7 Things Nurses Deal with that Make Others Freak Out.

By: Lee Nelson

Being a nurse involves seeing, hearing, smelling, touching and dealing with some of life’s not-so-pleasant things. Nurses face it all from the grossest to the most stunning situations that would make the normal person squirm or run. They build up an immunity to it, but it’s still something that can make them very wary. Yet, they never stop a beat of helping the patients that they have been trained to see through it all.

“We see it all,” says Barb Gallogly. She is senior lecturer and coordinator for Post Baccalaureate Nursing Program at Henry Predolin School of Nursing at Edgewood College, Madison, Wis.

“We are the eyes of the physician and the ears of the respiratory therapist. We are in a position of privilege to be with the patients on a minute-to-minute basis. People trust us, and people open up to us,” she says.

And those patients trust them not to run away when things go from bad to worse or when they need them the most.

Things That Nurses Face That Make Them Unique, Strong And Oftentimes – Saints


It’s not pretty. “But sometimes some of us still gag at vomit and other things that come out of bodies,” says Kristin Gundt, chief nursing officer at Community Hospital in Grand Junction, Colo. “It all depends on how much you are exposed to it, but that doesn’t mean you have to like it. We all have triggers that makes our own bodies react to it.”

Gallogly agrees that there are still things that make her gag. “But you have to rise above it, and work with it, and not to let your own personal feelings or reactions get in the way of good patient care,” she says. “A nurse must remain respectful of the patient and be calm when all hell breaks loose.” (Is your patient difficult beyond their physical condition?


In Gallogly’s office hangs a lithograph with a person who has germs all around and the words, “Please Wash Your Hands” stamped on it.

“I’m a germaphobe. As a new nursing grad, we didn’t wear gloves or masks back then. We never thought anything about it,” she says. “But now, there is anti-bacterial gel at every entrance – gel in and gel out. That’s hammered into our students now.”

She sees a lot of infected wounds, and a lot of people put into isolation because of infections. “Universal precautions don’t cut it anymore,” she says.


Sometimes when someone else is vomiting, the sound itself can set nurses off with their own gagging reflex. “Or sometimes you hear someone with diarrhea and the gas with it, and it can set something off in you, too,” Gundt says. “But we try to hide our reaction for the patient’s sake.”

She adds that one of the hardest smells to stomach is when a patient is bleeding from their intestines or stomach. “You might have to excuse yourself if you are going to gag or throw up. You don’t want to make the patient feel like even the nurses can’t tolerate it,” she says. “But it smells so bad.”


“We don’t know what death will be like from one person to the next. It can be smooth to really traumatic to really messy. It can be awful,” says Gundt.

One time comes to mind for her when she was a home health care nurse. The elderly lady had a relative come during the last stages of her death. The relative was panicking because she didn’t understand death and all the things that happen when the body shuts down

“People are incontinent. They can’t hold their bowels. Nothing in them is awake anymore,” she says. “So, I kept her clean, changed her and turned her, and made sure she got pain meds. I stayed with her and the relative. It’s the people that are alive that are panicking. People are scared to be alone with the person who is dying.”


“Most people’s jobs aren’t like this,” Gallogly says. “You learn really quickly to become a great multi-tasker and set priorities all the time. You usually have three or four things coming at you. You learn to delegate to others that can help you.”

Some days, it will be overwhelming. You leave work thinking that you didn’t do a good job. “With budget cuts, nurses are expected to do a lot more with less. It’s hard to give quality nursing care, and we want to take care of that whole person, but so much is coming at us. That’s frustrating,” she says.


“We don’t just take care of the person, but the whole person which includes the family,” Gallogly states. “If the family is demonstrating behavior that are precluding progress or treatment for the patient, then we pull them aside. You never know what is going on with them. We don’t know their histories. There is usually a reason for their behavior.”

She says it’s easy to label people as the “crazy daughter” or “hysterical mother.” But that doesn’t solve any problems or help anyone. “We try to explore those dynamics and include them in what we are doing with the patient,” she adds.


