Weekly news round-up #32
“This decision affirms what millions of Americans already believe in their hearts,” President Obama said. “When all Americans are treated as equal, we are all more free.”
Same-sex marriage has been legal in England, Scotland and Wales since 2014.
A significant proportion of humanity is gay—the U.K. government puts the estimate at 5-7 percent of the population—and there’s no reason to suppose this hasn’t been so since time immemorial. Yet for centuries, it was illegal. As long ago as 1290 homosexuality was mentioned in English common law as a punishable offence. It wasn’t decriminalized until 1967.
The world of psychotherapy has been no more enlightened—it perhaps has even been somewhat reactionary, lagging behind society and clinging to the old social “norms" for as long as possible. Homosexuality was long seen as aberrant, a pathology, a mental illness. It was only removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) as recently 1973, and even made a brief reappearance—“ego-dystonic homosexuality”—in 1980. Beliefs in “conversion therapy” persist today, though there’s a rising chorus of complaints—and lawsuits—against it.
Common sense will prevail. But there’s a long way to go. It’s still illegal to be gay in 75 countries and still punishable by death in 10. In the civilized west, meanwhile, plenty of countries don’t yet allow same sex marriage—including Northern Ireland—and homophobia is hardly a thing of the past. This all has a profound effect on mental health. Studies show for instance a greater prevalence of psychiatric complaints among gay people in states where same-sex marriage was banned compared to those in states where it wasn’t. This should not be a surprise—it’s hardly a revelation that oppression is not great for psychological well-being.
We all deserve “equal dignity in the eyes of the law,” as one of the 5 “yes” judges, Justice Anthony Kennedy, put it in his closing argument. We all deserve the opportunity “not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions.”
There are hundreds of millions of people on this earth who are attracted to the opposite sex, and hundreds of millions who are attracted to the same sex. This simple fact of life is so basic, so incontrovertable, so banal, that you wonder what all the fuss is about. Can’t we all just live and let live?
Supreme Court decision really good for health
From Huffington Post:
The Supreme Court of the United States made a historic ruling on same-sex marriage on Friday, voting 5 to 4 in favor of legalizing all unions. Not only does this allow everyone to marry the person they love, regardless of sexual orientation, but it's also a step forward for mental health in a community that's often stigmatized.
The SCOTUS decision is a leap in the right direction -- especially when it comes to boosting the mental health of LGBT individuals.
According to the American Psychological Association, marriage boosts psychosocial and mental health due to the moral, social and even economic support extended to married couples in our society -- and denial of those rights may impose certain risks when it comes to well-being. A 2012 University of California, Los Angeles study found that psychological distress is lower among gay, lesbian and bisexual couples who are allowed to be legally married, compared with those in unions that are not legally recognized.
In other words, science suggests that letting people marry who they want boosts mental and maybe even physical health.
The UCLA study isn't the only evidence that champions legalized same-sex marriage for this reason. Around 2004, when state bans on same-sex marriage started to peak, the National Institutes of Mental Health conducted a survey that examined respondents' mental health. Results showed gay, lesbian or bisexual individuals who lived in states where their unions were banned experienced a notable increase in psychiatric disorders, NPR reported, including mood disorders and alcohol-use disorder.
Black and minority ethnic people are shortchanged by mental health services
From The Guardian:
Ramone is in his mid-20s and with his family emigrated to the UK around 10 years ago from eastern Europe. He developed a severe mental illness that requires long-term care, but is not eligible for treatment. This means that when he becomes extremely ill, he is sectioned (usually by the police) and admitted to a mental health unit where he is medicated to a point where he can be released, with no care afterwards. This pattern has repeated itself for six years.
People from some black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds are more likely to use crisis mental health care. Racism, poor mental health services and stigma are often cited as the reasons for this inequality. However, once in crisis care, many people like Ramone find the care they are offered does not work for them. His was one of dozens of stories we collected at the Race Equality Foundation to show the experiences of BME people, and was used as evidence by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in their review of mental health crisis care.
What we found mirrored much of the CQC’s findings. People had generally had bad experiences in a crisis system that left them feeling disempowered. They often didn’t believe staff would be caring and compassionate. When asked whether they had complained, they normally responded that they felt nothing would change as a result.
Male matters: 'Psychologists should lead the way on male mental health'
A group of Britain's most senior psychologists are so concerned about the unique – and increasingly fatal – problems facing modern men, they are urgently calling for a dedicated Male Psychology Section of the British Psychological Society.
Although there has been a women's section of the BPS since 1988, there is no male equivalent, even though “vast public health issues” face men, including the fact they are three to four times more likely to commit suicide.
Today, eminent psychologists and keynote speakers will gather at the second annual Male Psychology Conference at University College London to address this pressing matter.
To meet criteria, a mere one per cent of BPS members – around 500 signatures – must vote for it. As 300 have already done so, that means a mere 200 further signatures are needed to make their dream a reality.
Mental health problems rise among teenagers
From The Times:
Teenagers are suffering growing problems with mental health, reporting difficulties with sleep, anxiety and eating disorders, according to two studies.
One study found that more than a third of older teenagers had suffered sleeplessness in recent months as they wrestled with anxious thoughts and stress. A second found that eating disorder admissions in under-19s had almost tripled in ten years.
Could brain scans help guide treatment for OCD?
Psychotherapy can help some people avoid the disruptive behaviors linked to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and a new study suggests that brain scans can help spot those patients for whom the therapy will be most effective.
The treatment is called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). It works by placing patients in controlled situations where they are exposed to anxiety-causing stimuli, so that they gradually learn to deal better with these situations.
"Cognitive behavioral therapy is in many cases very effective, at least in the short term," said Dr. Jamie Feusner, an associate professor of psychiatry at University of California, Los Angeles, and director of the Semel Institute's Adult OCD Program.
However, the treatment is "costly, time-consuming, difficult for patients and, in many areas, not available," Feusner noted in a UCLA news release. So, "if someone will end up having their symptoms return [after treatment], it would be useful to know before they get treatment," he reasoned.
“A victory for love”
Schopenhauer said all truth passes through three stages: First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.
One such supposedly controversial truth is the idea that regardless of gender, two consenting adults should be allowed to marry each other. This hardly earth-shattering concept took a massive step towards becoming self-evident when America’s Supreme Court declared on Friday that same-sex marriages are now legal in all 50 states, with 5 of the 9 court judges ruling that any attempt to ban them is now unconstitutional. The narrow majority was hailed as a “victory for love.”
Horses that heal: how equine therapy is helping people find peace of mind
From The Guardian:
It’s Saturday night in downtown Long Beach, California, and laughter can be heard from the streets below. Sarah Smith is sprawled on her bed, diligently peeling through sociology notes, preparing for her impending exams. An acoustic guitar rests against her bed, and a colorful gay-pride flag is pinned next to her bookshelf.
At first glance, Sarah comes across as a typical college student – but her serious blue eyes sometimes betray a history of violence, abandonment and emotional trauma.
...Horses make great companions for psychotherapy because they can mirror and respond to human behavior. Being herding animals, they rely on an acute stream of sensory data to sense safety or danger; they can also hear the human heartbeat within four feet, and research on heart-rate variability indicates that horses have a profound ability to synchronize their own heartbeat with that of human beings. When people are introduced to the herd environment for therapy, horses respond within the same spectrum of physical and emotional responses that govern their own behavior, allowing therapists an insight into the inner psychology of the client.
Clouds hung dramatically low above the stables of Ortega Equestrian Centre in San Juan Capistrano and in the main arena, a herd of three mares donated by the nonprofit Otra Mas were awaiting Sarah’s arrival.
The program director, Carol Caddes, is a horse lover and licensed marriage and family therapist with over 20 years of experience. Sarah, for her part, had very little experience with horses and had never undergone any form of emotional treatment outside of medication and traditional office-based talk-therapy.
South Africa: Counselling on wheels in Khayelitsha
"It will be like an emotional ambulance." This is the vision of 28-year-old Banetsi Mphunga: a mobile psychology clinic in Khayelitsha which will see kids in the township receive free help dealing with psychological trauma.
"I grew up in Khayelitsha. I am a registered counsellor by profession. The idea of the mobile clinic started after realising the need for psychological services here in the township. I realised this from the kids that I worked with in a previous programme; it was an after school care programme. I was a programme manager for psycho-social skills, high school level, which is the group that is most vulnerable when it comes to substance abuse and gangsterism."
