Summer boldly announced itself on Wednesday this week—July 1—with temperatures in London reaching 36.7C (98F). It was the hottest July day in the UK since records began in the 1870s. Hotter than Barcelona, Ibiza and Athens.
Summer is good, right? The living is easy. The sunshine makes us happy because it promotes vitamin D, an antidepressant. We’re nicer, more helpful. We become heightened, more relaxed, more confident and better-looking versions of ourselves at this time of year. We ripen. We are in abundance. Aren’t we?
No, not necessarily. For some, summer is a time of dread. You’re “supposed” to be living la dolce vita, basking with amazing friends in some tropical beach resort, Tuscan villa, or Caribbean yacht or whatever, and you’re not. You’re home, alone, still you, still unhappy. The heat saps your strength. You’ve lost your appetite. All your appetites. The noonday glare is oppressive, exposing you, attacking you. Maybe you have a disability that means you can’t head for the beach, or a poor body image that makes it impossible to wear sandals, shorts or skimpy swimwear. You’re anxious and you can’t sleep. The kids are home from school or college. Everything is expensive. Tempers flare. The pollution is terrible. You can’t breathe. No wonder suicide rates rise in spring and summer.
There is something called “seasonal affective disorder” or SAD. It is generally a chronic, recurring low mood, but usually in the winter months—a kind of annual psychic hibernation.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) identifies it as a type of “major depressive disorder” with a seasonal pattern: “The essential feature is the onset and remission of major depressive episodes at characteristic times of the year...This pattern of onset and remission of episodes must have occurred during at least a 2-year period, without any non-seasonal episodes occurring during this period.”
SAD was first identified in 1984 by Dr. Norman E. Rosenthal and his associates at America’s National Institute of Mental Health (Rosenthal’s definitive book on the subject is Winter Blues). The estimates of prevalence of SAD range from 1.4 percent in Florida to almost 10 percent in northern, low-light regions such as Alaska and Finland. SAD is thought to have an organic cause, perhaps some delicate bodily unbalance involving circadian rhythms, melatonin and serotonin levels and the pineal gland. It has been found to respond well to bright-light therapy.
The summer variant--sometimes called reverse seasonal affective disorder or “summer SAD”—is more unusual. According to researchers’ estimates, it’s about a tenth as common than the winter kind, although in some countries near the equator like India or Brazil, the summer kind is more prevalent.
• Get some professional help. No need to suffer in silence. A therapist might help you understand what it is that makes summer such a slog and develop ways to manage it better.
• Pay attention to the basics: food, light exercise, sleep. And drink plenty of water. And find ways of restoring your energy: meditate, spend time with close friends or in nature. Try saying no to some of your obligations.
• If you can, plan a trip to cooler climes. Head north—or head for the hills.
• Make your summer your own. Forget about the idealized image of what summer “should” be all about and instead find all the things you actually quite like about it and build your own routines, rituals and traditions around them.
• Relax—autumn is just around the corner.
• Summer depression: causes, symptoms, and tips to help (www.webmd.com)
• Janis Joplin sings “Summertime” in 1969 (YouTube)
A year later she died from a heroin overdose:
One of these mornings
You're going to rise up singing
Then you'll spread your wings
And you'll take to the sky
Semicolon tattoo trend spreads to raise awareness over mental health
This is an interesting project. Getting a tattoo is a step up from wearing one of those charity bracelets that were popular a few years ago. Project Semicolon was started in America in the spring of 2013 by Amy Bleuel, who lost her father to suicide. Why a semicolon tattoo? Because “A semicolon is used when an author could've chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life.”
It is a faith-based Christian organisation. “This by no means excludes any other beliefs or religions, as we accept them all,” states the Project Semicolon website. But it is of course by its very nature exclusionary. People of other beliefs or religions are unlikely to want to get involved. Why not unite people with mental health challenges the world over by making it nondenominational? Until or unless that happens, for most Project Semicolon is a Full Stop.
Thousands of people across the globe are getting semicolons tattooed on their bodies in a bid to raise awareness about mental health.
The simple punctuation mark - used to divide sentence clauses - has been adopted by the non-profit group 'Semicolon Project' to help raise awareness over depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicide.
The organisation hopes that by persuading people to have semicolon tattoos - permanent or temporary - will help break down the stigma associated with mental illness.
Although the U.S.-based charity was founded in April 2013, it has recently attracted renewed attention.
