washington Ave. Information: Mental Health America at 812-426-2640.

Survivors of Suicide support group: Meeting at 6:30 p.m. the first and third Mondays of each month, Methodist Temple, 2109 Lincoln Ave. Information: Mental Health America, 812-426-2640.

Compiled by Leah Ward, wardl@courierpress.com.

Multifaceted Causes of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

shutterstock_110441081

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder which is characterized by intrusive thoughts (obsessions) that result in worry and repetitive behaviors (compulsions) aimed at alleviating the anxiety. While most of us have run back into the house to check the stove was turned off, people suffering from OCD experience these thoughts more frequently, and to the point that it becomes alienating and all-consuming. But what causes it?

While the exact cause of OCD is not completely elucidated, researchers believe that it results from a combination of genetics and environmental factors. Genetic studies have linked a specific mutation in the serotonin transporter gene to the manifestation of OCD. Additional data from studies on identical twins have corroborated these results.

However, the studies also show that genetics accounts for only 40-65% of the risk for developing OCD, thus indicating that environmental factors also play a role in manifestation of the disease. Reports suggest the potential for a number of different environmental risk factors including strep infections, anxiety, emotional instability, depression, handwriting difficulties, behavioral aggression, and oppositional behaviors.

Differences in the physical structure of the brain are also a prominent factor in patients with OCD. In fact, neuroimaging techniques have revealed structural and volumetric abnormalities in the brains of these patients: People with OCD have a patterned increase in grey matter in the brain in certain areas and a decrease in others.

Other studies have examined the role for a potential chemical imbalance in the brain leading to disease symptoms. From a molecular perspective, data show that in fact neurotransmitter dysregulation does play an important role in the manifestation of OCD symptoms. More specifically, reports indicate that the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine are associated with the pathophysiology of OCD. Scientists show that patients with OCD may experience an increase in dopamine in the prefrontal cortex and/or a decrease in serotonin in the basal ganglia.

Currently used medications for managing the disorder including Clomipramine (Anafranil), Zluvoxamine (Luvox), Fluoxetine (Prozac), Paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva), and Sertraline (Zoloft) specifically focus on regulating these neurotransmitter levels in the brain. Selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) decrease symptoms of OCD in two-thirds of adults and children who take them.

While there are a number of available medications for treating OCD symptoms, they come with unique risks. Similar to other psychological disorders, the choice of which mediation to use is often the result of trial and error, and drug interactions must be carefully considered. Furthermore, side effects may include an upset stomach, sleep disturbances, sweating, and a decrease in libido. It is hoped that additional research into the causes and molecular mechanism of OCD will ultimately lead to more effective and safe drugs for treating disease symptoms.

References

Cath, D., Grootheest, D., Willemsen, G., Oppen, P., Boomsma, D. (2008). Environmental Factors in Obsessive-Compulsive Behavior: Evidence from Discordant and Concordant Monozygotic Twins Behavior Genetics, 38 (2), 108-120 DOI: 10.1007/s10519-007-9185-9

Harsányi A, Csigó K, Demeter G, Németh A (2007). [New approach to obsessive-compulsive disorder: dopaminergic theories]. Psychiatria Hungarica : A Magyar Pszichiatriai Tarsasag tudomanyos folyoirata, 22 (4), 248-58 PMID: 18167420

Kim CH, Cheon KA, Koo MS, Ryu YH, Lee JD, Chang JW, Lee HS (2007). Dopamine transporter density in the basal ganglia in obsessive-compulsive disorder, measured with [123I]IPT SPECT before and after treatment with serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Neuropsychobiology, 55 (3-4), 156-62 PMID: 17657168

Ozaki N, Goldman D, Kaye WH, Plotnicov K, Greenberg BD, Lappalainen J, Rudnick G, Murphy DL (2003). Serotonin transporter missense mutation associated with a complex neuropsychiatric phenotype. Molecular psychiatry, 8 (11), 933-6 PMID: 14593431

Image via Milkovasa / Shutterstock.