Mphunga said while working with children he found that some had problems that needed psychological interventions. "They always manifested in front of other children and I had to constantly intervene.”
...Mphunga said he was familiar with the kinds of problems that today's youth face especially when it comes to substance abuse. "I also experimented with drugs while growing up, I started smoking weed and then from there I did mandrax, but luckily I managed to stop before I became an addict and before my family found out. But these days, kids are not that lucky."
Mphunga bought a green Volkswagen Microbus popularly known as iCaraCara, in May. He has already used it for a study group consisting of four kids. "A Combi is more or less the same size of the rooms that I have viewed that I would be using and running the practise from.”
Yoga can cure India's rising mental health issues
Leading mental health experts have advocated Yoga as an efficacious tool for managing rising mental health issues in India, a statement said ahead of the International Yoga Day.
Crediting Yoga as an effective tool in holistic maintenance of health, Sunil Mittal, a senior psychiatrist at Cosmos Institute of Mental Health and Behavioral Science (CIMBS), New Delhi, said Yoga is beneficial as an "adjunct to mainline treatment".
"Yoga can be an effective preventive tool in fighting stress and other mental health concerns, and while Yoga may not be an alternate to medical intervention, it can be beneficial as an adjunct to mainline treatment," he said.
Sharing the experience of his team at CIMBS, Mittal added: "Yoga and medical intervention can compliment each other well." "By combining the two, we have seen positive outcomes in the over-all well-being of our patients," he said.
Do I need therapy? How do I find a good therapist?
From Judith S. Beck PhD in the Huffington Post:
You may not need therapy if you are weathering the trials and tribulations life throws at you pretty well. If you are basically emotionally healthy, have good problem-solving skills and call on a support network when you need help, you are probably already dealing with your challenges effectively.
You certainly should consider therapy if you have psychological problems, psychiatric symptoms, a medical condition with psychological components, difficulty implementing a health care plan, disturbances in your relationships or your functioning or other pressing difficulties you can't resolve on your own or within your social network.
You may find therapy desirable, however, to improve your life: to identify your core values, set goals, reduce stress, function more effectively, get unstuck, gain a different perspective, solve or cope better with a problem, accept an unmodifiable situation, make an important decision, improve your mood or get you started in making lifestyle or relationship changes -- that is, if you (even with the help of family and friends) don't seem to be able to bring about or sustain the changes you want to make. Or if you're uncertain about what changes you should make.
Schwarzenegger: marriage counselling the ‘biggest mistake I’ve ever made’
Schwarzenegger, 67, opened up to Howard Stern about the collapse of his marriage — and the counselling that didn’t help.
“This was without any doubt the biggest setback and the biggest failure,” the former governor said of his split with Maria Shriver. “. . . You really feel like: ‘I’m to blame for it. It was me that screwed up.’ You can’t point the finger at anyone else.”
Stern said that when he was divorced in 2001 — from a wife he paid tribute to in the 1997 film “Howard Stern: Private Parts” — he saw a psychiatrist. “Did you seek out therapy?” he asked Schwarzenegger.
“Yes,” Schwarzenegger said. “. . . It was the biggest mistake I’ve ever made because that guy was so full of s---.”
Schwarzenegger said Shriver talked him into counselling, but he was met with “nonsense talk” that was “counterproductive to our future relationship.”
“Maria talked me into it,” Schwarzenegger said. “I went and I felt instinctively maybe I shouldn’t go because I know I screwed up. I don’t have to go to anyone to have him explain to me anything. I apologized to Maria. I apologized to the kids and then tried to move forward.”
Schwarzenegger made it clear that this was not a Tom Cruise-like rant against psychiatry.
“I think people should get help when they need help,” he said. “. . . I’m not against that, but in my particular case it was not helpful.”
Schwarzenegger said his family is now in a much better place, recounting a story in which he was met with balloons and gifts from his four children by Shriver and Shriver herself at a premiere of the new “Terminator” film.
“That is the relationship I was really looking forward to after this complicated bump,” he said.
Stern said he was moved “almost to tears” by Schwarzenegger’s success in repairing his relationship with his family.
Weekly news round-up #31
O say, can’t you see?
On Wednesday night, 21-year-old Dylan Roof reportedly walked into a Bible study and prayer meeting in the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. He sat for almost an hour. Then he pulled out a .45-caliber handgun and started shooting. Six women and two men died at the scene, while the ninth victim, Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., died later in hospital. The victims ranged in age from 26 to 87. According to news reports, Roof had planned the massacre for six month; he told investigators that he wanted to start a “race war.”
TV pundits, newspaper columnists and twitterers immediately pointed to Roof’s mental health as some kind of explanation—you’d have to be mad to do such a thing, right? As Anthea Butler writes in The Washington Post, black and Muslim murderers are quickly characterized as terrorists or thugs, part of a sinister, systematic political plan; for white shooters like Roof, by contrast, the “troubled young man” narrative is used. Roof, said to have a violent father, will “be humanized and called sick, a victim of mistreatment or inadequate mental health resources,” writes Butler. Furthermore, while white perpetrators are excused as “loners” who were “failed by the system,” black victims tend to be vilified, their lives scrutinized for any misdemeanors, however mild, which might be suggested as evidence that they were somehow responsible for their fate. Trayvon Martin for instance was wearing a hoodie! What did he expect?
American culture is bedeviled by a deeply-ingrained racism—as Jon Stewart said: “The Confederate flag flies over South Carolina, and the roads are named for Confederate generals, and the white guy’s the one who feels like his country is being taken away from him?”
It is also bedeviled by guns, and a powerful, well-funded gun industry that always points to mental illness to deflect attention away from the evil business it’s engaged in: selling killing machines. Here’s what I wrote on the subject in the context of Adam Lanza and the Sandy Hook school massacre:
Since the Sandy Hook massacre, by the way, there have been 126 school shootings in America. Every day in America, 89 people on average are killed by a gun.
Mental illness is a scapegoat. If all mental illness was eradicated from the United States, there would only be a 4 percent reduction in gun violence.
It is blindingly obvious to many Americans and the rest of the world the strict gun legislation is a good idea.
“I’ve had to make statements like this too many times,” said President Obama wearily in the wake of the latest massacre. “Once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun. … At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries.”
It's not about mental illness: The big lie that always follows mass shootings by white males
From Arthur Chu in Salon:
I get really really tired of hearing the phrase “mental illness” thrown around as a way to avoid saying other terms like “toxic masculinity,” “white supremacy,” “misogyny” or “racism.”
We barely know anything about the suspect in the Charleston, South Carolina, atrocity. We certainly don’t have testimony from a mental health professional responsible for his care that he suffered from any specific mental illness, or that he suffered from a mental illness at all.
We do have statistics showing that the vast majority of people who commit acts of violence do not have a diagnosis of mental illness and, conversely, people who have mental illness are far more likely to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators.
We know that the stigma of people who suffer from mental illness as scary, dangerous potential murderers hurts people every single day — it costs people relationships and jobs, it scares people away from seeking help who need it, it brings shame and fear down on the heads of people who already have it bad enough.
But the media insists on trotting out “mental illness” and blaring out that phrase nonstop in the wake of any mass killing. I had to grit my teeth every time I personally debated someone defaulting to the mindless mantra of “The real issue is mental illness” over the Isla Vista shootings.
“The real issue is mental illness” is a goddamn cop-out. I almost never hear it from actual mental health professionals, or advocates working in the mental health sphere, or anyone who actually has any kind of informed opinion on mental health or serious policy proposals for how to improve our treatment of the mentally ill in this country.
Mental health patients forced to go to A&E as cruel Tory cuts leave the vulnerable in desperate situation
Brutal Tory cuts are forcing more mental health patients to go to casualty because there is nowhere else to turn to for help.
Vital services have been hit so hard they are not getting the community care they need.
And teenage sufferers are particularly vulnerable, with huge rises in numbers turning up at A&E in desperation, claims Labour.
Shadow Health Minister Luciana Berger’s warning comes as NHS watchdog the Care Quality Commission slammed hospital staff for an unsympathetic attitude towards mental health patients.
