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Friday, March 21, 2014

I Ask, Better I Demand that Services Shift to Our Serious Mental Health GLBT Community

In reading  "Can San Francisco become the First AIDS-Free City," (source: The Advocate, March 4th, 2014)
this Mental Health and HIV/AIDS Advocate had one thought after reading.  What ever city claims the fame of being an AIDS free city first mat hat is off to them and all others that follow.

With, "18 million people have a serious mental illness. A reasonable estimate suggests that about 720,000 are LGBT,"  I ask, better I demand that services shift to that of our serious mental health GLBT Community. (Source: Reducing Stigma and Discrimination among People who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender, March 12, 2008 SAMHSA).

"Some researchers state that as much as 40% to 60% of the HIV-positive population will suffer from depression at some point in their lives.  Using a more rigid set of criteria the most, Glenn J. Treisman, M.D., Ph.D., who is the director of AIDS Psychiatry Service at John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, estimates that at any given time about 1 in 5 HIV'ers is suffering from major depression and requires psychiatric treatment.
(Source: More Than Just Blue, BY Benjamin Ryan September 22, 2010)

In New York City's  Callen-Lorde sixth floor has a wait list for their HIV/AIDS clients with chronic mental health diagnoses, dual-diagnosed a new facility is set to open this Spring.  Gay Men's Health Crisis is also applying for full mental health counseling license, "It means less support for mental health and substance abuse to deal with the very issues that were part of that reason that they are living with HIV and AIDS. - (Source:  Where Has All the HIV Funding Gone?, Janet Weinberg Chief Operating Officer, Gay Men’s Health Crisis, August 9, 2013)

I"m late in the game, dual diagnosing HIV+ and Bipolar in 1996, I'm thankful for ACT UP what they did for this country, and for Dan Pallotta and the AIDS rides and walks since.  When is the GLBT community going to be writing checks for their brother and sisters who are diagnosed with a chronic mental health diagnoses, one agency, first in it's country of which I'm a member is the Rainbow Heights Club located in Brooklyn, when I moved to New York City in 2001 dual diagnosed with HIV there was nothing anywhere in the city, let alone in the United States.

When we have our first AIDS free city again I demand that services shift to those of us dual diagnosed, living longer do to medications and those of us who are not diagnosed HIV+ as with new HIV prevention, one that includes mental health screenings and integrated health care between patient, providers and mental health clinicians and Therapist, then yes I can see a city that is AIDS free.

If you have a substance abuse problem, are having periods of uncontrollable sex, unsafe sex do two things, 1. have an HIV/AIDS test and while there ask for a screening nurse and  2, ask for a mental health screening.


For a comprehensive list of services around the country visit my website, the link at the top of my blog.

Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration

Mental Health (dot) Gov,

AIDS (dot) Gov.

Depression Bipolar Support Alliance

National Alliance on Mental Illness GLBT Page

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Bipolar Disorder and Mania, What is it, Take the Quiz

A few months back I wrote about not wanting to give up my gift, I talk about my not treating my mania, that I learn to manage it using an array of tools.   I week prior read an article titled, "Counseling The Highly Creative Population," (source: Counseling Today. Sept 1, 2013 by Olga Gonithellis).  

I showed this to my Therapist as I chose to not treat my mania with medication, but with other tools, this is me, not everyone has this ability, so talk with your provider first.

For those new here, not sure what mania and or a manic episode,  for the answer I'm providing this l  link, please read it to help educate yourself, not sure if this applies to you, take the mania quiz.

Each of us treat the many symptoms of bipolar disorder with many ways, I use and advise medication all the symptoms I can manage  except mania as I said above. It's different for each of us, so take the quiz above, talk with a medical provider and make some decisions together


Bipolar Mania Quiz

The Bipolar Advantage

Saturday, March 15, 2014

LGBT Population: A Dialogue on Advancing Opportunities for Recovery from Addictions and Mental Health Problems

Public Domain Notice:
All material appearing in this document is in the public domain and may be reproduced or copied without permission from SAMHSA,  Citation of the source is appreciated.  However, this publication may not be produced or distributed for a fee without specific written authorization of the Office of Communications, SAMHSA, HHS

Dialogue Themes and Findings

I'm a person living with bipolar disorder.  I've been in recovery from addictions to drugs, alcohol, cigarettes for more then 10 years now, and I tested HIV positive in 1988.  I'm a suicide attempt survivor, trauma survivor, and a hate crime survivor with scars.
I consider myself a MESSS:  I have Medical, Emotional, Social, Spiritual and Sexual needs, although the last S is silent.