Man’s mental condition delays murder trial

CHESTERFIELD – The trial for a man accused of killing two Chesterfield women and suspected of killing his father the same day in Dinwiddie County has once again been pushed back due to his mental condition.

Herbert Bland Jr., 23, was deemed mentally incompetent to stand trial Wednesday in Chesterfield General District Court, where he faces two first-degree murder charges and two related firearm charges.

Bland’s court-appointed attorney, John Rockecharlie, said a judge continued the case for another 90 days while Central State Hospital employees attempt to restore Bland’s mental competency.

“The length of time he has spent at Central State Hospital is indicative of how sick he is,” Rockecharlie said.

Bland has been at Central State Hospital for about 90 days, according to Rockecharlie.

The mental competency assessment is based on whether Bland is able to understand the seriousness of the charges against him, understand the legal process and adequately assist his attorney.

A judge first deemed Bland unfit to stand trial on March 30 after a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation concluded that he was not mentally competent to stand trial.

The March 30 court appearance was almost four months after police believe the 23-year-old shot his ex-girlfriend and her mother in the head before making the 20-minute drive back to his home in Dinwiddie.

There, authorities believe that Bland engaged in a gunfight with his father, which ended with a gunshot wound to Bland’s chest and his father, Herbert Bland Sr., dead.

The elder Bland alerted authorities to his house in the 2000 block of Harris Drive after he noticed his gun missing. He told deputies that he believed his son had taken his gun and used it in a shooting.

When deputies arrived at the Bland residence, they saw the younger Bland stumble outside of the house with two pistols in his hand.

He told authorities that his father had shot him and that he shot his father in the head, according to court records.

A UPS employee delivering a package to a home in the 5200 block of River Road in Chesterfield discovered the bodies of Elizabeth Fassett, 42, and Barbara Fassett, 65, later in the afternoon on Jan. 7.

The killings came four months after the younger Bland completed two years of court-order psychiatric treatment. That court order stemmed from an August 2010 incident in which the elder Bland shot his son in the leg in self-defense, court records show.

Throughout his psychiatric treatment, Bland Jr. was placed on a variety of medications that treat psychosis, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety and depression.

Court records show that he attended all of the appointments and complied with the medications. He continued to live with his parents and was unemployed.

“He is doing a little better and does not feel paranoid … does still feel that people can control him,” Dr. Fawaz wrote in a progress report. “He has had no suicidal or homicidal ideas.”

The 2010 case was dismissed in September 2012, once Bland’s treatment was completed.

Bland will reappear in Chesterfield court on Oct. 9 where his mental state will be reassessed.

Charges against Bland in connection to the death of his father are still pending. Dinwiddie Commonwealth’s Attorney Lisa Caruso has said that she is waiting as Bland progresses through the Chesterfield court system.

– Vanessa Remmers may be reached at 804-722-5155 or vremmers@progress-index.com.

Spank You Very Much

3. Is it physically dangerous? That depends on what you’re doing. In the Finnish study, bondage and flagellation were standard: More than 80 percent of the sample had done them in the preceding 12 months. The riskier stuff was far less common:  piercing (done by 21 percent of the sample), skin branding (17 percent), hypoxyphilia (suffocation games, also known as breath play—17 percent), electric shocks (15 percent), and knives or razor blades (13 percent). The California study found a similar pattern: Bondage, flogging, and spanking were standard (more than 80 percent had done them), but other practices—“fire play” (20 percent), “piercing play” (20), cutting (14), branding (9), and scarification (5)—were rarer. Some potentially dangerous activities were surprisingly common—“electric play” (42 percent), “knife scenes” (40), and “breath play” (27)—though in many cases, the implements were probably just props. It looks as though about 20 percent of these folks are actually cutting, burning, zapping, or partially suffocating each other.

How I overcame Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

My mind was my own worst nightmare.

