The death of the “headclutcher” picture of mental ill-health
From BBC News:
A campaign backed by Stephen Fry has been launched to try to change the type of images used by the media for stories about mental health. But what is wrong with the ones currently used?
A solitary figure, with their head in their hands, more often than not cast in dark, sombre lighting. These stock images, often termed the "headclutcher", have become a familiar sight in media portrayals of mental illness.
Charities and campaigners have, for many years, lamented the use of such imagery, arguing that people with mental illnesses do not always "look" depressed.
Charlotte Walker, who has bipolar disorder, says these pictures can be harmful, and that images of people in distress have become synonymous with mental illness.
"It's the only image we see of mental distress," she says, "unless it's about obsessive compulsive disorder, in which case you always get someone washing their hands, or self-harm, where you get the obvious. It's too reductionist."
• How a visual cliche about mental health can slip through (The Guardian)
Wristbands for the mentally ill?!
From The Guardian:
If you’re wondering how much work is still left to do in dissipating stigma around mental illness, look no further than recent comments made by Chamali Fernando, the Tory parliamentary candidate for Cambridge.
When asked at hustings how authorities, such as the police, could better help those with mental health requirements, Fernando apparently suggested that vulnerable people could wear colour-coded wristbands denoting their condition, immediately alerting public figures to any special needs they might have.
When this statement hit Twitter, it was immediately seized upon and ridiculed by opponents, and with good reason: the last thing sufferers of any form of ill-health want is to make everyone they meet aware of their condition. It’s hard enough when Katie Hopkins is calling your debilitating mental illness “a passport to self obsession” without hanging a sign around your neck declaring: “I AM MEDICALLY SAD, PLEASE BEAR THIS IN MIND WHEN DEALING WITH ME.” Fernando’s main competition for the seat, incumbent Lib Dem MP Julian Huppert, wasted no time in making political capital from the comments, pointing out – correctly – that singling mentally ill people out with wristbands would only exacerbate the continual stigma that surrounds mental health issues.
Hundreds of mental health experts issue rallying call against austerity
From The Guardian:
Austerity cuts are having a “profoundly disturbing” impact on people’s psychological wellbeing and the emotional state of the nation, hundreds of counsellors, psychotherapists and mental health experts have said in a letter to the Guardian.
They said an “intimidatory disciplinary regime” facing benefits claimants would be made worse by further “unacceptable” proposals outlined in the budget.
These amounted to state “get to work” therapy and were both damaging and professionally unethical, they said.
Increasing inequality and poverty, families being moved out of their homes and new systems determining benefit levels were part of “a wider reality of a society thrown completely off balance by the emotional toxicity of neoliberal thinking”, according to more than 400 signatories to the letter. The consequences were “most visible in the therapist’s consulting room”.
The letter’s writers said it “sounds the starting bell for a broadly based campaign of organisations and professionals against the damage that neoliberalism is doing to the nation’s mental health”.
New review recognises the importance of counselling in those affected by infertility
From the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists:
The psychological impact and private agony of infertility must be carefully considered by healthcare professionals, suggests a new review, published today (Friday 10 April) in The Obstetrician & Gynaecologist (TOG). The review identifies infertility as a complex state and life crisis and sets out the dangers of neglecting the emotional impact of involuntary childlessness and viewing it solely in biological or medical terms.1
The article provides an introduction to infertility counselling in the UK, within the context of fertility treatment. This includes an explanation of the differences between the three main types of counselling, implications, support, and therapeutic counselling, and the role of various bodies, including the Counselling Service, Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and British Infertility Counselling Association.
TfL spends millions on counselling for 'stressed' staff
From the Evening Standard:
London transport chiefs are spending millions of pounds to pay for counselling for stressed employees, it has been revealed.
Transport for London spent £3.1m on staff counselling from 2010 to 2014 in what union bosses said was a reflection of the "massive pressure" faced by employees.
Almost 5,000 staff members were given counselling for causes including stress, anxiety, train suicides and harassment, a Freedom of Information request by London Loves Business showed.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash told the website: "These figures are a reflection of the massive pressure that staff find themselves under against a background of cuts to numbers, services and safety.
“They serve as the clearest evidence that staff are bearing the brunt of Boris Johnson’s cash-led attacks across the London Underground network and reinforce the unions determination to fight his plans.”
And Finn Brennan, from the Aslef rail union, added: "The £3m spent on counselling is money that is extremely well spent.
"TfL employees do a very important yet difficult and stressful job. One of the big worries is the closure of ticket offices which will lead to reduction in staff. This will definitely leave staff more vulnerable."
Responding to the Freedom of Information request, TfL said the health and wellbeing of its staff is "paramount".
