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Preventing, Understanding and Discussing Death by Suicide

Preventing, Understanding and Discussing Death by Suicide
By stella
06th Sep 2022

Over the pasts few decades, awareness of suicide prevention in the United States has expanded. Independent volunteer prevention programs like the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, various counseling programs, and government programs on the local, state, and federal levels like the new 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline have all taken shape to help those in need. While these programs have saved countless lives, it is hard to know someone that hasn’t been affected by suicide whether it be family, friends or coworkers. A recent Stella employee survey revealed that just over 51 percent of it’s employees have lost a loved one to suicide. 

Though awareness surrounding suicide has become more prevalent, it is still a leading cause of death in the US. According to the Centers for Disease Control, “Suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States with 45,979 deaths in 2020.” Suicide rates saw an increase of 30 percent between the years 2000–2018. The rate decreased in the years 2019–2020 but still remains on the list of highest mortality rates in the country. 

Who is affected the most by suicide and suicide attempts?

While all different types of people are affected by suicide and suicide attempts, some groups are more at risk than others. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, or SAMHSA, the groups most affected by suicide are: 

Middle-Aged People and Older Men

Upwards of 80 percent of all suicides in the U.S. are among middle-aged men and women, 45-54. Men 85 and older have the highest suicide rate in the country due to possible isolation, a history of violence, and more. 

American Indians

Young American Indian men face a greater risk of suicide and suicidal ideations due to isolation, historical trauma, poverty caused by systemic issues, cultural stress, and more. American Indian men in the Northern Plains seem to face the greatest risk. 

Alaskan Natives

Alaska currently holds one of the highest suicide rates in all fifty states. Young Alaskan men are especially at risk due to substance abuse and isolation. 

Two other very important groups affected by higher percentages of suicide listed by SAMHSA are veterans and members of the LGBTQ+ communities. 

Veterans

According to the 2021 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report, over 6,000 veterans took their own lives in 2019. That’s around 14 percent of the 45,000 plus people that committed suicide that year. “Veterans ages 55-74 were the largest population subgroup,” the VA reported. “They accounted for 38.6% of Veteran suicide deaths in 2019.” Many veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress injury that can further lead to debilitating mental health conditions. 

LGBTQ+

The LGBTQ plus community faces an insurmountable challenge with homophobia, hatred, and acceptance from outside parties. This can lead to suicidal ideations and suicide attempts for those receiving the hatred. The CDC says, “Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men are at even greater risk for suicide attempts, especially before the age of 25.” LGBTQ plus youth have an even higher risk of suicidal ideations and attempts due to their unsafe environments. 

Suicide and trauma

Symptoms of trauma and post-traumatic stress injury can often run hand in hand with suicidal ideations or attempts. There is evidence that trauma, particularly brought on by sexual abuse in childhood and veterans that have seen combat, does “increase the risk of suicidal thoughts,” according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affair. “In this research, combat trauma survivors who were wounded more than once or put in the hospital for a wound had the highest suicide risk.” Veterans can carry the weight of combat long after they’ve returned home from war. The guilt often leads to suicidal ideations. More studies continue to explain that those with PTSI, or PTSD, have higher suicide ideations or attempts – Partly, due to the lack of preventions or ability to express emotions in a safe environment. 

Treatment of suicidal ideations and attempts

Around five people die by suicide in one hour in the United States, that’s one person every 11 minutes, and the number of those that thought about suicide is even higher, 12.1 million people seriously considered taking their life, and just over three million planned an attempt, and 1.2 million attempted taking their life. The emotional and physical impact of suicide or suicide attempt is astronomical on their loved ones. It can lead to post-traumatic stress injury, depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. Suicide and suicide attempts can also make a large impact financially. “In 2019, suicide and nonfatal self-harm cost the nation nearly $490 billion in medical costs, work loss costs, the value of statistical life, and quality of life costs,” the CDC reported last year.  

There are various modalities used to combat suicidal ideations. And though, there is no one size fits all approach to solving suicidal ideations, some of the most popular avenues are cognative behavioral therapies that reduce the ideations through patients actively working on coping mechanisms, Antidepressants, antipsychotic medications, anti-anxiety medications that can help reduce symptoms, and support from loved ones. 

New innovations

Over the last couple of decades, new treatments like the stellate ganglion block (SGB) and ketamine have given hope to many with suicidal ideations. SGB is an injection of local anesthetic into the stellate ganglion that helps restore normal biological function. Some evidence has shown that it can efficiently reduce symptoms of trauma, like hypervigilance, trouble sleeping, and anxiety, that can lead to suicidal ideations. 

One person that received SGB treatment by Stella said, “None of the memories have disappeared but I no longer feel them or relive them every second of every day. I was at a point where I couldn’t stop feeling suicidal, it was absolute torture to even imagine having to live another day stuck in my own head. I no longer feel suicidal.”

According to a study byThe BMJ, ketamine has a rapid relief effect on those suffering from depression and severe suicidal ideations. More patients involved in the study reached a full remission of suicidal thoughts within three days time compared to those with a placebo. Like SGB, ketamine is not a cure, but a big step forward on the path to recovery. 

How is Stella handling suicide prevention?