It was telling me I was going to die if I didn’t perform the tasks it told me to do with acute detail.

I didn’t understand. My parents didn’t either. I was lost, confused. I needed help.

I was diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder at the age of 9 — a time when I was going through countless changes in my life.

It became apparent I needed help after a family trip to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, had to be cut short because my compulsions were virtually taking over my life. Minutes, even hours, of my days were being spent performing repetitive tasks as I succumbed to my mind’s every demand.

Birgit Amann, medical director at the Behavioral Medical Center in Troy, said there is a certain point when an individual should come in to receive help for the disorder. At age 9, I was at that point.

“In general, the biggest reason (to seek help) is it’s gotten to a point where they (people with OCD) are unable to function,” she said. “Clinically, it’s when it gets to the point where you’re missing out on things, you’re not getting to school or getting to work, and that type of stuff.”

Luckily, I was able to receive the therapy I needed and to realize I am not the only one with this disorder.

Others just like me

Indeed, the hardest part in the early stages of my OCD was that I felt like I was completely different from everybody else. I felt like I was being punished for some reason. I felt like I was the only one who was wasting hours in a day, so engulfed in my rituals that everything in the outside world was oblivious to me.

But as it turns out, there were plenty of others just like me, with about half a million children in the United States suffering from OCD, according to ocfoundation.org

Understanding that OCD was a relatively common disorder was a big first step in my battle against my brain.

However, I still didn’t understand why my mind was telling me to turn the lights on and off a certain amount of times, why I had to keep closing and opening drawers until I did it just right, why I had to put the dishes away in a certain order.

I knew it was stupid. I knew it was pointless. I knew there was no sane rationale as to why I was doing these tasks. But if I didn’t perform these tasks exactly how my mind told me, then my anxiety level would increase drastically.

And it wasn’t just the compulsions. The obsessions were equally destructive. I was so afraid of germs and getting sick that I would wash my hands so many times in a day, my hands would turn raw.

I hated myself.

Therapy

When I first began therapy, my psychiatrist tried to explain to me what was causing these symptoms.

She said it was because of an imbalance of a chemical in my brain called serotonin, and that parts of my brain were overactive. In order to increase the serotonin levels in my brain, I was prescribed Prozac right when I began therapy.

Being so young, I didn’t really understand the clinical part of OCD. I just wanted to feel normal — not just for my sake, but for my family’s as well. As hard as the disorder was on me, it was equally hard on them.

“As a family, you’re a team as much as possible, but this (OCD) gets in the way,” Amann said. “Not only does it (OCD) make you late for things, but it can make your family late for things.”

And boy, did it ever. I can’t even count how many times we were late to places because I had to finish performing my compulsions. I hated it, but there was nothing they or I could do about it.

Tamar Chansky writes in his book, “Freeing Your Child from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder,” that punishment does not help anxiety — it makes it worse, so punishment was not an option for my family.

All they could do was support me as much as possible.

The only

places I felt safe

Despite the pain and anxiety that this disorder brought me as a child, there were always two places where I could escape my symptoms.

When I was in my psychiatrist’s room, I could put my mind to rest. She made me realize that this disorder was all in my head and if I didn’t perform one of my compulsions, nothing bad would happen to me.

The other place was at school. As I walked among my peers, I was afraid of them thinking I was different. I didn’t want to be thought of as the “weird kid,” and I didn’t want people avoiding me because they felt uncomfortable in my presence.

So, I fought as hard as I could to hide my disorder from my classmates.

Why I had it

OCD is interesting because there is still no definitive answer as to what causes it.

Most research suggests that people that have close relatives with the disorder are much more likely to develop OCD. Also, according to Chansky, an estimated 25 percent to 30 percent of cases of OCD in children are said to be triggered by strep infections. This subtype of OCD is called Pediatric Autoimmune Neurological Diseases Associated with Strep (PANDAS).

