By Margery Wakefield

Margery Wakefield

Welcome to SA (Schizophrenics Anonymous)!

I understand that you want to start an SA group, and that is great!

This is a brief primer on how to do just that.

First, some background about myself. I was diagnosed with schizophrenia at age 19. I went through a period of denial, but finally came to my senses and got on meds. I have been on meds and in treatment since then. My recovery now is pretty good.

I first heard about SA in 2004. I went to a SA conference in the Detroit area, and learned how to run a SA group. There was another woman in Denver, and we joined forces to start SA Denver in September of 2005.

At first, it was just the two of us. We made up flyers and distributed them in mental health centers, in clinics and in hospitals. Then, we waited. And waited.

Finally, another man joined us. Then, another woman. Now, we have an average of 15 or so members at each meeting. SA Denver continues to grow and to thrive. Members come and go, so I think we have helped a lot of people in 10 years.

The members of the group have bonded with each other, and become like a family, although we are always open to new members. We now have a coffee group on Saturdays, a walking group when the weather is good. We socialize with each other. We go to concerts together, to local museums, to the zoo, and other places.

This is just an example of what can happen with your SA group. Be prepared for success!

Now, I will share with you the steps to starting and growing a successful SA group:

1. First, order yourself a SA Blue Book from SARDAA. The Blue Book is a small manual which contains much useful information about SA including the history of SA, the philosophy of SA and the Mission Statement. It also contains some interesting stories of persons in recovery from schizophrenia and related disorders at the end of the book. The Blue Book costs $5 per copy, and is well worth the price. We do use the Blue Book in our meetings, so it is important to read it.

2. The second step is to order the Group Leader Manual by email. You can print this off. It is a reference book, about 70 pages long, which tells everything important about starting and running an SA group. The Group Leader Manual is free of charge by email.

3. Now you are ready to look for a meeting place for your group, if you don’t already have one. Mental health centers in your community will often offer free meeting space for your group. Other possible venues are hospitals, churches, libraries, and community centers. Often, centers or churches that already host AA or NA meetings will welcome your group.

4. Once you have your meeting space, you can decide on the time and day of the week for your group. There are no rules about this. The time and day of the week for the group is at the discretion of the leader/co-leader. Some groups meet during the day, while others meet at night.

5. Next, you might want to print up some flyers advertising your group. There is a sample flyer in the Group Leader’s Manual, and there are others available. Once you have printed up flyers, you can distribute them in local mental health centers, clinics and psychiatric hospitals.

6. It might be helpful to you at this point to talk to an established group leader to see how the group is run. There are leader sheets available in the Group Leader’s Manual.

In the groups, we have an introduction, a reading from a meditation book, then readings from the Blue Book. Then we usually read the Six Steps of Recovery, and have everyone pick out a step that they can relate to at this time, and give them time to discuss that step and how it relates to them now.

Then, we have the general check-in. We have everyone share about his or her week or any other subject they wish to share about. We don’t share about topics of religion, sex or politics unless it is very general. This is because these are topics that can be divisive to people, and we want the group to be safe for everyone.

An important thing to remember is that we do not do therapy in the groups. SA is a social/educational peer support group. We leave therapy to the professionals. If someone is needing therapy, we refer them to their clinician.

If there is time remaining in the hour, we read from the Blue Book, especially the personal stories from the back of the book. When the hour is up, we close the meeting with the Serenity Prayer, which is in the Blue Book.

That’s about all there is to starting and running a SA group.

There are a few tips to growing your group:

1. In Denver, we found it helpful to make a list of all the local psychiatrists, their names and addresses, and to send them a letter once a year with two flyers enclosed. Psychiatrists are our main source of referrals. When a psychiatrist sees that one of his clients does well in our group, he or she is likely to send more members to the group.

2. We also visit the psychiatric hospitals in the city. We usually make an appointment with the Discharge Planners for the unit, and take him or her a small stack of flyers. We tell them about the group and tell them how the group can benefit their clients.

