By: Greg Amos, Editor
Tumbler Ridge students learned a bit about psychosis at Tumbler Ridge Secondary School (TRSS) yesterday afternoon – a message delivered with more witty humour and live music than scare factor.
Singer, keyboardist and accordion player Barbara Adler and her band, Proud Animal, were in town as part of the Reach Out psychosis intervention tour that targets teens and young adults.
The message was delivered in Adler’s own laidback and irreverent style: psychosis is a medical condition of the brain requiring medical treatment, and is nothing to be fearful of.
“There’s no need to think any less of anybody who’s going through this,” she explained to the students sitting in the bleachers. “Psychosis is treatable; if you catch it early on, you can go on and have a totally normal life.”
The band broke into their first song before even getting into the psychosis information, and found room for a couple more songs from their new EP during the assembly, including a performance of their song “Honey Badger”.
Psychosis affects the brain and causes a person to lose touch with reality, Adler later
explained. It affects three per cent of the population at some point in their lives, with the first episode usually occurring between the ages of 16 and 24.
To illustrate that point, Adler asked the students to raise their hand if they know of someone with Type One diabetes. After all the arms went up, she pointed out that psychosis is six times more common than that.
The band’s guitarist, Mike, himself had a psychotic episode at one point, and explained to the students that he didn’t even realize it at the time – it took another band member to point out his irrational behaviour and get him to seek help, he said.
Psychosis is caused by a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental stressors, Adler explained. Marijuana or crystal meth can act as triggers, as can extreme stress, hormonal changes, illness, and brain injury. Each psychotic episode actually causes physical damage to the brain, she added.
If someone goes through a psychotic episode, they’re usually treated by a doctor, hospital, or early psychosis program, and are often given medication to treat the symptoms. Lifestyle changes that can prevent another psychotic episode include therapy, exercise, getting enough sleep, staying healthy, and brain stimulating hobbies such as playing music or taking part in drama.
“There’s things anybody can do to make for better brain health,” she said. Sports are great, she added, because there’s not only the endorphin rush associated with play, but a network of teammates who watch out for you.
The symptoms of psychosis include auditory, visual, and tactile hallucinations – a point she demonstrated by having a student describe his day so far while five other students acted as hallucinations surrounding him. Delusions of grandeur are also a common sign; those experiencing psychosis might believe they are a special person put on Earth for some greater purpose.
The Reach Out psychosis tour will continue through the Peace Region after having stopped in Chetwynd on Monday night (April 30). The band will later tour through northwestern B.C.
Adler is no stranger to Tumbler Ridge, having performed a spoken word and accordion set at the Tumbler Ridge library in 2010 to promote her poetry collection, “Squeezebox and Hound.”. She also tours B.C. with her other band, Fang.
To learn more about psychosis and how it can affect teens, go to www.reachoutpsychosis.com .