“It’s not like everyone with strep is going to end up with OCD, but there are definitely cases of it,” Amann said.

However, I most likely developed the disorder because of my grandpa. Although he was never officially diagnosed with OCD, my family said there was a good chance he had it.

Outgrowing

the disorder

I am now 21 years old and have been off medicine for three years and have not needed to see a psychiatrist in four years. My symptoms have dissipated to the point where I feel like I don’t even have the disorder anymore.

Sure, I still have to set the timer on the microwave as an even number, along with other little rituals, but that is common even in people without OCD.

I am curious now to see how many of my peers suspected me of having OCD. For so long, I was so afraid of people finding out, because I felt like I would be treated differently. I only told a handful of my friends, and I don’t think any of them understood how severe it was. But after my battle with OCD, I am able to understand what people have to go through, not just with OCD, but with other disorders as well. I know it’s not easy, but there are always people out there to support you.

I don’t have a definitive answer as to how I outgrew OCD. I think two major factors were my therapy and the support of my family. I still don’t know how my parents and brother handled my situation so well, because, looking back now, I know there were times I was absolutely unbearable to be around.

I also think I just became old enough to realize that the voice inside my head wasn’t real and that nothing bad would happen if I just stopped doing what it said.

I was sick of it.

I just wanted to live my life, and finally, that is what I have been able to do the past four years.

Ryan Zuke is a student at Central Michigan University and was a part-time sports writer at the Daily News this past winter and spring.

Copyright 2013 Midland Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Mbeki’s nephew dies after altercation with Swedish cops

Swedish police are facing accusations of brutality leading to his death. They have also been accused of attempting a cover-up.

Sunday World can reveal that Magnus Moerane (41), the son of Mbeki’s cousin Sophia Moerane, suffered fractures to his skull after being apprehended by the police in Stockholm in October.

It has emerged that Magnus was declared dead on arrival at a Stockholm hospital. But the police told Moerane that Magnus had been admitted to the intensive care unit of the hospital and could not be saved.

It took the intervention of the South African embassy in Sweden for Moerane to get full disclosure about her son’s death and access to the autopsy reports.

“The mission wrote a diplomatic note to the Swedish Foreign Ministry in which it was indicated that Moerane was not satisfied with the initial information provided, and that the embassy requested the authorities to provide a full disclosure around the circumstances of the death of Magnus Moerane.

“The Swedish authorities gave full co-operation to the SA embassy and provided the results of their investigations, including a second autopsy, to the embassy,” said Department of International Relations and Co-operation spokesman Clayson Monyela. He said the embassy could not interfere in the legal processes of a sovereign state.

Moerane believes her son was the victim of a racist assault by the police, similar to the shooting of a 69-year-old man of Portuguese origin in Stockholm last month, sparking riots.

A 73-year-old retired nurse, Moerane said she had known that her worst nightmare would soon become a reality when the police refused to show her the file on her son.

She reported Magnus missing a day after not hearing from him and after going to his flat.

Moerane last saw her son on October 30. He was dead the next day.

“The police told me to get an attorney because there was a problem,” she said.

Moerane’s ordeal worsened when she was told that she did not qualify for legal aid because she did not have home insurance.

She said her persistence in demanding answers from the police eventually led to them breaking the news of Magnus’s death to her and her youngest son, Vuyo (35).

“A man came into the room and said that, according to the report, the police had apprehended Magnus. They were forced to give him a bear-hug (tackle) to restrain him because he was big and tall.

“They said Magnus broke loose and fell on the concrete, which fractured his skull,” said Moerane.

Moerane phoned Mbeki a few weeks ago to tell him of the death of her son and the circumstances.

“I said: ‘Motswala (cousin), it’s bad.’ He went quiet and said: ‘I’m shocked,'” Moerane said.

Mbeki’s office was unavailable for comment at the time of publication.

Magnus was the eldest son of Mbeki’s cousin Moerane – the fifth child of Mbeki’s late uncle, Michael Moerane.

