By decree, today is the International Day of Happiness. The United Nations has apparently commanded our planet’s 7,302,469,431 citizens (and counting) to be unrelentingly cheerful today. All day. You must paper a smiley face over all of your problems today. You must snap out of it, pull your socks up, pull yourself together. Feeling bad? Well stop it! We can all go back to being miserable, depressed, anxious, bereaved, in pain, despairing and so on tomorrow. OK?
Says United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: "I wish everyone around the world a very happy International Day of Happiness! The pursuit of happiness is serious business. Happiness for the entire human family is one of the main goals of the United Nations."
There are many things in life that make us happy. Is a demand for happiness from a giant, bureaucratic coalition of governments around the world one of them? Isn’t there something slightly creepy about Bhutan’s model of “Gross National Happiness”? Isn’t your happiness your business?
What this means is that if you’re not feeling happy today, now you have one more thing to feel bad about. Perhaps in solidarity, instead of subserviently smiling along with the U.N., we should subversively spend today reflecting on unhappiness—yours, mine and the world’s.
And anyway, who wants to be only happy? That’s not what life is about. As Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
• UN's International Day Of Happiness: How can we define or achieve it ... and who’s profiting? (The Independent)
• International Day of Happiness: 10 easy shortcuts to making yourself happier (Metro)
• International Day of Happiness: how happy are you? (Telegraph.co.uk)
• UN creates 'happy songs playlist' to mark International Day of Happiness (Daily News & Analysis)
• Smile, we're happier than the French: EU table of happiness (Daily Mail)
• 10 Things to Keep in Mind About Happiness (Huffington Post)
• How To Rewire Your Brain For Happiness (Forbes)
• 22 songs of maximum joy to mark the International Day of Happiness (Mashable)
Children's mental health to get £1.25 billion boost
The Coalition's commitment to extra mental health spending marks a "once in a generation" opportunity to improve outcomes, according to Nick Clegg. From Liberal Democrats:
Nick Clegg has announced a £1.25 billion of new funding for children's mental health services.
The money, spread over five years, will help treat 110,000 more children with mental health issues, and also provides rapid access to treatment for pregnant women and new mothers.
As part of the package, Nick also announced that the first ever-waiting time standards for children’s mental health will be introduced, and specialists in children’s talking therapy will be available in every part of the country by 2018. The funding will also extend access to services for children under five and those with autism and learning disabilities.
Three children in every classroom have a diagnosable mental health condition and research shows that left untreated it can blight their adult lives. But until now, provision of appropriate care has been insufficient to meet their needs.
Children and young people with conditions like depression or anxiety, self harm or at risk of suicide will now get access to more therapy, parenting support and care closer to home or in their community (such as local cafes, youth centres and shopping centres).
The Liberal Democrats have made improving mental health a priority, both in Government, but also in our Manifesto for the next parliament. This announcement is just the latest in a series of improvements to mental health services that we have delivered over the last five years, including:
◦ £7 million in new beds for children and young people, as well as more case managers to make sure they are cared for in a suitable environment
◦ £150 million over the next five years to help young people deal with issues like self-harm and eating disorder
◦ Introduction of a new waiting time standard, backed by £33 million, to make sure young people with psychosis get prompt treatments
◦ £54 million investment into improving access to Psychological Therapies for children and young people.
• Charities welcome shake up of youth mental health care (from Mind)
• NHS England welcomes new plans for radical shake up of youth mental health care (from NHS England)
• Health minister about son's mental health struggles (from BBC News)
Mind matters: the politics of mental health
In the run-up to the General Election, mental health has emerged as a surprise must-have manifesto topic. A review from Politics Home of how far we’ve come—and how far we have to go:
Support and recognition of the importance of the issue has sprung forth from leading figures in each of the main political parties during this Parliament.
The Liberal Democrats have been particularly vocal in their commitment on the subject, with Nick Clegg pledging to end the “second-class treatment that people with mental health issues have had to endure for decades.”
Ed Miliband has also committed the Labour party to improving services and will include key promises on early intervention and mental health resources for children in its 10-year plan for the NHS.
In a landmark commons debate in 2012 MPs from across the political spectrum made moving admissions on how they had coped with various forms of mental health issues.
Labour MP Kevan Jones described a battle with “deep depression” and Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston revealed that she had suffered “severe” postnatal depression that left her suicidal.
Mental health charity Mind welcomes the progress that has been made on addressing the stigma associated with mental health and has led the way with its Time to Change campaign (run with partner charity Rethink Mental Illness), which aims to end discrimination faced by sufferers.
