Songs of discovery

The first ever Mental Health Con yielded some outstanding dreams and ideas, which we will present in upcoming blogs.

Mental Health Con was the local community project that sprang from Maximalista #MentalHealthPlay. Usually the community project comes after the show — audience, cast and crew dive in to an issue the show’s characters grapple with onstage.

It hasn’t yet been the right time to present #MentalHealthPlay in Estherville or Iowa. There are delicate and problematic issues. That doesn’t mean it will never happen.

It seemed like the right time to share the song from #MentalHealthPlay that went up over Labor Day weekend 2018 at Hudson Guild Theatre in Chelsea, NYC, as part of NY Summerfest. Many thanks to the very talented Victor Vauban Junior for the video. Lyrics mine. Composer: Cason Day. Performed by Megan Grace Martinez and Sarah Victoria.

Mental Health Con features intro to ketamine infusion

Fierce Good Causes founded and launched Mental Health Con Sept. 27-29 in Estherville, Iowa. Fierce Good Causes was thrilled to have as a major sponsor Midwest Ketafusion in Iowa City, Iowa. A practitioner from the ketamine infusion clinic joined the conference by speakerphone Saturday afternoon. 

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In any given year, some 16 million Americans experience major depression. Because it tends to manifest in the prime of life of an individual, the effects can be devastating, resulting in destroyed careers and relationships and finances. Not surprisingly, depression is the leading cause of disability, worldwide.

In addition – directly and indirectly –  depression may be complicit in many forms of physical illnesses and conditions, including heart disease, addictions, and obesity and diabetes. Tragically, too many of those suffering from depression fall victim to suicide.

The main medical treatment for major depression is antidepressant medication. These medications have been a godsend to many, but do not work for everyone. Typically, there are side effects to contend with, and it takes weeks for the therapeutic action to kick in. Relapses are common.

Several years ago, the NIMH (National Institutes of Mental Health) announced news of promising results for treating depression with a different type of drug, called ketamine. Ketamine has been in clinical use since the 1960s as a battlefield and operating room anesthetic. Traditionally, it has been administered intravenously. A newer form is now available as a nasal spray.

As opposed to antidepressants, which work on the serotonin and related systems in the brain, ketamine is believed to act on the glutamate system. Glutamate is a neurotransmitter involved in learning and memory and mood.

Recently, a number of ketamine-infusion clinics have appeared in the US, offering treatment for treatment-resistant depression. This includes Midwest Ketafusion, which has been operating in the Iowa City, Iowa area for approximately the last year and a half. Recently, at Mental Health Con held in Estherville on September 27-29, Charlie Hong, one of the ARNP and nurse anesthetist partners of Midwest Ketafusion, talked to conference organizers and attendees via speaker phone. In a 30-minute conversation, he related to his audience what they can expect from ketamine-infusion treatment, and what the process involves.

Hong said the clinic has patients from around the Midwest and across the U.S. as the use of ketamine infusion for mental illnesses and neurological disorders has not yet proliferated in every region of the United States.

Hong said he became interested in ketamine infusion after witnessing the debilitating effects and eventual suicide of a friend with bipolar disorder.

Hong stressed that ketamine-infusion treatment is used for treatment-resistant depression. This typically involves patients failing to respond to at least two different antidepressant medications. According to Hong, three in four of these difficult-to-treat patients respond to ketamine infusion, typically in the first course of treatment.

Midwest Ketafusion also offers the 40-minute infusions for patients with anxiety, bipolar disorder, PTSD and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

The ketamine dose is much lower than that used for surgical anesthesia. At these doses, according to Hong, side effects are not common. For mood disorders and other mental illness, the infusion takes about 40 minutes. For chronic pain stemming from neurological disorders such as migraines and chronic fatigue syndrome, the infusions take up to four hours.

Three to six infusions spaced out over several days comprise the first course of treatment. Prior to treatment, patients are screened for depression, then monitored throughout their treatments. Several follow-up treatments are spaced out over the weeks and months.

It is mandatory that patients have someone to drive them home from the clinic. Because people may have to travel long distances for a course of treatment spanning more than one day (typically over a long weekend), staying at a local hotel is advisable.

Hong advises that patients considering ketamine-infusion treatment first consult their medical doctor or psychiatrist, and also consent to release their medical records to the clinic.

There is another type of ketamine treatment involving a nasal spray. Hong advises that since ketamine infusion involves the drug going directly into the blood, dosing is far more precise.

Ketamine-infusion treatment is not covered by medical insurance. Hong said, “Treating the patient is our primary concern. Let’s get you treated and we can worry about the money later.” Hong and his business partner Michael McGowan work in local operating rooms and run the clinic on their days off.

Midwest Ketafusion can be contacted at 319-210-5096. For more information, see the clinic’s website at Midwest Ketafusion

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On a cautionary note, which we would present as standard for any new form of treatment, ketamine infusion for depression and other mental illness is relatively new. More studies need to be made to establish an airtight case for the treatment and to fine-tune treatment protocols. Having said that, there is a huge unmet need for effective treatments for depression. For a good many patients, antidepressants simply do not do the job. In this regard – whether or not you decide ketamine infusion is right for you, it is worthy of your consideration.