Weekend Reading: Mental Illness Stigma And Health Insurance Mazes

Every week reporter Ankita Rao selects interesting reading from around the Web.

The New York Times Magazine: Unexcited? There May Be A Pill For That
Linneah sat at a desk at the Center for Sexual Medicine at Sheppard Pratt in the suburbs of Baltimore and filled out a questionnaire. She read briskly, making swift checks beside her selected answers, and when she was finished, she handed the pages across the desk to Martina Miller, who gave her a round of pills. The pills were either a placebo or a new drug called Lybrido, created to stoke sexual desire in women. ... The search for a female-desire drug has been an obsession of the pharmaceutical industry for more than a decade, largely because the release of Viagra, in 1998, showed that gigantic sums of money can be made with a quick chemical solution to sexual dysfunction. But while Viagra and its competitors deal with the simple hydraulics of impotence, the most troubling difficulty for men, the psychological complexity of depleted lust has so far defeated industry giants (Daniel Bergner, 5/22).

Tampa Bay Times: Akshay Desai And The Rise And Fall Of Universal Health Care
In August, Universal Health Care Group was crumbling. Regulators circled. Bankruptcy loomed. Still, founder and CEO Akshay Desai didn't publicly hint at any problems. "As a businessman, I know all too well what it takes to make it in the private sector," he bragged at the time. It was vintage Desai — supremely confident, selective with the facts. The 55-year-old son of Indian educators built Universal on smarts and ambition (Susan Taylor Martin and Jeff Harrington, 5/13).

The New York Times Magazine: Some Of My Best Friends Are Germs
I can tell you the exact date that I began to think of myself in the first-person plural — as a superorganism, that is, rather than a plain old individual human being. ... Justin Sonnenburg, a microbiologist at Stanford, suggests that we would do well to begin regarding the human body as “an elaborate vessel optimized for the growth and spread of our microbial inhabitants.” This humbling new way of thinking about the self has large implications for human and microbial health, which turn out to be inextricably linked. Disorders in our internal ecosystem — a loss of diversity, say, or a proliferation of the “wrong” kind of microbes — may predispose us to obesity and a whole range of chronic diseases, as well as some infections (Michael Pollan, 5/22).

Slate: You Do Not Have Asperger's
The autism community is a fractious bunch. We argue over the causes of autism, the best treatments, or even if it should be treated at all. But we do share a common anxiety: the DSM-5. This latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, released by the American Psychiatric Association this month, officially eliminates many familiar autism spectrum diagnoses. Asperger’s syndrome (typically applied to those with no intellectual disability or language deficit); pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified (generally given to higher-functioning individuals who may not meet all the criteria for autism); and childhood disintegrative disorder (attached to kids who develop typically and then experience severe regression after the age of 3) are now incorporated into the single diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. ... Yet those diagnoses had serious implications. Certain states provide services for children diagnosed with autism but not for those diagnosed with Asperger’s (Amy S.F. Lutz, 5/22).

USA Today: Glenn Close, Family Work To End Stigma Of Mental Illness
Calen Pick has schizoaffective disorder, a combination of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. He was 15 when he realized something was wrong, 16 when he checked himself into a lockdown mental health facility, 18 when he got out and 28 when his sanity touched down on solid ground. Now 31, Pick got married last year and is working with his mother, Jessie Close, who is bipolar, and his aunt, six-time Oscar nominee Glenn Close, to help end the stigma and discrimination facing the mentally ill (Korina Lopez, 5/22).

The Nation: Cashing In On Breast Cancer Awareness
Many American women played the BRCA what-if game for the first time [last] Tuesday: what would I do if I had the mutation? Would I get a mastectomy, even though there was a chance I wouldn’t need it? ... The problem is that there is profit—a lot of profit—to be made from stoking all of this worry. The big winner on Tuesday was not women’s health; it was Myriad Genetics, the company that has held the exclusive patent on the BRCA 1 and 2 mutations since the 1990s. ... The BRCA gene speaks to the impossible dilemma of for-profit healthcare, particularly when practiced as legal monopoly: some high-risk women will be saved, but many more women will be either needlessly alarmed, financially penalized, or both, so that one corporate monopoly can make a staggering profit (Rose-Ellen Lessy, 5/16). 

The New York Times: Defining My Dyslexia
I started cataloging insults in the second grade. Notable put-downs heard outside my special-ed classroom included "dimwinky," "retardochuckles" and "the meat in the sandwich of stupid." The last of which, if you think about it, is a seriously impressive use of metaphor for a 7-year-old. I learned all the jokes about dyslexia, and told them to better effect than anyone else. Making fun of myself was my best defense. The other choices — hiding from my diagnosis or accepting myself as limited — didn't appeal (Blake Charlton, 5/22).

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