When people are sick, their behaviors aren’t necessarily their norm. “They lash out at us, hit us, spit on us and swear at us. There is a lot of physical and emotional abuse,” says Gundt. “Sometimes, it’s very unexpected. You never think some of these people will strike out at you because they seem stable as can be.”

Gundt adds that nurses try very hard to not put themselves in a situation to be hit or hurt. “If it’s a family member that we feel is being obnoxious, abusive or unrealistic, we won’t hesitate to escort them out or get someone to do so,” she says. “But we will start with way less restrictive methods. We try to keep people on our good side.”

Nursing isn’t all roses and sunshine. But most people understand that when they go into the profession. It’s not easy. It’s not always pretty. But for those who choose it, they say they do it because they want to help people. They want to educate people to live healthier, happier lives no matter what squeamish circumstances they have to confront.

Reposted from: https://nurse.org/articles/things-nurses-deal-with-that-make-others-squirm/

I’m Depressed And Employed: How I Make It Work.

Since I was 15, I’ve been dealing with depression. I’m not talking about the blues, sadness, or simply the Mondays, but suffocating, full-blown depression—the kind that leaves you empty and hurting all at the same time.

Throughout early adulthood, I had to constantly force myself to go to high school, college, and eventually, a full-time job. But then at 19, I was diagnosed with bipolar and things got even more complicated, adding mania, anxiety, and rapid cycling to the mix of symptoms. It seemed impossible to be productive, and there have been countless days, weeks, and even months when I worried I would lose my job to the all-consuming force of my depression.

In 2013, MacMillan published Perfect Chaos, a memoir co-written by me and my mother, detailing my struggles with depression and her efforts to be there for me. Over the years, I’ve become an expert in my own symptoms and the hows and whys of leading a productive life under these conditions. And while the conversation is being brought further and further out of the dark with each person that decides to speak up, I’d like to offer up some practical advice that’s served me well, because here’s the thing, dear reader: In my many moments of debilitating depression, I have not once lost my job, nor even been reprimanded. Here’s how I make sure to take care of myself within the context of getting out of bed to go to work every day, even when it seems impossible:

1.     I create the quickest morning routine possible, one painful, brilliant step at a time. The night before, I take a shower and choose an outfit. One that makes me feel comfortable, smart, and capable—that just says, “Yes, that’s me, a total badass. I got this.” The next morning, I dress, apply mascara and a bright punch of lipstick, and then I leave. No time to climb back into my closet trying to find body acceptance in a state of morning confusion. Out the door in fifteen minutes flat. No excuses.

2.     Once I arrive at work,  it’s time to make a daily task list. Tasks in general feel utterly impossible when you are depressed. The word “task” makes you want to cry on your desk. But this is important: I ask myself what needs to get done and what I can get done. I break each overwhelming, essential task down to the smallest possible steps and write an in-depth to-do list. Then I only focus on that task. I don’t allow myself to look further down the list. Once I manage that first task, I force myself to do two things: proudly revel in my success and—this is crucial—take a five-minute break.

3.   Next—and this is the hard one—I decide if I need to inform my supervisor. Because depression is constantly recurring in my life, it’s important to let my supervisor know I have a chronic illness. On those days when I do call in, he knows it’s valid. This is also something that you can discuss with your HR manager. Your supervisor doesn’t need to know the gritty details of your struggles; they simply need to know that you are experiencing a health struggle and that you are doing your best to work to your highest ability. You may need to present a doctor’s note to HR, but management may surprise you and support you beyond your expectations.

4.     Lastly, at the end of that exhausting day, I do my best to prepare for the next day and attempt some exercise (those endorphins do help!). Most importantly, I celebrate my victory. When you are depressed, the most powerful thing you can do for yourself is celebrate each accomplishment. You got out of bed; I’m so proud of you! You ate food; you are killing it! You stayed at work for a whole eight hours; you are a superstar! Never stop praising these steps, and slowly but surely you will find your way back out of that hole into the productive light of day.

