February 4, 2005
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on the Campus
search for missing teen
jail inmate found hanging, did not survive
New Sleeping Aid
The FDA has approved Sepracor's Lunesta (eszopiclone), a non-benzodiazepine, for the treatment of insomnia and sleep maintenance. Other sleep aids have FDA approval for short term use only. The long term indication was based on two six-month studies that satisfied the FDA's criteria for safety and efficacy.
The company expects to have the pill on the market sometime in the first quarter of 2005
A University of Colorado study of 200 depression http://www.annfammed.org/cgi/content/full/3/1/15 outpatients from 12 primary care practices has found those who initially complained exclusively of physical symptoms “produced limited clinical benefit” and cost more to treat over two years than those who complained of psychological symptoms.
Worst Day of the Year
The good news is it’s over. The bad news is we’ll have another one next year.
MSNBC reports that a UK psychologist has designated January 24 as that country’s “most depressing day of the year.” Dr Cliff Arnall who specializes in seasonal disorders at the University of Cardiff bases his conclusion on a formula that includes weather, debt, monthly salary, time since Christmas, low motivational levels, and need to take action (such as a vacation in a warm climate).
“Following the initial thrill of New Year's celebrations and changing over a new leaf, reality starts to sink in,” Dr Arnall told MSNBC. “The realization coincides with the dark clouds rolling in and the obligation to pay off Christmas credit card bills.”.
A troubled life on the line ; Manic depressive ex-Raider Robbins hangs on after being shot during confrontation with police
USA Today; 2/3/2005; Jon Saraceno
MIAMI BEACH -- Barret Robbins may be lonely, but he is not alone in his hospital room. At his bedside lurks the two-headed monster of manic depression.
Heavily sedated, stricken with pneumonia and breathing with the
help of a ventilator, the massive former pro football player
struggles for every breath and, silently, his sanity.
This is a tragic story filled with turmoil, heartbreak -- and a family's hope for a loved one tormented by the invisible pain of mental illness. In 2003, two days before the most important game of his life, Robbins went on a drinking binge in Tijuana, Mexico, that left him in a psychiatric ward and under a suicide watch on Super Bowl Sunday.
Nineteen days ago, disturbed by a dissolving marriage and his wife's restraining order, the 6-3, 360-pound native Texan was found by police hiding in a women's restroom. In a bizarre confrontation with three officers, the burly 31-year-old was shot in the heart and in a lung. He faces three felony attempted murder charges, punishable by as much as life in prison. His attorney says an insanity defense is appropriate, if needed.
Manic depression is an incurable mood disorder that is treatable with medication -- prescriptions that friends and family say Robbins failed to take during his long nights of partying along a strip of bars and trendy clubs in South Beach.
Jimi Hendrix wailed mournfully about it. Experts suggest Van Gogh and Hemingway might have had it. And an estimated 2 1/2 million Americans, including Dick Cavett, Kitty Dukakis and Ted Turner, publicly have acknowledged they suffer from manic depression.
Symptoms of mania include extreme excitability, irritability -- even excessive shopping. Severe depression can be accompanied by sleepless nights, suicidal thoughts and, as Marisa Robbins, 33, discovered nearly a decade ago, bizarre and delusional behavior. She never will forget her silent horror after arriving to retrieve her broken boyfriend, a lovable bear of a man who became her husband and father of two girls.
In 1996, during his second year in the NFL, Robbins was sent home from Denver by the Raiders when he was found dazed and confused the day before a game. Mumbling incoherently, he followed a reporter to his room at the team hotel. He did not know what city he was in -- or his coach's name. Unfortunately, he had no wallet or money and his connecting flight put him in Salt Lake City, where he failed to pay for a meal and was arrested.
"When I got there, he had peas in his ears from his meal the night before. He was saving them for me," his wife says, so matter- of-factly that a listener in her California home asks her to repeat the startling description. "He recognized me for an instant and said, 'I knew you would come to save me.' The next moment he was talking to me like I was one of his college teachers -- 'How about that test today?' Then it was like I was his friend Jimmy (Newell): 'What are we going to do today, Jimbo?' "
After Marisa bailed him out, the pair drove to the airport for a flight home to Oakland. "Each time we'd get to a stoplight, he'd open the door and say, 'Thanks for the ride,' and try to get out," she recalls.
