Facebook is introducing a new initiative aimed at reducing suicides. The social media site is partnering with Now Matters Now, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Save.org and Forefront: Innovations in Suicide Prevention, to offer help and support to Facebook users in distress.
Here’s how it will work: If someone on Facebook posts something concerning, indicating thoughts of suicidal intent for instance, any of that person’s Facebook friends will be able to click on an icon to contact the friend in need, contact another of their friends for support, or contact a suicide helpline.
Facebook, too, will be alerted, and if the post is sufficiently distressing, it will send the distressed person messages of support and useful resources.
It's all a bit Big Brotherly, something devised by the "thought police." And yet, even if it is generated by a programmed bot in a vast, humming underground computer bunker somewhere in Silicon Valley, a well-timed message of hope really can make all the difference. It’s a helping hand, a voice in your darkest hour, a reminder that you’re not alone in this world.
There are 1.4 billion active Facebook account users. That’s about a fifth of the population of the world.
Preventing suicide is a difficult undertaking because it’s an action that’s carried out swiftly and desperately by those struggling to deal with their mental anguish alone, even if they may lead a seemingly normal life. However, not all cries for help are silent — especially on social media, where you may come across melancholic statuses from friends on your newsfeed.
Now, Facebook wants to capitalize on the confessional nature of its platform. The social media giant is rolling out a new suicide prevention tool — which it created in partnership with a few mental health organizations — that allows users to reach out to their troubled loved ones virtually and connect them with online resources after spotting the first sign of trouble.
While mental health experts believe that the app could better help concerned family and friends spark much needed conversations and connect distressed people with resources, some warn against overly depending on the social media platform for help with these sensitive matters when direct contact may prove more effective.
With the suicide prevention app, users who are concerned about a friend’s post can directly “report” it by contacting their friend, another friend for support, or a suicide prevention hotline. Facebook then examines the reported post to see if warrants intervention. If so, the friend in question will receive a message that gives him or her the option of reaching out to a friend, calling a suicide hotline, or looking over a host of suicide prevention materials, including video messages and relaxation techniques.
Julie Andrews: Counselling led me to love
From Film News:
Julie Andrews went to therapy to "get rid of some garbage" and ended up meeting the love of her life.
The actress is famed for her appearance in 1965's The Sound of Music and four years after it was released she married Blake Edwards. The pair met because they were both seeking counselling at the same place, with Julie explaining she needed help coping with her sudden rise to fame.
"We actually, our cars - I was going one way and he was going the other and Blake rolled down the window after smiling a couple of times and said, 'Are you going where I just came from?' And I was going to a therapist and he was coming from. Very corny, sorry about that!" she explained to British TV show Good Morning Britain.
The future of mental health in the UK: an election manifesto
Following on from the Royal College of Psychiatrists mental health manifesto for the next UK Government, Making Parity a Reality, comes this “secret manifesto” in The Lancet with further suggestions:
It is disheartening that half of the things we called for— proper liaison psychiatry services, a minimum unit price for alcohol, and investment in parenting programmes— have such robust evidence bases that they should have happened years ago. It is disgraceful that the remainder— adequate numbers of hospital beds for people with mental health problems, a maximum waiting time of 18 weeks to receive treatment for a mental health problem, and safe and speedy access to quality crisis care that does not often involve police cells—would just lift mental health up to the level of physical health care.
Children's services hit rock bottom – so what's next?
The government has fuelled a rise in mental health problems in children while at the same time dramatically slashing services designed to help them, as I’ve written before. Here Simon Newitt in the Guardian assesses the dire way we are treating our children, our future, concluding: “If we are going to continue to organise our society in such a way as to make the incidence of poor mental health more likely, then we can’t ignore the human and financial cost of not providing adequate public services to mitigate the consequences”:
It’s encouraging to hear leading politicians now talk and pledge openly about mental healthcare. In the past year or so, the state of our services – particularly for children and young people – has slowly risen up the political agenda. It’s a scandal that it has taken near systemic collapse to achieve this, but when even Norman Lamb, minister of state for care and support, is able to conclude that children’s mental health services “are not fit for purpose”, it is clear we’re about to hit bottom. Maybe we already have.