As the general election approaches Mind is now keen to use the momentum that has been created to secure better funding for the sector.
Mind’s CEO Paul Farmer says that “broadly speaking the rhetoric is fine but the reality is that many still aren’t getting the help that they need
“You could characterise the last five years in parliamentary terms as being the period of awareness where people have really been genuinely engaging and learning about it.
“From our point of view over the next five years, whoever is in power, it is all about the phase of action, so that that awareness and interest is turned into policy change.”
The charity would like to see mental health achieve “parity of esteem” with physical health and is calling for a funding increase
Wales: older men action call by Mind Cymru
From BBC News:
A charity is warning that more needs be done to help older men in Wales who are suffering from mental health problems.
Mind Cymru says older men are more prone to suicide than younger adults, but many do not receive the support and medical guidance they need.
Its figures show that one in four have symptoms of depression, severe enough to warrant intervention.
“President Obama has elevated the conversation about mental health to the national stage”
One in four adults across the United States suffers from a mental illness — including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder — according to the National Alliance on Mental lllness (NAMI). Among that group, less than 40 percent receive professional treatment, choosing instead to battle their ailment in silence, often to their detriment and that of others.
But in the months and years after a young man opened fire on students and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut, President Obama has helped elevate the conversation about mental health to the national stage.
The current administration has taken several significant steps forward in this area, potentially ensuring that President Obama has found his place as the most progressive executive on mental health issues in the last 30 years. Some of the desired results, however, have not yet come to fruition.
Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Obama has expanded access to mental health treatment for afflicted Americans as part of an effort to destigmatize this silent killer and prevent future massacres. In February, the president signed into law the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act — legislation that would improve veterans’ access to mental health treatment — after it passed through the House and Senate. And earlier this month, First Lady Michelle Obama announced the launch of “The Campaign to Change Direction,” her attempt to raise mental health awareness among Americans.
“With President Obama being a prolific figure in our society, this act of stepping out and advocating equal access for all is crucial,” Lanada Williams, licensed psychotherapist and CEO of Alliance Family Solutions Counseling, told ThinkProgress. “I don’t think that I’ve seen that in other administrations.”
Mental health: A new priority in Corporate America
Hardworking Americans look across the Atlantic at Europe’s more leisurely, Epicurean approach to work and life with a mixture of pity, disgust and envy. Now, however, Corporate America increasingly is realizing that employees aren’t machines, mere cogs in the capitalist machine, but people susceptible to mental as well as physical ill-health (they may have also noticed the amazing “coincidence” that psychologically healthy employees are more productive).
Some HR ideas include: meditation and yoga programs, mental health education, bootcamp classes, breakdancing lessons, hula hoop sessions, even offering employees a certain number of “wellness hours” in a week, as well as some goodies such as “reusable water bottles, fresh fruit, healthy snacks and wellness resources.”
From U.S. News & World Report:
One in four adults--approximately 61 million Americans--experiences mental illness every year, according to a study by National Alliance on Mental Illness.
While many nonprofits, government agencies and local communities participate in initiatives such as the Campaign to Change Direction to raise awareness about mental health, some leaders in the corporate world have also adopted emotional health of their employees as a priority.
“At Booz Allen Hamilton, we pick up emotional well-being, emotional health and mental health as part of our leadership culture,” said Sifer, who now leads more than 4,000 employees. “It is essential to how we work as a people-based enterprise.”
Dealing with mental illness can be just as challenging as dealing with physical disabilities at a workplace where you have to constantly interact with people, Sifer said, and sometimes these issues make top employees unable to perform their best.
“We know that mental health has no boundaries, and we also know that most of the day is spent in the workplace,” said Andrea Inserra, senior vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton. “As corporate leaders, we need to be concerned for the well-being of our colleagues.”
Emotional health issues can also directly impact a company’s business. A survey by Employee Benefit News magazine revealed 31 percent respondents choose mental illness as the number one cause of lost productivity, increased absenteeism and other indirect costs.
India: call for better focus on mental health in Kerala
From The Hindu:
The burden of mental illnesses and mental retardation in Kerala is much higher than the national average, yet, mental health is given less importance than physical health in the State’s health sector plans, the Economic Review 2014 points out.
As per the national Census 2011, 0.20 per cent of the population in Kerala suffers from some form of mental illness in comparison to the national average 0.06 per cent. Similarly, 0.20 per cent of the State’s population suffers from mental retardation, against the national average of 0.12 per cent.
The special features with regard to the State which might have serious bearing on the burden of mental illnesses include high suicide rate, alcohol consumption, breakdown of marital relations and families, problems of ageing, stress due to the mismatch between high parental aspirations and children’s academic achievements, high rate of migration, and the increasing number of single-parent families.
The State Mental Health Policy 2013, which improved upon the policy of 2000, envisages the convergence of various departments for the care and rehabilitation of the mentally ill.
Australia: mental health services spending on the rise
From the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare:
Expenditure on mental health-related services in Australia has increased in recent years, according to new figures released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare on its Mental Health Services in Australia website (available at mhsa.aihw.gov.au).
'Estimated national recurrent expenditure on mental health-related services was over $7.6 billion in 2012-13, or $332 per person, an increase from $302 per person in 2008-09,' said AIHW spokesperson Geoff Neideck.
State and territory governments funded almost 60% of this expenditure, with the Australian Government funding just over 36%, and the private health insurance funding 4% of mental health-related services.
Funding by state and territory governments of mental health-related services increased by an average annual rate of 3.5% between 2008-09 and 2012-13, while funding by the Australian Government increased by an average annual rate of 5.0%.
The figures released today also include new mental health information on defence-funded programs and private hospital programs.
'For the first time, data are available on Department of Defence funded mental health programs, which indicate that in 2012-13, $24 million was allocated to these programs,' Mr Neideck said.
There were 1,578 public and private specialised mental health care facilities in Australia in 2012-13, providing 11,410 specialised mental health beds.
Over 2 million patient days were provided by public hospital mental health services during 2012-13.
There were 30,298 full-time-equivalent staff employed in state and territory specialised mental health services, with 51% employed as nurses in 2012-13.
The computer will see you now
From The Atlantic:
If there was any question about whether the mental-health profession would be safe from technological disruption, the answer is now clear—and it’s a resounding “no.” BetterHelp, Talkspace, and other online counseling services can now connect clients with licensed professionals in an array of specialties. In the past year, these startups not only have increased in popularity, but also have gained the adulation of mainstream media outlets.
A Wall Street Journal writer who recently used both services called BetterHelp a “positive, professional experience” and said his Talkspace sessions were “identical to what I had experienced in traditional therapy, except I had access to it any time I pulled out my iPhone.”
However, despite the praise heaped on these counseling sites, some professional counselors worry about the privacy and quality of online therapy.
As recent hacking scandals have demonstrated, nothing connected to the Internet is 100 percent safe. Some counselors worry about the possibility that a client’s deepest secrets could be exposed.
Run from your problems: why counselling during a workout is an effective form of therapy
A personal account of therapy on the run. From the Evening Standard:
This is my first therapy run but Will Pullen, a psychotherapist with six years’ experience, has been counselling on the move for two years now. He says it’s a highly effective form of therapy because you are figuratively moving on while, well, literally moving on.
The session starts on park bench for some “grounding”. Pullen asks how I am. I disclose that I’m a little “stressed”. He discloses that he can tell.
The next 50 minutes, he says, will be spent “unpacking” that stress, and looking for “solutions”.
As it’s a one-off, I don’t burden him with my tortured inner child but concentrate on the more manageable topics: the daily grind of life in London. He deals with this a lot — work problems, relationship problems, “people stuck in marriages; those are the most common”.
Happiness is a needle and thread away: new data on benefits of knitting
A good yarn from Yahoo:
Turns out, it is possible to knit yourself into a better state of mind.
Clinical psychologist Ann Futterman-Collier who runs the Well Being Lab at Northern Arizona University, is studying what Arizona Public Radio station KNAU calls “Textile Therapy” — the emotional benefits of knitting, as well as crocheting, weaving and quilting.
"People basically have a vacation from their problems," she tells KNAU. "They can forget about what’s bothering them, and they get into something in the moment that energizes them, that leads to the repair in mood."
Futterman-Collier studied 60 women suffering from various levels of stress. She had them either work with textiles, write or meditate. During their respective activities, the women kept track of their moods. And for good measure, Futterman-Collier also took saliva samples, monitored their heart rates to determine their stress levels and measured their inflammation. She then compared the stress-reducing results of each of the three activities.
"Textile handcraft making was associated with the greatest mood repair, increases in positive, decreases in negative mood," she tells KNAU. "People who were given the task to make something actually had less of an inflammatory response in the face of a ‘stressor’."