Robbins missed the Raiders' next game. The team told reporters his medical problem was "influenza syndrome." Of course, it was not.
The music of life searing through Robbins' chemically unbalanced mind was alternately melodious and discordant, a la Hendrix's famous ode to the infamous illness.
Manic depression is touching my soul
I know what I want but I just don't know
How to go about gettin' it
Feeling, sweet feeling
Drops from fingers, fingers
Manic depression is catchin' my soul . . .
Yes, everything's bigger in Texas -- especially the football beef. At Sharpstown High in Houston, Robbins was a whopper at 293 pounds. He was extremely athletic considering his hanging-slab-of- meat size. He could dunk a basketball and run 40 yards in 5.1 seconds.
"Once, I saw this boy try to steal home on him (as a catcher). 'Course, he almost killed the kid," says Bobby Plummer, the football coach at Sharpstown for 29 seasons. "A few innings later, the same kid tried it again. He ran full speed until he got about 10 feet from Barret and just stopped. Hell, he wasn't going to hit that wall again."
Robbins was popular with teammates, coaches and teachers and attended Fellowship of Christian Athletes meetings. He was a loving son to his mother, Kaye, who adored and spoiled him. As a young child, he repeatedly asked his parents if he could sleep with them. After they shooed him from their bedroom a couple of times, they finally would acquiesce and Robbins would gleefully exclaim, "Oh, tank you, mama! Tank you, mama!' "
As a senior in high school, Robbins assisted mentally and physically challenged children in phys-ed class. They called him "Big Bear."
He had one goal in life:
Playing in the NFL.
Alcohol, steroids and depression
He attended Texas Christian University, where he majored in physical education but didn't graduate. Robbins received no other scholarship offers, according to Plummer, a TCU graduate who telephoned his alma mater's recruiting coordinator and said, "I've got the best football player I've ever had," but one unnoticed on a so-so team.
It was about that time Plummer noticed something else: "I'm pretty sure he drank quite a bit in high school. But I tell you what, there was a bunch of them that did."
Young Barret sampled alcohol in his parents' home -- with consent.
"His (father) would give him a little drink of beer when he was little," says Zula Crosby, Robbins' maternal grandmother. Her late daughter, Kaye, drank and suffered depression. And Robbins' aunt, Ann Crosby, recently was diagnosed as bipolar. After a divorce from Dean "Rob" Robbins, Kaye stayed single.
Today, Robbins' half-brother, Scotty, 40, has stopped drinking. He would like his big brother to do the same because, as he says, "I think Barret's main issue is alcohol. All the men on our side of the family love to drink. The hardest thing for Barret is that he doesn't understand yet he just can't do it."
An estimated 60% of those with bipolar disorder abuse alcohol or drugs. Scotty, who has the same father as Barret, remembers drinking with his dad as a young teen.
"I don't think (my parents) understood the seriousness of it, even though there's alcoholism on my father's side. It wasn't like they were encouraging it; I just think they thought it was kind of funny."
In addition to drinking in college, Robbins began using at least one other potentially dangerous drug -- steroids. "He would tell me, 'Dad, I don't need that stuff,' " Rob says.
At TCU, Robbins bulked up his strapping physique by cycling steroids, his wife says. A turbo-boost to his aggressiveness was rewarded: He was named the Horned Frogs' Davey O'Brien Fightin'est Player.
"If you have a genetic vulnerability to bipolar illness, any drug abuse -- but particularly something like steroids -- not only brings it on earlier, it worsens its course and makes it (harder) to treat," says bipolar expert Kay Redfield Jamison, a professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University.
While at TCU, Robbins was hospitalized for depression in Fort Worth, his family says. Although details are sketchy, he was found wandering on the lot of an auto dealership, arrested, placed under observation and given antipsychotic drugs. The family convened with doctors at the hospital, along with TCU head coach Pat Sullivan. Now at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Sullivan did not return phone calls from USA TODAY.
"When (Barret) was at TCU, he was taking steroids, and it affected him," his grandmother says. "We were there and saw it. They had him in the hospital, and he wanted out. The coach was with us. They called Kaye in a room to talk with her. I remember Barret looking in the door and seeing her in there.
