Category Archives: General

WHO calling for end to mental health stigma

To coincide with World Mental Health Day (October 10th) The World Health Organisation (WHO) is calling for an end to the stigmatisation surrounding depression and other mental health disorders and better access to treatments for everyone who needs it.

 

Depression is extremely common in all regions of the world, it doesn’t discriminate against anyone regardless of age, gender, background, culture, social status or anything else for that matter, and yet there is still a stigma attached to mental health problems.

 

More than 3 million sufferers globally

 

According to WHO, more than 350 million people are suffering from depression, and almost a million people commit suicide every year, but many people with symptoms of depression will not seek help or even admit to themselves that there is a problem. Why? WHO says it’s because of cultural attitudes and a lack of proper understanding of depression that contributes to a reluctance to seek help.

 

Less than half receive the care they need

 

So despite awareness campaigns and media coverage, there are still large groups of the population that see depression and other mental health problems as a weakness, something that can be avoided, or worse, something to be ashamed about. The saddest part is that most mental health problems can be treated, if only people would seek help.

 

“We have some highly effective treatments for depression. Unfortunately, fewer than half of the people who have depression receive the care they need. In fact in many countries this is less than 10%,” says Dr Shekhar Saxena, Director of the Department for Mental Health and Substance Abuse.

 

Ironically, each and every one of us is likely to have someone close to us who has been affected by a mental health problem at some point, perhaps even ourselves.

 

Relationship between depression and physical health

 

Depression is a result of “a complex interaction of social, psychological and biological factors” says WHO. “There is a relationship between depression and physical health, for example, cardiovascular disease can lead to depression and vice versa”.

 

They also say that up to 20 percent of woman who give birth experience post natal depression. Furthermore, they believe that the way things are going, by the year 2030, depression will overtake heart disease and cancer to become the most common disease known to man. This is shocking.

 

People are afraid of what it means

 

So why, if depression is so common, is there still a stigma attached to admitting it or seeking help? The most obvious answer is that people are afraid of what it means to seek help. So ignorance and lack of awareness plays a huge role in perpetuating stigma.

 

If an individual is suffering from the symptoms of depression they may well be afraid of speaking to their employer in case it has a negative impact on their job. They may also be reluctant to speak to their family and friends incase it jeopardises relationships. Perhaps they are scared to speak to their doctor because that would ultimately mean admitting to themselves they had a problem. And there’s the key.

 

Stigma in the workplace

 

Arguably, one of the areas where stigma has been hardest to squash is in the workplace. Employees depend on their colleagues to share the workload so may resent others taking time off; individuals rely on their pay cheque to pay the bills and so on. There is some positive news there though. According to new research by Aviva insurance company, 28 percent of UK employees believe there is less stigma attached to mental health problems in the workplace than a year ago.

 

“It’s good to see that employees are beginning to feel less stigma at work concerning mental health issues, and that many employers have more understanding and want to offer support. As very few employees say they would confide in their employer about a mental health condition, it’s important that managers are able to spot the signs of problems and have the right support in place” says Dr Doug Wright, Medical Director for Aviva, UK Health

 

“Mental health is high on the agenda for both employees and employers in the UK. Employers have a vital role in helping to support those who are suffering from depression, anxiety or other psychiatric conditions. There are many companies who offer no support at all to such employees, but equally we are seeing more and more companies starting to provide support and running training and awareness campaigns.”

 

Ok so it looks like there has been some progress. However, if only 28 percent think things have improved that means that nearly three quarters don’t think so or don’t know? In fact the results showed that around a third believed that mental health is still a “taboo” subject and over half think that there is not as much stigma attached to physical illness as there is to mental illness.

 

Long way to go

 

It seems like we have a very long way to go before mental health problems are considered no more or less of an issue than any physical condition.

 

 

 

Self Harm Reason Found

The reason why people who are suffering from emotional stress often show a tendency to hurt themselves has been underpinned by new research.

The prevalence of self injury in persons, who have a borderline personality disorder, is down to the intense emotions they feel, with the self harm apparently easing the emotional distress they experience.

Picture Response

The scientists who have performed the research in this area used a series of pictures in order to induce a response from the participants in the study.

The pictures were designed to receive a negative positive or neutral response.