Stella’s number one priority is to help those in need suffering from certain mental heatlh conditions – Conditions that can often lead to symptoms like suicidal ideations or even attempts. The tireless advocates, care coordinators, and medical professionals work daily to ensure opportunities for healing like the stellate ganglion block and ketamine treatments are available to those in need. 

Like a lot of mental health companies, Stella has actively opened up a conversation about mental health, combating the stigmas surrounding those suffering. The more open people are, the more resources become available to those that may not know where to search. The Stella blog has opened up a dialogue about the signs and symptoms of trauma, depression, anxiety, and more. The Story of Our Trauma podcast offers insight from those experiencing similar situations, like Ron Self, a veteran affected by a suicide attempt. And our testimonial page has shared personal stories of successful solutions to those combating symptoms. 

What else is being done to prevent suicide and suicide attempts?

More than 90 percent of people who survive an attempted suicide never go on to die by suicide, according to the CDC. But 90 percent is still far too many people. Recent large-scale programs from the federal government have been initiated, like the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, to help with suicidal ideations that can lead to suicide attempts. 

The 988 Lifeline

The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline provides 24/7 suicide prevention counselors from over 160 centers in the United States. The Biden Administration increased federal funding from $24 million to $432 million to include resources for select groups of people like the ones mentioned in the previous section. It is available and open to anyone that is in emotional distress or facing suicidal ideations. 

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is a volunteer organization that has been around since 1987 and has remained a valuable resource for those looking for help with suicidal ideations. The organization actively funds research and education surrounding suicide, advocates for policies at a federal level, and supports those that have been impacted by the suicide of a loved one. 

Suicide remains a leading cause of death in this country, but with awareness and active dialogue, we can lower the number of those with ideations, plans and those that take their own life. The resources are available, and if you or a loved one is suffering from suicidal ideations, please connect with the 988 Lifeline.

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Groundbreaking Clinical Study on SGB is in the Works

Groundbreaking Clinical Study on SGB is in the Works
By stella
19th Aug 2022

Our Beginning

Stella’s mission from day one is to alleviate symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with innovative solutions like the Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB). We’ve helped and will continue to help, thousands of people find lasting relief from trauma symptoms of all kinds. As conversations around trauma continue to grow, so must SGB awareness.

A Big Jump Forward

Stella is excited to hear that a research study from NYU Langone Health will clinically test the efficacy of SGB on PTSD. This study aims to illustrate that SGB can efficiently reduce PTSD symptoms.

A Future of Healing

Studies like these help raise the much-needed awareness surrounding PTSD and usher in effective and innovative pathways to care. If you want to learn more or are interested in participating, please click below. 

PTSDASTOP.ORG

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Stella Continues To Expand

Stella Continues To Expand
By stella
01st Aug 2022

Stella is a team of medical doctors, psychologists, patient care coordinators, and tireless advocates who are on a mission to create a world where no person needlessly suffers from symptoms following trauma. 

To help meet our goals,  measured by lives changed, we must continue to grow, learn, adapt and expand.

Stella has treated over 5,000 people worldwide in the United States, Israel, and Australia. We’ve partnered with over 50+ providers to make SGB and Ketamine as accessible as possible to those in need and work with over 20+ non-profits to help fund care.

To expand our care, we must expand our team. Recently, Stella has made six key hires to help grow our services offerings, find ways to make treatments more affordable, and change more lives.

Meet some of the newest members who share in our mission to eradicate needless suffering:

Chairman of Board of Directors

“I first learned of procedures such as Stellate Ganglion Block through our veteran’s health care system and eventually when one of my own relatives received significant relief from Stella’s care.” Basu continued, “I hope to help Stella help make life better and healthier for the far too many human beings suffering emotional trauma.”

Dr. Pat Basu currently serves as President and Chief Executive Officer of Cancer Treatment Centers of America Global (CTCA) and is a highly-regarded business leader who has led organizations in the public, private, nonprofit, and government sectors. He has overseen organizations that collectively have delivered care or managed care for over 25 million Americans annually. These include serving as a leader at two large national healthcare providers, a Fortune 10 managed care organization, helping launch a major virtual health company, and leading investments in the health, technology, and services sectors.

Chief Executive Officer 

“Mental trauma is a global health crisis that most of us experience in our everyday lives leading to painful personal afflictions with large societal costs,” said Philippe Sanchez, CEO at Stella. “I’m very proud to join a pioneering company like Stella. Working closely with the largest network of SGB and trauma-informed mental health care providers in the US, we will deliver more breakthrough treatments for emotional trauma that will save lives, build stronger families and communities, and bring back hope to those who suffer from symptoms.”

As CEO, Sanchez will chart out Stella’s expansion and position the company as a leader in the mental health space by prioritizing the research of emotional traumas and its biological precision treatments. Sanchez is a seasoned Chief Executive and has served early-stage organizations in the healthcare, multi-unit retail, and technology sectors for the past 20+ years. His career spans several industries, and he has a track record of leading international global organizations, working with world-class brands such as Nike, Disney, Starbucks, and Getty Images.

People Manager

“Since joining Stella, I was immediately drawn to and inspired by each of our team members’ alignment with the company’s mission and values. I observe these values on a regular basis: leading with compassion, respect, trust, innovation, and results-oriented. I am thrilled to witness and be part of this fantastic organization focused on making a difference in each patient’s journey toward mental health and well-being.”

