Who do you support?
Team Body—or Team Mind?
The former adopts the “medical model” approach to psychological distress: the root causes are largely found within the biology of the unwitting individual and the best treatment is medication.
Sample narrative: “I am stressed and can't cope. The chemical levels in my brain are slightly off—I need medication to restore the balance.”
The Mind team, by contrast, regards symptoms as manifestations of underlying, unresolved inner conflict which needs to be explored, processed and resolved through talking therapy.
Sample narrative: “I am stressed and can't cope. I am such a workaholic and brutally hard on myself—I now see this as some kind of loyalty to my very strict and punitive. parents.”
In his article “The 'drugs v talking' debate doesn't help us understand mental health," in The Guardian on Wednesday, Simon Wessely, chair of psychological medicine at King's College London and president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, attempts to build a bridge across the yawning divide.
The longstanding debate, he writes, often “has been caricatured as ‘psychiatry v psychology’, or equally unhelpfully ‘drugs v talking’, or ‘brain v mind’. But these are false distinctions, which don’t help in understanding mental disorders, don’t help mental health professionals, and most of all don’t help patients.”
Wessely argues instead for a pluralistic approach: “As there is incontrovertible evidence that physical, psychological and social factors contribute to the development of mental health problems – in different degrees and mixtures according to the type of illness and the particular individual – it follows that treatments that psychiatrists use can be physically, psychologically or socially based, either singly or more often in combination.”
And, according to Wessely, a pluralistic, multidisciplinary approach is precisely what patients get: “The truth is that up and down the land psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and other mental health professionals work together in multi-disciplinary teams for the benefits of patients.”
All that is missing from the picture he paints is a rose-tinted sky filled with smiling cherubs.
Stressed out teachers are turning to drink and drugs
Teachers’ union NASUWT recently conducted a survey of more than 5,000 teachers—the results will be published later this year but the Mirror had a sneak preview:
Teachers are resorting to drugs and drink to cope with the job’s stress, a shock poll reveals today.
A tenth say they have been prescribed anti-depressants due to work-related pressures – and 47% have seen a doctor in the last 12 months over job-linked physical or mental health problems.
A total of 22% claim to be drinking more alcohol, while 5% are smoking more tobacco and 7% are using or have increased their reliance on prescription drugs.
Disturbingly, 2% claim job stress has driven them to self-harm.
Kelly Holmes backs mental health campaign after her own battle with depression
Olympic legend Dame Kelly Holmes has given her backing to the Sunday Mirror’s campaign to raise awareness of mental ill health.
The retired British athlete pledged her support as she prepares to run the London Marathon to raise funds for the charity Mind.
The 45-year-old suffered with depression as she struggled to overcome injuries a year before her double Olympic triumph in Athens in 2004.
Dame Kelly reached such a low point she even self-harmed, cutting herself in the bathroom behind a locked door.
She said: “Having suffered from depression myself, I know how horrendous it is to feel so low and so desperate that you actually want to harm yourself.
Luciana Berger MP
Luciana Berger has been busy in her role as the first ever shadow Minister for Mental Health. In her latest newsletter she writes:
“Time to Talk day happened and was a great success. The night before, I spoke at a mental health rally in Parliament and Everton FC became the first Premier League football club to dedicate a themed match day to break the stigma around mental health. On Time to Talk day itself I spoke at a Business in the Community event on the importance of mental health support in the workplace, visited the 02 in Slough with Jeremy Corbyn, and spoke at the MQ conference on the importance of research. That weekend I took part in the Southbank Centre's Changing Minds Festival - you can listen to the discussion here.”
If you’re interested in Berger’s newsletter you can sign up here.