Dear readers, in 2011 I was one of twenty participant that met in Washington DC to participate in "LGBT Populations:  A Dialogue on Advancing Opportunities for recovery from Addictions and Mental Health Problems,  below is just a sampling of the 64 page booklet.    
                                        To obtain a copy visit the SAMHSA Bookstore

In there Own Words
from the participants who attended A Dialogue on Advancing Opportunities

Special thanks to my friend and mentor Mark A. Davis one of three Co-chairs to make this happen.
Everything you want to know about Mark A. Davis

Many dialogue participants recalled the pain of family conflict and rejection ...

I spent so much of my life in trauma, in dysfunctional families.  So much of my life I spent being 
 black, being female, being two spirited.  In some places it was not even okay to be seen and not heard.

I went into foster care around age 17 because my father and I were having a lot of trouble, especially     with him knowing I was gay.  I didn't want to be home, and he gave me up to the state.  I was homeless after I got out of foster care until this year....

And others related stories of unconditional parental acceptance.

I first came out to my parents, and I was blessed that they were supportive of me.

 I grew up in a traditional home.  My father thought I would go to college and meet a husband.  I did not.      I came out of high school and met my wife.  But I was accepted and loved, as was my partner.

Many LGBT people experience the trauma and discrimination that arise-with long lasting effects from negative stereotypes.

Experiencing trauma is something that we probably all have in common.  When you combine that with issues like race, ethnicity, and poverty, the trauma really gets complicated.

I was convinced that all gay people were destined to have HIV, and I also believed that every gay person in America was addicted to drugs and was an alcoholic.  So I became most of those things.

Five years ago I was reincarnated, reborn;  I had the operation done in Thailand.  I raised my youngest daughter myself since she was 2 years old--- she's 26 now, I wasn't out, and counselors told me that if I came out as a trans person, and state officials learned about it, they would take my daughter away.

Some dialogue participants observed that the short-hand "LGBT" terminology neglects the breathe of sexual orientation and gender identity among members of these communities.

Many bisexuals are in heterosexual relationships, and many people of transgender experience identity as heterosexual.  This is an important caveat in addressing treatment issues and recovery.

In LGBT, the T is only loosely connected to the lesbian/gay/bisexual community.  Transgender is a gender
issue, and a lot of trans people don't want to be connected with the LGB because that's considered more a sexual orientation issue.

In recovery participants have found their lives transformed...

Integrating myself with my ethnic identity, with my sexual orientation, with my spirituality has been the cornerstone of my work work.  Being able to do that has become a strength in many ways for me, including professionally.

 LGBT people aren't just particularly vulnerable people who have special needs.  They also have tremendous contributions to make if they're treated like everybody else.

My partner's and my lives are built on and about recovery and what that means, both in our in our personal lives and also in the contributions we make through our jobs and to the world in general

Following an internship in an LGBT center, I knew I wanted to dedicate my life to working with adults in the experience of coming out.

And many LGBT persons begun to enjoy the fruits of their advocacy and progress in achieving equal rights.

I work at the National Council on Alcoholism as a volunteer, and that began a life's career.  I've been in a number of these settings, and each time I've had the experience of finally being with my "family" and recognizing how fortunate I am to have a family of mentors and role models.

I have bipolar disorder. I'm disabled, but I work part time.  I am sober from crystal meth. I'm HIV positive.  My website is about learning, and I cycle in race events around the country to raise awareness.  I've had stories about me in three publications.  The best medicine is when I get an email from a stranger saying. "I read your article, and it's nice to know that I'm not alone."

Thursday, March 6, 2014

It used to be that no individual whispered the Words HIV and Mental Health

It used to be that no individual whispered the words HIV/AIDS and mental health ever.  It's a stigma on top of another stigma, a compound stigma.  Imagine being a gay man, a gay man with HIV and a gay man suffering from depression or worse a serious mental illness like bipolar disorder.

When I came across this article, the title pulled me in as now it's the fourth time an individual, not a statistic in a study that is publicly mentioning mental health and HIV/AIDS.  The article "The HIV Mental Health Generation Gap by Ben Ryan" is about who's worse off, younger or the older living with the virus.  To be more specific it's about stress, isolation,  depression, aging, stigma, mental health and HIV.  It's a good read citing some new studies, but for me, if I had to answer which generation is worse off, I'd have to say that both the younger and the older individuals who are dual diagnosed HIV and with a serious mental illness, such as bipolar disorder equally are suffering, that both generations have it very hard.