" 'Mama, I love you and I always will,' " he told her.
When she died in 1999, her youngest son couldn't bear the torment. He told his brother, " 'When Mom died, a big part of me went with her,' " Scotty recalls.
"I was with him at the hospital when she died. He squalled like a baby. It was bad," he says. "I think Barret could've maybe had a better sense of coping had he not lost her. That was a huge deal for him."
Woman so weary, the sweet cause in vain
You make love, you break love
It's all the same
When it's, when it's over, mama
Music, sweet music
I wish I could caress, caress, caress
Manic depression is a frustrating mess . . .
Barret met Marisa, then a hairdresser, during his rookie camp in 1995 at a cantina near her home in Calabasas, Calif. Like the Raiders, who selected him in the second round, she took an immediate liking to the big fella, who liked all music but especially the blues.
"He was charming and friendly, a happy, loving guy," she says. "He had friends everywhere. He was very open to people. That's one of the things I liked about him. And he was very respectful."
They married in 1997 and bought a home in Pleasanton, Calif. Robbins frolicked with their dogs, swam with the girls and played golf when his knees didn't ache.
His wife says he often played football in pain and took painkilling injections before games. He had total right knee reconstruction in 2001 and eventually asked for his release last summer because, as she says, "He failed his physical and had knowingly failed a couple of other tests, and he didn't know if there were going to be other things that would be coming out, too."
During his final season in 2003, he took a salary cut from $3.2 million to $1 million. Though he had chronic pain and walked with a limp, he planned to lose weight for a comeback attempt in 2005.
There were ups and downs in their relationship, but even after she knew her husband for years, Marisa says, "I never, ever thought, 'Boy, this dude ain't right.' But there would be times when he just couldn't get up and get out of bed. He would say, 'I just don't feel good, baby.' And there were other times when he never felt better."
Perhaps the Raiders should have suspected something was seriously amiss before he was drafted. Asked if he knew of Robbins' past, Bruce Allen, then a Raiders senior assistant, says, "Let me just say it this way: We're aware of everything. In this era, it's almost impossible to get away with running a stop sign."
Silver and black, turning blue
Robbins fit the silver-and-black blueprint, and the Raiders, who have gambled on players many times, made him the league's 49th overall draft choice.
"He fit the mold of what we were looking for -- a big, physical, very tough football player," Allen says.
Indeed. In 1998, Robbins was ejected from a game against Baltimore after kicking tough-guy Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis -- in the head. By then, he already had quite a reputation for boozing, too.
Citing legal reasons, Allen refuses to discuss the specifics of how the Raiders helped Robbins, who had frequent, unexplained absences in 2002. The next year, it was revealed he tested positive for the designer steroid THG. The news leak "crushed" him, Marisa says. He subsequently was fined three game checks by the NFL. When Allen heard the former Raider had been shot by police, he cringed.
"You watch the news every night and there's a bad story," Allen says. "This one had a face, and you knew the face. You knew the person."
Robbins' father thought he knew his son, too, but says, "He would tell you everything you wanted to hear, but when you're not with him, he gets in some sort of mood."
Marisa thought she knew her husband, too.
Sure, he liked to super-size his screwdrivers and loved his Miller Lite. And sometimes he chewed tobacco and lit up a cigarette - - or, more to his liking, he smoked pot. He spent nearly a month at the Betty Ford Clinic after his humiliation at the Super Bowl, although doctors wanted him to stay longer. Robbins refused but adamantly maintained he never would do anything again to embarrass himself.
He stopped drinking but resumed in March after he agreed to let his wife monitor his consumption. Soon there were tip-offs.
"He would talk a little faster. Some of his ideas were faster and he would even drive faster," she says of the creeping mania. "He'd start listening to his louder, hard-core rap music. As it progressed, I could actually see a difference in his body language. He sometimes got fidgety and would have these rapid movements with his hands. He started spending more, wanting to put $7,000 in a sound system and a TV in his Mercedes."
When she delicately broached the topic, her husband became upset. He would make appointments with his therapist and not show.
He began skipping his medication: Depakote, an anticonvulsant used for mood swings; Risperdal, an antipsychotic, and Wellbutrin, an antidepressant. He and Marisa began to argue more loudly. He would send her vulgar text messages on her cellphone.