• Ministers 'letting down mentally ill people' by not collecting data (The Guardian)
• We're being forced to fix our own mental health. And it's not working - video (The Guardian)
• I worked in mental health - and after seeing the effects that austerity had on people, I had to leave (The Independent)
• Wentworth Miller pens powerful essay on mental health in response to body-shaming (The Independent)
Mobile platform Talkspace is the 'Future of Therapy'
New York Daily News
After a positive experience of couples therapy, software developer Roni Frank wanted a career change. The result is Talkspace, which offers unlimited access to a therapist for $25 a week:
Two years into her journey toward a master’s degree, she “started to realize the mental health system in America is completely broken,” she said. “One in five Americans suffers from mental health issues each year.”
Yet, roughly 70% of those who need help don’t receive it, Frank said. The three main obstacles? Cost, stigma and accessibility.
Most face-to-face therapy runs at least $100 an hour, many feel embarrassed about needing psychological help and getting to appointments can be difficult. Frank was convinced she could do something.
Four years ago, the Franks launched Talkspace with $13 million in venture capital funding. They now have over 500 licensed therapists, who report to supervisors.
Some 200,000 people have used the service, which runs $25 a week. Clients can text, record a voice message or leave s video on the firm’s app as often as they want. Therapists get back to them within the day.
Obama administration pushes Medicaid expansion as mental health solution
U.S. News & World Report
The White House on Monday released a report saying Medicaid expansion will help those with mental health and substance abuse disorders, but advocacy groups said more needs to be done to remove other barriers that prevent people from getting care.
The Department of Health and Human Services in its report cited those affected by the country's opioid epidemic and people with untreated mental illness as a needy population that could be helped if states that are resisting expanding coverage to their needy populations under Obamacare committed to the move. Doing so, the agency said, could reach the nearly 2 million low-income people in non-expansion states who have these conditions, even resulting in 371,000 fewer people having symptoms of depression.
"The conclusion is clear: If states are serious about tackling mental illness and opioids, then expanding Medicaid offers a unique opportunity to do so," Richard Frank, assistant secretary for planning and evaluation at HHS, said in a call with reporters Monday.
Probing the complexities of transgender mental health
Do transgender people suffer more from psychological distress because of discrimination, lack of support and a generally hostile response from society? Or is it inherent to the transgender experience, resulting from gender dysphoria and the conflict of feeling different from your assigned identity at birth? A recent study attempts to find out:
The study published Monday in JAMA Pediatrics reveals the difficulty in picking apart this question. It examined mental health and substance use among nearly 300 young transgender women in Chicago and Boston.
Only a quarter of the women were white, and all were between ages 16 and 29. The researchers, led by Sari Reisner, a research fellow at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children's Hospital, found that the rate of psychiatric disorders and substance dependence among these women was 1.7 to 3.6 times greater than in the general population.
• Doctors are failing to help people with gender dysphoria (BMJ)
A mental health pioneer
Los Angeles Times
Long before celebrities shared their private struggles on talk-show couches and social media feeds, actress Patty Duke broke a Hollywood taboo by speaking publicly about her mental health struggles.
Duke, who died Tuesday morning at age 69, was diagnosed with manic depression (now called bipolar disorder) in 1982. Known at the time as the goody-two-shoes child star of "The Miracle Worker" (for which she won a best supporting actress Oscar at 16) and "The Patty Duke Show," Duke revealed revealed a much darker reality in her 1987 memoir, "Call Me Anna," written with L.A. Times film critic Kenneth Turan. In the book, she graphically detailed her turbulent life, drug and alcohol abuse and childhood mistreatment at the hands of cruel managers.
In talking candidly about her mental illness, Duke took on the stigma long attached to the issue. In the years since Duke's disclosure, actresses such as Catherine Zeta Jones, Carrie Fisher, Rene Russo and Kim Novak have spoken publicly about their own bipolar diagnoses, while countless other public figures have talked about their depression.
Upon her death, Duke's son, actor Sean Astin, sought to continue his mother's legacy of bringing attention to mental health, launching a crowdfunding campaign to establish the Patty Duke Mental Health Initiative.
