“I think, therefore I am.” Cogito, ergo sum. From this absolute, penned in 1637, René Descartes laid the table for the predominant Western belief that the “self” is a mind that inhabits a physical body, but is separate from it, like a ghost in the machine.
Four centuries later, such “Cartesian dualism” has given rise to an NHS that completely atomises each human patient that walks through the surgery door. The patient is either having a mental problem or a physical problem. If the former, prescribe drugs. If the latter, examine the dysfuntional body part. There is seemingly no overlap between the two on the GP’s flowchart. Even in neuropsychiatric wards where the two elements supposedly come together, patients are divided into those whose symptoms have an “organic” origin (ie. physical) or are “non-organic” (ie. psychological), with different approaches for both. Really, the NHS should take a dose of its own medicine and have some CBT for such “black and white thinking.”
What of the man suffering from chronic headaches since the death of his partner? Or the woman having a major existential crisis as a result of a diagnosis of cancer? Or the high-achiever who, on the morning of an important meeting, wakes up one day unable to walk?
The fact is, we are neither our minds, nor our bodies, but a complex whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. We ignore the mysterious interplay between those parts at our peril. As the book Why Do People Get Ill? argues, a patient is a gestalt and could better be treated in a more holistic manner. We are psychosomatic beings. Eastern medicine gets this; the western kind does not.
Dropping the word 'mental' from 'mental health'
From Huffington Post:
There are many polarizing words that are used when it comes to describing mental health: "Crazy," "insane," "nutcase." All of them are wrong and perpetuate a stigma. So Eric Norwine, a mental health advocate and producer of the film "Walking Man," is offering a different, more holistic solution -- and frankly, one that makes sense.
Norwine told HuffPost Live host Nancy Redd that one way we can eliminate the stereotype is to stop singling out mental health as its own category and consider it a part of our overall health.
"I think that ... the brain is the most complicated organ in the body and it's the one we forgive the least when it breaks," he said. "That makes no sense. You would never tell someone with a broken leg to run."
David Tennant to play 'acid-Marxist' psychiatrist RD Laing in biopic
From The Guardian:
David Tennant is to play RD Laing, known as the ‘acid Marxist’ and ‘high priest of anti-psychiatry’, in a new film about the controversial 1960s residential treatment centre Kingsley Hall.
Titled Metanoia, the biopic will chronicle the infamous Scottish psychiatrist’s efforts to create a safe haven for people diagnosed with psychosis and schizophrenia, where there were no locks on the doors and no antipsychotic drugs were administered, at his site on Powis Road in London’s East End. Kingsley Hall opened to residents in 1965 and continued to operate through the height of the flower power movement until 1970. Laing was known for advocating the medical use of LSD, still legal at the time of the centre’s opening, and argued for the breaking down of divisions between patient and health professional.
Writer-director Robert Mullan, the author of three books about Laing, told Screen: “In the late 1960s, and throughout the 70s, RD Laing was seen as the high priest of anti-psychiatry and the so-called ‘acid Marxist’ – lauded by supporters for his daring and experimental work with disturbed people.
“In truth, Laing simply tried harder than other psychiatrists to sympathetically understand the cracked minds of the people who came to see him. He gave them time and tried to see the world from their point of view. His books sold all over the world and his reputation was global.”
Former Doctor Who Tennant, who will star opposite Mad Men’s Elisabeth Moss in the film, told Screen he had “long been fascinated by the life and work of RD Laing”. He said: “This is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate and discover this important man and I am honoured and thrilled to be involved in telling this story. Robert Mullan’s passion for the subject is inspiring and the presence of the brilliant Elisabeth Moss makes this something I cannot wait to start work on.”
The case for independent investigation of deaths in mental health institutions
From Open Democracy:
INQUEST is a charity which provides help to people bereaved by a death in custody or detention in England and Wales. Earlier this year we published a report on mental health deaths, drawing upon our work with families, and our statistical monitoring and policy work.
The single most important factor highlighted by this report was the absence of a pre-inquest investigation mechanism. Reliance upon the NHS Trusts’ internal inquiry has often been problematic, since the death may have been caused or contributed to by the failures of the hospital’s staff or procedures.
Without the pre-inquest support of an independent investigatory body coroners may be unable properly to investigate systemic failings or to provide insight or guidance on the prevention of future deaths.
Bereaved families often struggle to be involved in the internal investigations and face barriers to disclosure of basic information and relevant documents. Families have described an atmosphere of “them against us” and “a battle to the end”. It does not inspire family or public confidence when an organisation investigates itself over a death in which it may be implicated.
In the past year political parties have amplified their commitments to improving mental health care. The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have called for mental health conditions to be given equal priority to physical health, while Labour has vowed to invest in child and youth mental health services. And last year a statutory duty of candour placed a legal duty on health and social care providers to be open with patients or their families when things go wrong.
All this is welcome. The starting point must be a post-death investigative framework that is independent.
• Man restrained under Mental Health Act with a towel over his head died after 'excessive police force' (mirror.co.uk)
Practice mindfulness says charity
From The Independent:
A mental health charity has suggested that mindfulness treatments should be more widely available on the NHS, after revealing the results of a new YouGov survey.