Indeed, Emma Richards of Llandudno, Wales, got a semicolon tattooed on her little finger this week after reading about the initiative online.
The 30-year-old started suffering with depression after her young son was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, epilepsy and autism.
Today, she remains on medication to alleviate the symptoms, which include palpitations and panic attacks.
She told Mirror.co.uk that she read about the Semicolon project and completely related to the message.
From the Radio Times:
EastEnders is working with mental health charity Mind for an upcoming storyline that will see Lee Carter (Danny-Boy Hatchard) fight depression.
In the coming weeks, viewers will see army recruitment officer Lee begin to struggle with everyday life as he battles with his emotions. After coming under pressure from sister Nancy (Maddy Hill) to reveal what's wrong, Lee finally comes clean.
But Lee will decide to keep his feelings from mum Linda (Kellie Bright) and dad Mick (Danny Dyer) for fear of causing them worry.
"This is not a subject that only a handful of people can relate to. It’s something that at some point most people in their lives will experience on different levels," said actor Danny-Boy Hatchard, who plays Lee.
As to how the depression will affect Lee's relationship with Whitney, Hatchard explained: "This will make them stronger. What Lee wants in a relationship is what his own mum and dad have. And Lee knows that in order to have that, he has to confide in Whitney.
Positive view of NHS marred by fears over dementia and mental health care
From The Guardian:
Public perceptions of local NHS care for people with mental health problems and dementia are stubbornly low despite overall pride in England’s healthcare system rising to its highest level in recent years, a government-commissioned survey reveals.
Just over two-thirds of more than 1,000 adults questioned in their own homes last winter were satisfied with the running of the NHS at a national level – a figure that has seen little change – but satisfaction with local services dropped from 78% in 2013 to 74%.
Well over eight in 10 people who have been to hospital or their GP recently are positive about the experience, according to a report from the Ipsos Mori Social Research Institute.
More negatively, a higher proportion of people think those with mental health conditions are not well cared for (39%) compared with those who think they are (31%). Dissatisfaction has increased by seven percentage points since the last but one survey in spring 2013. Almost three in 10 people say they don’t know about care for this group of patients.
Science proves what you suspected: hiking's good for your mental health
From the Los Angeles Times
Do not underestimate the power of a walk in the woods: A new study suggests that even a 90- minute stroll in a natural environment can lead to measurable changes in the brain, and may help combat depression.
Previous research has shown that just a 50-minute walk in nature can improve your mood, decrease your anxiety and even improve your memory. But for the new study, published this week in PNAS, the research team wanted to see if they could understand what the mechanisms for these positive effects might be.
To help them figure it out, they decided to focus specifically on what psychologists call "rumination," which has been shown to predict depressive episodes.
"Ruminative thought means something very specific in psychology," said Gregory Bratman, a PhD candidate in environmental science at Stanford University and the lead author of the study. "It is repetitive thought that is focused on negative aspects of the self."
Examples of rumination include spending a lot of time thinking back over embarrassing or disappointing moments, or rehashing recent things you've said or done.
To see how a walk in nature affects ruminative thought, the researchers randomly assigned 38 volunteers with no history of mental illness to take a 90-minute walk in an urban green space near Palo Alto or a loud, busy street with three to four lanes of traffic in each direction.
Traumatizing impact of family detention on mental health of children and mothers
From the American Immigration Lawyers Association:
The psychological harm caused when mothers and children seeking asylum in the U.S. are detained in jail-like facilities is the subject of a complaint filed today with the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) by the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the Women's Refugee Commission, and the American Immigration Council. The complaint includes details of the harsh and detrimental impact of detention on ten case examples of mothers and children documented by mental health professionals after in-depth evaluations. CRCL must immediately and thoroughly investigate these cases of trauma in family detention and further request a complete investigation into psychological and physiological impact that family detention is having on children and mothers.
Turkey: Therapy center looks to heal wounds of Syrian children of war
From Daily Sabah:
Two nongovernmental organizations inaugurated a rehabilitation center in Istanbul yesterday for Syrian children and their mothers traumatized by the civil war in their country.
The Psychosocial Support Center in Istanbul's Fatih district, a hub for displaced Syrians who fled to Turkey after war broke out in their country four years ago, will provide therapy to distressed children and their families.
Mevlüt Yurtseven, director of the Alliance of International Doctors, one of the NGOs operating the center, said Syrian children underwent the most severe trauma during the war and they aimed to help them to recover.