Ms Berger said: “On the Tories’ watch pressure on mental health services has grown and grown. Funding for children’s services has dropped by £50million leading to more becoming so ill they need hospital care.
“The latest figures show a huge rise in young people turning up at A&E because their situation has reached crisis point. And with serious bed shortages, more people are being sent miles from home or aren’t getting any help at all.”
Mental health nurses to join beat bobbies
From The Visitor:
“We don’t want to treat people with mental health problems as criminals,” said Inspector Hassan Khan, part of the Mental Health Response Service (MHRS) which has been launched by Lancashire Constabulary.
“We don’t want to put them in handcuffs and in the back of a police van. We want to put them in an ambulance and make sure they’re referred to the right people for help.”
For the next two years, nine NHS mental health nurses will be on the beat with officers across the county, who can make on-the-spot assessments and referrals, rather than vulnerable people being taken into police custody or to hospital.
Two in five new dads concerned about mental health problems, survey says
From The Guardian:
Around two in five of new fathers are concerned about their mental health, according to a survey, which highlights that it is not just mothers whose wellbeing is at risk after having a child.
Parenting charity NCT, which carried out the research, said extra responsibilities, changes in relationships and lifestyle, and the inevitable sleep deprivation are among the factors that can impact on men’s mental health.
It said the results, published on Thursday ahead of Father’s Day, illustrate the importance of men being encouraged to speak up about their experiences.
NCT psychologist Dr Abigail Easter said: “Awareness of perinatal depression among fathers unfortunately remains low. Postnatal depression is typically associated with mothers and often fathers are forgotten during this important time, with almost no specific support available to men.
“Sadly, stigma around mental health still exists and many men may find it difficult to confide in others about how they are feeling. It may be particularly difficult for dads to open up following the birth of their baby when there are additional expectations on new fathers.”
Mental health revolution growing in Birmingham
From The Voice Online:
BIRMINGHAM IS at the centre of a pioneering pilot project to help young people who may be on the wrong track in life simply because their mental health needs are not being met.
With support from the mental health charity Mind, three organisations in Britain’s second city are signing up to Mind’s groundbreaking ‘Up My Street’ project where young people are given help in a more flexible and informal way.
The Birmingham Rep theatre, the community engagement company First Class Legacy, which has a specialism in youth engagement, and St Basil’s a charity, which tackles youth homelessness are joining forces, to support young African Caribbean men to help build up their mental resilience.
The pilot scheme is also supported by MAC UK, which aims to support mental health services for excluded young people; The Integrate Movement, a new social enterprise that offers a new approach to the way people think about mental health, and the Centre for Mental Health, an independent national mental health charity.
The project has arisen out of startling figures that reveal how one in three young people who offend often have a mental health issue at the time of the offence which is not being addressed. Those in most need of support are the ones who are least likely to access help.
It’s well known that young African Caribbean men between the ages of 15 and 25 are one of the most over represented BME groups in in-patient mental health services in the country.
There are multiple reasons for this, but among them are discrimination, racism, stigma and cultural barriers, which all combine to give many young men a gloomy future, particularly if they are battling with homelessness.
Project shines a light on mental health darkness
From The National:
Photographer Tracy Anderson was praised yesterday by See Me, Scotland’s programme for ending mental health discrimination, for an imaginative and original project which aims to end mental health stigma.
Anderson, a City of Glasgow College graduate, aims to help those affected by mental illness with her new photography collection The Darkness Within.
Lisa Cohen, See Me’s national programme manager, said: “Creative work such as this helps to tackle stigma by opening mental health up to a new audience.”
She added: “People with mental health problems can face discrimination which limits their lives. This photography tackles stigmatising attitudes, showing the amazing work that people can do. We are always keen to share this type of work as it is vital to empower people who want to use their skills to challenge the stigma around mental health”.
Anderson, 31, who is affected by anxiety and depression, is originally from Glasgow but now lives in Cumbernauld with her husband Thomas and their nine-year-old daughter Kimberly, who is already taking after her mum and showing a keen interest in photography.
Anderson said: “I’ve always been creative. I did a Higher in Art and Design at North Glasgow College after I left school which was great. But after that, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I moved out, got a job as an office assistant and put college on the backburner.
“Photography didn’t come into my life until much later, until I was in my twenties.”
Shocking report: There is a huge racial divide in depression, anxiety
From BABW News:
One in 10 American men suffer from depression and/or anxiety, but less than half of them seek treatment to deal with the issue — and the differences between races are significant, an alarming new study has found.
The study found that younger blacks, and Hispanics were less likely than young whites to admit that they are struggling, and are less likely to seek help even when they do, based on a poll of 21,000 men by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as reported by HealthDay News.
The findings mean that despite lots of progress in reducing the stigma of mental illnesses such as depression anxiety, there still remains strong resistance among black and Hispanic men that keeps them from seeking treatment, perhaps afraid that it would show weakness.
Stephen Blumberg, the lead author of the study and an associate director for science with the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), said the the pressures involve perceptions about masculinity, and have led men of color to deny these feelings.
The survey is based on findings between 2010 and 2013, and were published in the NCHS Data Brief. Specifically, it found that 9 percent of men suffer from depression or anxiety on a daily basis, and that just 41 percent of those sufferers sought treatment.
The study further found that more than 39 percent of the men who were under 45 said they had taken medication or visited a mental health profession in the prior year, which is about the same as the 42 percent of those above 45 who had done the same thing. But when study authors examined those who were 18 to 44 years of age, they found significant racial differences, as just 6 percent of younger black and Hispanic men reported daily anxiety of depression, compared to 8 percent for younger white men. And just 26 percent of young men of color who had experienced anxiety or depression were likely to have accessed treatment, compared to 45 percent for young white males. Such a racial divide isn’t seen above age 44.
Suffering in silence: The mental health battle of pregnant women
Perinatal depression. That is what depression and other mental illness throughout pregnancy is called—and what up to 15 percent of women experience according to research reported by Healthline News.
Despite popular beliefs, not all moms experience a euphoric pregnancy full of excitement and anticipation to meet their little one. Physical discomfort aside, some moms experience profound sadness, fear, anxiety, obsessive compulsive behavior, and even thoughts of harming themselves and their growing baby.
“People tend to associate mood swings with pregnant women because of hormonal changes,” said Sandy Glazer, LCSW, director of quality assurance for Capital Area Healthy Start Coalition (CAHSC). “Seldom do they think it could be clinical depression…and the women are less likely to seek help for fear of societal stigmas attached to depression.”
• Sanchita Islam on mothers and mental health: 'Women suffer visions in silence' (The Guardian)
India: Devotees of all faiths go for counselling at Mumbai church
From Times of India:
Every Wednesday, over 50,000 devotees throng to St Michael's Novena services hoping for miraculous cures and improbable pregnancies. Many crawl down the chapel's central aisle cradling wax babies, kidneys and candles. Around 100 of these supplicants also drop in at the church's counseling centre, which was set up last year.
During the 30-minute sessions with the church's 38 trained counselors, these wax offerings take the shape of grittier human problems like infertility, kidney failure and unrequited love. The church decided to offer this service for free upon realizing that besides a spiritual connection, devotees were also craving human contact. In the past, Hindu and Muslim devotees - about 40% of congregants on Wednesday are from other faiths - were even eager to give confession because they desperately needed someone to confide in.
"Many would come to us after the service and even say, 'We want to commit suicide," recalls parish priest Father Simon Borges. "We realized counseling is the need of the hour."
Nepal: Post-earthquake counselling
KATHMANDU - The counseling services run by the Ministry of Health and Population in the 14 districts worst affected by the earthquake portray a grim picture of mental health as the people are still struggling to live normal lives.
Psychiatrists deployed in the districts including Sindhupalchok, Nuwakot and Dhading said the people are still reeling under intense fear and anxiety while for some the condition has exacerbated to mental illness.
A large number of people have suffered multiple losses, combined with physical exposure to danger and are now without resources. They have been terrified by the initial quake and continue to suffer acute anxiety with continuing aftershocks. Two quakes on April 25 and May 12 killed nearly 9,000 people and destroyed more than 500,000 homes, affecting an estimated 2.8 million people across Nepal.