Thermal Stimuli

There was also a thermal stimuli applied which induced a perception in the participants pertaining to heat, pain or warmth perception. The study found that with the application of the stimuli in borderline personality disorder patients, there was an increased activation of the limbic circuitry.

This was in response to the pictures which were expected to receive a positive and a negative response. The findings were that these responses were consistent with the emotion regulation issues possessed by the participants.

Reactivity Repressed

Emotional reactivity was however repressed by the use of the thermal stimuli. This stimuli, served to inhibit the activation of the amygdala in the patients. This finding was consistent with the assumption that some relief is provided to these persons when they practice self harm, it provides them indeed with some relief from bouts of emotional distress.

It was found that this is so because quite paradoxically, the pain inhibits the brain regions which deal with emotions. Dr John Krystal believes that the process used helps these people compensate for their own emotional mechanisms which are deficient.

Background

Self harm is often caused by a deeply rooted emotional pain, with many of the self harmers not even aware that they are self harming. There is consequently no such thing as a regular self harmer as in type of individual. It may be a very secret thing in a person’s life, and they may be introverted or extroverted.

It can come from simple things like the pressures inherent with school or college exams, with girls most susceptible to the development of self harm issues. It is most prevalent in persons between 15-25 years-of-age. It is also most prevalent in certain ethnicities, such as in Asians, so too it is more likely to occur amongst the LGB youth community than within other communities.

Men Unlikely to Self Harm

Of those men who do go to self harm, their methods are more of a self injurious type. This is a catalogue of who are the most at risk persons in free society, yet it is evident from statistical analysis that those persons who are in prison or in institutions are very vulnerable to self harm.

The bulk of persons who do attempt self harm do so after the consumption of alcohol.

Causes

Depression and severe anxiety are precursors to self harm, but the two do not always go hand in hand, with a range of other reasons dominating the risk table. Here is the list of things in a person’s life which most often leads to self harm.

Bullying can play a part, along with worries about our sexuality, leaving the LGB community at particularly high risk. Unwanted pregnancy often leads to it, along with low self esteem, a lack of love from those who should be your loved ones, bereavement, anxiety, loneliness, money problems and relationship issues.

It is believed that problems in the workplace pertaining not only to work load but the relationships therein, and if the individual is fitting in also has a profound effect on the individuals’ likelihood to self harm.

Mutant Gene Found In Intellectual Disability Link

Intellectual disability is frequently caused by mutations in a particular group of genes. This has been determined by scientists working in conjunction with the University of Montreal. At the research centre hospitalier universitaire Saint Justine they have managed to isolate the specific gene for the first time that plays this role.

Between one and two percent of children around the world are affected in this way.

Whilst it was known that this could have been attributed to genetic reasons, this is the first time that we now know which gene.

Rapid Transfer Inhibited

Senior author of the study Dr. Jacques Michaud said in relation to the study, “The group of genes we identified all play important roles in nerve synapses, the structures that allow brain cells to rapidly transfer information. These findings indicate that, in this case, intellectual disability occurs because there is a disruption in nerve cell communication.”

No Association

Whilst many disabilities intellectual in nature have a clear association with physical abnormality that show there has been a major genetic abnormality, in others there is no association with physical traits. For the study the subjects selected were non-syndromic.

DNA Analysis

Jacques and his colleagues who work on the Synapse to Disease Project performed analysis of DNA from the subjects in order to identify non inherited mutations, i.e. ones that were newly formed. They are coined as novo mutations. Of 95 patients, 10 were found to have these genes. Under study it was found that these genes play a part in disrupting the nerve cell communication. On this basis it was determined that the at least two thirds of those mutations were the exact disorder cause.

Important Role

A colleague of Jacques and a co author of this study one Guy Rouleau believes, “This finding aligns with our previous work that shows that de novo mutations play important roles in disorders such as autism and schizophrenia.” In effect the study found that a great deal of intellectual disabilities are not hereditary, and will result in the betterment of diagnostics for all.

Permanent

When a gene mutates, it does so permanently, and has a consequent change on the individuals’ DNA sequence. A large segment of the chromosome can be changed by these novo mutations, or indeed a smaller element of the chromosome changed, with varying negative results. It may be that the novo gene mutation only affects one specific block of the DNA with its effects. These mutations can occur naturally as a result of inheritance of genes or they can occur as a result of factors in the individuals’ environment, acquired during the person’s lifetime.