His agent, Drew Pittman, and former Raiders teammates such as Steve Wisniewski, Robert Jenkins and pastor Napoleon Kaufman tried to help Robbins deal with life on a higher, more spiritual plane.
"One day, Wiz, me and Barret had a 'Come to Jesus' meeting," Pittman says. "Marisa has been through hell and back. But she doesn't blame Barret."
Nothing seized his attention -- until last summer. His wife moved out and took their girls, 4 and 6, from the Bay Area back to Southern California. She filed for divorce in November. After he was accused of striking a security guard and charged with drunk and disorderly conduct in December, she got a restraining order on the advice of her lawyer and Robbins' therapist.
He had begun sharing suicidal thoughts with his wife. And he was found wandering the parking lot of a psychiatric center. He badly missed his girls, buying them Christmas presents he would not be allowed to personally deliver.
"We were hoping it would urge him to see he needed to get treatment, that he needed to be sober," Marisa says. "He didn't deserve to have his girls grow up and see him that way. They love their daddy. But he just got angry with me."
Finally, Robbins agreed to make plans to go to a treatment center in Malibu, Calif. But before completing a three-day mental evaluation after his arrest in San Francisco, he walked out. Within days, he was gone, off to Florida on a 10-day trip that would forever change his life.
Well, I think I'll go turn myself off
And go on down
All the way down
Really ain't no use in me hangin' around
In your kinda scene . . .
Robbins soon found his slice of blurry, alcohol-hazed heaven: decadent South Beach.
His friend of more than 25 years, Jimmy Newell, was in Miami and his good bud decided to join him. Robbins talked about the two flying off to Jamaica, but instead they stayed at the Loews Hotel and barhopped for two nights. At the time, Robbins was frustrated because he didn't have the proper attire to be admitted into the hottest clubs.
Newell also recalls his friend being agitated one morning regarding his wife's restraining order. Off his medication, drinking heavily and without much sleep, Robbins found himself alone when his buddy flew back to Los Angeles.
"I don't feel responsible because everyone's their own person," says Newell, the best man in Robbins' wedding who has incurred the wrath of the family. "But I definitely wish I would've stayed -- things would've been different. I'm not sure exactly what was going on in Barret's head."
Going south, in a hurry
The week of the shooting, Robbins repeatedly called his wife and father, sounding quite unstable. Finally, his aunt Ann got on a plane with a cousin to try to coax him home. She told her nephew she was coming to Florida. He kept changing hotels to dodge her.
"Then I saw this bar on the corner and told my cousin, 'He's in there.' There were scantily clad women dancing on the bar. He was sitting right there. I pulled him outside and said, 'Are you coming home with me?' "
He said he didn't know. He looked different to her with his long, curly hair and glasses.
"I held his face in my hands and said, 'You look so good to me, but I'm worried about you.' But he wouldn't come. I asked him if he was on his meds and he said, 'Yes.' But I could tell by the look in his eyes that he was lying through his teeth. I made him kiss me and I got a hug. Then he walked back into the bar and I came home."
Two nights later, police responded to a burglary call in an office building housing a nightclub and discovered Robbins, minus his shoes, crouching on a toilet to avoid detection in a women's restroom stall. At first he cooperated, but then he became agitated when a uniformed officer told him to put his hands on the wall, police say.
They say three officers tussled with Robbins, who body-slammed at least two of them and tried to reach for their guns. Five shots were fired by Officer Michael Muley and two struck the former player. Police say Robbins began laughing and cursing after the attack and continued to struggle as he was being loaded into an ambulance.
The state attorney's office is investigating. Formal charges are pending. Robbins' attorney, Ed O'Donnell, has been unable to meet, much less speak, with his client, who is in stable condition.
Marisa flew to Florida, where she found her estranged husband looking "like he was on his deathbed," arms and hands tied down with a strap across his chest. Tubes ran from his nose and arms, and his head and legs were immobilized to prevent him from tearing off stuff.
On a wall near his brother's bed inside the trauma center at Jackson Memorial Hospital, Scotty has taped a photograph of the brothers and their father during happier days, times also shared by a devastated but strong woman.