• Addressing mental health needs in quake-hit Nepal (World Health Organization)
10 tips to make therapy work for you
From Huffington Post:
There's plently of research evidence out there that shows that therapy can help people. But we also know that it helps some people more than others. Just why that's so is a complex question that I can't explore thoroughly here. But I can say that a lot of research indicates that two of the most significant factors in effective therapy are the quality of your connection with your therapist and your own contribution to the work. This isn't to say that therapists don't have their share of work to do -- they certainly have immense responsibility -- but they can't do it all for you.
That second factor -- the client's contribution -- isn't so clear or well understood. And it often raises another question: "How do I know whether I'm doing what I need to do so that I'm not wasting my time in therapy?"
Working in mental health is not like fixing broken legs
From The Guardian:
It is an often quoted metaphor: mental health problems should be seen like a broken leg (ie not shameful, not the fault of the suffer who is in need of well-wishing and support). While this analogy can help challenge stigma (and that definitely needs to happen) and address the need for mental and physical health to be seen as equal, it can be damaging when thinking about structuring services to meet the needs of people experiencing mental distress.
A proactive approach to wellness
Fifteen years ago two different psychiatrists diagnosed me with bipolar disorder – twice. Both times I had decided to reject anything the doctors said before I even walked through the door. The only reasons I went to see the doctors in the first place were because two of my closest friends were concerned about me. My cheeky and eccentric disposition that had always been part of my nature had turned into reckless and downright audacious behaviours. I was riding waves of remarkable highs, coupled with delusions of grandeur, and then plummeting into crippling lows where I couldn’t get out of bed for days. At the time I had no idea what mania was, all I knew was that when I was on I was unstoppable, and when my friends, family and doctors told me that they were concerned about this, all I heard was, “we’re going to shut you off,” and I felt betrayed.
I can’t tell you exactly when I first started to show symptoms or signs of bipolar disorder. I honestly don’t think that’s even relevant anymore. The only relevant thing now is that I have finally accepted my diagnosis and taken the steps to try to live my healthiest life.
What can we learn from Donald Trump?
So a buffoonish ultra-conservative known mostly for his hair has decided that he wants to run the country. Boris Johnson? No, not yet, though that day will undoubtedly come. It’s the other one, the billionaire property tycoon Donald Trump, who on Tuesday declared that he’s going to run for President. Don’t laugh. It could happen. The White House may well yet be rebranded The Gold House. Despite TV shows like The West Wing, Veep or House of Cards, so often the truth of American politics seems far stranger, more comical, and more sinister than fiction.
We know Trump’s politics: the law of the jungle. In his get-rich, self-help, self-homage book Think Big, he writes: “The world is a vicious and brutal place. We think we’re civilised. In truth, it’s a cruel world and people are ruthless. They act nice to your face, but underneath they’re out to kill you.” Poverty is regarded as a moral failure—if you were foolish enough not to have been born with a wealthy property developer as a parent, as Trump was, well, that’s your problem; you are one of life’s “losers” (a favourite Trump word). Trump’s would be a government by the rich for the rich.
What of the man himself? To be near him—as I was last summer when I interviewed him in Trump Tower for a magazine article—is to sit in a wind tunnel of self-promotion; a nonstop volley of bluster, salesmanship and foghorn declarations of greatness. A favourite tactic is to cite “unnamed sources” who affirm his brilliance; another is simply to offer self-serving statements of grandiosity that just aren’t true. Surely he doth protest too much. We might conclude that, like so many narcissists, he must be compensating for some chronic, deep-rooted insecurity. Or is it all just an act, the perpetuation of a rather cartoonish public image, a kind of parody of tycoonery that he plays up to and makes fun of even, all in the interests of notoriety and maximizing the bottom line?
Narcissists don’t often voluntarily seek counselling as that would imply they were less than perfect. In many ways, Trump is the exact opposite of a typical client, who might be unsure, lacking in confidence, anxious, emotional, low in energy, afraid, highly sensitive, guilty, socially awkward, and so on. So can we learn anything from Trump? Might looking at someone on the far, opposite, extreme end of a spectrum from where we are perhaps move us towards some kind of healthier position in the middle; some kind of balance? I’m not saying we should be like Trump—far from it—but sometimes we could all use just a little bit of what he has. And sometimes lessons come from unexpected quarters (the Dalai Lama said our enemies are our best teachers).
Here are 3 things to take from Trump:
• Consider a different narrative. A few years ago, a young up-and-coming American golf pro called Natalie Gulbis told an interviewer that she’d been dumped by Ben Roethlisberger, the Super Bowl quarterback. A little while later, she met Trump, who scolded her. “I never want to read that again,” he said. “From now on, I want to read that you dumped him. You don't get dumped.” It may not be exactly true, but just thinking about things in a different way can be empowering and break us free from our relentlessly punitive internal dialogue, which plays in our heads constantly like a broken record. A CBT therapist might encourage you to challenge your “negative automatic thoughts” (“he dumped me—I’m worthless”). Trump, unerringly a believer in “positive thinking,” replaces them with the opposite extreme, relentlessly positive automatic thoughts (“I dumped him—he’s worthless”). These are just as distorted; in his book The Art of the Deal, he calls this “truthful hyperbole . . . an innocent form of exaggeration.” Whatever you tell yourself about your life, your relationships, you, how about playing with some different interpretations and then settling on something in the middle? These are called alternative balanced thoughts (“it didn’t work out but we’re both moving on”).
• Don’t let anyone intimidate you. Trump can walk into a meeting, appear on TV, make a presentation to thousands of people and not be in the slightest bit nervous. Few of us have such ice-cold blood running through our veins, nor would we want to, but being able to feel like you have every right to be on this earth, to think what you think, do what you do and be who are, without apology, is something we can all achieve—regardless of who you are, what you’ve done, or how you feel about yourself. In fact, someone can only take that away from us if we let them (as Eleanor Roosevelt said: “No-one can make you feel inferior without your consent”). “Don’t let people push you around,” advises Trump in Think Big.
• Act now, think later. If you think about a good idea for long enough, it’s possible to turn it into a bad idea. Worrying about all the things that could go wrong before you’ve even taken the first step, all the barriers you might encounter along the way, can be paralysing. It’s a much bigger barrier than the actual barriers themselves, which may turn out to not be there, or not that bad, or useful, changing your direction in an interesting way and teaching you something. Clients will sometimes speak of their big plans “next year” or “after my mother dies” or “when the kids are grown up.” We tell ourselves that when the planets are all aligned, then I’ll take that courageous step. But our “conditions” ensure it never happens. We make ever-more detailed plans as a defence against acting on them.
How about just doing it, starting today? That’s what Trump does. He gets things done. “Do not wait around for the ‘right time’ or until you are perfect,” he writes in Think Big. “It will never happen. Start right away. You will learn more from doing than you would learn from anything else.” If you still don’t do it, maybe you might allow for the possibility that actually you don’t really want to and, with relief, give it up.
You don’t have to be anything like Donald Trump (really, it’s better that you’re not). You don’t have to “think big.” But telling better stories about yourself, taking your rightful place in the world and among your fellow humans, and acting rather than endlessly cogitating, will all help you become somebody much more important than Trump: you.
Weekly news round-up #30
It’s amazing that we can reach middle age and know so little about food and taking care of this thing that ferries us around and works so hard on our behalf: our body.
For the past few weeks I’ve been working with Franka Zmugg, a Newquay-based holistic nutrition and lifestyle coach—and psychotherapist—and it has been life changing.
I’ve discovered whether I run better on more carbohydrate or more protein; why I crave chocolate in the evening; what happens when I skip a meal. I’ve learned about the four white devils: sugar, salt, white flour, pasteurized milk. I’ve discovered an amazing new energy drink—maybe you’ve heard of it—it’s called water. I've experienced Yoga Nidra. The yin and the yang of energy.
You want to stay forever young? So much of looking after ourselves is common sense.
Avoid processed, packaged food, what food activist Michael Pollan calls “foodlike substances”—Pollan’s famous seven-word dictum is: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Keep moving: “We clearly know that movement over time equals health,” says Dr. David Agus, bestselling author of The End of Illness and A Short Guide to a Long Life. Engage in something: “In Okinawa, there is a social construct called ikigai,” says Dan Buettner, author of The Blue Zones, which looks for answers in those places around the world known for extraordinary longevity. “It’s the thing for which you wake up in the morning. People with that strong sense of purpose or ikigai live 7 or 8 years longer than people without it.”