Reposted from: https://www.girlboss.com/girlboss/2017/3/22/ive-had-depression-since-i-was-15-heres-how-i-handle-it-when-it-comes-to-my-career

A Letter to the Baby Nurses.

Right now, there is a baby nurse who is searching online and deep inside for an answer. There is a brand new member of the profession who is questioning her calling. There is a newly-minted graduate who wonders how school seemed to teach her everything and nothing all at the same time. There is a greener-than-grass new hire who is praying that she doesn’t kill somebody at work tomorrow, and wonders if she already did yesterday.

Dearest baby nurse, don’t let this scary new world drag you down. You’re going to have moments when you are sitting on a toilet seat for far too long, probably for the first time in your entire shift, and question why you even decided to become a nurse in the first place. That’s okay.

You’re going to have days — many of them — when you plop down in your car after leaving work two hours later than anticipated; and you’re going to turn off the radio; and you’re going to roll down the windows; and you’re going to cry the most painful and ugly cry. That’s okay.

You’re going to have shifts where your head is spinning and your hands are shaking and your brain is thinking faster than your fingers can type. That’s okay.

You’re going to have moments when you clean more bodily fluids in one 12-hour day than an average person might in a lifetime. You’re going to feel that — sometimes — you’re the only person on the entire unit, because everyone around you is just as busy as you are. That’s okay.

You’re going to have times when patients yell at you for something you didn’t know (that perhaps you should have). They will complain about you to anyone that might listen. They may even become so frustrated with their care that they threaten to leave. And this is going to bother the hell out of you. That’s okay.

You’re gonna listen for 20 minutes and still not hear a damn murmur. That’s okay.

You’re going to have moments when you feel like something “just isn’t right” with the patient in your care. You won’t have enough experience as a frame of reference for what may be happening, or why. You’re probably going to feel helpless in these moments — it’s a “tip of the tongue” phenomenon to the highest degree. That’s okay.

You’re going to feel devastated the first time a veteran nurse yells at you — even more so when their reaction is for something nit-picky and non-essential. You’re going to mumble something unsavory about them under your breath. That’s okay.

You’re going to call a doctor to clarify an order, and she’s going to complain. She’s going to want answers, details, vital signs, and a picture of what is happening with your patient, and you’re going to word-vomit something that probably makes very little sense to an angry cardiologist at 3 a.m. That’s okay.

You’re going to walk into a room expecting to pass your morning medications and come to find your patient unresponsive. Maybe she’s stopped breathing. Perhaps she’s lost a pulse. Either way, you’re going to bring forward everything you learned in every class, clinical, and scenario — and forget how to do any of it. You’re going to scream for help. You’re going to look like a deer in headlights. And you’re going to wonder, “When the hell am I ever going to be able to be as good as they are?” That’s okay.

You’re going to lose that patient, on an unexpected shift, and in an unexpected way. You’re going to think it was your fault. You’re going to be riddled with guilt and feel ashamed of how you reacted. You’re going to replay that scenario in your head over and over again, and every time wonder why you didn’t see it coming. You can’t always see it coming. You can’t always be the hero. And that’s okay.

Because someday you will be.

Someday you’ll understand the subtleties and nuances that no one can teach you except for time Herself.

Someday you’ll be able to balance the full-fledged mountain emergencies with the miniature mole-hill ones.

Someday you’re going to address a patient or family member who is frustrated with a sense of firm yet compassionate care, and will know how to redirect their emotions.

Someday you will call a doctor, and she will thank you for keeping such a close eye on whatever concern you’ve already handled.

Someday you’re going to finally take a lunch break, and it will actually be during lunchtime.

Someday you’re going to do chest compressions or inject medications or ventilate a patient, and your paralyzing fear will be replaced by sheer adrenaline.

Someday, somebody is going to die on your watch — but whether it’s through blood, sweat, and heroics or a quiet and accepted end — you will have made a difference in the journey of that patient and his or her loved ones.

And while some days you may still feel like a hamster on a wheel, going through the motions just to stay afloat — someday you will realize that you are not the one sinking and needing to be saved. Rather, you’ve grown into a life raft for another baby nurse, insecure and unaware of all of her untapped potential.