The center will serve 240 children and their mothers in six-monthly terms during which they will undergo psychotherapy, art therapy including other forms of therapy. Both mothers and children will be able to attend the lifelong learning courses that aim to help traumatized children forget their past troubles and boost their self-confidence, NGO officials said.
Apart from children, the center will cater to Syrian women in need of legal and social counseling and offer Turkish classes.
Turkey is home to nearly 1.8 million Syrians and over 260,000 Syrians living in tent camps built by the Turkish government in provinces near the Turkish-Syrian border, while others either reside in their own homes, in rental houses or squat in abandoned buildings and parks. Psychological therapy and social support are provided for Syrians in camps but those not living in camps have no prospect of therapy.
Australia: new concept takes counselling into the great outdoors
If EXERCISE is just as good as medication in treating depression then Ryde psychologist Jo-Anne Sammons could be on to an absolute lifesaver – counselling in the great outdoors.
It was while completing a course at the Black Dog Institute, which looked at the success of using exercise to treat mild and moderate depression, that Ms Sammons came up with the idea of walking and talking.
“I’d been thinking about it for a couple of years,’’ she said. “I had a client with a newborn baby and she had post-natal depression. I thought, ‘wouldn’t it be great if we could do this outside where she could push the baby in a pram’.
“When you are outside you can practise mindfulness, focusing on the sun on your face, you get the benefit of exercise and some people just feel more comfortable being side-by-side – particularly men.’’
Holland: Dutch study on diabetes reports effectiveness of mindfulness-based psychotherapy
From Diabetes News Journal:
In a recent study published in the Journal of Psychotherapy and Psychosomatic, a team of Dutch researchers led by professor Paul Emmelkamp assessed the long-term clinical outcomes of psychotherapy in patients with diabetes.
Patients with diabetes often report depressive symptoms, a comorbidity that has a negative impact in clinical outcomes and mortality. The burden of depression is increased by the fact that it is a chronic and progressive condition, with high rates of relapse. Recently, evidence has shown that Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) is effective and beneficial as a psychological treatment for patients with depressive symptoms. The method is also beneficial for relapse prevention.
Equality at work is still a pipedream for people with mental health problems
From Clare Allan in The Guardian:
One of the very few things the last government did to make life easier for people with mental health problems was to introduce legislation preventing employers from asking about the health of an applicant before making a job offer. (There are some exceptions. You cannot apply to MI6 if you’ve ever been diagnosed with either “manic depression” or schizophrenia, for example.)
While this change was long overdue and extremely welcome, that such legislation is needed is indicative of the fact that true equality, equality whereby the full range of human experience is regarded as equally valid and potentially useful, is still pretty much a pipedream for the vast majority of people with mental health problems. The best we can hope for is that nobody will find out.
This seems a pity. It’s a pity for the person forced to try and conceal the gaps in their CV by means of extended periods of “overseas travel”, career breaks and whatever else, like brushing strands of hair across a bald patch. But it’s a pity for employers, too, who must assess candidates without access to information on the full range of skills and experience they may have to offer.
How ketamine is revolutionizing the way we treat depression
From Dr. Keith Ablow in Fox News:
I have now treated approximately one hundred patients with intravenous ketamine. The results mirror those of research trials on the treatment; more than two thirds of my patients have experienced dramatic recoveries. Their profoundly low mood, lack of energy, decreased self-esteem and even suicidal thinking very frequently yields entirely to the ketamine infusions. And while the results from ketamine may last weeks or months, that is often more than enough time to allow other medications and psychotherapy to permanently rid patients of their suffering.
Have your feelings without your feelings having you
Dr. Gary Trosclair in Huffington Post:
I've noticed that most people come in to therapy with some preconception about what to do with their feelings in session: Some believe that venting will help them to heal, others feel that it will be most helpful to remain distanced from their feelings so that they can analyze them. They're both right. And they're both wrong. It's the use of both of these modes in alternation that's most helpful -- though I think that there are better ways to describe them than "venting" and "analyzing."
We need to value our feelings and use them rather than trying to get rid of them through either venting or analyzing. I've found that the best way to do this is to let feelings rise into consciousness, fully experience them, contain them and learn from them, and then decide what to do about them. This means expressing feelings without reacting to them impulsively, and then making conscious decisions about how to live based on what we learn from them.
This whole process could take minutes or years. Some feelings take a long time to fully rise into conscious, and to be fully experienced and fully understood. Others emerge quickly.