Meditate. Rest. Love.
The longest-living people on the planet are the shepherds of Sardinia. It should be so easy to live a simple, healthy life like them. We know what to do. But life often conspires against us.
The growing link between nutrition and mental health + the best foods
From Yahoo Health:
It’s a no-brainer: Eating a balanced diet helps you to look and feel good. And now researchers say that eating well may even help fight depression.
A new scientific review published in the journal the Lancet Psychiatry that involved 18 researchers from around the world stresses the role that good nutrition plays in mental health.
“Evidence is steadily growing for the relation between dietary quality [and potential nutritional deficiencies] and mental health, and for the select use of nutrient-based supplements to address deficiencies,” researchers said in the review.
And we’re seeing real-life proof of the relationship between food and a better psychiatric outcome: A study published in 2013 in the journal Neurocase followed two women with bipolar disorder over two years. The women were put on a ketogenetic diet (high fat, moderate protein, low carb), and their moods stabilized better than they did with medication alone.
But the link between diet and the risk of developing depression isn’t the same for everyone. “If your diet is deficient in some nutrients, it can have many effects on the brain,” study co-author David Mischoulon, MD, PhD, a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital and a co-author of the Lancet study, tells Yahoo Health. “It can be subtle in some people and may result in psychiatric illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and so forth in others.”
Mischoulon and his team identified specific nutrients that are particularly helpful with boosting mental health, pointing out that many are often found in the Mediterranean diet.
• Nutrition is vital for mental health (PsychCentral.com)
'Charles Kennedy was a lovely man — with an illness'
Charles Kennedy’s death shows drastic improvements are needed in mental health services, Lib Dem leadership hopeful Norman Lamb said.
He is demanding the Government makes a firm commitment to patients and people with addictions, like his friend Mr Kennedy. The Lib Dem stalwart died from a haemorrhage on Monday caused by alcohol.
Former Care Minister Mr Lamb said: “Charles was a lovely man. He had an illness.
"This is an example of how, whether it’s addiction or mental health, we must treat it like any other illness.”
Mr Lamb introduced targets for mental health treatment last autumn. But he fears the Tories will fail to meet the demand.
He said: “They’ve given no indication that they recognise the urgency of this and that worries me. “There’s a growing NHS funding crisis and mental health will lose out.”
Some A&Es 'unequipped' to cope with mental health cases, national care watchdog says
From The Independent:
People suffering a mental health crisis are being treated “without warmth and compassion” by staff at some A&Es, the national care watchdog has said.
Investigators from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) found that NHS and local authority services were failing to provide “round the clock” specialist support for people feeling suicidal, suffering a psychotic episode or from extreme anxiety.
This means that many must turn to A&E services. However, only 37 per cent of patients surveyed said they felt their concerns had been taken seriously by A&E staff.
• Report: Mental health care in England 'inadequate' (ITV News)
• Mental health services 'struggling to cope', Care Quality Commission says (Huffington Post UK)
Huge response to mental health taskforce survey
From NHS England:
The recently established Mental Health Taskforce has received an astonishing response to its call for the views of service users, their families and professionals who work in mental health.
As he talks at the NHS Confederation annual conference in Liverpool today, Paul Farmer, the independent chair of the mental health taskforce and Chief Executive of Mind, writes in a blog that the huge response serves to confirm the importance and urgency of the group’s ongoing work.
“Over 20,000 people have taken part in our online survey, “he writes, adding: “The huge response has shown us the strength of feeling around the need to improve services for mental health.”
Both Mr Farmer and NHS England Chief Executive, Simon Stevens, have outlined to the Confed conference the emerging themes of responses from people about changes to mental health services.
How 'Hellblade' explores real-life mental health issues
At a glance, the upcoming Hellblade has everything you'd expect from a new video game looking to make a mainstream splash -- lush visuals, a dollop of violence, and a trailer promising a grim and gritty story.
Look closer though, and you'll discover that the title, following Celtic warrior Senua in the wake of the Viking invasion circa 9th century CE, is attempting to do something deeper. It wants to use its hero's journey as a way to explore real life mental illness. The particular focus will be on psychosis, with Senua suffering hallucinations that splinter her perception of reality.
While several games have experimented with mental health themes, larger-budget titles have not always treated it with much nuance, preferring to depend on the catch-all term "insanity". In its efforts to create a game that could deliver on the action players crave -- and present these deeper themes in a non-exploitative manner -- developer Ninja Theory partnered with Paul Fletcher, psychiatrist and Professor of Health Neuroscience at the University of Cambridge, and the Wellcome Trust.
Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act
From American Psychiatric Association:
Bipartisan legislation introduced in Congress by Representatives Tim Murphy, PhD (R-PA) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) titled the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act (H.R. 2646) will address these challenges by promoting evidence-based psychiatric care and research activities, ensuring better coordination of federal mental health resources, addressing the critical psychiatric workforce shortage, and improving enforcement of mental health parity, among other notable provisions. The new bill builds on the version they introduced during the last Congressional session, and it includes helpful new language on enforcement of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act as well provisions that would address psychiatric workforce shortages, among other changes.
Hispanic youth and the struggle for assessment and treatment
From Latin Post:
Whether it's behavioral, anxiety, mood, personality or psychiatric, mental health disorders manifest in many forms. However, non-white youth often face damning obstacles when seeking access, assessment and treatment.
Barriers that negatively affect mental health access include cultural barriers (e.g., stigma, causal beliefs), culturally unresponsive services (language and ethnic discordance, poor cross-cultural understanding), limited access to care (cost, lack of insurance coverage) and unawareness or misunderstanding of services. Stigmatization of mental illness within the Latino community, particularly among immigrants, can drive asylum-seeking mentally debilitated individuals away from psychological assistance; and a lack of mental health education in multicultural communities likely feeds mental health disparities.
Frequently, many in the Latino community are not aware of indicators associated with depression, disorders or organic mental illnesses; and when Latinos, in fact, come into contact with this information it's often delivered in a culturally inadequate fashion. Also, unfortunately, when culturally-focused mental health education and services are available, clients are often uninformed about where to find these services. Likely, the three greatest structural barriers that multicultural communities face (perhaps more burdensome and damning than unfamiliarity with facilities) are health insurance costs, misdiagnosed/underdiagnosed and difficulties with assessment.
"We need to have improvement in the area of assessment and treatment," Dr. Luis Vargas, child psychologist and treasurer of the National Latino Behavioral Health Association, told Latin Post. "I'm a psychologist, and psychologists tend to use different tools and techniques considered to be more empirical, yet I think that's an area that we really need to focus on. We need to ask, are these instruments culturally appropriate? Culturally, in terms of how and what we typically think of culture, but also linguistically. Are we training people to deliver these assessments in Spanish? Are they translated? Are they normed? What population are they normed on?”
Singapore: Helpline and counselling manual to counter threat from Islamic State recruiters
From International Business Times UK:
A voluntary group formed in 2003 to counsel terror detainees in Singapore, plans to launch a helpline and counselling manual to help members of the public on questions of extremism and religious matters.
The Religious Rehabilitation Group is now extending its outreach efforts to derail radical propaganda spread by terrorist group, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (Isis) as it continues to lure foreign fighters, the Straits Times reports. The helpline will be operational from early next month.
The group's counsellors will be given clear guidelines to refer to with the launch of a third counsellor's manual which focuses on refuting Isis extremism and making clear that they are not relevant to Singapore Muslims.
Canada: Experimental PTSD therapy gets traumatized soldiers walking toward relief
The virtual reality lab at the Ottawa Hospital looks like the bridge of a spaceship or the world's biggest video game.
A treadmill sits on a platform in the middle of a darkened room in front of a huge wraparound video screen. Patients are tethered in a harness to the treadmill as they walk through a series of computer-generated virtual environments, all controlled by a technician at a nearby command station.
The high-tech machine called CAREN, short for Computer-Assisted Rehabilitation Environment, is normally used to help patients with severe physical injuries learn to walk again. But in the next few weeks, the Canadian Forces hopes to use this technology to test an experimental form of psychotherapy to treat soldiers suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
"I think this can be a game changer," says Col. Rakesh Jetly, chief psychiatrist for the Canadian Forces.
Jetly has high hopes for a new system known as Motion-Assisted, Multi-Modal Memory Desensitization and Reconsolidation, or 3MDR.
Patients step into the CAREN unit, where they listen to music and view photographs on the big screen. The sound and images, chosen by the patient, are meant to remind them of the events that brought on their traumatic memories. For a soldier, it could be images of combat or songs they listened to during their deployment.
With their therapist present to guide and direct them, the patient is asked a series of questions as they walk on the treadmill, steadily and continuously toward the images that bring back their trauma, forcing them to confront their painful memories.
Australia: Mental health sufferers urged to better prepare for old age
From ABC Online:
One of Australia's top mental health charities is warning Australians with a mental illness to plan better for their old age.
SANE Australia says many people cope well with their illness throughout their lives but that declining physical health, insecure housing and isolation can pose particular challenges.
The organisation's research found that as people were growing older, they were often not well prepared for the impact of their illness on their lives, and did not understand that they could make choices themselves over important issues such as housing and finances.
"What we found was that about two-thirds of people that are living with a mental illness haven't even started a conversation with someone about what's going to happen as they get older," SANE chief executive Jake Heath said.SANE Australia says many people cope well with their illness throughout their lives but that declining physical health, insecure housing and isolation can pose particular challenges.
The organisation's research found that as people were growing older, they were often not well prepared for the impact of their illness on their lives, and did not understand that they could make choices themselves over important issues such as housing and finances.
"What we found was that about two-thirds of people that are living with a mental illness haven't even started a conversation with someone about what's going to happen as they get older," SANE chief executive Jake Heath said.
Liberia: Experts to assess mental health impact of Ebola
Regional Office for Africa - World Health Organization
The Ebola outbreak that began in Guinea in March 2014 not only caused more than 27 000 cases and over 11 000 deaths in West Africa, it also left thousands of survivors, orphans, family members, health care workers and other support workers who require mental health and psychosocial support.
Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are looking to build and improve mental health services and psychosocial support after Ebola. Experts from the affected countries and the World Health Organization (WHO) are meeting in Monrovia, Liberia, this week to see what lessons have been learned and to draw a map for how to develop and recover these systems. Experts and partners will create a response framework for mental health and psychosocial support, based on recent experiences in West Africa.
The consultation will include case studies and lessons learned from the affected countries, said Dr Mark van Ommeren, who leads WHO’s mental health efforts in emergencies. Participants include staff from Ministries of Health and Social Welfare, national and international NGOs, donor agencies and staff from the three WHO country offices, Regional Office for Africa and headquarters.
Pets and your mental health
There are a lot of variables that go into the question of how an animal can impact a person’s mental health. Are you the owner or do you just see the animal once in a while? If you do own the animal, what kind of a relationship do you have with it? Obviously some people are more attached to their animals than others are. It varies from person to person and pet to pet. The internet loves to attach stereotypes to cats and their seemingly standoffish personalities, but really it’s because we love our cats and like to laugh at the funny things they do. We also like to dote on our dogs because they are adorable. What kind of an effect does that have psychologically? It’s because of all of these variables and attitudes that studying the impact of animals and mental health is incredibly difficult.
• Could owning a CAT be detrimental to your mental health? (Daily Mail)
How do we choose our guides?
From the Financial Times (free registration required):
A reader wonders how to “tell a professional psychotherapist from a lousy one”. This is a very good question, with several layers to unpack — for example, what exactly makes a psychotherapist professional or lousy? It’s unclear that psychotherapy is a profession anyway: more of a higgledy-piggledy huddle of different supporting theories and practices, all judged by different standards.
Perhaps this diversity is misunderstood. Many may judge psychotherapy by ancient stereotypes — such as lying on a couch, free-associating while a psychoanalyst sits silently behind you. Or it may be that current stereotypes prevail: a short sharp set of six sessions aimed at turning your beliefs on their head — all evidence-based, of course.
At any rate it’s worth doing your homework, finding out about different kinds of therapies, how they’re supposed to function and what they’re aiming to achieve. Questions include whether they tend to be long-term or short-term, and whether they focus on the past or the present, the problem or the solution. From this point of view, there is no such thing as “a good psychotherapist”: what is good and acceptable in one therapy is hopelessly misguided in another.
Opinionator | The Architecture of Psychotherapy
From The New York Times:
If you listen to psychotherapists when they talk to one another, you will often hear them speak of something called the “therapeutic frame.” This term, coined by the psychoanalyst Marion Milner, refers to the set of conventions and ground rules that structure the therapeutic experience. Just as the frame of a painting defines the borders of a work of art, the therapeutic frame is the “container” in which the therapy takes place.
As an architect, I find myself curious about this frame. What are its dimensions? Where does it start and where does it end?
Weekly news round-up
I’ve heard lots of different reactions from friends and family to the Vanity Fair cover of former Olympic gold medalist Bruce Jenner, who has been rechristened as a woman called Caitlyn. They range from “beautiful,” “amazing” to “train wreck,” “horror show” and everything in between.
Some people might find it hard to understand the desire to change genders, just as it can be hard to understand the desire to believe in religion X, vote for political party Y, or indulge in hobby Z. But in a civil society, we fully respect the rights of people to do these things (within the law), and we abhor discrimination, prejudice and all forms of attack.
Transgenderism is as old as the hills, but only now, thanks to people like Jenner, Leelah Alcorn, former boxing promoter Frank Moloney, Chaz Bono, Eddie Izzard, Danny La Rue, Chelsea Manning, Jan Morris and Grayson Perry, is it becoming widely accepted and understood as a vibrant and valid thread in the tapestry of modern culture. Jenner’s very public transformation empowers all kinds of different people to accept and be proud of who they are.
One thing that didn’t change in the gender reassignment process: Jenner’s courage.
Kim Kardashian may have broken the internet, but Caitlyn Jenner united it
From The Guardian:
Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair cover was expected to create a controversial, watercooler cultural moment, but it turned into something much more extraordinary. Because the image of Caitlyn Jenner – winner of an Olympic gold medal as a man named Bruce, and member of the Kardashians, the family pop culture loves to hate – brought no controversy, only applause. Kim Kardashian may have broken the internet, but Caitlyn Jenner did something even more astonishing. She united it.
Jenner, Annie Leibovitz and Vanity Fair produced an image that won the world over. And this, in a society where acceptance and understanding of transgender issues – while progressing – is still in its infancy. The magazine is not yet on newsstands, and while the interview is available online for digital subscribers, the overwhelming majority of comment has been based on the cover image. In it, Jenner wears an ivory satin corset, so that her cinched waist, falling just above the coverline (“Call me Caitlyn”) forms the central focus. An hourglass woman’s body in white, in a 1950s cut bodice, surely references Marilyn Monroe – in the minds of Leibovitz and the Vanity Fair art directors, anyway, if not of Jenner. Monroe stands for all-Americanism, for blue-chip Hollywood glamour (as opposed, perhaps, to the modern Kardashian brand of fame), for ultimate femininity and for vulnerability. But while Jenner’s hands are out of shot, behind her back, the photo spotlights the strong muscles of her arms and thighs, reminding us of those Olympic medals, and serving as an antidote to the unguarded, exposed, Monroe-ish appeal of her corsetted waist and coy, expression, half-turned from the camera.
In guidelines reissued yesterday, the media-monitoring organisation GLAAD warns against “superficial critiques of a transgender person’s femininity or masculinity. Commenting on how well a transgender person conforms to conventional standards of femininity or masculinity is reductive and insulting.” I hope it does not break these guidelines to say that the cover image draws on the iconography of strong American women. Jessica Lange, to whom many have noticed a resemblance, has had a four-decade acting career. (Next spring, Lange will return to Broadway, starring alongside Gabriel Byrne in a revival of the Eugene O’Neill play A Long Day’s Journey Into Night.) Cindy Crawford, of whom Jenner’s Coke-can curls and athletic body are also reminiscent, has sustained a modelling career since the 1980s, and most recently starred as the take-no-prisoners Headmistress in the music video for Taylor Swift’s Bad Blood. Lena Dunham captured the spirit of the image immediately after its release, when she tweeted: “I just want Caitlyn Jenner to take me out and teach me how to drive a stick shift in heels.”
• Caitlyn Jenner's Big Début (The New Yorker)
• Here's what I learned after creating Caitlyn Jenner Twitter bot @she_not_he (The Independent)
PICKS OF THE WEEK
What is Impostor Syndrome?
Can’t take a compliment? Feel like a fake? Convinced you’ll be unmasked at any moment? From quickanddirtytips.com:
Impostor Syndrome is a pervasive feeling of self-doubt, insecurity, or fraudulence despite often overwhelming evidence to the contrary. It strikes smart, successful individuals. It often rears its head after an especially notable accomplishment, like admission to a prestigious university, public acclaim, winning an award, or earning a promotion.
Impostor Syndrome doesn’t discriminate: people of every demographic suffer from feeling like a fraud, though minorities and women are hardest-hit.
Impostor syndrome comes in 3 flavors:
Type #1: “I’m a fake.”
Type #2: “I got lucky.”
Type #3: “Oh, this old thing?”
How does psychotherapy really work?
From Psychology Today:
Psychotherapy is a strange process. Two people get together and they talk. Somehow through this conversation, one of them offers help and the other receives it. From an outsider’s perspective, there are all sorts of ideas about how this so-called “talking cure” works—most of them, by the way, are not true. One is that your therapist knows all the answers. Another is that he or she will tell you what to do. Another is that people listen to their therapists because therapists have it all together—also, not true. While we might wish for therapy to work in these ways, that’s not how it works at all.
The poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, understood something about the mystery of how an interpersonal encounter can change someone’s life. In his Letters to A Young Poet, he wrote, “Ultimately, and precisely in the deepest and most important matters, we are unspeakably alone; and many things must happen, many things must go right, a whole constellation of events must be fulfilled, for one human being to successfully advise or help another.”
The psychoanalyst, Wilfred Bion, took it one step further. He wrote, “When two people meet, an emotional storm is created.” I like this idea because it begins to convey something of the way in which psychotherapy is an alive, dynamic, turbulent process, not just a sterile exchange of ideas or mechanical prescription for behavior change. Therapy is a vital process, a charged experience. Its power to transform and bring about lasting personal change cannot really be understood from psychology textbooks or experimental research, necessary and helpful as these methods are.
Government quells fears it could scrap coalition’s mental health funding pledge
Promises, promises. From Community Care:
The Conservative government will invest the extra £1.25bn in children’s mental health services over the next parliament that was promised by the coalition prior to the election, the Department of Health has said.
The funding pledge was included in the coalition’s 2015-16 budget proposals set out in March. But the Conservatives election victory means that chancellor George Osborne will announce an ‘emergency budget’ in July that will replace the coalition plans with his party’s own spending commitments.
Mental health organisations feared that the Chancellor could scrap the coalition’s promise of more investment in mental health services for children and new mothers but the Department of Health insists that the funding will be made available.
A DH spokesperson said: “Our commitment to mental health is clear — we are investing £1.25 billion over the next five years and we expect local commissioners to give real terms funding increases [for mental health] this year.”
The DH issued the statement in response to a report from six leading mental health organisations that warned that services are “heading for a real crisis” without urgent action on funding.
Frequently bullied kids 'twice as likely' to be depressed at 18
From Medical News Today:
A study of just under 4,000 teenagers in the UK has found that bullying - "victimization by peers" - during adolescence is associated with a higher risk of depression in young adulthood.
The study published in The BMJ was led by experimental psychologist Prof. Lucy Bowes of the University of Oxford in the UK.
It had a longitudinal observational design to examine the relationship between bullying at 13 years of age and depression at 18 years of age.
A survey about bullying was completed at the younger age, and a computer-based clinical assessment of depression was completed as the 3,898 participants entered adulthood in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), a UK community-based birth cohort.
A dose-response relationship was observed between increasing amounts of adolescent bullying and depression in later years:
• In the group of teenagers who had reported no victimization at all, just over 5% went on to have depression
• A greater burden of the mental ill health was seen among the teenagers who had reported being bullied at 13 years of age between one and three times in a 6-month period - 7.1% had depression at 18
• The proportion of depressed people at this age rose to 14.8% in the teenagers who had reported being bullied by their peers more than once a week.
Glan Clwyd Hospital: Mental health care was 'horrific'
From BBC News:
The leader of the Welsh Conservatives has called for a full inquiry into the NHS after a damning report into care at a mental health unit in Denbighshire.
Andrew RT Davies said assurances were needed that there could be no similar failings elsewhere after "institutional abuse" was found at the Tawel Fan ward at Glan Clwyd Hospital in Bodelwyddan.
Families described patients being treated like animals in a zoo.
Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board has since apologised.
Mr Davies called on the Welsh government to establish a Keogh-style inquiry - set up following the Mid-Staffordshire Hospital scandal - and hold a "full and frank" debate in the assembly to ensure measures have been put in place to protect the NHS in Wales from a repeat of the problems at Tawel Fan.
"We have to have action to make sure this doesn't happen again," he told BBC Radio Wales.
Big White Wall: Expanding mental health access through the digital sphere
From Health Affairs:
There is a preponderance of evidence that conventional approaches to the provision of mental health care do not meet the needs of a large portion of the population. Due to limitations of scale alone, there is an inherent misalignment between the number of individuals who can benefit from mental health assistance and the availability of traditional services.
Yet scale is not the only issue. Stigma, accessibility, and medical models of treatment are equal deterrents to seeking help. Poor mental health impacts us all and carries a huge socio-economic cost. Technology offers a solution and is already helping those experiencing depression, anxiety, and other such problems to lead healthier, more productive, happier lives.
Big White Wall (BWW)—a digital and behavioral health and well-being service facilitated by health care professionals—is one of these solutions. In the organization’s name, “big” recognizes the infinite nature of human emotion; “white” conveys the blank canvas the service provides; and, “wall” symbolizes shelter and support, as well as the barriers we sometimes need to break through to improve mental health.
We developed BWW in the United Kingdom in 2007, and in 2013, it was designated a High Impact Innovation by the National Health Service (NHS). In 2014, it became the first digital mental health service to receive Care Quality Commission registration, and in 2015, it was formally endorsed by the National Health Service (NHS) and promoted through NHS Choices.
Big White Wall expanded to Australasia in 2011, and to the United States in 2014. Our experience has shown that providing a wide range of behavioral health self-management services, anonymized peer support, and immediate access to evidence-based tools via a digital platform empowers people to seek assistance for their mental health challenges for the first time.
Clinton's campaign will make substance abuse, mental health key issues
From the Washington Post:
Hillary Rodham Clinton's policy advisers held discussions with stakeholders in Iowa and New Hampshire who are involved in helping people dealing with substance abuse and mental illness, as Clinton looks to make those issues a large part of her 2016 presidential campaign.
Clinton senior policy advisers Ann O'Leary and Maya Harris participated in Google hangouts Thursday and Friday with treatment providers, law enforcement officers, local politicians and others in Iowa and New Hampshire, a Clinton aide said. The groups discussed the scourge of opiate addiction, which is decimating New Hampshire and is a growing problem in Iowa, and the use of methamphetamines in Iowa.
Group sues to close Jewish gay counselling service
More death throes of the ridiculous “pray the gay away” practice known as “conversion therapy.” From Breitbart News:
Jury selection begins today in a trial that pits a $340 million left-wing group against a small Jewish non-profit. The result could be the closing of all counseling services in New Jersey that aim to help those with unwanted same-sex desires.
The Southern Poverty Law Center is using New Jersey’s strong Consumer Protection Act to sue a group called Jews Offering New Alternatives to Healing (JONAH) that refers men and women to psychological counselors working in the field known as “sexual orientation change efforts.”
SPLC claims JONAH defrauded four men by telling them their same-sex desires could be treated and they could become purely or largely heterosexual. The case is a blueprint for how SPLC intends to go after similar counseling services around the country. Indeed, SPLC and a group called Truth Wins Out, run by gay activist Wayne Besson, have spearheaded a legislative effort to outlaw counseling services to minors with unwanted same-sex attraction. They have been successful in California and New Jersey, which now outlaw the practice.
The case that will be heard over the next month in Superior Court for Hudson County, New Jersey, focuses on the claims of four men who voluntarily approached JONAH to help them with unwanted same-sex attraction. None of them self-identified as gay at the time and each wanted the attractions to end. JONAH, which works from what it calls “Torah values” referred the men to counselors who treated them.