Originally an ancient Buddhist practice, mindfulness is a form of therapy aimed at increasing people’s awareness of themselves, their emotions and the environment around them, through meditation, yoga and breathing.
As part of Mental Health Awareness week, the Mental Health Foundation has called for the NHS to make the practice available in all areas of the country to help those suffering from anxiety, stress, and depression.
According to a new survey, that is a significant number of us.
YouGov and the Mental Health foundation have reported that 29 per cent of people are stressed; whilst 24 per cent suffer from anxiety and 17 per cent from depression.
In addition, the survey, which looked at over 2,000 British adults, reports that nearly half of workers struggle to switch off from work, and that nearly two thirds of people would be likely to take part in activities that reduce stress if given the option.
Mental Health Foundation CEO, Jenny Edwards CBE, said:
"Mindfulness is one of the most encouraging practices to support good mental health.
"Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy is recommended by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and endorsed in the Chief Medical Officer’s Mental Health report, for reducing the risk of recurrent depression, cutting relapse rates in half.
"However, the evidence to date is that only a handful of Clinical Commissioning Groups make Mindfulness available in their area," she added.
How can couples rebuild trust after an affair?
A 12-minute NPR radio report on relationships, trust and adultery featuring the marvelous Esther Perel, New York-based Belgian psychotherapist and author of Mating in Captivity.
Perel on trust:
“It is one of the most magnificent experiences one can have. It is an experience among friends. It is an experience from a child to a parent and a parent to a child. It allows me to know that I am not alone. That is one of the most fundamental experiences that come with trust is: I am not alone. In archetypal language, you could say that once we are thrown out of Eden, we are on a quest for trust. For that solid ground. For that sense that tomorrow will arrive when today ends.”
And on affairs:
“I look at affairs from a dual perspective. Hurt and betrayal on one side. Growth and self-discovery on the other. What it did to you, and what it meant for me. And so when a couple comes to me, in the aftermath of an affair, I will often tell them this: Today, in the West, most of us are going to have two or three relationships, or marriages. And some of us are going to do it with the same person. Your first marriage is over. Would you like to create a second one, together?”
A therapeutic role for ecstasy and other psychedelic drugs?
Prior to 1985, psychiatrists in the United States and elsewhere legally used MDMA as a prescription drug to intensify the effectiveness of psychotherapy. A new study may help MDMA, now an illicit club drug referred to as ecstasy or molly, reclaim its former good reputation. MDMA, the researchers believe, may help reduce self-criticism and increase self-compassion when combined with other forms of therapy.
The Drug Enforcement Administration approved the first clinical trial using MDMA along with psychotherapy to treat anxiety among people with life-threatening illnesses, Al Jazeera reported on Tuesday. Earlier this month, the Journal of Psychopharmacology published an analysis of data provided by 135,000 random participants — including 19,000 who reported using LSD, psilocybin, and mescaline — and found the use of psychedelics does not increase the risk of developing mental health problems. Other recent studies found MDMA-assisted psychotherapy would not cause harm to post-traumatic stress disorder patients and might even be useful for those who get no help from other treatments.
It appears more than a few researchers are revisiting the therapeutic use of psychedelic drugs. One such researcher, Dr. Sunjeev K. Kamboj, a senior lecturer in psychology at University College London, wondered about the similarities between ecstasy and Eastern meditation practices. Specifically, both contribute to a compassionate mindset, leading Kamboj to theorize that MDMA-assisted psychotherapy might increase pro-social attitudes toward the self.
Through Talkspace, a therapist is a text away. According to CNN, the startup has raised more than $13 million in financing, a sign the innovative business may have found a new way to deliver a service to the tech-oriented contingent of the public.
The startup is designed as an easy, transparent service – following a trend of recent startups. Users are paired with a psychotherapist and can send text messages to them any time, any day, for $25 a week. Talkspace also offers couples therapy for $149 a month.
Roni Frank, co-founder of Talkspace, said a lot of people are intimidated by the face-to-face nature of traditional therapy, and despite efforts from many in the mental health community, there still is an overarching stigma around mental health.
“It’s always easier to text. It feels so normal,” Frank told CNN. “There is a healthy distance when you are texting.”
Alex Finkelstein, general partner at Spark Capital, which is working with Talkspace, says the concept of on-demand therapy fills a major need for many people.
“There’s a massive need for therapy on-demand,” Finkelstein told CNN. “You could be in the middle of an eating disorder episode or a marriage dispute, and you can literally be communicating with your therapist in minutes.”
Roni Frank, along with her husband, Oren, co-founded Talkspace in 2012.
Talkspace hopes to infiltrate big markets, including China, and partner with American universities to work with students struggling with mental health issues.
“We have so many college students reaching out,” Roni Frank told CNN. “The mission is to bring therapy to a billion people around the world.”
How the army is overhauling services to help soldiers with PTSD
Even though fewer troops are now going into war zones, Army officials are still struggling to connect soldiers with the appropriate treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder amid a surge in PTSD cases in recent years. However, an impending overhaul of the Army’s mental health care system could help extend immediate, personalized care to those who need it most.