Inherited

If inherited then the mutant potential is within the individual for their life and is currently irreversible. It is possible too those mutations can occur after the fertilisation of the egg itself (de novo) mutation. The causes of some of these mutations are still under investigation, but likely causes are ultra-violet radiation or indeed a mistake by the cell growth capability of the body itself, when it makes an error  making a copy for cell multiplication.

Unusual

Whilst these mutations do occur and have a statistical bearing in society they are still quite rare. For those genetic mutations and changes that occur most often in society (at least 1%) they are known as polymorphisms. Many of these polymorphisms are of little danger to the public doing nothing more than giving a different colour of eyes or hair or blood type. So too these polymorphisms can be responsible for physical and mental malaise, putting the beholder at heightened risk of developing and suffering from a wide range of different disorders.

Knee Arthritis worsens as a result of Depression: Report

A new study published in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery declares that being clinically depressed can actually worsen the symptoms beyond what is shown to be the reality on X-rays, with regards to knee arthritis.

The study also shows how those who have the arthritis condition are more prone to depression. A common cause of impairment in older adults, the fact that depression makes the pain worse than it appears in X-rays makes it increasingly difficult for medical professionals to treat.

Doctors are finding that even when the X-rays show that there should be little pain the patient who is depressed complains of heightened pain, it really shows a marked difference in how the mind of a depressed person works, in particular how they experience pain itself. The variation in pain analysis has found to be most evident with regard to knee arthritis.

The X-rays may indicate that there is not severe damage, yet the patient may be experiencing very real pain that would be synonymous with severe damage. Dr Kim who was involved in the study of this phenomenon said, “The relationship between pain and depression suggests that both should be considered by physicians when treating patients with knee osteoarthritis, particularly in those with X-rays not indicating severe damage to the joint.”

Dr Kim’s study took in a sample of over 600 patients in their advanced years. Their pain was evaluated based on the severity of their arthritis on X-ray and according to the pain symptoms the patient experienced. By means of face to face interviews and by using questionnaires they were able to correlate whether depression was indicative of advanced pain symptoms. The study took place as a section of the Korean Longitudinal Study on Health and Aging (KLoSHA).

The results were as expected, based on the severity of the condition as shown up by X-ray. There was a more severe pain yet the correlation of depression with even slight arthritic damage was disproportionate. Dr Kim noted that, “When evaluating the results of this study, the contribution of depression to knee osteoarthritis symptoms was almost as important as the damage indicated on X-rays.”

It was noted by the research a possible reason for the correlation; The risk of depression is heightened when an individual loses part of their mobility, it may have been that many of the individuals did not have depression before the arthritis brought about the pain and the lack of mobility, the depression in turn increases the pain they were experiencing.

Exercise Friendly Workplaces Increase Mental Well Being for Workers

The links between physical exercise and a reduction in the amount of depression symptoms experienced by employees in new age workplaces with exercise options, have now been proven. A new study’s findings published in the latest issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion show evidence that this is the case, despite contradictory evidence from elsewhere.

There is now evidence that bosses and their attitude towards physical fitness in the workplace not only increases the physical well being of workers, but their mental well being also. The value of a variety of strategies to encourage exercise in particular amongst sedentary employees is now evident. The knock on benefits include; lower rates of medical insurance that in some cases are paid for by the business.

Devices were attached to those surveyed monitoring the physical exercise taken part in by the individuals during their work day. There was a contradiction in terms amongst those surveyed however in that those who managed to achieve moderate to brisk exercise in their work day were also more sedentary overall.

The state of mental health in these individuals was still at the positive end of the spectrum. This discrepancy is explained by the jobs where investment of this type is introduced normally in an office based work environment. In other jobs where the extras of this ilk are not offered, the physical exertion of the tasks proved enough to have a positive impact on mental well being also.

You can fully recover from Body Dysmorphic Disorder but it takes time

Body Dysmorphic Disorder is a severe mental illness whereby a person is overly concerned with how they look and what they perceive to be defects in their appearance. The focus can be on any part of the body and commonly involves the skin, hair, weight and the nose.

Usually the perceived defect or defects are non existent or are not even noticeable to others but to the sufferer there is a major problem that is wrecking their lives.