"It's very sad and poetic to see him lying in his hospital that way, because that's exactly how his mother looked when she died," Marisa says, her eyes beginning to tear. "It breaks my heart to see him like that. I know he missed us; I know he was lonely. He didn't want to live without us. He would tell me, 'I'll get this straight, I'll be OK.'
"I want to remind everyone that Barret is not a bad man. He's not a potential murderer, he's not a burglar and he's not a vandal.
"He is a sick man."
(Copyright (c) 2005 USA Today)
Manic depression carries stigma but is treatable
USA Today; 2/3/2005; Jon Saraceno
VALENCIA, Calif. -- A century ago, those suffering from epilepsy were thought to be possessed by demons. In the 1950s, "cancer" was uttered in a whisper. Thirty years later, the mere mention of AIDS fueled fear -- the same ignorance that continues to plague those afflicted with manic depression.
"I've had people come up to me and say, 'Is it an
epidemic?' " Marisa Robbins says of her husband's illness.
"If you don't educate yourself, mental illness can be scary.
I hope and pray our story will make someone think, 'I wonder if
that's my brother or my sister or my mom.' "
She should know: She is bipolar and the author of An Unquiet Mind, a controversial personal account of the disease, which afflicts about 1% of the U.S. population, a significant number from a public health perspective. Depression accounts for another 17%.
"There's a gap between public understanding and medical reality," she says. "And people don't know what to do with those who seem unpredictable. They're frightened."
Among the symptoms: a change in sleeping patterns; irritability or excitability; grandiosity and paranoia; rapid speech and physical movement. The first episode of bipolar illness often is depression. It often takes years to detect and disproportionately strikes the young, for which suicide is the second-leading killer.
"The average length of time between the first episode of an illness and the correct diagnosis is about 10 years," Jamison says.
Self-medication through alcohol and/or drugs is common as a means of elevating or sedating moods, which can swing wildly. Heredity plays a major role and, Jamison says, "if there is a genetic predisposition on both sides of the family, generally, the onset (of illness) will be earlier. The average age of bipolar illness is 17 or 18. It's very important for parents to be aware and communicate to their children, 'Look, this runs in our family.' "
Need help or advice? Access the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance Web site at dbsalliance.org. If you know anyone with thoughts of death or suicide, call 800-273-TALK.
(Copyright (c) 2005 USA Today)
IT'S MORE THAN POLITICS - IT'S PERSONAL MURRAY IS ONE OF SEVERAL LEGISLATORS PROMOTING ISSUES CLOSE TO THEIR HEARTS.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer (Seattle, WA); 2/2/2005; Mcgann, Chris
OLYMPIA -- When Sen. Cal Anderson died of AIDS 10 years ago, Ed Murray came to Olympia and picked up the dream his predecessor had carried for years but never realized: outlawing discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Murray, a Seattle Democrat, also ascended the ranks to become the influential chairman of the House Transportation Committee, and along the way learned that roadblocks in the landscape of lawmaking are as common as traffic jams on King County freeways.
But as much as he came to accept them as part of the process, Murray has learned that disappointment comes in at least two varieties - the political, which is part of the game, and the personal, which cuts much deeper.
Freshman legislators are often advised not to take on issues that have the strongest pull on their emotions, to spare them the inevitable frustration, pain and disillusionment that comes with them. Or, on a more prosaic level, to spare them the experience of a wily colleague withholding support while calculating how to use the pet issue for political advantage.
Despite the potential pitfalls, though, that same pull often entices legislators to take up an emotionally important bill, anyway. And sometimes mixing the personal with the political can propel legislation that might otherwise languish.
This year, in a Legislature starting out so languorously that a special session seems almost inevitable, some of the first bills moving are those that pack that extra emotional wallop for their sponsors.
In Murray's case, it hasn't always been easy to keep fighting after years of failure.
It's one thing to see a bill about transportation taxes derailed in the Senate and quite another to debate with lawmakers who don't believe homosexuals should have the same protections as everyone else, said Murray, one of a few openly gay legislators.
"With transportation, disappointment lasts until dinner. With civil rights and discrimination, the disappointment is profound," he said. "Each year, I watch gays and lesbians around the state get demoralized. After 10 years of that, it gets more and more difficult."
