mental health

How to Overcome January Blues in 5 Easy Steps

Can January March? No, but April May!  OK, well, I thought it was funny.  Nothing beats the January blues like bad puns, right? Let’s face it. For most people, January sucks. The end of the year is full of excitement. There are…

Putting Myself First

“Take the time you need,” “This too shall pass,” and “You can’t pour from an empty cup” are just a few idioms I have used to encourage others. Strong shoulders carry heavy loads. My shoulders bear the weight of myself and countless others. The DNA of an empath is…

Connecting Through MS on World MS Day 2020

May 30 was World MS Day 2020, an annual initiative for the MS community worldwide to unite. The Multiple Sclerosis International Federation created this global campaign to educate, raise awareness, and offer hope. Its free, online resources provide an abundance of helpful information. Fittingly, the theme for World MS…

Simple Signs with Messages of Hope Resonate with Me

I’m not a superstitious person always on the lookout for signs and omens. I don’t read the wrappers on Dove chocolates or seek life advice from the paper slips inside fortune cookies. I consult my horoscope but merely for the entertainment value. However, the last few months have been rough,…

Staying Afloat in the Middle of the Storm

The storms keep coming. Whenever I think I will land ashore, a hurricane sends me back into the eye of the storm. I want to write; however, I fall short of time and, ultimately, the words to explicate all I am going through. Most writers have interval writer’s block. Emotional…

Study Will Explore Benefits of Tai Chi, Meditation on MS Patients’ Physical Balance

A pilot study has been launched to assess the immediate and enduring benefits of tai chi and mindfulness meditation on the physical balance and mental wellness of people with multiple sclerosis (MS). This community-based study — currently enrolling participants — is being conducted by the Motor Control Lab directed by Richard van Emmerik, PhD, professor of kinesiology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The project was awarded a $54,972 one-year grant from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. While many MS symptoms vary from patient to patient, depending on the extent and location of the damage in the brain and spinal cord, difficulty in maintaining physical balance is a generalized complaint. Several MS symptoms can have an effect on balance, including difficulties with coordination, tremor and muscle weakness, stiffness, or dizziness and vertigo. "Mind-body interventions are beneficial as they train dynamic balance, such as transitioning between postures, turning, reaching, etc., in a manner similar to movements in daily life," Julianna Averill, a doctoral student at van Emmerik’s lab, said in a press release. Postural control and balance confidence is crucial to prevent patients' falls and reduce their fear of falling. Finding strategies that help patients cope and overcome this limitation is crucial, Averill noted. Contrary to other studies, which focus on mental health benefits, this project will look mostly at the effects of mindfulness practice on physical balance. Tai chi also will be evaluated for its potential to improve patients’ balance, both while they are standing and as they move. Participants will be randomly assigned to either eight weeks of free tai chi at YMAA Western Mass Tai Chi or mindfulness meditation classes at Downtown Mindfulness, in Hampshire County, Massachusetts. Tai chi is a Chinese martial art that involves body stretching and slow, focused, flowing postures that keep the body in motion. Mindfulness meditation is based on mindfulness practices, including training on body scan meditation, and loving kindness meditation. Participants will attend classes for 2.5 hours per week, where they will receive training to complete an additional 2.5 hours at home each week. At home, participants are asked to listen to meditation podcasts, or watch tai chi videos via a website that also tracks their activity. “The participants will be trained, and they will be able to practice on their own,” Averill said. Patients' postural sway will be recorded by wearable sensors while performing distinct movements at the study start, at the end of all classes, and two weeks later. On the same visits, participants will be surveyed to assess the frequency of falls, balance confidence, level of fatigue, and ability to cope and adapt. “We’re taking a more holistic look, considering the whole person and overall quality of life,” Averill said. The team plans to enroll 30 participants with mild-to-moderate MS symptoms, aged 21 to 70, and who are able to stand and move without assistance for 15 minutes. For more information about the study and how to participate, contact Averill at [email protected].

The Importance of a Positive Support Network

In July 2017, I participated in a Facebook chat for MS News Today entitled “The Importance of Support And Positive Influences.” The chat was created to prompt a discussion on the necessity of support and resources for a person living with MS or other chronic illnesses. And now…

MS and Mental Illness: The World Needs You

Spring has sprung! As I look around, Mother Earth is in bloom. Trees are sprouting new leaves, plants are growing, and the grass is green once again. I love spring and all that it represents — hopes for new birth and rebirth. For those who are unaware, May is Mental…

Let Go and Live

Six weeks ago, Abby, my golden retriever, had a seizure. I was sitting behind her when she began to rock; I have never moved so fast. I could only see the bloodshot whites of her eyes as she whimpered lightly and I began to wail. I intuitively hugged her,…

Novartis, Pear Collaborating on Digital Therapeutics to Treat MS, Schizophrenia

Novartis and Pear Therapeutics are joining forces to develop novel prescription digital therapeutics to treat patients with schizophrenia and multiple sclerosis (MS). Digital therapeutics are software applications designed to treat diseases and improve clinical outcomes for patients. Combining Novartis’ expertise in biomedical research and clinical development with Pear’s…

The Stigma Surrounding Depression

Lots of columns and articles look at issues surrounding the topics of depression and mental health-related disorders. I have referenced them in various columns. What saddens me is the stigma surrounding depression that prevails in our society. There are many who struggle with depression and other forms of…

Probiotics Consumption May Improve Certain Disease Parameters in MS Patients, Study Suggests

Probiotics may improve the health of people with multiple sclerosis (MS) by reducing disability and improving inflammatory and metabolic parameters, an Iranian study shows. Live microorganisms linked to health benefits, known as probiotics, have long been known to help chronic disease patients. In a previous study of people with major depressive disorder, probiotics treatment for eight weeks improved patients’ depression and metabolic parameters. More recently, authors investigated the impact of probiotics on a group of MS patients, looking not only at mental health and metabolic indicators, but also disability scores. Researchers at Tehran's Shahid Beheshti Hospital recruited 60 MS patients, divided them in half, and assigned 30 to take a probiotic capsule and 30 a placebo once a day for 12 weeks. The probiotic contained the healthy bacteria Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, Bifidobacterium bifidum and Lactobacillus fermentum. Researchers measured patients’ health parameters and disability scores at baseline and after treatment. The results showed that probiotic intake after 12 weeks improved MS patients' disability scores (assessed by the expanded disability status scale, EDSS) when compared to placebo controls. Although this improvement was statistically significant, it was not clinically significant — which is defined as a change of 1.0 point or more at EDSS levels less than 5.5, or 0.5 point or more at EDSS levels greater than 5.5). Moreover, benefits were also detected in several mental health parameters – Beck Depression Inventory, general health questionnaire-28 (GHQ-28), depression anxiety and stress scale. Consuming probiotic capsules also significantly decreased insulin levels and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol in circulation, researchers also found. It also lowered certain markers of inflammation and oxidative stress, such as serum high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) and malondialdehyde (MDA).