Saybrook University


Deceptive advertising, unethical research practices, "brain shrinkage" -- have we had enough of Big Pharmacy yet?


Seroquel BigPharma hasn’t admitted doing anything wrong – but their mask got pulled off all the same this month.

Drug company AstraZeneca agreed to settle lawsuits brought by 37 states – effectively they’re paying $67.5 million to avoid having to go to court and defend themselves against charges that their marketing was deceptive and their research practices unethical. 

The lawsuits centered around AstraZeneca’s illegal business practices with the antipsychotic medication Seroquel:  the company marked the drug for conditions including depression and anxiety, both of which were used it was not approved for by the FDA.  Further, AstraZeneca failed to publicize three studies showing mixed results on the effectiveness of Seroquel overall. 

It is not the first time a major drug company has been rightly accused of such wrong doing (AstraZeneca alone agreed to a $520 million settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice last year) and it won’t be the last. 

In fact, the lawsuit comes in the backdrop of

  • Research that proves the efficacy of psychotherapy without psychotropic medications for folks with schizophrenia
  • dramatic increases in physician’s prescribing patterns (estimates suggest that twenty-five percent of patients in nursing homes have been prescribed antipsychotic medications!)
  • disturbing “off label” uses of antipsychotic medications—all with perilous and anti-human side effects.

For many who walk into their doctor’s office, brain shrinkage and weight gain were not on their “to do” list for the day. Recent research proves that in a few years time these side effects become the reality for many who fall for the hidden research and deceptive Big Pharma tactics. Clearly, you are not the “patient” with an issue to them – you are a client with a bank account at your local pharmacy, a number with a money sign.

See for yourself.  Here’s the research, you be the judge. 

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Say hello to "sidewalk rage," a very real condition that's a symptom of the modern addiction to speed and anger


Woman_in_rage Ladies and gentlemen, our culture has created a new kind of “mental illness” to suffer through.

A recent article in The Wall Street Journal highlights the modern form of road rage with a twist – sidewalk rage. It’s being comically called “Pedestrian Aggressive Syndrome,” and likely is in a city near you.

In Lower Manhattan, the capital of “side walk rage,” people average 4.27 feet per second. If you cannot keep up with this unwritten rule of how fast to move your legs you’re at risk for the rage and hostility of the fast walkers around you.

Quite literally, we are becoming a people addicted to anger and speed.  You probably didn't need a mental health professional to tell you that.  You've probably felt it in your own life. 

There’s more. Not only do people walk fast, they multitask even faster...

1)    Nicotine lovers walk 4.17 feet per second

2)    Cell phone junkies walk 4.20 feet per second

3)    Ipod addicts walk 4.64 feet per second.


Don't think these are harmless statistics: the fury associated with sidewalk rage and society’s increased levels of aggression is being connected to the well known psychiatric disorder, Intermittent Explosive Disorder. The DSM-IV defines the disorder as the following: 

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Getting through the day isn't good enough: we know what it takes to help kids thrive


It’s one thing to live, it’s another to thrive.  We know the difference, but do the institutions we put our kids through?

There is an emerging field of study that focuses on what helps youth thrive rather than wither.

A research study published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence looked at the role a child’s passions and interests or “sparks,” relationships and personal empowerment played in their well being and how this helped them to thrive.

What does it mean to thrive? The researchers described as such “…thriving persons are nurtured by their contexts and also make positive contributions to those contexts.” 

Their study included a national sample of 1,817 youth age 15 years, of this group 49% identified female; 56% were white, 17% Hispanic/Latino and 17% African American. The youth answered an online survey that asked questions about their talents, interests, hobbies, relationships, level of participation in community activities, self-efficacy and empowerment.

Their research conclusions found that youth who had high levels of sparks, opportunities for positive relationships, and empowerment were more likely to be leaders, value helping others and working for social justice in their communities. Even those who showed only two of the three strengths were more likely to volunteer weekly.

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You always want a therapist who’s more interested in what you have to say than in what drugs you take


Carl Rogers When it was published nearly 50 years ago, Carl Rogers’ work Client-Centered Therapy inspired a generation of therapists and transformed psychology. 

It has remained relevant all this time, but over the years some – especially those who advocate replacing therapists with anti-depressants – have suggested that Rogers was too idealistic. Putting the patients humanity at the heart of therapy might sound nice, but it isn’t as effective as pharmacology or neurology at the hard headed business of getting clients in, out, and on with their lives.

Well, today new research is proving that Rogers was right.  A client-centered, humanistic, approach to psychology is effective, affirming … and has no side-effects

If you’re looking at the therapist, it’s not just common sense to find one who puts you at the center of your therapy – it’s established best practice.

The newest research comes from Barry Farber and Erin Doolin of Columbia University, who meta-analyzed positive regard and affirmation in the context of Carl Roger’s Client Centered Therapy.

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Forget grades: Bad schools are hazardous to kids' mental health


800px-Granger_Classroom_Old What schools need to succeed is a hot debate – but we all know that a school that doesn’t have what it needs will fail.  

