Education Funding Homelessness Medicine Observations Policy Reading Systems

Thoughts on Stuff.

Recent things I have read that I have found interesting, curious, or vexing:

The Social Security Administration maintains a “compassionate allowances” list, which is a list of “medical conditions [that] are so serious that their conditions obviously meet disability standards”.[1. You can learn more about how diseases make it on to the “compassionate allowances” list here.] Cancers, genetic conditions, and diseases still known by eponyms make the list. (Medical types: This is your list of zebras, not horses.)

“Can you receive SSI (Supplemental Security Income)[2. The Social Security Administration mails a check of about $721 once a month to individuals who receive SSI. To receive SSI, you must have “limited income and resources” AND you must be disabled, blind, or age 65 and older. I got lost while digging through all the subsections, so I don’t know what the “limited” income is. “The limit for countable resources is $2,000 for an individual and $3,000 for a couple.”] while living in a public shelter for the homeless?” the Social Security Administration asks.

Answer: “Yes. You can receive up to the maximum SSI benefit payable in your State while living in a public shelter for up to 6 months out of any 9 month period.” (Emphasis mine.)

While it is true that most people are in the shelter system for less than three months, is it possible that some people who receive SSI will need more help over a longer period of time to get out of the system?

If someone must stay in a shelter, that usually means that he can’t pay rent. Most employers prefer to hire employees who have actual home addresses. No job means no income. No income means difficulties finding affordable housing. And it is mighty difficult to pay for housing and food with only $721 a month.

Psychiatry has little to offer in the realm of prevention.[3. Some would also argue that psychiatry has little to offer in the realm of treatment. In moments of frustration, I agree.] We have no medications to prevent schizophrenia, though omega-3 fatty acids might reduce the likelihood that a youth already showing some signs of psychosis will develop “full blown” psychosis. (Researchers are putting efforts into preventing psychosis, which is exciting.) Most people don’t go to therapy prior to experiencing uncomfortable and distressing emotions.

The WHO has a paper about social determinants of mental health that cover the entire lifespan. Frequent themes in the paper include providing education for women; attending to the mental health of mothers before, during, and after pregnancy; reducing poverty; and providing support to people in school and in work. The prevention of and reductions in psychiatric symptoms were not due to medical interventions.

Incorporating mental health into daily living helps people stay well and develop the resiliency to deal with crap. It’s not a separate thing. We know that people who have had adverse childhood experiences are more likely to have psychiatric and medical problems as adults. Exercise, spending time with friends and family, maintaining stable relationships, eating nutritious foods, learning about stuff, finding value in work and hobbies, avoiding conflict and trauma—all of these activities are useful in preventing major psychiatric conditions.

How many of us in psychiatry focus on these social determinants in our daily work? How have we let ourselves become “prescribers”? Can we change that so that we “prescribe” education and activity more often, and only prescribe medications in the most severe circumstances?[4. This is easier said than done, given that we cannot control the behavior of other people or systems. I also detest the word “prescriber”. That’ll be another post.]

Someone pointed me to this article with the polarizing title: Bad Managers Talk, Good Managers Write. The author argues:

When managers write, you create work product — white papers, product requirement documents, FAQs, presentations — that lasts and is accessible to everyone in the organization. From marketing to sales to QA to engineering, everyone has a document off which they can work and consult.

The upshot is that the manager also takes public responsibility for what happens when the rest of the team executes on the point of view taken by the documents. That ratchets up accountability through the organization.

This is also the benefit of keeping a blog. You create a body of work that people can read, refer to, and learn from. More importantly, regardless of your work (whether it is your formal profession or what you do “on the side”), it gives you the opportunity to reflect on things that matter to you, clarify your thinking, express your ideas, and connect with interesting people, including yourself.