Someday you will understand that the nursing profession is perhaps the hardest of them all, but in so many different ways, the most rewarding.

And someday you will stand up for yourself; stand up for your patients; and stand up to the barriers that impact your highest capacity to care — this day will remind you why you trudged through every tear, scream, and exasperated sigh.

So do not give up, baby nurse: new to the world in which nurses beget nurses; still questioning why nothing ever ends up like the texts books might have said. No matter how bad it feels — no matter how hard it seems — always turn to the nurses who can teach you that one can have a brilliant mind and a beautiful soul; one can be funny when things feel too serious; one can be tough as nails and still be softened by the circumstances; one can make mistakes and still maintain integrity. Stand your ground, baby nurse; ask questions; study hard; prioritize what matters; own up when you don’t know; and don’t let anyone beat you down — especially that little voice in your own head. If you allow yourself to do it, you’ll be amazed by how quickly a baby nurse can grow.

Lovingly cheering you on,
A Former Baby Nurse

Reposted from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sonja-mitrevskaschwartzbach-bsn-rn-ccrn/baby-nurses_b_8446990.html

First Clinical Shift.

I’ve honestly never felt so overwhelmed in my life entering the clinical portion of my program. Friday was my first day as a level 2 clinical student! I finally reached a big milestone in working with actual patients :O

It’s crazzzzzy how much nurse’s know and the things that are expected of us. I mean I always knew it wasn’t an easy jbo, but when you actually see what goes on behind the scenes, it’s eye opening.

Don’t get me wrong, I was completely excited by the opportunity to finally be in hospital, but i’m also so nervous to be seen as incompetent by the veteran nurses on the floor.

I realize it’s pretty normal to have the experience be nerve wrecking, i’m grateful my clinical group and mentor are all very open about our feelings and are all eager to learn and grow from our experiences. I’ve been slowing trying to change my mind set from one of wanting to impress and be the “star” of the group, to one of which I want to try to use these rotations to learn as much as possible.

While I’m happy to have been given my first choice of placement, I knew my instinct it would likely not be an area in which I would want to specialize and focus on in the future. I picked the Chest unit, largely because of the exposure it would given to to common diseases like COPD, asthma, and lung cancers, but also because of the fact I would get to better understand and differentiate between lungs sounds. I wasn’t particularly fond of the respiratory assessments in first year, partially because I don’t really know what i’m supposed to be listening for. While simulated mannequins are great for understanding placements of the stethoscope and palpating, they don’t really give you a realistic understanding of what the lungs actually sounds like in practice. I mean sometimes when you listen the heart sounds can be distracting or sometimes if the patient is wheezing, you might not get a clear picture of the heart beating.

Regardless of whether I love the chest unit by the time December rolls around, I will be grateful for everything i’ve learned. I’m excited to make a difference in patient care. I get being the ‘baby nurse’ i’ll get delegated tasks that aren’t so glamorous (ex. bed washes, cleaning poop/vomit/pus/saliva, inserting catheters), but I do believe every aspect of nursing care has an important place in making a patient feel cared for. Sometimes the smallest things have the biggest impact, how great does it feel to sit in a clean night gown, have your hair brushed, or even have a cleanly shaven face? While I want to help provide the medical aspects of nursing care, the other aspects are just as or even more important.

They say life is what you make of it, well, it is my opinion that the same is true for clinical and preceptorship experiences.  I know mistakes will happen The important thing to do is to learn from them, and move forward. While I feel overwhelmed now, having never had the chance to perform many of the skills I learned in person (ex. catheter insertions) I know skills will come with time and practice.

While i’ve already had days where I’ve questioned if nursing is for me. I know in time these days will become few and far between, and I will feel the rewards of nursing.  I look forward to the day when a patient’s thanks me and this appreciation will make all the hard work of pushing through nursing school worth it.