Michael Moerane was the elder brother of Mbeki’s mother, Epainette. He was a renowned music teacher and classical music composer.

The police said that after the 41-year-old fell he was put into a police car, then suffered seizures followed by heart failure .

The autopsy report said Magnus died from “the breaking of of the skull base and wounds in the brain tissues.

The report further said: “The injuries to the head have a look that can be the result of an unidentified blunt object.”

Swedish police commissioner Marianne Oman, who dealt with the case, was unavailable for comment.

Moerane said a three-paragraph letter from deputy chief district attorney Kay Engfeldt proved her theory that a cover-up was being attempted.

In the letter, Engfeldt said she had found “no reason for investigation” of Magnus’s death.

Engfeldt wrote: “Known facts: A man has died in connection with a police intervention. It gives no suggestion that a crime has been committed by someone from the police.”

Engfeldt’s decision came after a final autopsy report stated that Magnus died from “acute poisoning by Sertraline”.

Sertraline is an antidepressant used to treat depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder and anxiety disorders.

But Moerane refuses to accept this version of events.

She believes her son was the victim of racial profiling – condoned by the Swedish government to rid its borders of illegal immigrants.

“Police brutality and racial profiling are common here,”Moerane said.

She added: “I am saddened that I had to bury my son in a country that didn’t want him. We might as well have remained in South Africa and have him die a noble death because he was fighting apartheid.”

Magnus worked at Arrow Nordic Components AB from 1998 to 2001.

He was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder that results in difficulty with social interactions.

The Swedish embassy in Pretoria said it had not received any information from the Swedish Ministry of Justice concerning the Sunday World’s inquiry into the ambiguities surrounding the death of Magnus Moerane.

Chronology: Magnus’s last days

  • October 30 2012: Magnus goes to his mother’s flat in Rinkeby, Stockholm, for a visit.
  • October 31 2012: Sophia Moerane prepares for family’s weekly dinner. Magnus is unusually absent.
  • November 1 2012: Sophia goes to Magnus’s flat and finds everything in order. She decides to file a missing persons report at the police station.
  • November 6 2012: Police inform Sophia of her son’s death
  • November 29 2012: Deputy Chief Attorney Kay Engfeldt at the District Attorney’s office informs Sophia Moerane that the office found no wrongdoing on the part of the police and that no further action would be taken.
  • December 11 2012: Magnus Moerane is buried.

The link with former president

Michael Moerane was the last born of seven children, including former president Thabo Mbeki’s mother, Epainette. He was born in 1909.

Moerane was the first black person to obtain a music degree at a South African university (Bachelor of Music degree at Unisa). Moerane was a distinguished composer, pianist and choral director.

In 1952, Thabo Mbeki moved to Queenstown and stayed with Moerane.

Moerane’s six children and Mbeki grew close during his stay there for several years.

Mbeki developed a love for reading and music from an early age. Moerane taught him to play the flute. Moerane died in 1981.

Sophia Moerane is the fifth of Moerane’s six children.

A qualified nurse, she worked in Zambia, Kenya and England before settling in Sweden in 1975. She has three children, of which Magnus was the eldest.

  • ncanan@sundayworld.co.za or
  • Twitter @NkululekoNcana


Reports: Rockets agree to trade Royce White to Sixers

Royce White celebrated the Rockets' win on Wednesday. (Brian Babineau/Getty Images)

Royce White’s time in Houston is reportedly over before he ever took the court. (Brian Babineau/Getty Images)

The Rockets have agreed to trade forward Royce White to the Sixers, according to multiple reports.

Yahoo! Sports reports Houston will receive future draft considerations and cash in the deal. USA Today Sports reports Houston will send the rights to Turkey’s Furkan Aldemire, a 2012 second-round pick, to Philadelphia.

The move clears White’s $1.7 million contract from Houston’s books, helping clear room for the acquisition of All-Star center Dwight Howard. New Sixers GM Sam Hinkie was an assistant GM with the Rockets before he was hired earlier this summer.