SPLC is now claiming that JONAH made promises that do not comport with scientific findings about the permanence and changeability of homosexuality and that the treatment they underwent was odd. SPLC also claims that homosexual desires do not need to be “cured” and that it’s impossible anyway. All this adds up to consumer fraud, according to the suit that has been going on since 2012.
Former NY Giant Kareem McKenzie to be a counsellor
Not too long after he retired from the National Football League, Kareem McKenzie knew he wanted something more.
The two-time Super Bowl champion and former New York Giant was faced with a difficult task: Transitioning out of the game he loved for so long and into a more ordinary life.
“You can only go to the gym so many times, visit family and friends. You have to find something to do with your time,” he told nflplayerengagement.com. “If not, everything becomes very chaotic and dangerous. An idle mind is the devil’s playground.”
Then, it hit him: He would help others going through what he was.
McKenzie is on track to earn his Masters of Education in Professional Counseling in 2016 from William Paterson University. He will begin work on his doctorate after earning his master’s ... McKenzie’s goal is to provide counseling to professional athletes, and retired members of the military, by helping them navigate their non-rigid schedules and performance expectations.
How to fix Canada's mental health system
From The Globe and Mail:
One in five Canadians will be affected by mental illness in their lifetimes. The cost to the country’s economic is staggering: $50-billion a year in health care and social services, lost productivity and decreased quality of life, estimates the Mental Health Commission of Canada. The personal costs are more devastating – unemployment, family breakup, suicide.
Canadians who seek help for a mental illness will most often be prescribed medication, even though research shows that psychotherapy works just as well, if not better, for the most common illnesses (depression and anxiety) and does a better job at preventing relapse. According to a 2012 Statistics Canada study, while 91 per cent of Canadians were prescribed the medication they sought, only 65 per cent received the therapy they felt they needed. Access to evidence-based psychotherapy, which experts say should be the front-line medical treatment, is limited and wait lists are long.
Magic mushrooms and LSD could play an important role in treating mental health problems, according to a leading U.K. psychiatrist.
“Hundreds of papers, involving tens of thousands of patients, presented evidence for their use as psychotherapeutic catalysts of mentally beneficial change in many psychiatric disorders, problems of personality development, recidivistic behaviour, and existential anxiety,” writes James Rucker, honorary lecturer at the Institute of Psychiatry, in last week’s British Medical Journal. “This research abruptly ended after 1967, when psychedelics were legally classified as schedule 1 drugs under the UK Misuse of Drugs Regulations and as class A drugs under the UK Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 ... This classification denoted psychedelic drugs as having no accepted medical use and the greatest potential for harm, despite the existence of research evidence to the contrary.”
Rucker goes on to say that psychedelic drugs, more legally restricted than heroin and cocaine, are not habit forming, and not harmful in controlled settings. They could play a crucial role in alleviating psychological distress.
Meanwhile, across the pond, other great minds are thinking alike. Researchers in California have been given permission to experiment with the party drug Ecstasy to see if it could enhance psychotherapy and help alleviate anxiety for terminally ill patients. According to a report in The Science Times, Ecstasy or MDMA, banned by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in 1985, “is known for creating feelings of euphoria, empathy and heightened energy. According to co-researcher Julane Andries, MDMA has the ability to help an individual ‘experience awe, and that eases anxiety and depression.’ She adds that ‘later, you can hold onto that memory of feeling vital, alive, happy and full of awe.’ ”
Participants in the research, conducted by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies in Santa Cruz, will have psychotherapy sessions after taking the drug, while some will unwittingly be given placebo capsules instead. At the end of the trial, participants will undergo psychological testing and counselling and the mental health of the two groups will be compared.
After decades of just-say-no prohibition, psychedelic drugs seem to be making something of a comeback, helped along by people like psychopharmacologist David Nutt, a latterday Copernicus or Galileo who idiotically was fired as the drug-policy adviser to the Labour Government, in 2011, for suggesting that psychedelic drugs could be beneficial. Or Amanda Feilding, the Countess of Wemyss and March, whose Beckley Foundation in Oxford was set up to investigate the therapeutic possibilities of psychoactive substances. Research shows that psychedelics aren’t particularly dangerous—less so than alcohol—and may indeed prove profoundly beneficial to mental health. Already, Ecstasy is starting to be used as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In other studies, psilocybin, the active ingredient of magic muhsrooms, has been used to reduce anxiety and depression in terminal cancer patients; in Switzerland LSD has been used to treat anxiety.
In an excellent overview in The New Yorker, Michael Pollan writes: “Many of the researchers and therapists I interviewed are confident that psychedelic therapy will eventually become routine. Katherine MacLean hopes someday to establish a ‘psychedelic hospice,’ a retreat center where the dying and their loved ones can use psychedelics to help them all let go. ‘If we limit psychedelics just to the patient, we’re sticking with the old medical model,’ she said. ‘But psychedelics are so much more radical than that. I get nervous when people say they should only be prescribed by a doctor.’
“In MacLean’s thinking, one hears echoes of the excitement of the sixties about the potential of psychedelics to help a wide range of people, and the impatience with the cumbersome structures of medicine. It was precisely this exuberance about psychedelics, and the frustration with the slow pace of science, that helped fuel the backlash against them.”
Intimations of immortality
Many ancient civilisations placed great importance on the use of psychedelic experiences derived from plants like water lilies, acacia, magic mushrooms, or peyote cacti, and the lure of altered states of mind continues today. Miley Cyrus was filmed in 2010 smoking Salvia divinorum from a bong—the plant has long been used by the Mazatecs of Mexico. Ayahuasca is an ancient concoction used in traditional healing ceremonies in the Amazon rainforest—today seekers from around the world congregate there on spiritual retreats to experience its long-lasting psychological effects. Apple founder Steve Jobs described taking LSD in his youth as “a positive life-changing experience.”
“Many of us find Wordsworthian ‘intimations of immortality’ in nature, art, creative thinking, or religion; some people can reach transcendent states through meditation or similar trance-inducing techniques, or through prayer and spiritual exercises,” writes celebrity neurologist Oliver Sacks, who spent his weekends in the 1960s taking drugs on an industrial scale. “But drugs offer a shortcut; they promise transcendence on demand. These shortcuts are possible because certain chemicals can directly stimulate many complex brain functions.”
The manifesto for the benefits of psychedelics is English novelist Aldous Huxley’s famous, slim volume, The Doors of Perception, in which he describes an afternoon in Los Angeles in 1953 when he was transported to a profound altered state of being, courtesy of the hallucinogenic, magic-carpet drug mescalin. (The title comes from William Blake: “If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.”)
Huxley argues that drugs can offer a kind of liberation from the confines of our nervous system, a voyage beyond Plato’s cave out into the unknown, into intense, chromatic other worlds that we can otherwise only glimpse, worlds that offer heightened experiences of love, creativity, understanding and transcendence.
He writes: “To be shaken out of the ruts of ordinary perception, to be shown for a few timeless hours the outer and inner world, not as they appear to an animal obsessed with survival or to a human being obsessed with words and notions, but as they are apprehended, directly and unconditionally, by Mind at Large—this is an experience of inestimable value.”
On his deathbed, in 1963, Huxley had his wife inject him with LSD.
We have explored, mapped and catalogued every inch of our planet. We have walked on the moon, sent spaceships to far-away stars and studied ever-distant galaxies. Perhaps, however, the final frontiers are within—what Huxley calls the “antipodes of the mind.” It can be a difficult journey, fraught with peril, the dangerous ravines of madness never far away. But with exploration—whether through self-reflection, therapy, meditation, religious practice or hallucinogenic drugs—it’s possible that we can discover new realms, expand our consciousness and become ever-richer, fuller, truer versions of ourselves.
• Ecstasy and Acid in your medicine cabinet? Doctors explore psychedelics (Newsweek)
• Magic mushrooms should be used to treat mental health problems, psychiatrist says (Telegraph.co.uk)
• The Trip Treatment (The New Yorker)
• Could Ecstasy be the next big anti-anxiety medication? (Science Times)
• FDA approves Ecstasy-assisted psychotherapy in Marin County (KQED—a 52-minute radio show)
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.