Legal MDMA could happen by 2021
Everything old is new again! Now that we’re finally understanding that some drugs — like marijuana — can be helpful when it comes to treating physical and psychological disorders, more and more studies are popping up suggesting that other drugs such as MDMA and Ketamine might also be helpful… in a medical setting. Don’t put your party hat on just yet (this isn’t happening until 2021 at the earliest), but new research shows that MDMA can be helpful in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (previously, it’s been used in couple’s therapy) and the team that’s been conducting the research will soon meet with the FDA to discuss exactly how to proceed when using Molly as an assist in psychotherapy.
Mapping global mental health research funding
Rand’s new report maps the global funding of mental health research between 2009 and 2014. Among the findings:
• The field of mental health research is large (and growing) and diverse – over 220,000 papers were published between 2009 and 2014, supported by over 1,900 funders.
• The US dominates the mental health research field, being both the largest producer of research (36 per cent of publications) and accounting for 31 per cent of government and charity/ foundation/ non-profit funding organisations.
• Charities, foundations and non-profits form the most numerous group of mental health research funders (39 per cent of the funders identified), but governments fund the most papers, accounting for over two-thirds of the papers with funding acknowledgements.
• India: Govt hires stress counsellors for paramilitary forces (India Today)
• Queen Rania of Jordan attends counselling session with Syrian refugees (Daily Mail)
• Psychosocial counselling helps earthquake survivors in Nepal overcome loss (Big News Network.com)
Psychotherapy for depressed rats
Genes are not destiny in determining whether a person will suffer from depression, reports a new Northwestern Medicine study. Environment is a major factor, and nurture can override nature.
When rats genetically bred for depression received the equivalent of rat "psychotherapy," their depressed behavior was alleviated. And, after the depressed rats had the therapy, some of their blood biomarkers for depression changed to non-depressed levels.
"The environment can modify a genetic predisposition to depression," said lead study investigator Eva Redei, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "If someone has a strong history of depression in her family and is afraid she or her future children will develop depression, our study is reassuring. It suggests that even with a high predisposition for depression, psychotherapy or behavioral activation therapy can alleviate it."
What on earth is psychotherapy for rats, you may ask:
Redei and colleagues wanted to see if they could alter the rats' genetically caused depression by changing their environment. They took the depressed rats and put them in large cages with lots of toys to chew on and places for them to hide and climb - sort of a Disneyland for rats. The rats were kept in the playground for one month.
"We called it rat psychotherapy," Redei said, "because the enrichment allows them to engage with the environment and each other more." The results of a month in the playground: the rats' depressive behavior was dramatically reduced.
After the playground psychotherapy, the rats were placed in a tank of water. Their behavior in the tank is a measure for depression. The control rats will swim around, looking for a way to escape. Depressed rats will simply float, showing despair behavior. After the month in the playground, the genetically depressed rats energetically paddled around the tank, looking for an exit.
"They did not show despair," Redei said.
The lab-coated boffins also found that it’s possible to make rats depressed (as if being part of this whole sorry enterprise wasn’t demoralising enough for the rats):
Northwestern scientists also wanted to see if environmental stress could trigger depression in rats bred to be the non-depressed control group of the experiment. These rates did not show despair behavior originally. The control rats underwent a psychologically stressful situation, which involved being restrained two hours a day for two weeks. After the two weeks, the stressed, control rats displayed depressed behavior when placed in a tank of water.
Conclusion: rat depression is not hereditary. A fun, stimulating environment where rats can play makes them happy. Strapping them down for two hours a day makes them sad. I think we knew that already, no? We can draw on decades of qualitative research into depression in another mammal: humans.
This weekend, take a look around your “cage.” Do you metaphorically speaking have “lots of toys to chew on” and “places to hide and climb”? And what restrains you? Unlike the lab rats, we are born free. But, as Rousseau noted, we are “everywhere found in chains.”