What we don’t know, what we’re just beginning to ask, is:  what impact does a failing school have on a child’s mental health? 

A recent study published in the March issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, looked at how lack of resources in the classroom impacts mental health. Researches found that children who attended schools that did not have the resources for supplies or for their teachers to focus on teaching, were more likely to have mental health problems.

The study used a representative sample of 10,700 first graders. Their teachers and parents were interviewed as a part of the study.

They found five aspects of the classroom that they believe impacts a child’s learning and sense of safety in a classroom.  They are:

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Sleeping is an essential life skill: here's how you can improve


800px-Sleeping_while_studying Likely you are one of millions of Americans who dread the sound of your morning alarm clock. The electronic rooster goes off early for too many – who fell asleep too late – and did not stay asleep for too long. As a result we fill our abdomens with espresso and Red Bull, and the circles under eyes become ever-darker.

Even our metaphors for sleep aren’t working:  “sleep like a baby”?  Come on:  how many babies are known for getting a good night’s sleep?

Recently a published study in the Journal of Sleep Medicine dispelled the age old myth of one-size-fits all sleep patterns, while emphasizing the importance of sleeping well. While more research to validate the findings is needed, the research suggests that shorter than 6.5 hours and or longer than 7.5 hours of sleep leaves people at risk for early or increased risk of mortality.

Most of us need better rest, and it is within our power to get it.   A recent article in Prevention Magazine gives us a sneak peak of how to improve this important facet of our busy lives...

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Savoring food can reduce stress eating - and lead to weight loss


Thicht Nhat Hanh Chances are you are like millions of American-- eat more, not less-- when stressed. Stress increases cortisol. Cortisol increases appetite. And we all know:  the cookie jar, noisy chip bags, and drive thrus seem to be inevitable consequences once the cortisol levels start raging in your body.

Or are they so inevitable? 

Stress eaters, meet Cognitive Behavioral Mindfulness. It takes best of humanism and the best of cognitive behavioral psychology and applies them to your eating habits, today, in the midst of the immense stress and frenzy of life.

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2000 year old wisdom wins again: Tai Chi for seniors is great elder-care


399px-Elderly_Shanghai_woman_practices_tai_chi Tai Chi has finally caught on in the field of geriatric care and research – and this is great news for the estimated 2 million people over the age of 65 who suffer from depression.  

Tai chi chin is a westernized version of the Tai chi chuan, which is an internal Chinese martial art that has been practiced for centuries. Tai chi chin is a series of 19 moves with one pose that focuses on developing and balancing internal energy – chi. It is believed that this practice increases overall well-being, physical energy and stamina.

Recently Tai chi chin has received tentative acceptance as being beneficial for overall psychological health. A review published in the BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that Tai Chi is effective at reducing stress, anxiety, depression and increasing self-esteem.

But the impact on seniors was particularly noteworthy … and important during a time when we face a crisis of affordable humane and empowering nursing home care.

Two studies published in 2009 found that Tai chi chin reduced osteoarthritis pain. Tai chi chin incorporates a range of motions that increases muscle conditioning and flexibility. Increasing physical strength and flexibility helped to improve overall movement and reduced pain in 20 of the participants of this study.

The practice that builds strength also aids in improving balance. The Oregon Department of Human Services incorporated Tai chi chin programs in an effort to promote physical activity as a way to prevent injuring and sometimes life threatening falls in older adults. All of the adult community centers that provided Tai chi chin to their residents saw a significant reduction in falls and an increase in physical independence.

Another study published in 2007 showed that practicing Tai chi chin boosted the immune systems of older adults.

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Having meaningful work matters to your mental health: here's how you get it


Cubicle_land A recent study showed that having a job you hate is one of the worst things you can do to your mental health – so bad that being unemployed is actually better for your psyche. 

Having work that you find meaningful, on the other hand, makes a great difference. 

How can we find work that is meaningful? Or perhaps another question would be:  how do we make our work more meaningful?

The answer to both of these questions is dependent a couple things and researchers have long been looking at what makes work meaningful.

Brent D. Rosso, University of Michigan, Kathryn H. Dekas from Google Inc. and Amy Wrzesniewski of Yale University reviewed literature on meaning in work and found seven mechanisms that make this happen.

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We are the first people in history to watch disaster footage on-demand. What impact does that have?


Earthquake aftermath We’re witnessing another devastating natural disaster. We’ve been through this at lot recently, New Zealand, Haiti, now Japan … one of the things they have in common, aside from human suffering, is our inability as bystanders to turn away. 

There are endless news stories about the devastation, loss and pain that millions are experiencing right now.  There are 20,800 YouTube videos of Japanese buildings falling down; a Google image search produced millions of images of the devastation including any and all news related to the event.

While people have always be aware of the dangers in the world, the hyper connectivity and broadcasting of disasters such as these can make us feel even more vulnerable. What is the impact of being a witness, even a distant witness, on our own psyche, on our desire to help?

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