The free-agent negotiating period opened Monday. Contracts can’t officially be signed and trades can’t officially be consummated until July 10.

The trade agreement ends a messy marriage between the Rockets and White, a 2012 first-round pick who never suited up for a single game last season because he was involved in a months-long dispute with the Rockets over the treatment of his mental health.

White suffers from Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, panic attacks and a fear of flying and he sought a formalized protocol to handle his mental health treatment as well as the appointment of an independent doctor — “a medical point person” — who would make the determination on whether or not he would be cleared to play.

The No. 16 pick in the 2012 NBA draft twice refused assignments to the D-League’s Rio Grande Vipers last season. Back in November, he stopped attending Rockets games and practices and he remained away from the organization until he made his debut for the Vipers on Feb. 12. The Rockets imposed a suspension Jan. 6, due to his failure to report to the Vipers, but reinstated White in late-January, when the two sides issued a joint statement announcing an agreement. White later announced he was leaving the Vipers in March but quickly reversed course. Along the way, he pulled no punches, appearing in an HBO feature to lay out his case.

“If I was an NBA player now without the protocols and safety measures,” he said, “I would be risking my health, risking my life. What comes along with mental health if left untreated? Alcohol abuse, marijuana abuse, suicidal behavior, homicidal behavior, those are things I’m not willing to risk to play basketball, to have money, to have fame. That’s it.”

White also told The Huffington Post in a video interview that he believed executives in the NBA league office and the Rockets “want me gone” because of his advocacy for his mental health rights.

“If I was to make an educated guess, I would guess that Adam Silver and David Stern and the Rockets organization, some other owners in the league, GMs, want me gone,” White said in the interview. “And why do they want me gone? Because business is about convenience, it’s not about doing what’s necessary, right? It’s about cutting overhead… Being efficient. And a lot of times, what’s best for us as human beings doesn’t meet that criteria for business people.”

In a November letter to White revealed during the HBO feature, Rockets GM Daryl Morey expressed a desire to accommodate White’s requests but also some frustration with his absence.

“We have bent over backwards to accommodate your requests and help you meet these goals,” the letter read. “At our meeting yesterday, I spent significant time addressing your frustrations. I would like to take this opportunity to further explain how your actions and the changing nature of your explanations for your actions has frustrated our attempts to help you meet your goals. The bottom line is that we remain willing to work with you on issues that arise from legitimate medical need, but you have to come to games, practice and everything else that you are able to do, just like any other player.”

Rockets — Grade: A+.

It’s hard to remember a time when a swift, clean break was needed as badly as in this situation. It was next to impossible to imagine White finding a way to redeem his NBA career in Houston. The bridges were just torched. For the Rockets, he’s somebody else’s problem now. With Howard in the fold, they have much bigger fish to fry. The first-round pick they wasted on White has long since been forgotten.

Sixers — Grade: A.

Whether White gets a chance for a second chapter in Philadelphia remains to be seen. The rebuilding Sixers can take on White as a project or as a trade chip; his minuscule salary is of no real concern. Houston surely made it worth Philadelphia’s while to complete the move and Hinkie picked up the rights to Aldemire along the way.

The Compulsive Mr. Jefferson And America’s Obsessive Origins

Thomas Jefferson (image credit: Wikipedia)

While waiting for his draft of the Declaration of Independence to come to the floor of the Second Continental Continental Congress for a history-making vote—Thomas Jefferson was thinking about the weather. More specifically, he was thinking about a list that would comprehensively capture variations in the climate at minimum three times daily, for as long as…well…for as long as it needed to be captured (which turned out to be a good long time).

On July 4th, three days after his climactic list was launched, he recorded four readings (Philadelphia was 68 degrees at 6 a.m. and eventually hit a tepid 76 by early afternoon), and—despite a few other things going on that day—also managed to squeeze in a walk to a local gadget store to buy a new thermometer fit for the mission.