3. We always continue to distribute flyers to mental health centers, clinics and hospitals.

4. We sometimes advertise in free local newspapers that have listings for support groups such as AA and NA in the city.

5. Word of mouth is also effective.

6. If you follow these simple practices, your group will grow.

7. Be prepared for success!

If you have any questions, please contact SARDAA at We will answer any questions that you may have. I hope this is all helpful!


Margery Wakefield for SARDAA

I Have A Dream: Martin Luther King Jr. and Lance’s Mom

January 21, 2013

Today is Martin Luther King Day and I wanted to honor Dr. King’s memory and talk a bit about an ordinary Mom’s dreams, a Mom who wants to change the world – to educate people about addiction and mental illness. Twenty-nine years ago, my dream came true and I gave birth to Lance, a beautiful baby boy.  He had ten fingers, ten toes and seemed perfect in every way.  Fast forward to about 2002, a family of four boys and a journey through the world of drug addiction and mental illness.  My dreams turned to nightmares. I never dreamed we would enter into a world I knew nothing about: addiction and later, mental illness….  Without a known family history of addiction and mental illness, these issues were not in my realm of consciousness.  Be that as it may, I vowed to do anything I could to save my firstborn son who was smart, athletic, popular, the one everyone looked up to and idolized – until our world crumbled.  Today, my dreams are different than they were 29 years ago but I am happy to say they are filled with gratitude, faith and pride. My son’s mental disorder is stable and he is about to celebrate three years of recovery from substance abuse, a true miracle.   I encourage you to hold on to your dreams and although they may materialize differently than imagined, we can still find gratitude, peace and serenity. It may not be easy but if I can do it, anyone can!

In memory of Martin Luther King, Jr. and all those who have dreams, keep dreaming and never give up until the miracle happens.

Lance: The Long Road to Recovery

January 15th

Every day is a struggle, do I get high or do I not get high?  This entails everything I have ever worked for.  Would you throw that away to spend a night with the devil?  Ever since I got clean I have gotten back my friends and family, sanity and a few odd and end things.  With all this on my plate, every morning I choose the large cup of coffee over a bag of cocaine for the last 2 years and 11 months.  I almost threw away my clean time but by the grace of G-d I will have 3 years clean on February 11th.  Why does G-d give us a choice to make?  The answer is very simple, for every reason in the world you stay clean, but I have learned to believe the devil was the test.  G-d created her to give us options.  Do I make a left or do I make a right?  I finally chose right!  The only reason I ever got high was to self medicate, to heal my pain and sorrow, but most importantly my mental illness was what really was bothering me and drove me to the drugs.  I know that if you choose right life’s miracles will come to you.  I am not promising you the sun, the moon and stars but you will be free from your sickness a/k/a addiction, and all kinds of mental disorders that stem from the wrath of drugs.  My drug of choice was ecstasy.  I thought it was the closest feeling to heaven.  But I was wrong! G-d did not make heaven in a pill form.  It’s unfathomable today what I believe heaven is.  It could be the ultimate relief of not getting high and experiencing happiness in life, whether it is the birds chirping on a nice day, piece of mind, or a sunny day on the beach.  Materials things would include, the birth of a child, a wife, house and money.  I made the right choice today; I believe so strongly that one day a higher power will pay me back, not necessarily in luxury but in serenity and peace.  If you are struggling with schizophrenia like me, there is a better way of life. You can always count on your belief that this too shall pass but if you have a mental illness, it usually doesn’t without the proper help.  My disorder took me to places you can only imagine, but the story is true. This is part of my story and my struggle, how about yours?

Lots of love,

Lance Sheena

Former Senators Say Administration Should Issue Regulations On Mental Health Parity

 In an op-ed for the Washington Post (4/13, 553K), former Sen. Pete Domenici, a senior fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center, and former Sen. Gordon Smith, president and chief executive of the National Association of Broadcasters, call on the Obama Administration to “issue its final regulations to implement the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act for mental health parity in health insurance.” They note that when Congress passed the Act in 2008, then-Sen. Obama voted for it, and “all indications are that he remains supportive” as president. However, “regulatory action has stalled since 2010. The final rule that would provide clarity to the millions who have a mental illness or substance-use disorder, and to their employers, has not been issued.”