Veronica Noyola comes to us as a Human Resource leader with over 20 years of operational management experience and proven success coaching and motivating teams. She is passionate about building people organizations through culture, process, and systems that drive operational efficiencies. As a culture champion, Veronica works to create equitable environments where she effectively balances supporting the needs of employees with organizational objectives. 

Chief Product Officer

“I’m thrilled to join Stella.  Psychological trauma affects people and society profoundly, and I am grateful for the opportunity to put my experience and energy in service of so many people in need.”

Before Stella, David focused on building products (and companies) that empower people to improve their health and well-being. Most recently, he worked as a product consultant, helping health technology companies in sectors like digital therapeutics and physical therapy to define new products and improve patient adherence and service design. 

Before that, David worked on technology startups from idea stage to large scale and led new product initiatives at Intuit. He was the founding head of product at Limeade, an employee well-being company serving large organizations like Kindred Healthcare and the State of Washington. Earlier, he was on the founding team and led product at QuickBase, a workgroup collaboration tool acquired by Intuit.

Head of New Patient Acquisition

“I joined Stella because of the mission.  Trauma is something that is very close to me. I think it is amazing that this group, full of determination, has set out to conquer the enormous task of bringing a sense of hope and relief to those suffering.  I am grateful to be part of the experience.”

Tara comes to Stella with 25 years of customer and operational experience. She has served as Director of Operations for the American Academy of Dermatology, Director of Member Services at Periodontology, and Customer Service Manager at OrthoMolecular products. Through her involvement with these organizations, she has gained a true understanding of processes, systems, and the importance of cohesive planning as it pertains to the overall success of the organization. Her commitment to staff development through relationship building, supporting goals, and personal development have held her in the highest regard by her staff. 

Tara is a professional member of CXPA and a state Baldrige examiner. In her spare time, she enjoys time outdoors, cookouts with her kids, and reading.

Senior Product Manager

“If I had to sum up my experience with Stella so far, it would probably be “collaboration”. The company and all employees seem eager to view each other as humans with whole lives and experiences besides just work. We are actually encouraged to bring our whole selves here. It has been incredibly rewarding to work at a company that has such a grand goal of helping and also has a healthy work environment full of support. I am so happy to be a part of this company’s evolution and excited to be aiding from the technology side of the house.”

Elizabeth Gombosi began her career at UBS Investment Bank while enrolled in a work/study program in London. She worked within their change management department and operated within the financial space for years after. From Financial Planning to Credit Card Processing, she realized that the Product Management discipline was her passion but wanted to find a subject matter that matched. After moving into the healthcare data space, she came to the conclusion that not every area within Healthcare creates the same type of beneficial change for a patient. 

When hearing about Stella and their mission to aid in the healing of PTS and Trauma, it felt like the perfect blend. She is excited to join the team and to be a part of such meaningful work; with mental health as the cornerstone of human wellbeing. 

She lives in the Philadelphia area with her 3-year-old Black Lab mix and Fiance. Elizabeth loves to cook, hike, travel, and picks up random interests/hobbies every few months. 

Explore our open positions now and join us in our mission to eradicate the needless suffering caused by emotional trauma.

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Addressing the mental health needs of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color

Addressing the mental health needs of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color
By stella
28th Jul 2022

Each July, National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month brings awareness to the unique struggles that racial and ethnic minority groups face regarding mental illness in the US. Unfortunately, members of the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) communities and other minority groups often face disproportionate inequities in care, support, or mental health services in this country.

As a result, they are significantly more likely to develop mental health conditions. One of the significant barriers to mental health treatment is access and the need for understanding mental health support.

Traumas can impact communities as a collective and the individuals themselves and a major barrier to treatment around mental health is the lack of access and understanding of mental health support. 

This BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month, we sat down with three mental health care advocates to discuss the struggles of their communities, the stigmas they still face and the changes they hope to see.

Ryan Mundy, the founder and CEO of Alkeme Health, founded the company after noticing that there weren’t any health platforms that focused on the trajectory of Black health.

“They were never given permission to talk about it so it’s kind of like a self-fulfilling prophecy. It becomes a stigma because nobody has the language or the education or the space to talk about it.”

Alkeme is a streaming platform that provides therapists, wellbeing courses, guided meditations, and livestream sessions centered around the Black experience. 

“We’re Black today, Black tomorrow. Black forever. And underneath that, there’s a lot of different ways in which people show up as Black. I’m not here to segment or to say you are too Black or not Black enough. If you identify as Black, our aim is to have a space for you within the platform.”

Artist Leo “Lowhi”, mental health advocate from Asian Mental Health Project, discussed how he felt shame and guilt around feeling emotions from an early age. 

“The fear of reaching out and having someone judge me for that, in my mind state at the time, that’s worse than whatever pain that I’m going through.”

Leo educates, empowers and advocates for mental health with the Asian Mental Health Project which provides resources to make mental healthcare more accessible. Join a community wellness group or sign up for Asian Men’s Wellness Check-in today.

And Kathleen, who associates herself with both the Latinx and Middle Eastern Community, discusses how admitting that you need help and that you are not okay is actually the strongest decision you could ever make for yourself. 

“It can be an uphill battle if you’re surrounded by people who don’t believe in mental health and they believe that whatever you’re going through is just made up, that it’s ‘all in your head.’ “ 

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Stella Spotlight: Symptoms, Stigmas and Innovation

Stella Spotlight: Symptoms, Stigmas and Innovation
By stella
27th Jul 2022

At Stella, we continue to innovate like our lives depend on it. With any company focused on innovation, you must be agile and willing to take some risks. As executive leaders at Stella, Chief Growth Officer Matt Erley and Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer Michael Gershenzon face difficult, yet inspiring, challenges every day. 

Recently, they sat down and shed light on the business side.

When asked what keeps Gershenzon motivated, he credited the weekly stories of how Stella has helped change a person and family’s life.

On the other hand, Erley credits culture for his drive.

“I’m motivated every day to change the stigma that emotional trauma is a disorder that can’t be treated.

He notes that his biggest accomplishment as a business owner is building best-in-class teams and is only able to be successful because of the people around him.

Gershenzon had some advice for those starting, running and growing a business in today’s climate.

“In the beginning, you’ll have more bad days than good ones. Just remember that’ll change. You can do anything, but you can’t do everything. Let your team members own things – they’ll be better than you.”

Read the full interviews below: 

Your Symptoms Are a Big Deal with Matthew Erley 

Who is Stella?

Stella is building the leading platform to connect emotional trauma sufferers with the most innovative and high-outcome treatments. We are here to break the stigmas around emotional trauma and post-traumatic stress and help people find healing.

Tell us about yourself.

I’m a direct-to-consumer growth guy. I love bringing new products and services to market. I saw an opportunity to bring a more sophisticated approach to growth/marketing in the healthcare space and wanted to use my skill set to help people suffering from emotional trauma. I’m motivated every day to change the stigma that emotional trauma is a disorder that can’t be treated. Through a number of modern treatments, we can now treat the physical injury caused by emotional trauma and PTS. Sufferers can find relief.

What’s your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

Building a best-in-class team that supports one another and our patients every day. I’m only able to be successful because of the people around me.

What’s one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

Facing challenges head-on is uncomfortable. You can’t hide or sit back and be passive as an executive. If there’s an uncomfortable situation, whether that be with an employee, a customer, or an external partner, I’ve learned to address it immediately. Especially in the age of remote work, picking up the phone to resolve an issue is so important.

What are the top tips you’d give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Keep moving and taking a step forward every day. Progress is everything. Optimize for it.
  2. Surround yourself with kind and supportive people (you will need them along the way).
  3. Remember your purpose and why you are building this business. It’s easy to let frustration and doubt creep in. Stay centered.

(Bonus) – Get some sleep. You will need to have lots of energy!

Breakthrough Treatments for Emotional Trauma with Michael Gershenzon

Who is Stella?

Stella provides innovative treatments for those suffering from debilitating mental trauma symptoms. Our clients are often those that have been unable to find relief with traditional modalities, such as pharmaceuticals, and have been searching for relief for years or even decades

Tell us about yourself.

I was working as an investment professional at a private equity firm when I was introduced to a doctor (Stella’s now co-founder) innovating in mental health. Shortly thereafter, the mutual friend that introduced us died by suicide, shocking us all. A month later, with the backing of the private equity firm for which I was working, we started Stella to help those suffering in silence find relief.

What’s your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

The weekly stories of how Stella has helped change a person and family’s life.

What’s one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

Transitioning from being the only employee doing everything to building a quickly growing, incredibly talented team and stepping into a managerial role has been (and will continue to be!) an interesting challenge.

What are the top tips you’d give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. In the beginning, you’ll have more bad days than good ones – just remember that’ll change.
  2. Articulate your mission on day one and care about it a lot.
  3. You can do anything, but you can’t do everything – let your team members own things – they’ll be better than you.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Make sure you’re long-term business model is sound – otherwise, you risk building a bridge to nowhere. That’s not to say you need to be profitable immediately – but you absolutely need to articulate how the company will be profitable long term.

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Law Enforcement Faces Mental Health Challenges Daily

Law Enforcement Faces Mental Health Challenges Daily
By stella
20th Jul 2022

About one-half of all U.S. adults will experience at least one traumatic event in their lives, but most do not develop PTSD. For law enforcement, it’s an entirely different story. As first responders, they stand face to face with traumatic events on a daily basis. From medical emergencies to natural disasters and violent crime, exposure to trauma for police officers, detectives, and even correctional officers is inevitable.

Law enforcement is asked to have “tough skin” while on the job but responding to and witnessing repeating traumas can take a toll on the mental health of those that protect and serve, especially for those with over five years of service. 

Post-traumatic stress among law enforcement, particularly police officers, is higher than one may think.

  • 35 percent of police officers have PTSD (vs. 6.8 percent of the general population).
  • 9-31 percent of police officers have Depression (vs. 6.7 percent of the general population).
  • 55 percent of police officers reported that they consider quitting their job on a daily or weekly basis.
  • The majority of police officers reported that they often feel trapped or helpless in their job at least once per week.

This weight can not only disrupt our professional lives but our personal lives as well but also lead to suicidal thoughts among some of the law enforcement population. 

  • 7.8 percent of police officers have pervasive thoughts of suicide.
  • Law enforcement personnel are 54 percent more likely to die by suicide than all decedents with a usual occupation (13 out of every 100,000 people die by suicide in the general population – that number increases to 17 out of 100,000 for police officers).
  • African Americans in law enforcement are two times more likely to commit suicide. 

Law enforcement and their mental health care access

Many in the force are reluctant to seek out mental healthcare for the traumas that have built up over time. Most officers cite reasons as the stigma and fear that seeking assistance is a sign of personal weakness, followed by fear of job loss or repercussions in the workplace.

Even beyond the stigmas, 38 percent of police officers reported that their department does not provide adequate mental health services. According to a 2020 study involving 400 Dallas Police department personnel printed by JAMA, the journal for the American Medical Association, there are four main barriers to mental health access among law enforcement: 

  • The inability to recognize when they are experiencing a mental health issue
  • Concerns regarding confidentiality
  • Belief that mental health professionals cannot relate to those working in law enforcement jobs
  • Notion that those who seek mental health services are unfit to serve as officers in the criminal justice system

Because of these concerns, less than 20 percent of police officers with confirmed mental health issues had sought services in 2019. 

Progress is being made

There are many individual non-profit groups and government organizations that assist with access to mental health treatments for law enforcement, but in recent years, one of the most notable organizations is COPS Office. 

The Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) was established through the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act and provides assistance with community policing, and creates initiatives to advance the mental health and wellness of law enforcement officers in each community.

And, in 2018, with the help of the COPS Office, the Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act ( LEMHWA) was signed into law. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, this act called for the DOJ to submit a report to Congress on mental health practices and services in the U.S. Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs that could be adopted by federal, state, local, or tribal law enforcement agencies and containing recommendations to Congress on the effectiveness of crisis lines for law enforcement officers, the efficacy of annual mental health checks for law enforcement officers, expansion of peer mentoring programs, and ensuring privacy considerations for these types of programs. 

Expanding Treatment Accessibility for first responders

Though the Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB) treatment itself has been around for over a century and has been used to treat veterans and special force operators for years, SGB is fairly new to the public. 

Mental trauma often results in debilitating symptoms that can originate from the sympathetic nervous system’s fight or flight response. When individuals suffer from trauma-related symptoms, oftentimes this fight or flight response is still in “high gear” after the trauma.

The SGB procedure interacts with the sympathetic nervous system to help restore normal psychological function and can address the biological symptoms associated with trauma. Using image-guidance techniques such as ultrasound, fluoroscopy, and computed tomography, a licesned medical doctor injects a local anesthetic into a bundle of nerves found near the base of the neck. 

The treatment can help support the brain’s natural fight or flight response and can lead to a restored sense of safety and calm. SGB has been shown to have dramatic positive effects and can also help accelerate the positive impact of other therapies.

At Stella, more than 80 percent of those experiencing trauma found relief. Over 4,500 people in 48 locations around the world have been treated, many of them first responders. Luis, a law enforcement officer hurt in the line of duty, received SGB and experienced life-changing results which you can hear about here.

Seeking mental health solutions can be difficult, especially when it is engrained in a culture that needs “tough skin” to carry on throughout the day. But, mental health is an important part of survival for every human, especially for law enforcement. 

If you’re depressed, anxious, or experiencing suicidal thoughts, you deserve the appropriate care. There are policies and treatments in place, and policies being created that help give you access to the care you need as law enforcement officers. If you are hesitant to find the care you deserve, please know that it’s a click away. 

Learn more about the Stellate Ganglion Block here and gain new knowledge about the treatments that are changing first responders’ lives daily.,  Additional research from COPS Office is available below to assist the advancement of mental health awareness in law enforcement. 

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How Ketamine Infusion Therapy Can Benefit Your Healing Journey

How Ketamine Infusion Therapy Can Benefit Your Healing Journey
By stella
19th Jul 2022

The landscape of mental healthcare treatment is vast. Pharmaceutical drugs, the Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB), yoga, talk therapy…. The list goes on. 

The idea of researching available treatments can be daunting. And deciding where to start your healing journey – or what to add to it – takes time and serious consideration. That’s where Stella comes in. 

In this article, we explain what Ketamine Infusion Therapy by Stella is, which conditions it can treat, and how it can fit into your healing journey. 

The History of Ketamine 

How It Started

In 1966, researchers published the first study about using ketamine as an anesthetic, noting that it provides “excellent analgesia” (or inability to feel pain). By 1970, the FDA approved the use of ketamine as an anesthetic. And in 1985, the World Health Organization added ketamine to its Essentials Medicines list. 

Researchers Find a New Use For Ketamine

In the early 1990s, researchers at Yale noted that when treated with pediatric anesthetic ketamine, chronically depressed patients experience “almost immediate – if transitory – relief from [their] symptoms.” This observation sparked researchers’ curiosity about ketamine’s potential to help the tens of millions of people who struggle with depression and other mental health conditions, like anxiety and PTSD. 

In a 2015 study published in the American Journal of Psychology, researchers celebrated ketamine as “one of the most important breakthroughs in antidepressant treatment in decades.” 

Multiple randomized clinical studies find that ketamine infusions can effectively treat major depressive disorder and treatment-resistant depression with a success rate as high as 80%. Patients with suicidal thoughts respond particularly well to ketamine – over 80% report that their suicidal thoughts stop completely after the first infusion. 

How Ketamine Infusion Therapy Works 

Ketamine can enter the body in a few ways: intravenously, intramuscularly, intranasally, sublingually (under the tongue), or orally (by mouth). Stella only administers ketamine intravenously, which is the most common method. 