The proposed reforms would bring an influx of mental health specialists to meet the growing demand among soldiers. On-base intensive mental health resources would replace private psychiatric hospitals, and counseling teams would work closely with troops. Doctors who tag along with soldiers in these units regularly meet with commanders to discuss the progress of the people whom they consider to be high-risk cases.
Mental trauma counts among the top issues affecting members of the Armed Forces. Last July, a national survey of more than 2,000 members of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America — which includes members of the Army, Marines, Air Force, and Navy — found that more than 60 percent of respondents said they have been diagnosed with PTSD or traumatic brain injuries. More than 30 percent of respondents also said they have thought about taking their own lives since joining the military.
More kids getting mental health treatment
From CBS News:
The number of U.S. children and teens being treated for mental health issues has risen by about 50 percent in the past 20 years -- with most of those kids having relatively mild symptoms, a new study finds.
The research, published in the May 21 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, comes at a time of growing concern over young people's mental health treatment.
In particular, some worry that kids with milder issues are being overtreated with antidepressants, stimulants (such as those used for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and antipsychotic drugs, said lead researcher Dr. Mark Olfson, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University in New York City.
According to Olfson, his findings suggest that kids with less serious symptoms account for a large share of young people getting mental health care -- whether that means medication or "talk therapy."
"But we don't know if that's a positive or a negative development," said Olfson. "When you're looking at trends across the whole U.S., you can't tell who does or doesn't 'need' treatment."
And at the other end of the spectrum, he said, there are plenty of kids with more severe symptoms who are not getting treatment at all.
So, the story is more complicated than "U.S. kids are being overtreated," Olfson noted.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month--here's why companies should care
Most people spend the majority of their waking hours working. During those long hours, the office setting either promotes good mental health or contributes to poor emotional well-being. Despite the large role that office culture plays in employee well-being, most companies rarely – if ever – mention the subject of mental health.
Employers certainly can’t prevent all mental health problems. Genetics and past traumatic experiences are just a couple of the factors that can influence a person’s mental health. But there are steps employers can take to reduce stress and promote resilience.
• Taking a 'mental health day': Your rights in the workplace (Fox News)
From The Inquisitr:
Amanda Seyfried has suffered from anxiety attacks that go beyond the typical butterflies-in-the-tummy stage fright. The actress says that at one point, she even got drunk prior to a televised interview because she thought it might help alleviate her anxiety, reported the Daily Mail.
The turning point occurred in 2012, when Amanda was nervous about an interview with David Letterman. Seyfried resorted to booze in an attempt to blast her nerves. But when she realized that alcohol wasn’t the solution for her extreme anxiety, the actress sought professional counseling.
Then age 29, Amanda had been scheduled on the Letterman show to talk about Les Miserables. Instead of publicizing the show, however, she earned attention for her broadcast confession that she was “pretty drunk” from gulping whisky shots.
Although she thought drinking whisky was fun at the time, watching it after the show aired made her recognize that she needed help.
“It made it fun for me, but then I watched it and was like ‘That is not what I want to promote about myself,” said Amanda.
Seyfried also has opened up about her generalized anxiety when it comes to live stage performances, reported Theater Mania.
Australia: Early intervention key to men's mental health efforts
From ABC Online:
More than 1.3 million men in Australia experience mental health problems every year. Too few of them seek help because of the stigma that still exists around the issue. Now, there’s a push to focus on early intervention strategies, write Lynne Malcolm and Olivia Willis.
Men suffer from mental health problems at very similar rates to women, but are far less likely to seek professional help.
They are overrepresented in the group of people who act out under stress, and have significantly higher rates of suicide when compared to women.
Max Birchwood, professor of youth mental health at the University of Warwick, says one the biggest barriers is that young men do not feel comfortable discussing their emotions.
‘Wellbeing is a problem because people don’t develop the concepts very well in their minds, they don’t communicate, it’s not part of everyday discourse,’ he says.
‘One thing we know for absolutely sure, young people, particularly young males, do not seek help.’
Cambodia: the legacy of the Khmer Rouge
From VOA Learning English:
Cambodia has some of the world’s worst mental health statistics. Experts say the large number of cases is partly a result of Khmer Rouge rule in the 1970s.
The Cambodian government spends little on mental health services. The World Health Organization says such services are, in its words, “critically neglected.”
Experts do not believe that will change anytime soon, because few Cambodian students are interested in psychiatry as a career -- they have little or no interest in the treatment and prevention of mental disorders.
Most Cambodians live in rural areas. But few mental health services are provided there. So people must go to psychiatric centers in cities, like the Khmer-Soviet Hospital in Phnom Penh. It is one of the busiest clinics in the country.
Yem Sobotra is the director of the clinic. He says that, 15 years ago, it cared for between 70 and 150 patients every day. When our reporter visited recently, the daily average was 400. The clinic has just 10 psychiatrists and 10 nurses or aides. So most patients are treated for just a few minutes and leave with a bottle of pills.