Payments to Doctors by Pharmaceutical Companies Raise Issues of Conflicts

Thousands of Texas doctors, researchers and medical experts — including more than 100 who are employed by the state and are paid with taxpayer dollars — routinely supplement their salaries with income from pharmaceutical companies.

Drug companies pay medical professionals for a wide range of activities, from speaking engagements to consulting. While legal, the practice raises questions about potential conflicts, and whether the interests of patients may be compromised.

From 2009 to early 2011, at least 25,000 Texas physicians and researchers received a combined $57 million — and probably far more — in cash payments, research money, free meals, travel and other perks, according to data culled from 12 drug companies and provided by the nonprofit investigative news organization ProPublica.

Dozens of these medical professionals were paid more than $100,000 each during that period. And 114 were professors, physicians, psychiatrists or researchers who were already paid a salary by the state — in some cases more than a half-million dollars a year. These state employees brought in nearly $3 million combined from pharmaceutical companies from 2009 to early 2011, according to a Texas Tribune analysis of the ProPublica data.

Nationwide, pharmaceutical manufacturers routinely pay medical professionals to assess a new product or to help contribute to the drug company’s sales. The companies fly medical professionals to seminars and conferences and may also pay speaking fees. State-employed doctors and researchers are generally no exception, though they are supposed to comply with their individual institutions’ conflict-of-interest policies….


The New York Times

Drugs Used for Psychotics Go to Youths in Foster Care

Foster children are being prescribed cocktails of powerful antipsychosis drugs just as frequently as some of the most mentally disabled youngsters on Medicaid, a new study suggests.

The report, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, is the first to investigate how often youngsters in foster care are given two antipsychotic drugs at once, the authors said. The drugs include Risperdal, Seroquel and Zyprexa — among other so-called major tranquilizers — which were developed for schizophrenia but are now used as all-purpose drugs for almost any psychiatric symptoms.

“The kids in foster care may come from bad homes, but they do not have the sort of complex medical issues that those in the disabled population do,” said Susan dosReis, an associate professor in the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy and the lead author.

The implication, Dr. dosReis and other experts said: Doctors are treating foster children’s behavioral problems with the same powerful drugs given to people with schizophrenia and severe bipolar disorder. “We simply don’t have evidence to support this kind of use, especially in young children,” Dr. dosReis said….


The New York Times

Integrated Care Improves Mental Health Outcomes, Cuts Costs

Integrating primary and mental healthcare in “health homes” can save lives, according to a leading mental health expert.

“It turns out, it’s actually a really great way to save money, too,” said Joseph Parks, MD, director of the Missouri Institute of Mental Health in St. Louis.

Dr. Parks, who is also chief medical officer of the Missouri Department of Mental Health, spoke to mental health advocates who gathered at the Mental Health Hope Symposium in Washington, DC, to learn about successful mental healthcare models and to raise awareness of mental health needs.

The meeting was sponsored by several behavioral health advocacy organizations. Its goal was to highlight the importance of patient access to quality care and treatment for people with mental illnesses before the US Congress Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction begins to slash $1.2 trillion from the federal deficit on November 23.

Through a health home initiative in Missouri that predates the Affordable Care Act’s patient-centered medical home concept, community mental health centers (CMHCs) function as healthcare homes, or medical homes.

A primary care provider is responsible for overall coordination of care. Case management is coordinated, people with serious mental illnesses have their medical diseases managed, and mental healthcare providers offer preventive healthcare screening and monitoring. Primary care nurses play an active role as agents of change at the CMHCs….

By Sandra Yin


Mouse Study: Missing Gene and Abnormal Behavior Linked

Although many mental illnesses are uniquely human, animals sometimes exhibit abnormal behaviors similar to those seen in humans with psychological disorders. Such behaviors are called endophenotypes.

Now, researchers at the California Institute of Technology have found that mice lacking a gene that encodes a particular protein found in the synapses of the brain display a number of endophenotypes associated with schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorders.

In the study, which was published in The Journal of Neuroscience, the researchers created mutations in mice so that they were missing the gene for a protein called densin-180, which is abundant in the synapses of the brain.