The amount of ketamine used in Ketamine Infusion Therapy by Stella is much lower than what anesthesiologists administer before surgery. 

How Does Ketamine Affect the Brain? 

Ketamine is an NMDA receptor antagonist that interacts with some of the brain’s neurotransmitters. When ketamine binds to those receptors, it increases the amount of glutamate between neurons. Glutamate then activates connections in the AMPA receptor. When NMDA receptors are blocked and AMPA receptors are activated, synaptogenesis occurs. Synaptogenesis is the process of neurons communicating with each other along new pathways, which can affect mood, thought patterns, and cognition. 

Ketamine causes nerve growth throughout the brain which can lead to long-lasting symptom improvement, even after the drug is no longer in your system.

What Is the Infusion Session Like? 

At the beginning, you might not notice any changes. As the session progresses, you may feel lighter or like you’re floating. Some patients describe this sensation as “a weight being lifted” off their shoulders. Other patients experience a dream-like state or calmness. It’s also possible to have visions of colors and shapes. These types of out-of-body experiences are why ketamine is sometimes categorized as a psychedelic drug. 

Generally, 15 minutes after completing the infusion, patients start to regain their senses and their thinking returns to normal. 

How Long Does It Last? 

The positive effects of a single ketamine infusion can last for up to two weeks. After a series of six infusions, many Stella patients are symptom-free for several months or longer. 

The Benefits of Ketamine Infusion Therapy

It’s Fast-Acting 

Ketamine caused a paradigm shift in the treatment of major depressive disorder and treatment-resistant depression. Many pharmaceutical drugs take weeks to work – if they work at all – whereas ketamine can work within hours of the first infusion. For some patients, it takes multiple infusions to experience relief. In either case, Ketamine Infusion Therapy often yields a successful result before traditional treatments – think pharmaceutical drugs or talk therapy – do. 

This is incredibly encouraging because when someone is struggling with depression, they may benefit from a treatment with a fast positive response. For this reason, ketamine can be an extremely valuable tool in preventing suicide and alleviating major depressive disorder. 

It’s Safe 

Ketamine Infusion Therapy by Stella is administered by highly-trained medical personnel who work under the direction of a Board Certified physician. They deliver the ketamine intravenously very slowly over 45 minutes. During the session, medical personnel will closely monitor your vital signs and adjust the dose as necessary. They are also prepared to manage unpleasant side effects like nausea. 

There Are Minimal Side Effects  

Side effects of Ketamine Infusion Therapy include mild drowsiness, nausea, and increased blood pressure, and they usually only last an hour or two. 

Less common side effects include vivid dreams and agitation. These can be controlled by adjusting the dose during the infusion session. 

There is no evidence that ketamine is habit-forming or addictive when administered intravenously at low doses and frequencies to treat depression. In fact, research suggests that ketamine can help people overcome addictions. 

Please note that a history of substance-use issues will not exclude you from participating in Ketamine Infusion Therapy by Stella. However, it is important to disclose this information to our Care Team before treatment. 

It’s Customized To You

Ketamine Infusion Therapy by Stella includes six infusion sessions. To maximize the positive effects of treatment, patients typically space their infusions out over a two-to three-week period. 

The total number of infusions and need for maintenance infusions varies from person to person. Stella’s Care Team will work with you to create a plan that’s practical and most likely to yield a successful result. 

Most of Stella’s treatment locations let you bring your own music so you can set the tone of your infusion sessions. Many locations also allow a family member or friend to accompany you so you feel comfortable and supported during treatment.

Adding Ketamine Infusion Therapy To Your Existing Care Plan

To help you achieve the best possible outcome, Stella combines cutting-edge biological and psychological interventions. 

Our team understands that there are many paths to healing. Ketamine Infusion Therapy can compliment the work you’re already doing and it’s a great first step. 

The Stellate Ganglion Block 

Treatment by Stella is based on the symptoms that you self-report in our short quiz. Our quiz gauges the post-traumatic stress (PTS) and/ or depressive symptoms you may be experiencing. Our Care Team will determine if you might benefit from the Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB), Ketamine Infusion Therapy, or a combination of the two. 

People with moderate PTS and moderate depressive symptoms may be good candidates for both SGB and Ketamine Infusion Therapy. Our Care Team is prepared to discuss your treatment options with you and will provide the information you need to make an informed decision. 

A month and a half after one of our patients had SGB and five ketamine infusions, they said that they felt like they got their life back: 

“These treatments allowed me to see that my trauma and the abuses were nothing but mere memories. Those fleeting things. Mere floaties, as opposed to hard truths about life and myself. I am able to connect to myself in a way that is incredibly healing! I am alive and healing at incredible speed!”

Other Therapies and Treatments

Ketamine Infusion Therapy by Stella can accelerate the impact of other therapies and treatments, such as talk therapy, pharmaceutical drugs, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and more. Many of our patients find that after their infusion sessions they can more easily incorporate takeaways from therapy because they are less focused on their symptoms. 