Multiple investigations and reviews have found the same failings, which might be summarised as the result of chronic long-term underinvestment in the face of growing demand. Mental health issues represent about a third of our overall burden of disease in the UK and cost more than £100bn a year.
Spending on services represents only 13% of the total NHS budget, with 67% of clinical commissioning groups spending less than 10% of their budget in this way. Worse, given half of all adult mental health problems (excluding dementia) start before age 15 and three-quarters by 18, it’s hard to understand why only 6% of these already limited funds go toward child and adolescent mental health. These are services which have also had to manage cuts of £50m since 2010. Funding for mental health research represents 5% of overall health research spending.
• Scotland: child mental health wait increases 'are horrifying'
From BBC News:
The number of young people waiting more than a year to be treated by mental health services has increased 10-fold in a year, according to figures released by Scottish Labour.
The party said the Scottish government "is letting down some of the most vulnerable children in Scotland".
“The Troubles” linked to half mental health cases in Northern Ireland
From BBC News:
A new study has claimed the Troubles are linked to half the cases of mental health issues in Northern Ireland.
The research was conducted by Ulster University on behalf of the Commission for Victims and Survivors.
It found almost 30% of the NI population suffer mental health problems, and nearly half of those are directly related to the Troubles.
The Department of Health said it had no official figures on "the level of directly associated mental illness".
However, it said "emerging evidence indicates that Northern Ireland has high levels of, often untreated, post traumatic stress disorder as a result of decades of violence".
Michelle Obama promotes awareness of mental health
From U.S. News & World Report:
Mental health care is not just a policy and budget issue for America, but also a cultural issue, Michelle Obama said on Wednesday.
The first lady said more than 40 million Americans experience a diagnosable mental health condition— like depression or anxiety— and there should be no stigma around mental health care.
"At the root of this dilemma is the way we view mental health in this country," she said. "Whether an illness affects your heart, your leg or your brain, it's still an illness, and there should be no distinction."
Mrs. Obama spoke at a mental health summit and the national launch of the campaign to "Change Direction."
Kenya: How one woman is “fighting the funk” by helping others
From Public Radio International:
Sitawa Wafula had two strikes against her. But the Kenyan woman is making a huge difference for thousands in her nation in an area that receives scant attention: Mental health. Despite suffering from bipolar disorder and epilepsy herself, Wafula has been able to create a route to help others.
According to the Africa Mental Health Foundation, there are only 79 working psychiatrists in the East African nation. That’s one for every 500,000 people. Short of training more, Wafula wanted to find a way to make mental health resources more widely available.
In September 2014, Wafula launched an SMS-based helpline called “My Mind My Funk.” People can text in for free from any mobile network. General inquiries get an automated response, but desperate or suicidal messages are answered with a call from a licensed therapist.
Wafula knows all too well what it’s like to have no one to turn to for help. She was diagnosed with epilepsy, a condition that's often stigmatized in Kenya, when she was a teenager. Then a sexual assault sent her into a downward spiral.
“I got really, really depressed. I was suicidal. I didn’t have anyone to talk to tell what had happened to me,” Wafula says, speaking at her small, bare office in Ngong, a town on the outskirts of the capital city Nairobi.
Israel: 350 soldiers received psychiatric counseling after Gaza War: report
More than 350 Israeli soldiers who took part in last summer's military onslaught on the Gaza Strip have since received psychiatric counseling for post-traumatic stress, an Israeli report has revealed.
The report, published Wednesday in the Israel Today newspaper said that soldiers had undergone treatment for symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress, including disorientation, low productivity and recurring nightmares.
The newspaper quoted a senior Israeli official as saying that the number of soldiers to receive psychiatric treatment following last summer's onslaught on Gaza was higher than those who did so following previous operations.
For 51 days this summer, Israel pounded the Gaza Strip by air, land and sea. More than 2,310 Gazans, 70 percent of them civilians, were killed and 10,626 injured during unrelenting Israeli attacks on the besieged strip this summer.
According to the UN, the Israeli military killed at least 495 Palestinian children in Gaza during “Operation Protective Edge.” The al-Mezan Center for Human Rights puts the number at 518, while the Palestinian Center for Human Rights puts it at 519.
All three figures exceed the total number of Israelis, civilians and soldiers, killed by Palestinians in the last decade.