While sometimes I want to believe that i’m a super hero and can do everything on the first short, I know everything won’t always be perfect, but with a positive attitude, I can hopefully make my experience this term a great and rewarding one.



The Depression Mask.

The depression mask. What I would define as a defence mechanism because if you looked like you felt, no one would ever want to be around you.

Depression has levels that is hard for people who don’t have it to understand. It makes me angry when I come across comments calling people like Chester selfish. To me, it’s a suicide is a failure of society to protect individuals for for letting them down to feel like this was the only viable option. Depression IS a disease. Sometimes medication can help and sometimes they don’t similar to any other sickness. The difference with depression compared to other illnesses is people think it’s okay to say things like: ‘get over it’, ‘stop being stupid’, ‘this needs to stop’, or even ‘you’re just being lazy’.

Depression isn’t simply being “sad”. It’s more than that. It’s a feeling of worthlessness and that you’re a burden to everyone around you. The most toxic feeling with depression is the utter hopelessness that goes with it. Not only do you feel worthless, but you have no reason to believe that it will change. Everyone’s experience will also be different, some people can still be high functioning while others struggle to get about their daily tasks. I can say i’ve been in both situations. I wouldn’t be where I am without the hardwork I put in to be here but I’ve also had days where i’ve struggled to even get out of my bed and have the motivation to do anything because I feel empty, unmotivated, and worthless. Its a spectrum condition where the word does not define the symptoms, the individual does.

I think in my experience one of the worst things about having depression or going through a cycle is knowing you have so much to be thankful for and that there are so many people worse off. But that feeling of feeling nothing and just finding no joy in life is horrible and isolating. Instead you start to feel guilty for feeling pathetic and rather than burden people with your feelings, you lie and pretend you’re fine to get people to back off.

I think one of the most important things for people to remember is that suicide is a behaviour. Depression often drives a person to the point they want to die, but not all depressed people have self harming or suicidal tendencies. Some people who are not recognizably or clinically depressed will commit suicide or hurt themselves in a sudden moment of sadness. It’s a tragically complicated issue.

To the unknowing eye, he doesn’t look like someone suffering from depression and severe PTSD from the traumas he experiences growing up and navigating the industry. To the experienced eye though, his eyes say it all. Sometimes moments like these make it worse; you’ve had fun with the family, a few hours pass and you still feel it. Then guilt, shame, and hopelessness creep in. You think, “If I’m still depressed after having fun with the people I love, will I ever feel better?”. To be honest,  it’s not easy to seem “happy” around people. It actually hurts more when you’re lying to yourself trying not to seem upset. The human mind can only take so much torment, either from others, or itself. Those like Chester weren’t weak and should NEVER be labelled as such. It still makes me sick to think about how I let someone treat me as such in a moment of cowardice. If you’ve never been through depression you have NO idea how much mental strength it takes to hold on, especially after prolonged or traumatic events. 

It still makes me sad to realize he’s gone. There’s apart of me that still can’t believe it and I honestly can’t imagine what his family, friends, and bandmates must be going through. His legacy will not be forgotten, and while his loss is horribly tragic, I do believe it serves as a warning and example for all that mental health is not imagined. I think this video shared by his family serves to remind people that depression doesn’t look the same on every person or at every point in time. This was Chester’s depression.

At the end of the day we must support those who suffer, and awareness is the first step.

This is what depression looked like to us just 36 hrs b4 his death. He loved us SO much & we loved him. #fuckdepression #MakeChesterProudpic.twitter.com/VW44eOER4k

— Talinda Bennington (@TalindaB) September 16, 2017

RIP Chester.


Human antidepressants building up in brains of fish in Niagara River.

Researchers studying fish from the Niagara River have found that human antidepressants and remnants of these drugs are building up in the fishes’ brains.

The concentration of human drugs was discovered by scientists from University at Buffalo, Buffalo State and two Thai universities, Ramkhamhaeng University and Khon Kaen University.

Active ingredients and metabolized remnants of Zoloft, Celexa, Prozac and Sarafem — drugs that have seen a sharp spike in prescriptions in North America — were found in 10 fish species.