They will often seek cosmetic surgery to correct what they see as their imperfections but invariably won’t be happy with the results. Sometimes they become so distraught they may even contemplate suicide.

No one knows what causes BDD but what is known is that it is very real and can be severe enough to result in hospitalisation in some cases. Many people with BDD suffer from other mental health conditions as well including depression, anxiety, panic attacks and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

Now, recent research from Brown University and Rhode Island hospital, has found that people can completely recover from Body Dysmorphic Disorder but it can take as much as five years or more.

Andri Bjornsson from Brown University who was also lead author of the study said there was a surprisingly high recovery rate and low recurrence rate in the present study.

The researchers followed 15 people suffering with body Dysmorphic disorder for a period of 8 years. All the participants were part of the Harvard/Brown Anxiety Research Project (HARP).

They found that over the 8 year period 76 percent of sufferers recovered and the relapse rate was only 14 percent. Only a few recovered within a couple of years and only half had recovered within 5 years.

The study is possibly the longest running study ever conducted which looked specifically at people with BDD and the news that recovery is possible, albeit over a period of time, will offer welcome hope to the many that are living miserably as a result of the condition.

Treatment for Body Dysmorphic Disorder usually involves a combination of therapy such as cognitive behaviour therapy as well as anti-depressant medication.

The results of the latest study have been published in the current issue of the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease.

More than 2 hours in front of a screen causes psychological problems in kids

Does your child spend more than two hours a day watching television or playing on a computer? If so then they may be more likely to experience psychological problems than children who spend less time in front of a screen according to the results of a new study reports WebMD.

More than 1000 children aged between 10 and 11 took part in the study carried out by researchers at the University of Bristol in England UK.

The study revealed that those that spent more than a couple of hours a day watching television, playing on the computer, or a combination of both, were more likely to report having problems with friends and to say they felt unhappy.

As part of the study, the children had to wear accelerometers for a week which recorded their activity every 10 seconds whilst they were awake.

A questionnaire was also used to collect other data such as how much time they spent using the television or computer for activities that wasn’t connected to homework, and also about how they were feeling.

The well known “Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire” was used to assess the kids’ psychological well being.

The answers produced a score that indicated whether or not the youngster was likely to have a problem, study researcher Angie S. Page, PhD, of the University of Bristol apparently told WebMD in an email.

Page also told WebMD that there was no evidence that sedentary time itself (which is basically time spent not engaging in any movement) is related to a negative psychological well being, it would appear that it’s all about what the kids are doing in that time, for example, if they spend hours sitting in front of a screen they are more likely to experience problems no matter how active they are the rest of the time.

Now a parent whose child is pretty active may not be too worried about the amount of time they spend on their computer or in front of the TV but perhaps they should.

Although children who were more active and who spent more than two hours in front of a screen did marginally better than those who were less active and spent the same time in front of a screen, this research suggests that physical activity isn’t going to fully make up for it.

The bottom line is that if you’re kids are glued to the box or engrossed in a computer game for more than a couple of hours a day, it is simply not good for their mental health.

NICE reverse Alzheimer’s symptoms ruling and make drugs available

Incredible as it may sound, up until now, people suffering from early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease have been denied certain drugs on the NHS, even though these drugs cost less than £3 a day and could slow down the progression of the disease.

Doctors couldn’t do anything and could only wait until the symptoms became more severe before offering them the medication.

However, now the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) in a landmark decision have reversed their earlier ruling to ration these drugs and are now extending the use of three drugs for mild cases of Alzheimer’s and one for moderate cases.

The new guidance says that the three drugs, Aricept, Exelon and Reminy should now be available on the NHS for people in the early stages of the disease and a fourth one, Ebixa, for people in moderate and late stages of the disease.

Can you imagine the misery and hopelessness felt by those who were diagnosed with early symptoms of Alzheimer’s such as mild memory loss and confusion, and then left to wait the inevitable worsening of their symptoms before being offered any help?

“This is a momentous day for thousands of people with Alzheimer’s and their carers”. The Telegraph quotes Ruth Sutherland, Interim Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Society as saying about NICE’s decision.

“We’re disappointed that thousands of people have been unable to access treatments for the past four years which could have improved their quality of life.”

So why did NICE change their minds?

According to NICE Chief Executive Sir Andrew Dillon it is because clinical trials have continued to show how effective these drugs are.