One of our patients reflected on the progress they made after Ketamine Infusion Therapy by Stella: 

“I got six infusions in seven days. The infusions had a huge impact on my trauma and the way my brain was holding on to the moments in my past. The traumatic events were as old as 30 years. The infusions made me feel as if I was the only thing that exists on earth, which is extremely peaceful. My rumination on past events went away, and I was extremely calm and happy. During some of the infusions I felt as if I was dying. The feeling of dying helped me kill the pain that was inside, rather than me wanting to commit suicide. I battled with suicidal ideations for over 30 years with over 20 years of psychological therapy. I made more progress during one infusion than I had in 20 years of therapy and 90 days in inpatient rehabilitation. Ketamine infusions would have given me my childhood and adulthood back, rather than living with a horror film inside of me.”

What Does Ketamine Infusion Therapy Cost? 

Our package of six ketamine infusions starts at $3,899. Please note that the price of Ketamine Infusion Therapy by Stella varies by location.

Although ketamine can be legally prescribed and administered to treat mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, or PTSD, ketamine infusions are not currently covered by healthcare insurance companies for this use. Today, ketamine is only covered by insurance as an anesthetic. 

To help make Ketamine Infusion Therapy accessible, Stella accepts payment through HSA and FSA accounts. We also offer two financing options: a 24-month plan through CareCredit and an in-house plan for those who qualify. 

If you want to learn why Ketamine Infusion Therapy isn’t covered by insurance and how we set our prices, read Stella’s Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer Michael Gershenzon’s article on Cost, Care, and the Need for Transparency. 

Connect With Stella’s Care Team 

Stella has helped thousands of people find lasting relief from symptoms related to depression, anxiety, PTSD, and stress. To determine if you’re a good fit for Treatment by Stella, start by taking our brief quiz. You can also reach our Care Team at 312-448-6502 or care@stellacenter.com.

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Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB): What To Expect & What’s To Come

Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB): What To Expect & What’s To Come
By stella
06th Jul 2022

Many people have questions about Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB). What’s the procedure like? How do you qualify? How do you feel after?

In this blog post, we’ll walk you through Treatment by Stella so you know what to expect before, during, and after SGB.

Qualifying for SGB

We will never ask you to tell your story or justify your trauma to qualify for treatment. 

Treatment by Stella is based on the severity of each person’s symptoms of depression, anxiety, and emotional trauma. It’s common for trauma survivors to feel unworthy of receiving care, these algorithmic-based tests help validate one’s experiences due to their unbiased nature. 

For those who qualify for treatment, the journey to relief begins. 

Before Treatment

For many of our patients, waiting to receive SGB is more difficult than the actual procedure. 

Stella isn’t always the first stop on our patients’ healing journeys. It’s common for trauma survivors to try multiple treatments – like prescription medications, talk therapy, or deep breathing exercises. While every time-tested, research-backed treatment has its merits, none of them can guarantee 100 percent relief. When a treatment doesn’t work, it can feel personal. And that may cause us to lose trust in the healthcare system. 

It’s completely normal to be skeptical or feel hopeless about the possibility of feeling good again. Memories of failed treatments can trigger anxiety and hesitation about SGB and worrying can keep us up at night. Our days may be interrupted by intrusive thoughts like:

What if SGB doesn’t work?
What if I can’t get my heart rate down?
What if my vitamins actually had turmeric in them?
I stopped taking my blood thinners, right?
I can’t wait any longer to feel better. 
Will SGB change who I am?

Here are four ways to help ease your mind and cope with this type of thinking before treatment.

Set expectations:

Some feel nervous talking to their friends, family, and care providers following SGB as they navigate the changes in their bodies in real-time. Some feel “pressure” to show positive results so they don’t let their loved ones down. These are common reactions and may even be tied to trauma responses.

Setting expectations with our support circle beforehand can help alleviate these types of reactions after treatment. 

  • Ask for some “quiet time” to yourself immediately after treatment to allow yourself to “unplug” and focus on resting.
  • Explain that you will share a quick update immediately after your SGB procedure followed by more details the next day.
  • Set boundaries for what types of language you want your support system to use. Many prefer to be asked “How are you feeling right now?” instead of triggering language like “Did it work?”

Sharing this 7 Ways To Take Care of Yourself or Others Before and After SGB resource with our support team can allow for them to look back on this document to help answer any questions they may have.

Review Stella’s treatment documentation:

Once treatment is scheduled, Stella will send you an email with the information you need to prepare for treatment, including: 

  • The location (address, pictures of the facility, parking details, how to check in, etc.)
  • Your doctor (their name, picture, medical training, current Board Certifications, etc.)
  • The procedure (what to wear, type of image-guidance used, companion policies, etc.)

Talk to your mental health care provider:

Many trauma-informed therapists are familiar with SGB, and we recommend discussing your upcoming treatment plan with them. If you do not have a mental healthcare provider, we may be able to refer you to one in our network. 

Talk to the Stella team:

If nervousness or anxiety arises on treatment day, please know that you’re in a safe space and you can openly ask questions or communicate your worries to the team on site. Ask your Stella doctor to walk you through the treatment again, step by step. 

Following your treatment

Whether one chooses to stay awake or use twilight sedation, many people experience similar outcomes immediately after treatment. Here are a few of the most common responses:

Sudden urge to cry

Most people report a rush of emotions. We recommend letting out the emotions. This is extremely common and healthy. Your Stella MD partner is familiar with this response and will respect your time and space through this release.

Calmness

While most have difficulty articulating what “calmness” feels like, they know it’s the feeling they are experiencing. We’ll touch on this more shortly.