These electro-chemical connections enable the formation of networks between the brain’s neurons. This protein sticks to and binds together several other proteins in a part of the neuron that is at the receiving end of a synapse, called the postsynapse.

“Our work indicates that densin-180 helps to hold together a key piece of regulatory machinery in the postsynaptic part of excitatory brain synapses,” says Mary Kennedy, the Allen and Lenabelle Davis Professor of Biology at Caltech, who was the senior author on the study.

In mice lacking densin-180, the researchers found decreased amounts of some of the other regulatory proteins normally located in the postsynapse. Kennedy and her colleagues were especially intrigued by a marked decrease in the amount of a protein called DISC1.

“A mutation that leads to loss of DISC1 function has been shown to predispose humans to development of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder,” Kennedy says.

In the study, the researchers compared the behavior of typical mice with that of mice lacking densin. Those without densin displayed impaired short-term memory, hyperactivity in response to novel or stressful situations, a deficit of normal nest-building activity, and higher levels of anxiety.

“Studies of mice with schizophrenia and autism-like features have reported similar behaviors,” Kennedy notes. “We do not know precisely how the molecular defect leads to the behavioral endophenotypes. That will be our work going forward. The molecular mechanistic links between a gene defect and defective behavior are complicated and, as yet, mostly unknown. Understanding them goes to the very heart of understanding brain function.”

The findings point to the need for a better understanding of the interactions that occur between proteins at synapses, she adds. Studies of these interactions could provide information needed to screen for new and better pharmaceuticals for the treatment of mental illnesses.

“This study really reinforces the idea that small changes in the molecular structures at synapses are linked to major problems with behavior,” Kennedy says.

By Janice Wood

Psych Central

Meditation May Help Brain Tune Out Distractions

Study Helps Explain Why Meditation Improves Concentration

People who meditate may be able to use their brain in ways others can’t to tune out distractions and focus on the task at hand.

A new study shows that experienced meditators may have less activity in parts of the brain associated with daydreaming and distraction while meditating and in their day-to-day lives.

Researchers say this brain network, known as the “default mode network,” has also been linked to anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and Alzheimer’s disease.

“The default mode is when you ruminate, think about yourself, or daydream,” says study researcher Judson Brewer, MD, PhD, medical director of the Yale Therapeutic Neuroscience Clinic. “Everybody has it, but experienced meditators have a different type.”

Brewer found that people who meditate are able to link up other parts of their brains to monitor activity in the default mode network that tell them to get back on task when distractions arise and be present in the moment.

The study is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Experts say the results help explain the benefits of meditation on concentration and open the door to future research using meditation to treat and potentially prevent a variety of psychiatric and neurological disorders….


WebMD  Health News

New study shows smokers underutilize proven treatment and services for quitting

70 percent of smokers want to quit as nation approaches the Great American Smokeout

Most American adults who smoke wish they could quit, and more than half have tried within the past year, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The report says 68.8 percent of current American adult smokers say they want to quit and 52.4 percent of adult smokers tried to quit within the past year.  The report says 48.3 percent of smokers who saw a health professional in the past year recalled getting advice to quit and 31.7 percent used counseling and/or medications in the past year. The use of these effective treatments can almost double to triple rates of successfully quitting.

“More than two thirds of smokers want to quit smoking and more than half tried to quit last year,” said CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H.  “Smokers who try to quit can double or triple their chances by getting counseling, medicine, or both.  Other measures of increasing the likelihood that smokers will quit as they want to include hard–hitting media campaigns, 100 percent smoke–free policies, and higher tobacco prices.”

The analysis is in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The report is being published in conjunction with the annual Great American Smokeout, observed this year on Nov. 17. Sponsored by the American Cancer Society, the Smokeout encourages smokers to use the date to make a plan to quit, or to plan in advance and quit smoking that day.

According to the report, making health care settings as well as all workplaces and public places smoke-free offers smokers additional encouragement to help them quit.  The report also notes the health care industry can increase successful quit attempts by providing comprehensive insurance coverage with no deductibles or co-payments for cessation treatments and services.

Smokers can get free resources and help quitting by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW (784-8669) or visiting www.smokefree.govExternal Web Site Icon….

CDC Online Newsroom

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention