Doctors inform police if mentally ill patients own guns

Doctors will soon be able to pass on mental health information on gun owners to the police so that people with mental health problems that could be a danger to themselves and others can be identified before tragedy strikes.

The British Medical Association, the Police and the Home Office, are currently having discussions to work out the finer details of how such a system should work.

These discussions are taking place in the aftermath of the recent shootings in Cumbria where 12 people were shot dead.

If someone applies for a gun license or already has ownership of a gun, their medical records will be able to be flagged up to doctors.

Then if doctors think that if a particular person could be a threat to the public, they can break patient confidentiality and pass on their professional view to the police without asking for consent from the patient as “public safety” comes first.

“While there is a clear public interest in a confidential health service, where there are serious threats to individuals, confidentiality can be breached” The BMA told The Guardian

“Where doctors know that a patient has a firearm and, in their view, as a result, presents a risk of harm to themselves or others, both legally and ethically, this information can be disclosed without consent.

“The BMA would be concerned if doctors were being asked to police the risk posed by individuals possessing firearms. In the BMA’s view, this is the responsibility of the chief constable.”

So even though doctors can pass on their concerns to the police, they won’t have the power to revoke a gun license, as that responsibility will remain with the Chief Constable reports the Guardian.

The system is fraught with difficulties that will need to be sorted out first though. For example, would a doctor get the blame if one of their patients subsequently went on to kill someone with a gun and they hadn’t flagged them up as a risk?

Would gun owners be afraid to come forward if they had concerns about their mental health?

“An agreement to share information has been agreed in principle and the technical details are now being decided upon” ACPO Firearms Licensing Officer Assistant Chief Constable Adrian Whiting told the BBC.

“To discuss it further now would be premature and this work, together with any proposals for change, would no doubt be considered in any future discussions on the UK firearms licensing system” added Whiting.

Working all day without a break increases risk of anxiety and depression

According to a recent survey by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy in the UK, a quarter of the working population work all day without taking a break and this is posing a serious risk to their mental and physical health.

The survey involved more than 2,600 adults and an analysis of the results showed that one in four employees did not take a lunch break and this increases their risk of depression and anxiety as well as back pain, heart disease and even cancer.

Not only that, but more than 50 percent of the people surveyed went to work even though they were feeling stressed or ill.

So why are we putting our health at risk?

The reasons given by those who took part in the survey was either that they had too much work to do and didn’t have time to take a break, or because there were staff shortages.

Almost half of those involved in the survey said that they felt stressed at least once a week.

Stress isn’t always a bad thing, it can help us cope with challenging situations; however, prolonged stress can have a severe effect on our health and lead to an increased risk of depression and other health problems.

“A certain level of pressure at work is of course desirable. However when the pressure people face exceeds their ability to cope – in other words stress – it is likely to lead to time off work and is linked to conditions such as depression, anxiety and heart disease” Ann Green, Chairman of the CSP told the BBC.

The CSP survey comes at the same time as new report from McCrindle Research which involved a survey of around 600 Australian workers.

The results of this survey were similar and showed that more than a quarter of the employees chose to work whilst eating their lunch and one in six skipped lunch altogether.

The researchers said there was a general trend towards overworking with more than a quarter of the employees working more than 50 hours a week.

The thing is, if workers took their breaks, not only would it reduce stress levels, it would improve productivity for their employers too.

Businesses are being advised to look out for staff who are overworked and who are missing out on breaks.

passive smoking link with mental health problems

We all know that passive smoking can be damaging to our physical health but now for the first time scientists have been able to link passive smoking with mental health problems too.

According to a study involving more than 8,000 Scots, exposure to second hand cigarette smoke can triple the risk of being admitted to a psychiatric ward when compared to those who live in a smoke free environment.

The survey was conducted by researchers from University College London who drew their sample from the Scottish Health Survey database.

The study involved 5,560 non smokers and 2,595 smokers, none of which had a history of mental illness.

Non smoking participants were examined for traces of second hand smoke exposure by saliva tests which tested for the presence of cotinine, a biological marker of smoke exposure.

Everyone involved in the survey filled out a questionnaire which asked questions relating to psychological distress such as depression symptoms, anxiety, and sleep disturbances.

Admissions to psychiatric hospitals were tracked over a six year follow up period.

For the purposes of the study, “psychological distress” was defined as a low mood that wasn’t quite at the level required for a clinical diagnosis of depression but which could develop into something more serious.

The results showed that those with cotinine levels of between 0.70 and 15 micrograms per litre had a higher risk of psychological distress than those who had no detectable levels of cotinine in their saliva.

Psychological distress was experienced by 9 percent of non smokers who had a very low level of exposure to second hand tobacco smoke and 14 percent for those who had a higher exposure.

All in all 41 individuals were admitted to a psychiatric ward over the 6 year follow up and both smokers and non smokers with high exposure to smoke were more likely to be admitted to hospital for mental health problems.

“Taken together, therefore, our data are consistent with other emerging evidence to suggest a causal role of nicotine exposure in mental health” wrote the study authors.

“To our knowledge, this is the first study to demonstrate a prospective association between objectively assessed second hand smoke exposure and mental health in a representative sample of a general population” they concluded.

What the study didn’t reveal was whether people who are predisposed to mental health problems are more likely to be in smoke filled environments.

Are our children now suffering from Nature Deficit Disorder?

Children today have grown up with computers, mobile phones, gaming consoles, and all kinds of technological devices that keep them indoors and wired up to electronics. Is this causing them to suffer from a kind of Nature Deficit Disorder?

According to Richard Louv, author of the award winning book “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder, our kids are missing out on a whole range of social and developmental benefits from exposure to the wilderness and are suffering from psychological symptoms as a result.

Louv reckons that the symptoms of Nature Deficit Disorder, which incidentally is a term he coined himself, includes depression, hyperactivity, loneliness and boredom and that getting closer to nature is a natural Ritalin for treating kids with hyperactivity problems.

It’s true; many children today living in flats and in cities, don’t get the same contact with nature as those who have been brought up in the countryside. Kids are spending more time indoors than they ever did before and just about everything they learn about nature is from a computer or television screen.

Louv was explaining in a recent interview with journalist Natasha Mitchell on the Australian radio programme “All in the Mind” that nature can come in many different forms for a child.

“A newborn calf; a pet that lives and dies; a worn path through the woods; a fort nested in stinging nettles; a damp, mysterious edge of a vacant lot.

“Whatever shape nature takes, it offers each child an older, larger world separate from parents. Unlike television, nature does not steal time, it amplifies it.

“Nature offers healing for a child living in a destructive family or neighbourhood. It serves as a blank slate upon which a child draws and reinterprets the culture’s fantasies.

“Nature inspires creativity in a child by demanding visualisation and the full use of the senses. Given a chance, a child will bring the confusion of the world to the woods, wash it in the creek, turn it over to see what lives on the unseen side of that confusion.

“Nature can frighten a child, too, and this fright serves a purpose. In nature, a child finds freedom, fantasy, and privacy: a place distant from the adult world, a separate peace” said Louv.

When he puts it like that it does seem as if our children are missing out and therefore future generations will suffer too.

Louv is now actively trying to encourage families and their kids to get back in touch with nature and is the co-founder and Chairman of Children and Nature Network USA.

Could Pesticides Trigger ADHD?

A team of scientists from the University of Montreal and from Harvard, have discovered that exposure to organophosphate pesticides could be associated with an increased risk of ADHD in children.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD as it is more commonly known, is characterised by hyperactive and impulsive behaviour, lack of focus, difficulty in concentrating or carrying out tasks, and a number of other symptoms, all of which can affect a child’s relationships with family and peers and can have a negative effect on a child’s academic performance as well.

This latest study involved over 1,100 children from the US, each of whom had their urine analysed for the presence of pesticides.

Those who had high levels of pesticides in their urine were found to be more than twice as likely to develop ADHD as those who didn’t have detectable levels of pesticides.

“Previous studies have shown that exposure to some organophosphate compounds cause hyperactivity and cognitive deficits in animals” says lead author Maryse F. Bouchard of the University Of Montreal Department Of Environmental and Occupational Health and the Sainte-Justine Hospital Research Center.

“Our study found that exposure to organophosphates in developing children might have effects on neural systems and could contribute to ADHD behaviours, such as inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.”

For those who don’t already know, Organophosphates are known to be toxic to the body’s nervous system and were originally developed as a nerve gas for chemical warfare so it’s not surprising they would have an effect on a young child.

The worrying thing is that a researcher on the study, Marc Wiesskopf of the Harvard School of Public Health told Reuters that the levels of pesticides don’t even have to be high for ADHD symptoms to develop.

“What this paper specifically highlights is that this may be true even at low concentrations” he told Reuters.

What the researchers don’t know as it’s the very first study to make a link between pesticides and ADHD, is whether the pesticides trigger ADHD symptoms or whether people with ADHD are more susceptible to the effects of pesticides. The pesticides incidentally can come from food, water or air.

If pesticides are implicated in ADHD, as they seem to be, it’s advisable for parents to make sure they thoroughly wash any non-organic fruits and vegetables, particularly berries, and to take care when using any pesticides in and around the home.

Head Injury – Increased Risk Of Depression !

According to a major new study, people who have experienced a head injury are more at risk of suffering from depression, yet they may not get the treatment they need.

Dr Charles H Bombardier of the University of Washington School Of Medicine, Seattle, and his colleagues, conducted research into the rates of major depression occurring in the first 12 months after experiencing a traumatic brain injury.

The study involved 559 adults with mild to severe Traumatic Brain Injury who were assessed by the researchers at regular intervals over the course of a year with telephone interviews conducted every month for the first six months and then at 8 months, 10 months and 12 months.

Most of those involved in the study were men who had been in road traffic accidents and who had sustained complicated but mild injuries. In order to assess the level of depression and anxiety, the researchers used Patient Health Questionnaire measures and the European Quality of Life measure at the 12 month point.

What the researchers found was that just over half of the participants in the study met the criteria for major depressive disorder at least once during the year. This rate of depression is a massive 8 times more common than in the general population. However, the depression may go untreated according to the researchers.

“Assessment and treatment of Traumatic Brain Injury typically focus on physical and cog­nitive impairments, yet psychological impairments represent significant causes of disability” said the study.

“Major Depressive Disorder may be the most com­mon and disabling psychiatric condi­tion in individuals with Traumatic Brain Injury. Poorer cognitive functioning, aggression and anxiety, greater functional disabil­ity, poorer recovery, higher rates of suicide attempts, and greater health care costs are thought to be associ­ated with Major Depressive Disorder after Traumatic Brain Injury”.

Less than half of those with Major Depressive Disorder received any antidepres­sants or counselling.

“Brain injuries themselves may cause changes in brain structure and function that predispose people to depression, says Dr Bombadier. But certain factors also seem to increase a person’s risk, including a history of alcohol abuse or depression before the injury.”

The researchers noted that those who had experienced traumatic brain injuries were at risk of depression for the first year and that this risk probably extends beyond 12 months.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder may increase risk of diabetes says study

A new study involving military personnel has found that people suffering from post traumatic stress disorder have an increased risk of developing diabetes.

The study carried out by Dr Edward J Boyko of the Department of Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System in Seattle and his colleagues involved 44,754 military personnel who enrolled in the Department of Defence’s long term Millennium Cohort Study. None of them were diagnosed with diabetes when they enrolled.

Three years later, almost 400 of these personnel, or roughly 3 in 1000 had developed diabetes. Those who developed diabetes were more likely to be older, overweight, of African-American or Asian descent, have post traumatic stress disorder and who had left the military.

The results revealed that depression didn’t contribute to the risk of developing diabetes but post traumatic stress did and after taking into consideration other factors that would normally increase the risk of diabetes, the risk of developing diabetes was more than twice as high if the individual had post traumatic stress disorder.

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“In our analyses, depression really was not significantly related to the increased risk of diabetes but PTSD was” Professor Boyko told Reuters.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can result after an individual experiences an event where extreme physical or psychological harm is threatened or which actually occurs and is characterised by recurring thoughts, images and memories of that incident. Events which can lead to post traumatic stress disorder include physical attacks, natural disasters, or military combat.

Sufferers often experience nightmares, sleep problems, can become socially withdrawn, detached, and psychologically “anesthetized” by their experience, particularly with loved ones and friends and have an exaggerated response to being startled or surprised.

What the researchers found was that those who were suffering from post traumatic stress disorder had widespread inflammation in the body and had lower sensitivity to the blood-sugar regulating hormone insulin, which could lead to diabetes.

The results didn’t reveal why there should be a link between post traumatic stress disorder and diabetes or whether another factor, for example maybe drugs prescribed to treat post traumatic stress disorder, could have raised the risk.

However, before doctors start screening people with post traumatic stress disorder for diabetes more studies are required say the researchers.

“The American Diabetes Association has recommendations about when someone should be screened for diabetes, and right now we don’t need to add PTSD to that” professor Boyko told Reuters.

New type of behaviour therapy effective at reducing the tics of Tourette’s

No one knows exactly what causes Tourette’s syndrome but it is believed to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors that trigger this distressing disorder.

Children and young people who suffer from the neurological disorder Tourette’s syndrome, often experience unpredictable and involuntary body movements which can include grimaces, twitches, head jerking and blinking as well as involuntary vocalisations such as grunting, sniffing, throat clearing, copying words of others or uttering obscenities. These are collectively known as tics.

Now researchers from the US may have found an effective non-drug treatment for children and young people suffering from the tic related disorders associated with Tourette’s.
Currently, the main treatment for tics is anti-psychotic medication which can reduce the severity and the frequency of the tics but which don’t actually cure them. As with any drug, but particularly anti-psychotic drugs, there are also the associated side effects to deal with which in some cases can be more distressing for the individual than the tics themselves.

The study was led by UCLA psychiatrist John Piacentini. Professor Piacentini and his colleagues used a new type of behaviour therapy called Comprehensive Behavioural Intervention for Tics, otherwise known as CBIT. CBIT involves the person with Tourette’s learning to recognise when a tic is about to start and then engaging in another completely voluntary but incompatible action until the feeling passes.

The researchers found that more than half of the children (53 percent) in the study that received CBIT significantly improved whereas only 19 percent of the children receiving another form of treatment saw an improvement.

“The fact that CBIT works about as well as the standard medications for tics but without the negative side effects greatly expands the available treatment options for chronic tic disorders,” said Susanna Chang, a UCLA assistant professor of psychiatry and a study author.

“Importantly, CBIT also emphasizes the development of skills that foster autonomy and empowerment, allowing for patients and their families to take a more active role in treatment than previously indicated.”

The Tourette Syndrome Association and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are now working with investigators to teach Comprehensive Behavioural Intervention for Tics techniques to health professionals involved in treating people with tic disorders and to develop new versions of CBIT for use with younger children and by nurses and other health care professionals.

The study has now been published in the May 19th issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Does our modern way of living lead to loneliness?

Apparently it does, according to recent research. The Mental Health Foundation have just released a report which says that ten percent of people in the UK are feeling more isolated than before and around half of them think that people are getting lonelier, and it’s all because of the way we now live our lives.

Now, more than ever before, more people are living alone. The percentage of those living in one person households was only 6 percent in the early 70’s and this figure rose to 12 percent two years ago.

The divorce rate has also risen significantly, and is more than double than what it was a few decades ago. Nowadays it’s not uncommon to live far away from one’s parents and/or extended family.

It’s not just affecting adults either, it’s actually having a devastating effect on the children as the number of children calling ChildLine saying they are lonely has risen by 60 percent in the last five years according to Christoper Cloke of the NSPCC and reported in the Telegraph.

“Loneliness has always been a part of some children’s lives but it is deeply worrying that more children are contacting us about this” said Cloke.

“In the worst cases children became so desperate that they self-harm or even contemplate suicide.”

The Mental Health Foundation report also found that almost 20 percent of people say they spend too much time communicating with friends and family online instead of in person.

Feeling alone is known to be linked to physical and mental health and now the Mental Health Foundation are launching a campaign to highlight how the way we live our lives today is leading to increased feelings of loneliness.

One of the problems is that people who feel lonely are often reluctant to admit it, and may feel embarrassed about doing so.

“Changes to the way we live are putting an increasing number of people at risk of loneliness, which can lead to health problems if chronic” said Mental Health Foundation Chief Executive Andrew McCulloch.

“People who find themselves feeling lonely should not have to feel uncomfortable talking about it or asking for help.

“By raising awareness of the subject we hope to tackle the stigma attached to loneliness and help individuals who are feeling lonely to connect with others” he said.

80’s singer Adam Ant detained under mental health act

Pop icon Adam Ant is back in hospital again after launching a tirade of abuse at Christians during a charity gig recently.

The 55 year old pop star suffers from the depressive illness known as Bipolar disorder or manic depression. Back in 2002 he threatened some people in a pub with an imitation pistol but wasn’t sent to prison on the grounds that he had a mental illness, then a year later in 2003 he had a dispute with a neighbour and threatened to smash his patio doors and was found lying naked in a basement.

Adam has also admitted himself into hospital on several occasions but it was only a few weeks ago that he declared he had learned to live with his bipolar. He’s only one of a long line of celebrities who also suffer from the mental illness and who have spoken openly about their suffering, including Stephen Fry, Kerry Katona and Sinead O’Connor, but there are literally countless other famous writers, artists, composers, musicians and entertainers in the past and present who have had to or who live with bipolar disorder.

The thing is, bipolar disorder doesn’t go away, and sufferers have to find coping strategies to help them deal with this distressing disorder on a day to day basis. The disorder is characterised by extreme highs and lows or massive mood swings that can result in an individual swinging from highly excited and euphoric to deeply depressed and miserable. Whilst on a high they feel invincible, that they can do anything but on a low they feel hopeless, helpless and lost. Bizarre behaviour and thoughts are common. No one knows what causes Bipolar and there isn’t a cure.

It is believed that bipolar affects roughly one in a hundred people in the general population, however, there are believed to be more than a few individuals with bipolar that go undiagnosed, particularly in the entertainment industry. It seems that many people with bipolar are also highly creative and are unwilling to trade this in by taking medication in order to put them on a more level plateau. What isn’t known is whether the creativity is what makes one more disposed to bipolar or whether the bipolar is what unleashes the creativity.

Meanwhile, Adam Ant has sent a message to his fans. ‘I am having a well earned rest at Her Majesty’s Pleasure and am painting and continuing being an art student. I have a great view and am considering gigs later in the year’ it said.