Let me share with you;  "Research studies have shown that there is considerable overlap between HIV infection and several major mental disorders such as major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder. It has been estimated that the prevalence of HIV among individuals with a serious mental illness (SMI) ranges from 1 percent to 24 percent (De Hert et al., 2011), much higher than the rates found among HIV-uninfected persons. Frequently, these individuals are also diagnosed with a substance use disorder (Parry, Blank, & Pithey, 2007), which can make treatment and management of HIV and mental health problems even more challenging." (source: HIV and psychiatric comorbidities: What do we know and what can we do?")

Reading that, living that, here are some examples as to why I feel both who are diagnosed with a serious mental illness (SMI)  and HIV have it harder.

Adherence is very hard if you suffer bipolar disorder as you tend to forget and or get caught up in what you are doing, time fly's by.  This is when you are are in the manic cycle.  Forget one cocktail, imagine taking two, one for your HIV and the other for your bipolar disorder, anxiety, insomnia, depression.  Taking 13 pills a day is no easy task, with food, twice a day, 12 hours a part--when you are manic adherence is something both young and old stress about.

Social Security Disability Insurance, (personal finances)  bipolar disorder and AIDS are the only two in this topic that qualify you when filing for (SSDI).  If you are HIV and are depressed and not on (SSDI) you are working,  pending if you are a college graduate, have a good career, a partner, possible are married, you have the means and the support network and insurance through your company and if not then through the affordable care act care act which is now available.

Take away the job, the partner, the money, the apartment and you are living in stress, fear, anxiety and isolation.   Medicare co-pays, prescription coverage, public housing that takes 1/3 of these earnings,  your monthly check looks like this, using the Federal Poverty Guidelines, for one person that's $11,760 divided by 12 = $980 per month, subtract $326 and you are living on $654 per month, $163.50 per week, this is life on poverty.  If that doesn't stress you out  and limit your spending so you can only eat in, constantly decline invites to eat out and see a movie, isolation  again isn't easily achieved.  If this is example is you, you qualify for other programs like Food Stamps, Medicaid, ADAP if you aren't on a wait list, those help you stretch your budget.

I invite you to read of my older posts.  Social inclusion is achievable, if you are on Medicare, are on both cocktails, are in therapy, able to work part-time or volunteer, you will see a change for the good on your road to over all wellness and recovery.  It's not easy, mine has been bumpy, but I'm doing better as many of the stressors are under control., again sift through my older posts.

Here's one post I'd like to highlight titled: "Extreme Isolation Due to Chronic Isolation and Limited Income" please look at some of the resources at the end.

I usually list helpful links, RESOURCES at the end of each blog:  I'd like to share the following in lieu of that format.

Below is my opinion on what prevention against HIV/AIDS should be today, the resources are now available, many GLBT clinics and AIDS service organization are becoming fully licensed to treat those who are living with HIV/AIDS and also a chronic mental illness

If you have a substance abuse problem, seek help.  50% of those diagnosed with Bipolar disorder have greater risks of struggling with addiction.  read my Op-Ed  Wearing Red and Green

If you aren't dual diagnosed, but are HIV+, talk to your provider, let him/her  know if you are experiencing depression, loss of appetite, anxiety, lack of or increased sleep, and together talk about a mental health screening. 

Lastly if you are a man having sex with men, aren't diagnosed either HIV or experiencing any of the symptom's above, get tested, see the results, if negative stay negative by practicing safe sex. If you find yourself having periods of lots of sex, many partners, using substances and are experiencing some or all of the above underlined, then when getting tested for HIV ask if there's a screening Nurse available and together decide if a mental health screening is something you should consider. You were wise enough to be tested for HIV, continue making wise decisions.

My Opinion
I can't say this happened to you, this is my journey, my story

Mental health screenings and condoms are what's needed in my opinion when we talk about HIV prevention today.  Had I read my blog post between 1978 - 1996 and had a mental health screening, I may have been diagnosed Bipolar and or Bipolar and substance problem, which are treatable and may have not contracted the human immunodeficiency virus.

I became a consumer advocate for both mental health and HIV since 2004, would I have preferred not to be doing this yes, but life goes on and I enjoy the work I do today, I went on to grow as a person as have others and will you.

You can transmit HIV, you can't transmit mental illness.  HIV you need to disclose if you are having unsafe sex, mental illness no one needs to know.  If you decide to talk openly about both thank you as you are helping combat compound stigma and are now
deputized a mental health and HIV+ consumer activist.
Be safe, have fun and stay active.

If interested in having me speak at an event please visit my homepage and go to my contact page. Thank You.