Diana Aga, professor of chemistry at University at Buffalo, says these drugs are found in human urine and are not stripped out by wastewater treatment.

Could affect fish behaviour

“It is a threat to biodiversity, and we should be very concerned,” Aga said in a release from the university.

Niagara Falls Park Bridges

Fish in the Niagara River show concentrations of antidepressants in their brains higher than levels in the river itself. (David Duprey/The Associated Press)

“These drugs could affect fish behaviour. We didn’t look at behaviour in our study, but other research teams have shown that antidepressants can affect the feeding behaviour of fish or their survival instincts. Some fish won’t acknowledge the presence of predators as much.”

The Niagara River, which carries water from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario, is already under stress, with reports this summer of untreated wastewater released into the river.

‘Fish are receiving this cocktail of drugs 24 hours a day, and we are now finding these drugs in their brains’– Diana Aga, study author

The research, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, found levels of antidepressants in fish brains that were several times higher than levels in the river itself, indicating that the chemicals are accumulating over time.

The study set out to look for a variety of pharmaceutical and personal care product chemicals in the organs and muscles of 10 fish species: smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, rudd, rock bass, white bass, white perch, walleye, bowfin, steelhead and yellow perch.

Antidepressants stood out as the major problem.

Rock bass had high concentrations

The rock bass had the highest concentrations of antidepressants, but several fish had a medley of drugs in their bodies.

Aga said she did not believe the chemicals were a threat to humans, as people do not usually eat fish brains. However, she was concerned about the health of fish species who are continually subjected to an influx of chemicals, as well as the delicate balance among species.

Aga said wastewater treatment plants have not kept up with the times in attempting to remove drugs from their effluent.

Between 1999-2002 and 2011-14, the number of U.S. residents using antidepressants rose by 65 per cent,  according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

Wastewater treatment focuses on killing disease-causing bacteria and on extracting solid matter but not on removing chemicals that might be found in human urine, Aga said.

“These plants are focused on removing nitrogen, phosphorus, and dissolved organic carbon but there are so many other chemicals that are not prioritized that impact our environment,” she said. “As a result, wildlife is exposed to all of these chemicals. Fish are receiving this cocktail of drugs 24 hours a day, and we are now finding these drugs in their brains.”

The Power of Grit.

“Ability to learn is not fixed, that it can change with your effort”

Growing up I was always seen as the “weaker” student compared to my fellow peers. Whether it be starting off in French immersion school and being told I couldn’t handle it or starting off grade one having to be taught to read privately or even moving to grade 5 and not being able to keep up with my peers in math or writing. I was told with my grades I would never move on to university by my own parents.

However, upon watching this Ted Talk I realize how much the power of grit has impacted my own life. Whether it be the story of grade 1 me who not only learned to read, but learned to read at such a pace that I advanced beyond that of my peers to the extent on a standardized test only 4% of students would have surpassed me. Let alone move to grade 5 where with working with my teacher privately I surpassed everyone’s expectations and learned to write in cursive and improve my mathematical abilities. It was also that same teacher that recognized my potential and pushed me to do better knowing that I needed a bit of a push to get started.

It was the comparison have having friends that were all gifted or in advanced placement that pushed me to do and be better to not be the one that was always behind.  Even in comparison to my sister who spends hours studying, reading and perfecting her notes even today in a top law school, I was always seen as the “lazy” one because I never tried as hard or put in as much effort to get the same grades. Whether it be in music, physical education, or even school work I was determined to beat the expectations that were placed upon me by others. I would spend hours listening to lecture or practicing to be better than those around me and I was determined to try my best. While I don’t put in the effort most students do, I have developed strategies that work for me whether it just be attending lectures and listening or skimming over the text book a few times or even re-listening to lectures on my own time. I was and always have been determined to not settle for less and to get into not only some of the best schools but also some of the best programs. To some extent though I am lazy, I never had to try as hard as some of those around me to understand concepts or study for hours on end. I was also known as the stubborn kid by many teachers growing up who only put in her effort for things I wanted to do or to beat expectations.