Obama calls for end to 'gay conversion therapies'
Following a massive petition and commentary in support of a ban, including this one from world of therapy, President Barack Obama has denounced the so-called “pray the gay away” practice of conversion therapy. From the BBC News:
US President Barack Obama has condemned psychiatric therapies designed to "repair" gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth.
Mr Obama's statement was in response to an online petition calling for a ban on conversion therapies. It gained over 120,000 signatures in three months.
The petition was inspired by Leelah Alcorn, a 17-year-old transgender youth who killed herself in December.
Some conservative groups and religious doctors support conversion therapy.
"We share your concern about its potentially devastating effects on the lives of transgender as well as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and queer youth," White House adviser Valerie Jarrett wrote in response to the petition.
"As part of our dedication to protecting America's youth, this administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors."
Baseball teams nurture players' mental health
From The New York Times:
For Cubs General Manager Jed Hoyer, Josh Lifrak is just like the hitting coach John Mallee or the pitching coach Chris Bosio.
Lifrak is the director of the team’s mental-skills program, while Mallee and Bosio are two vital members of Manager Joe Maddon’s coaching staff. Hoyer looks at each of them in a similar way, and he knows what that means in terms of a shift in thinking when it comes to mental health and major league baseball.
“I think that it used to be the kind of thing that people would talk to people. They didn’t, like, advertise it,” Hoyer said. “Some guys were ashamed of it, and some people didn’t want to have any part of it. I think now it’s almost impossible to find someone who doesn’t understand that your mental-skills coach is no different than a hitting coach or a pitching coach. He’s a guy that can really help your players get better.
“That’s a shift from, like, partial acceptance to, like, total acceptance in a very short amount of time.”
From Huffington Post:
Lena Dunham shared a powerful "workout selfie" on Instagram yesterday. "To those struggling with anxiety, OCD, depression: I know it's mad annoying when people tell you to exercise, and it took me about 16 medicated years to listen," she wrote. "I'm glad I did. It ain't about the ass, it's about the brain." There's a lot to take from this selfie, beyond her "slim figure" and the fact that she is wearing a sports bra. Yet again, Dunham is working to combat the stigma surrounding mental health.
Germany: Psychotherapy proven to normalize brain activity
From Medical Daily:
For years, psychiatrists and psychologists have lacked physiological proof of the "disordered" mentalities they diagnosed. Brain imaging technologies changed all that by offering hard evidence of the differences between the brains of patients and of people without mental illness. Now, a recent study from German scientists confirms theories of mental dysfunction underlying depression, while the research also shows how depressed brain activity can be normalized following psychotherapy — minus any form of drug therapy.
For some time now, neuroscientists using brain imaging technologies have been able to examine the changes that occur in the brains of patients as a result of mental illness. Depression, in particular, marks the brain in a particular way.
“The human brain responds to depression,” Dr. Svenja Taubner, lead author and professor in the department of psychology at the University of Kassel, explained in a press release. “Patients typically show hyperactivity particularly in the amygdala, the striatum, and other limbic regions.”
Along with this characteristic hyperactivity, depression also produces generalized network dysfunction, as neuroscientists conceptualize it, in the cortico-limbic loops. Since depression affects the functioning of the brain, it only stands to reason that successful treatment would impact the brain as well. In other words, patterns of hyperactivity should normalize as a patient’s mood stabilizes.
However, this is where brain imaging studies fall short — some studies show increased hyperactivity in limbic and subcortical regions following psychotherapy treatment, while others show decreased hyperactivity. Taken together, the studies did not prove psychotherapy could normalize the brain of a patient. For the current study, then, the researchers wanted to confirm the positive effects of psychotherapy.
Australia: Refugee experiences of mental health services
From the Australian Institute of Family Studies:
It can be challenging for anyone to attend a mental health service.
But for a young person who has fled a war-torn homeland, is currently learning the language, culture and systems of a very different country, and who is anxious about what their family and friends will think of him or her for attending a mental health service – it can be a very difficult experience indeed.
The stigma around mental health problems is often greater within refugee communities, with a common perception being that only those who are seriously disturbed or “crazy” use mental health services.
These are some of the barriers that young people from refugee backgrounds face in accessing and using mental health services. For the small number of this population who do access these services, no previous research has explored their experiences.
In order to address this need, we conducted in-depth interviews with 16 young people (aged 18-25) who were refugees. We asked them a range of questions about being clients of Australian mental health services.
Botswana: Pre-marital counselling critical
Lack of pre-marital counselling leads to families and marriage disintegration in Botswana.
This was said by the chairperson of the newly found The Family Institute Trust, Mr Tebogo Duna, when briefing the media in Francistown on April 10.
He said given the rising divorce rates, one of the best things they could do to help save marriages was pre-marital counselling. Mr Duna said couples who attended pre-marital counselling had the opportunity to discuss issues that most couples argued about and most of these often led to divorce or separation.