“In addition, we now have more information about the costs of living with and treating this very distressing disease, as it progresses through its mild, moderate and severe stages.

“Our increased confidence in the benefits and costs associated with the use of the three drugs for treating mild and moderate stages of the disease has enabled us to make positive recommendation for their use in mild disease” said Dillon.

Ok so it’s good news for sure but a little too late for the thousands of people who in the past were diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s and who were basically told to live with it and come back when they got worse.

Mental health risks of Grandparents caring for grandchildren

According to the Grandparent’s Association, grandparents who are caring for their grandchildren regularly are suffering mentally and physically and grandparents denied contact with their grandchildren are suffering even more.

The information comes from a study ‘Grandparents Voices’ commissioned by the Grandparent’s Association and carried out by Professor Bob Broad of London South Bank University.

Prior to this research, very little research had been carried out on the health and well being of grandparents caring for grandchildren or denied contact with them.

The results showed that 40 percent said their mental health had suffered, 55 percent said their physical health had suffered and 70 percent had experienced sleep problems.

The study also revealed that 81 percent of grandparents who had been denied contact with their grandchildren said their mental health had suffered.

Professor Broad’s study also revealed that a whopping 82 percent of grandparents in the UK care for their grandchildren in some form and that many felt they had no choice as they didn’t want their grandchildren going into care.

Of the 200 grandparents who took part in the London South Bank University study, 72 were looking after their grandchildren full time and had taken on the ‘parental’ role as a result of issues like mental health problems, addiction, and child protection issues.

“The evidence unearthed in this groundbreaking study indicates that grandparents’ voices need to be more fully acknowledged and grandparents’ better supported, if positive valuable grandparent-grandchildren relationships and other family relationships are to be sustained and not fractured” said Professor Broad.

“Grandchildren need to be brought up within secure, safe and loving families….this research study concludes that when grandchildren ‘at risk’ can no longer be brought up by their birth parents, and instead are brought up 24/7 by their grandparents, these grandparents need considerably more recognition, support and services than they currently receive.”

Professor Broad also pointed out that in terms of public policy, no matter what government was in power at the time, grandparents are still presented as a “public utility” as “largely unpaid child care contributors”.

The Grandparents association was launched in 1987 by a group of grandparents whose grandchildren had been put into care, adopted from care or were denied contact with their grandchildren.

Psoriasis may increase risk of depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts

Psoriasis is a relatively common skin condition but the effect of psoriasis may go a lot deeper than affecting just the skin.

A study conducted by Shanu Kohli Kurd and colleagues from the University of Pennsylvania found that people suffering from psoriasis are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and are at greater risk of suicidal thoughts.

The researchers discovered this by analysing the medical records of hundreds of thousands patients in the UK. Almost 150,000 had mild psoriasis, around 4,000 had severe psoriasis and 767,000 did not suffer from psoriasis at all.

The authors of the study said that the risk attributable to psoriasis is one case of depression a year for every 39 patients with severe psoriasis or one case of depression a year for every 87 patients with mild psoriasis.

In the case of anxiety and suicidal thinking the figures were one case in 123 for those with severe psoriasis and one case in 2,500 for those with mild psoriasis.

Taking the data into consideration along with the prevalence of psoriasis the authors reckon that there are more than 10,400 diagnoses of depression, 7,100 of anxiety and 350 of suicidality related to psoriasis in the UK each year.

Younger people and men with severe psoriasis were at a significantly higher risk of suffering from depression, anxiety and suicidal thinking.

It is already known that there is an association between psoriasis and depression but this is the first major study that has identified a clear link between mental health risks and psoriasis. The results have been published in the August issue of the Archives of Dermatology.

According to the Psoriasis Association in the UK psoriasis affects up to 3 percent of the population in the UK and Ireland. It is a condition whereby the process of skin replacement speeds up quite significantly resulting in an accumulation of skin cells on the surface of the skin in the form of a psoriatic plaque.

There are different types of psoriasis but the most common type affecting around 80 percent of people with psoriasis is psoriasis Vulgaris in which the raised red lesions or plaques tend to appear on the elbows, knees, lower back and scalp. However, any area of the body can be affected.

Kurd’s study may help inform health professionals about the risk of mental health problems in psoriasis sufferers leading to newer targeted interventions for these groups of individuals.