Mental Health Awareness Week: Relationships
It’s Mental Health Awareness Week, the focus on this year’s campaign being relationships.
The Mental Health Foundation writes: “We believe we urgently need a greater focus on the quality of our relationships. We need to understand just how fundamental relationships are to our health and wellbeing. We cannot flourish as individuals and communities without them. In fact, they are as vital as better-established lifestyle factors, such as eating well, exercising more and stopping smoking.”
The Foundation is lobbying governments, public bodies and employers, and they have a challenge for you too: prioritise your relationships by making a relationship resolution. Some examples: “I resolve to tell people I love that I love them” or “I will say sorry to a, b and c” or “I resolve to be a better partner, friend, sibling, child, parent, relative, lover, colleague, teacher, student to x, y or z” or “I resolve to stop playing games” or “I will develop a better relationship with my self” or “I resolve spend less time relating to my phone, iPad or laptop, and more time relating to actual human beings.”
• The 6 relationship types: What colour is yours?
• Perfect love
• On sex and sexuality
The mental health benefits of living by the seaside
Living by the seaside boosts mental health, makes people happier and more relaxed, according to new research.
In fact, the health advantages linked to a coastal home are so pronounced, scientists behind the study say more flats and affordable property should be built along Britain's shores so increased numbers of people can benefit.
American analysis of New Zealand data found residents whose properties had an ocean view were happier than their land-locked neighbours.
It is the first report to find a link between health and the visibility of water, which the scientists call 'blue space'.
The research shows how the sound of waves alters wave patterns in the brain lulling a person into a deeply relaxed state. Relaxing in this way can help rejuvenate the mind and body.
Also, floating in the nearby sea diverts blood from the lower limbs and pumps it towards the abdominal region - the part of the body near the heart - because we are no longer standing upright.
This fresh blood brings more oxygen to the brain making people more alert and active.
Professor Amber Pearson, of Michigan State University in the USA, said: "Increased views of blue space is significantly associated with lower levels of psychological distress. However, we did not find that with green space."
Child mental health crisis 'worse than suspected'
The crisis in children’s mental health is far worse than most people suspect and we are in danger of “medicalising childhood” by focussing on symptoms rather than causes, the government’s mental health champion for schools has warned.
Natasha Devon, who has been working in schools for almost a decade delivering mental health and wellbeing classes, said an average of three children in a class were diagnosed with a mental illness, but many more slipped under the radar.
Devon, who founded the Self-Esteem Team, was appointed by the government to look into young people’s mental health and find out what a good school support system looks like. However, she said the government was asking the wrong question.
“The question we should be asking ourselves is what are the emotional and mental health needs of all children and are they being met in our schools?” she said.
• Children in care too often denied mental health treatment, MPs warn (The Independent)
Teachers use early-warning system to spot mental health issues
Top private schools – including Harrow and Wellington – are testing pupils’ mental health as teen stress levels reach all-time high because of social media bullying.
There are currently 15 schools using an early warning system that helps teachers identify potential self-harm and drug abuse and 30 were already involved in a recent study.
Teachers say they are opting for the tool as a preventive measure in an era where adolescents are facing old-age challenges in a “more pressurised academic environment”, which means some “are finding it harder to cope”.
The schools, which also include some from the state sector as well, are using the tool called Affective Social (AS) Tracking to present teens with a series of scenarios where they display patterns of thinking that may affect their behaviour.
UK online pedophiles 'could face counselling not arrest'
One of Britain’s leading law enforcement officials has suggested that some people viewing child abuse images online should be directed to counselling instead of being arrested.
Lynne Owens, head of the U.K.’s National Crime Agency, told The Times that the “massive” scale of online paedophilia meant that there was a case for trying to get low-level offenders to change their behavior by engaging with charities.
“[If] it looks like they’re not individually engaged in abusing children, they are just viewing the images, but we want them to stop, you can see it could be possible, with a whole load of ethical checks and balances, to try and make contact with them overtly and get them to engage with charities to improve their offending behaviour,” she said.
Owens said that as law enforcement was bombarded with huge numbers of referrals from Internet companies, the priority had to be protecting children. “I want to crack down and pursue those people who are abusing children now,” she said.
China's unorthodox marriage counsellor or “mistress discourager”
South China Morning Post
Yu Feng, 45, dubbed the ‘mistress discourager’, tells how he helps clients – mainly desperate wives – by persuading husbands with mistresses to stay with their wives and families
“I am married, with two children. I believe marriage should be happy and an essential part of life – that everyone should be married.
