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:
Today, a third of Americans own a gun. There are about 300 million of them across the land. Lanza often went shooting recreationally with both of his parents, and had easy access at home to numerous firearms and high capacity ammunition. Individually and collectively, the presence of guns changes the psychology of Americans and America. There is something called the “weapons effect”—a much-repeated piece of research in 1967 showed that the presence or even suggestion of a gun can lead to an elevation of aggressive behaviour. No wonder gun owners and the gun lobby are so shrill in their defence of their pocket-size weapons of destruction: not only are they carrying guns—they are packing extra psychological heat as well.
One study shows you’re much more likely to kill or be killed if guns are in the house, which seems so obvious that it hardly need be researched. In 2011, just over half of the 39,518 suicides in the U.S. were carried out with a gun—19,990 self-inflicted fatal shootings. The number of gun suicides in the U.K.—admittedly with a population five times smaller—in the same year? A grand total of 93. Similarly, of the 16,238 homicides in the U.S. in 2011, 11,068 were done with a gun. The number of gun homicides in the U.K. was 38.
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.
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.