I still remember sitting on the floor one day in my room back in gr.9 and flipping through books of university wondering how I would ever get in with a 71% average. To eventually graduating from a tough high school with and 87% average. Although I was often seen to struggle through high school with kids so smart it would blow your mind, i’m incredibly grateful for the determination, skill building, challenges it set for me because it prepared me well to compete in a university setting. Who would have thought I would spend 3 years on the Dean’s Honor list, with the one year me not making it was due to my major struggle with depression in my third year. Let alone go on to doing her Master’s at a top 20 school and competing with some of the best and brightest doctors and lawyers.

However, looking at things as a whole I never let failure stop me from achieving whatever it is I wanted to do. Anytime I experienced failure, I got back up and went to work in order to kick ass. I’ve had many setbacks in life whether it be emotionally, personally, or even academically but the one thing I can look at as a whole was my determination and oftentimes hard work set me apart from my peers. I was never viewed as the smartest kid growing up but you could ask any of my teachers and they would tell you I was often the most preserving and determined student. It’s amazing to think what grit can do to kids and setting a bright future for themselves.

Take a few minutes to watch this insightful talk 🙂


Biological Changes Could Be Underlying Factor For Higher Rates of Psychosis in Immigrants.

A new study could explain how migrating to another country increases a person’s risk of developing schizophrenia, by altering brain chemistry.

Immigrants had higher levels of the brain chemical dopamine than non-immigrants in the study, conducted by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto and the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College, London. Abnormal dopamine levels are linked to symptoms of schizophrenia. Dopamine is also connected to the body’s stress response.

The study was published in the January issue of Schizophrenia Bulletin.

“Schizophrenia is still a rare diagnosis,” says Dr. Romina Mizrahi, a senior author and Clinician Scientist in the Campbell Family Mental Health Research Institute at CAMH. “But if we can understand the factors that increase the risk of this serious illness among immigrants, we can develop strategies such as social supports to mitigate this risk.”

As Canada’s population and workforce will decline without migration, a set number of immigrants are accepted into the country each year. While it’s not feasible to offer stress supports to all newcomers, the approach of identifying those at highest risk and offering evidence-based interventions to prevent schizophrenia is one that Dr. Mizrahi applies to her work with youth, as Head of the Youth Psychosis Prevention Clinic and Research Program.

The current study involved a type of brain imaging called positron emission tomography (PET), and applied two different approaches to examining dopamine levels.

In Toronto, 56 study participants were given a mild stress test to see its effect on dopamine release. People with schizophrenia, and those at high risk, release more dopamine with this test when compared to a matched healthy group of participants. Among the 25 immigrants in the study, dopamine release was higher than 31 non-immigrant participants. This increase was related to participants’ experiences of social stress, such as work overload, social pressures or social isolation.

The London researchers showed that the synthesis of dopamine was higher in immigrants. This increase was related to the severity of symptoms among those considered at high risk of developing schizophrenia, and did not occur among non-immigrants at high risk. In total, 32 immigrants and 44 non-immigrants were involved in this part of the study.

Dr. Mizrahi emphasizes that not everyone with high dopamine levels will develop schizophrenia, nor will the vast majority of migrants.

Yet it is well-established through population studies in Canada, the U.K. and Western Europe that the risk of developing schizophrenia is higher in immigrants and their children than non-immigrants. Stress – particularly related to perceived discrimination, social isolation and urban living – is believed to increase this risk. The role of stress also appears to be supported by the current findings on brain dopamine levels.

“This is a first step in integrating social science and biological research,” says Dr. Mizrahi. “A next step would be to help regulate stress among higher risk immigrants through social support programs, and see if this reduces dopamine in the brain and prevents psychosis.”

Reposted from: http://www.camh.ca/en/hospital/about_camh/newsroom/news_releases_media_advisories_and_backgrounders/current_year/Pages/Study-shows-biological-changes-that-could-underlie-higher-psychosis-risk-in-immigrants.aspx#.WHUFok6RO9s.twitter