Therapy is 50 minutes spent sitting (or lieing) in a sombre room talking to a mysterious chin-stroking professional. Right? No! Sometimes therapy does actually manage to break out of the consulting room. There is counselling at home, in schools and in workplaces. There are drop-in counselling centres, counselling cafes near and far, therapy in taxi cabs, sidewalk psychotherapists. And then of course most counselling takes place quite naturally, for free, in the community, from family, friends, colleagues, spiritual leaders—or strangers in the checkout queue.
Increasingly, too, technology is providing new, alternative forms of help. You don’t have to call the Samaritans—these days you can email or text if you’d prefer. There are some really good online resources including websites offering self-administered help. There are mental health apps. And there is social media—a global audience of fellow travellers to support and be supported by.
Two stories from this week:
• #timetotalk: Is social media helping people talk about mental health?
More people than ever before are talking about mental health online.
Whether through blogs, videos or tweets, candid conversations about mental illness can be found across the spectrum of social networks we interact with on day-to-day basis. According to a survey by Time to Change, released for Time to Talk Day, 47% of people aged 21 and under said they find it easiest to talk about their mental health problems online (compared with 49% who said face to face and 4% who said over the phone).
Mental health charities have long known the benefits of social media. Mind has its own social network called Elefriends, Time to Change regularly hosts blogs on its site and, just last week, a new platform for videos on mental health called It Gets Brighter was launched. (The Guardian)
• R U There? A new counselling service harnesses the power of the text message
Depression is common among teens, and its consequences are volatile: suicide is the third leading cause of death for Americans between the ages of ten and twenty-four. In that same age group, the use of text messaging is near-universal. The average adolescent sends almost two thousand text messages a month. They contact their friends more by text than by phone or e-mail or instant-message or even face-to-face conversations. (The New Yorker)
• Suicide in America
Over 40,000 Americans took their own lives in 2012—more than died in car crashes—says the American Association of Suicidology. Mondays in May see the most incidents. The rates are highest in Wyoming and Montana, perhaps because guns—which are more effective than pills—are so common there (see chart). Nationally, guns are used in half of all successful suicides . . . Making it slightly harder to kill yourself is also surprisingly effective. American pharmacists still sell painkillers loose in pots, enabling people to pour the whole lot down their throats in one movement. This is unwise. After Britain switched to blister packs in 1998, which require you to punch pills out one by one, deaths from overdoses of paracetamol (the active ingredient in Tylenol) dropped 44% in 11 years. (The Economist)
• Corrie star “abandoned by friends over mental health”
Coronation Street star Beverley Callard has revealed how friends distanced themselves and 'abandoned' her after learning of her battle with depression.
The actress, who plays Liz McDonald on the ITV soap, said people battling mental illness should be encouraged to share their fears with those close to them.
The 57-year-old, who has fought depression and attempted suicide in the past, told BBC Radio Manchester it was easy for sufferers to feel isolated and alone.
‘I had one person say to me, and we'd been friends for a long time, "I don't think we should see each for a while because you're not yourself and you're not good for me",' she said.
'We actually got way beyond that, but at that time I felt abandoned by lots of people - and I think many people do.'
Beverley said she believes the stigma attached to mental health issues can prevent people discussing their problems with family and friends.
She said: 'We say to someone "how are you?" but more often than not we actually don't wait for the answer.
'If you just get the feeling that someone you know is suffering is sad say, "how are you? Do you want to talk about it?" (Daily Mail)
• “Meaning-Centered” group therapy beneficial in advanced cancer
Meaning-centered group psychotherapy (MCGP) is effective for reducing psychological distress and improving spiritual well-being in patients with advanced cancer, according to a study published online Feb. 2 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
William Breitbart, M.D., from the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, and colleagues examined the efficacy of MCGP to reduce psychological distress and improve spiritual well-being among 253 patients with advanced cancer. Participants were randomized to manualized eight-session interventions of MCGP or supportive group psychotherapy (SGP). Patients were assessed for spiritual well-being and overall quality of life as well as secondary outcome measures before and after completing treatment and at two months after treatment. (Doctors Lounge)
• Bicycles aid counselors at Kakuma refugee camp
Kakuma refugee camp hosts more than 170,000 refugees from about 12 African countries, with the largest populations having fled Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan to avert violence and famine. Jesuit Refugee Service has provided services in Kakuma since 1994, and is currently the only organization in the camp that provides psychosocial support.
Jesuit Refugee Service Eastern Africa provides individual and group counseling, runs a specialized facility for the protection of women and children suffering from sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) and implements a mental health program that provides education and life skills for refugees with learning disabilities.
As part of JRS psychosocial services in Kakuma, 540 refugees serve as peer counselors for more than 2,000 fellow refugees. In addition to the direct service provided those being counseled, the peer counseling program also serves as leadership development for counselors as they strive to improve their own community. This is in line with our mission of accompaniment, working with instead of for refugees, empowering them to lead their own communities, transforming their own realities.
Despite efforts of peer counselors, one of the biggest issues they face, especially women, is lack of safety when traveling to and from the counseling site in the sprawling refugee camp. Peer counselors, many female, walk long distances through what is essentially a large town to reach refugee families needing psychosocial care. Bicycles allow counselors to travel more quickly and safely around Kakuma and to reach many more families. (Jesuit Refugee Service)
• Mental health in Lebanon
“There is tremendous need for mental health services in Lebanon. What’s changing is that people are more open to receiving psychiatric care,” says LAU’s new head of psychiatry, Dr. Elias Rizkallah Abou Jaoude, who is helping set up the School of Medicine’s new psychiatry service and residency program . . .
What is somewhat unique to Lebanon, however, says Abou Jaoude, is medication addiction and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) “because of the ease with which people can buy medication without prescription and the endless traumas that people in this population are subjected to.” (Lebanese American University)