Some people complain that marriage is a burden, but I don’t agree: if you take enough care you won’t face such difficulties.”
ISIS offers marriage counseling to stop jihadi brides from fleeing
New York Post
ISIS is being forced to offer marriage counseling to stop their brides from fleeing the terrorist group during tough times.
The terrorists opened their first “relationship counseling center” for troubled jihadi lovebirds in Raqqa, Syria, according to the UK Sun.
A photo, released by the Islamic State’s media branch, shows one tearful wife seeking help from a shrink next to a box of tissues.
Male ISIS fighters — connected to any number of brutal beheadings, bombings or other atrocities — have attended the sessions, too, according to the site.
Thousands of Western women, many of them British, have joined ISIS after being radicalized online in the past two years.
But times are tough in Raqqa, where airstrikes have caused food, water and power shortages, making tense marriages even more strained.
“At least before [ISIS] we had electricity, we could bake and cook. Our basic needs were met. Now we are back to ancient times,” one of the women told dissident site Open Your Eyes.
“There’s no electricity, no drinking water. There are no services,” another moaned.
ISIS has lured female recruits by promising them a new life in Syria.
Midlife crisis? Congratulations!
Excuse me, are you lost?
You've been shaken by life you say? Your roadmap doesn’t seem to work anymore?
Congratulations. You are having a “midlife crisis.” They can be big or small, can happen at any age, once in a lifetime or many times (or, for the unfortunate, never at all).
Perhaps your existential crisis was triggered by an event—a bereavement, illness, accident, divorce, redundancy, financial ruin or other trauma. Or perhaps it was just life that happened to you. You set out on your grown-up journey in reasonably good cheer, full of hopes and dreams. But sooner or later all that potential and possibility got mugged by reality. And one day you found yourself trapped in an unsatisfying job, marriage or town, struggling to pay the bills, stressed, sandwiched between looking after your kids and looking after your parents. You are miserable. You are at the bottom of the U-bend of happiness. “And you may ask yourself,” as the Talking Heads song goes, “how did I get here?” And you want to be someplace else. So you go, often leaving a trail of destruction in your wake.
Dr Oliver Robinson and colleagues at the University of Greenwich recently presented their research into the midlife crisis, defined as feeling emotionally unstable, making major changes and overwhelmed for at least a year. They interviewed more than 900 adults and found that among people aged 40 to 59, 24 percent were "definitely" having some kind of crisis while 36 percent "maybe" were.
One feature of crises that Dr Robinson identified was an increased curiosity, reflected in a greater interest in people, in one's own self, ideas in general, and the world around.
Dr Robinson says: “While crisis episodes bring distress and feelings of uncertainty, they also bring openness to new ideas and stimuli that can bring insight and creative solutions, which can move our development forward. This enhanced curiosity may be the ‘silver lining’ of crisis. Armed with this knowledge people may find the crises of adult life easier to bear.”
But a midlife crisis isn't an unfortunate affliction, an accumulation of dark clouds that come with the silver lining of enhanced curiosity while you wait for those clouds to pass. It is instead a journey beyond the clouds, from darkness to light. It is growth. It is something that is often unavoidable.
With the help of therapy, you can transform all the breakdowns into breakthroughs and experience some kind of metanoia; a renaissance.
A midlife crisis is painful. It is a clumsy grasp for a better life. In the darkness you might stub your toe and gash your shins; things can get spilled or knocked over. It can get really messy. People can get hurt. It can involve sports cars, motorbikes, tattoos and unlikely couplings, but does not have to be so dramatic or clichéd.
The worst of times can turn into the best of times. Your physiological decline is outweighed by your psychological advance. The death of ambition is outweighed by the birth of acceptance. Instead of trying to live up to other people’s standards or expectations, you fully accept who you are. What Jungian James Hollis calls your “provisional personality” fades away, along with all the delusions of grandeur and internalised “rules” about how you, others and life “should” be.
You start to play your own game—and play it with confidence and purpose and verve.
Your relationships improve. You learn to love—and try to make it up to the people you hurt.
You start to love life.
1. What is a psychopath?
John Barton is a counsellor, psychotherapist, blogger and writer with a private practice in Marylebone, Central London. To contact, click here.