Jefferson, like so many prodigious thinkers before and after him, was an obsessive—or what we’d later come to call a sufferer of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD). And as argued in Joshua Kendall’s insightful new book, America’s Obsessives: The Compulsive Energy That Built a Nation, we should be happy that he was.

In Kendall’s telling, Jefferson’s preoccupation with the weather during what was the most momentous series of events in his life (and in the fledgling nation’s existence) made incredibly good sense. Jefferson knew that the best counterweight to the massive strain and anxiety filling his days was to indulge an obsessive proclivity that would fill his mind—or at least enough of it to make the stress bearable.  For this he chose one of the many scientific pursuits that grabbed his attention from childhood on: a fascination with the weather. And like any good obsessive, he employed a list—a three-column list in this case—to track and analyze data…lots and lots of data.

This was but one of Jefferson’s countless obsessive fascinations, and but one of countless lists.  He was a man addicted to list-making, “addicted to his routines,” and equally addicted to mathematical precision, though the amount of money he compulsively spent to feed his obsessions, and the resulting debt, is legendary.

Kendall’s book covers a range of American thinkers and achievers–from across an expanse of topics, politics to sex to sports–and meticulously pulls out the threads in each of their personalities that evidence an undeniable interweaving of the obsessive and the brilliant.

Jefferson is the author’s emblematic choice for obsessive thinking (what he calls “obsessive innovation”) in American politics. Other categories include Marketing represented by ketchup mogul Henry Heinz, described as “more than just quirky…a mentally unstable man who lived close to the edge for most of his life”; Sexuality, embodied by the good sex doctor Alfred Kinsey, behind whose “inner torment was a lonely child’s terror”; Beauty, whose standard bearer Este’e Lauder openly admitted that “obsession is the word for my zeal”; and Sports, represented by baseball icon Ted Williams who embraced a bat, in part, to balance the formative angst of “growing up with a domineering mother whom he feared.”

These and other personalities—each flavored by doses of obsessive thinking that radically changed everything they touched—are for the author symbols of a driving force that benefits all of us. Without the compulsiveness of a Jefferson or a Jobs, America wouldn’t just be different, but arguably shades less promising.

Kendall drives home this point especially with respect to Jefferson by observing how the statesman’s limitless compulsive energy—energy that regularly woke him throughout the night—pushed him toward excellence even when the payoff was unclear.

When the Declaration of Independence was finally published and read aloud in town after town—hardly anyone knew who penned it. Crowds of cheering Americans didn’t care that a man named Thomas Jefferson had authored the document that grandly signified their broken ties with the mother country. It wasn’t until 1784 that Jefferson was mentioned in a newspaper article as the document’s primary author—and, more remarkably, it wasn’t until the 1790s when he ran for president that Jefferson even claimed authorship.

While our nation’s history isn’t littered with so many examples of obsessive greatness cloaked in humility, the author’s portrait of Jefferson (who fittingly leads off the book) gives us plenty of reasons to be glad that it has occasionally happened.  Amid compulsive bouts of indexing and labeling his expansive library, fine-tuning myriad data points underlying his inventions, and finding new ways to perfect gardening techniques—Jefferson invested his energy in a project that changed the world.

Kendall’s book is a tribute to the paradox captured by another slightly eschew genius, John Dryden, who wrote: “Great wits are sure to madness near allied, and thin partitions do their bounds divide.” America’s obsessives may all qualify as at least a little mad; for some “mad” wouldn’t begin to cover it.  But the plain truth is that their mad energy—applied with precision and chaos in unequal measure—is a key ingredient in what makes America, America. Especially in the case of Mr. Jefferson, that statement couldn’t be more true.

David DiSalvo is the author of What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the OppositeThe Brain in Your Kitchen, and Brain Changer (due out in November 2013). Find him on Twitter @neuronarrative and at his website, The Daily Brain.

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