Saudi Arabia: counseling helps 2,950 extremists mend ways
From Arab News:
Maj. Gen. Nasser Al-Mutairi, director of the Mohammed bin Nayef Center for Counseling and Care, said that his facility has reformed 2,950 young men who are now all fully integrated in society.
Nasser made these remarks on Monday, during a lecture at the headquarters of the Muslim World League, where several Saudi experts talked about the experience of fighting terrorism in the Kingdom. However, the center's success of retrievals of youth in danger of becoming extremists currently stands at 13 percent.
Despite the grim data, 120 individuals coming from Guantanamo Bay were successfully integrated in society thanks to the center, with 98 percent of them giving up extremist ideas.
Al-Mutairi said the center has a five-year strategy based on three propositions: psychological treatment, rehabilitation and reintegration into society.
Australia: Large gap between rich and poor areas in use of mental health services revealed
From The Guardian:
Large socioeconomic and geographical inequality exists in patient use of mental health services, despite Medicare’s aim of providing universal health care.
Using substantial data obtained through freedom of information requests, researchers from Melbourne’s Monash University assessed more than 25m instances of mental health care over the four years to June 2011, undertaking the largest ever national study into mental health services.
The most highly qualified mental health staff – psychiatrists and clinical psychologists – were used up to three times as much by people in wealthier areas compared to those in the most disadvantaged ones, they found. However, use of less qualified mental health staff, like general practitioners, general psychologists and social workers, was more equitable across the country. Out-of-pocket costs to the patient are significantly less for these services compared to that of clinical psychologists and psychiatrists, for which a larger co-payment gap exists.
With research consistently showing higher rates of severe mental illness in the most disadvantaged areas, it was concerning that people living in those areas were accessing specialist services less, the authors of the research published in the Medical Journal of Australia on Monday said.
The developing world: When mental health is the best investment
Report on the global cost of mental health problems in GOOD Magazine:
Mental health disorders are among the most common debilitating afflictions in the world. This reality is almost certainly exacerbated in poorer countries, given a lack of mental health resources and the demonstrated linkage between poverty and the risk of developing adverse psychological conditions. Yet pervasive social stigmas about mental health still make it difficult to convince governments, businessmen, and donors to invest in campaigns for greater resources, especially in economically struggling countries. Fortunately, there may be a way to convince hardheaded people all over the world that contributing to mental health provision efforts will be in their interest. Even if they don’t participate out of the goodness of their hearts or the recognition of the realities of mental health’s personal ravages, there’s a good argument to be made that providing these service just makes practical business sense. Because these days, a growing body of literature suggests funding improved mental health resources is one of the best economic investments a country or company can make.
Among its constituent countries, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development conservatively estimates that up to four percent of national GDP can be lost in a given year to mental health’s blow to productivity. In the U.S., these direct and indirect costs make mental health issues perhaps the most expensive chronic health issue in the nation. Thanks to a lack of data or serious investigations in many developing countries, we often don’t know what the equivalent numbers would be. But some estimates put the global costs of mental health at $2.5 trillion per year, with two-thirds of that amount coming from indirect expenses. And up to 45 percent of that global impact seems to be concentrated in the developing world. So the numbers may be fuzzy, but we’re still looking at hundreds of billions of dollars a year in preventable losses to the national economies of a collection of limited, small, and fragile nations.
Two opposing views
Looking for meaning in your life?
From psychotherapist Dr Aaron Balick on Huffington Post UK:
Finding the right therapist for yourself is important, and your progress with them will depend a lot on chemistry. If you don't click with the first one you meet or speak to, try someone else. If you're meeting a therapist in the real world, you might want to book a session in with a few different people, so you can get a taste before you decide.
And then you can begin your journey - now, more than ever, we need to access the deeper parts of ourselves, so we can operate better and more authentically in this fast moving world. A depth psychotherapy is a bit like slow food in a fast food culture. Once or twice a week you slow down, chew slowly, and taste all the flavours. It's you're life, as far as we know you've only go the one, so make it count and find out who you are.
“It just exacerbates everything”
Creator of Seinfeld, Curb your Enthusiasm, and king of neurosis Larry David, via Mia Farrow (former partner of the kind of neurosis Woody Allen, on twitter.com:
Larry David on psychotherapy: “I think it just exacerbates everything. Then you just become more focused on yourself. It does no good at all."