Murray has sponsored anti-discrimination legislation - the current version is House Bill 1515 - every year since his 1995 appointment.
"When this bill has died in the past, it's been very difficult for me to rebound and come back in and be a legislator," he said. "When I would come home from those debates, I was really hurt."
As painful and ill-advised as it might be for a lawmaker to tackle issues that have the potential to unhinge them emotionally, sometimes it helps.
This year, it appears deep convictions were the catalyst for two bills among the first to rise above the statehouse flood of promises, proclamations and proposals and advance out of the House or Senate.
In what will likely be his last session, Sen. Bob Oke, R-Port Orchard, may finally see just such an issue resolved in the form of a bill to ban passing out free samples of cigarettes and chewing tobacco at concerts and other events.
"I was told early on in my first year to never get too close to a bill, and I allowed myself to get too close to this one," Oke said. "This one just got out of the bag."
Oke, who suffers from an incurable form of bone-marrow cancer, said he would consider it his crowning achievement.
The devastating effect smoking can have on youths, even from their first experiences with it, made him take the issue to heart, Oke said.
Though it has passed out of the Senate before, the legislation gained added momentum this year because of Oke's difficult battle with terminal cancer, he said.
Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, has assured him that she will do everything in her power to make sure the bill passes.
"I'm in a wheelchair now and fighting multiple myeloma, and if that will help, if that's what it takes to get this bill through, praise the Lord," Oke said.
In the House, at least one prominent Democrat's personal attachment to an issue - combined with the advantage of his party's control of the Legislature - may be a key element to passing a law that would require insurance companies to cover mental illness at the same level as physical ailments.
The mental-health parity proposal has passed out the House several times before only to stall in the Senate. But this year, in a fervent address on the first day of the session, House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, made it one of his chamber's top agenda items.
"It's simply the right thing to do," said Chopp, who has a close family member being treated for bipolar disorder.
Chopp said he's long believed that insurance companies should cover mental illness, but last year when he saw firsthand the dramatic changes that treatment can make for those afflicted as well as their families, he found himself invested at a new level.
"This was the first Christmas in many years the whole family could celebrate together," Chopp said. "It was like night and day."
Chopp said he would have pushed the bill anyway, but the fact that his relative got needed help at the same time he thinks he can pass legislation is a great convergence.
Sid Snyder, who retired from the Senate in 2002 after working in various capacities in Olympia for 50 years, said that although it may be harder on lawmakers to debate the issues closest to them, he never advised against it.
"It's pretty difficult to tell people not to get emotional," Snyder said.
"They usually have the attention of all the members of the Senate," Snyder said. "I would say it is extremely beneficial because someone is telling a story of how they feel."
Snyder said that in his long career in Olympia he couldn't recall a situation in which someone's legislation was held hostage based on an emotional attachment to an issue.
Although lawmakers are sometimes reluctant to take up the issues closest to their hearts, the successes sometimes reverberate far beyond their expectations.
Such was the case with Sen. Paull Shin, a Korean American who reluctantly sponsored a bill on behalf of the Asian American community that changed terminology in public documents from Oriental to Asian.
"I didn't want to sponsor the bill because I felt it would be better coming from a white person than me because it may be construed as a personal reflection," Shin said.
Shin, an Edmonds Democrat, said it was hurtful to debate with other lawmakers who did not understand how the word Oriental could be degrading to Asian Americans.
But painful as it was, his work vaulted the issue onto the national agenda and beyond.
The New York Times followed the story, and Shin said people including Martin Luther King III called from all over the world to thank him.
Shin said that he feels a great sense of satisfaction with the signing of any bill he helps to pass, but in this case that feeling was even more special.
"Not only myself, but hundreds of thousands of people across the nation were supporting this legislation," Shin said. "I felt I was finally able to do something for my Asian American community. That made me very happy and excited."
And as other bills that have the emotional support of legislators are succeeding, it appears this may be the year for Murray's anti-discrimination dream, too. With support in both the House and Senate, his bill appears to be headed for the governor's desk, and Gov. Christine Gregoire says she'd love to sign it.
P-I reporter Chris McGann can be reached at 360-943-3990 or firstname.lastname@example.org
COPYRIGHT 2005 Seattle Post-Intelligencer. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of the Dialog Corporation by Gale Group.