Lightness

SGB can make people feel like a weight has been lifted off their chest or shoulders. This may make them feel like they can breathe more deeply and in turn feel more rested and relaxed than they’re used to. 

Tiredness

It’s normal to feel tired after a medical procedure. We recommend that our patients take a long nap after they leave get home. Sleep allows the body to heal and feel calm. Many patients find it helpful to turn off their cell phones while resting. 

The Following Days

Be patient with yourself in the days following treatment and revisit the expectations you set for yourself and your loved ones. Depending on how long one’s body has been stuck in fight-or-flight mode, the benefits may be glaring, hard to describe, or difficult to spot. 

Outside of what’s covered within the PCL 5 PTSD symptom tracker, many of the benefits experienced fall under the category of “calmness” and “peacefulness.” 

Calmness | ˈkämnəs,ˈkälmnəs:

the state or quality of being free from agitation or strong emotion.

This comes to life in many forms following treatment:

  • Having a clear head
  • Mind being quiet 
  • Time feels slower 
  • Acting less rushed
  • Feeling comfortable

Over 83 percent of Stella Patients experience lasting relief after one SGB procedure. And, 43 percent of patients schedule two treatments based on the severity of their symptoms.

The Stella Standard of Care was created to meet your needs before, during, and after treatment. 

There are patients that do not receive relief after their first treatment or may not receive as much relief as they were hoping for. In rare cases, some may experience an inability to control emotions, increased anxiety or panic attacks, or worsened sleep. If a second treatment, typically on the left side, is not already a part of the care plan, it will be recommended to those who experience these symptoms.

While the majority of people find relief after they receive the second treatment, Stella will work directly with 10-20 percent who did not experience any benefits from SGB and help navigate them on additional treatment options. 

The Next 14 – 30 Days

You may not notice changes in your symptoms at first but those close to you might observe changes in your behavior. Ask a trusted family member or friend to take inventory of how you’ve changed and have them share their observations with you. This exercise is eye-opening for many Stella patients. You may need to encounter stressful situations to realize that your response to them is different. 

When the body is no longer stuck in fight-or-flight mode, symptoms dissipate, which can positively impact how we move through daily tasks. Many people note that they:

  • Find driving is less stressful
  • See more clearly – colors appear brighter and their vision is sharper
  • Can more easily handle social situations or go out in public
  • Feel more sociable
  • Experience less physical pain
  • Can actively listen and more thoughtfully engage in conversations 
  • Interested in picking up old (or new) hobbies
  • Are a more confident parent and/or partner
  • Are excited about future planning

SGB gives people the ability to feel in a way that they did not think was possible. 

“The final piece to the puzzle. Yes, I needed therapy, meditation & medication, but those things didn’t get me all the way to where I needed to be. It’s like my fight or flight mechanism was stuck in the ‘on’ position and nothing could calm it down. The Stella Center SGB shot did. I’m not constantly triggered or on edge anymore. I can finally enjoy the new perspective and positive outlook that I gained from therapy. Life has its ups & downs but they’re manageable now. Life is brand new.”

Read more of Stella’s anonymous reviews in real-time to hear more about how people are experiencing life after treatment.

How Long Does SGB Last?

The lasting impact of SGB varies from individual to individual. In a study where participants were surveyed 3-6 months after treatment, 70 percent still reported a successful outcome. Many people find lasting results for years after treatment.

On average, 8 to 12 percent of Stella patients return for additional SGB treatment. Many have incorporated ongoing SGB treatments into their mental health care plan based on personal lifestyle, stressors, new traumas and/or response to treatment.

While all of the benefits of SGB treatments are still unknown, Stella sees an increasing number of patients reporting after receiving SGB, they have:

  • Improved handwriting
  • Reduced their use of or stopped taking prescription medications
  • Less PMS (premenstrual syndrome) symptoms
  • More memories from childhood
  • Less face and neck flushing
  • Decreased gag reflex

SGB is not a “cure” for PTSD or emotional trauma symptoms. We believe that the formula for lasting relief is a combination of biological and psychological interventions. 

What’s To Come for SGB

While SGB may seem new to the public, the medical industry has been exploring its capabilities since 1920. SGB has been shown to treat migraines and help women find relief from hot flashes and night sweats. More studies are underway to show its effectiveness for treating vertigo, bell’s palsy and much more.

Earlier this year, Stella Provider Dr. Luke D. Liu published a case study explaining how SGB successfully reduced long COVID symptoms. The result of this study led to Stella and RTHM partnering to provide RTHM’s Long COVID patients with access to Stella’s SGB treatment.

A new clinical trial sponsored by NYU Langone Health is leveraging Dr. Lipov’s modified SGB method, the Dual Sympathetic Reset, and Stella’s New York Provider to test SGB’s efficacy on PTSD symptoms through the use of brain scans. Researchers hope will help destigmatize PTSD as an illness and add to the public’s understanding of SGB as a potential treatment. 

Primary care and functional medicine practices, like Cornerstone, are now offering SGB to their patients through Stella’s Certified MD network.

There are many findings that remain unexplored, like SGB’s impact on Tinnitus or its positive impact on Roman/Ward syndrome.

The possibilities around SGB are endless. We won’t stop championing this treatment and providing you with the care you deserve.  

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