Category Archives: Mental health

Climate change affects our mental health too

Most of us have probably heard or even used the expression “feeling under the weather” before, but can the weather, or to be more precise, severe weather, have an impact on our moods and mental health?

According to a recent report, climate change is leading to an increase in the rates of depression, anxiety, and post traumatic stress as well as substance abuse.

Loss of social cohesion

Australian Scientists from the Brain and Mind Research Institute have come to the conclusion that more people are suffering from mental health problems because of “loss of social cohesion in the wake of severe weather events related to climate change”.

“The damage caused by a changing climate is not just physical” they said in the report

“Recent experience shows extreme weather events also pose a serious risk to public health, including mental health and wellbeing, with serious flow-on consequences for the economy and wider society.”

Clear Evidence

According to the paper, one in 10 primary school children reported symptoms associated with post traumatic stress after Cyclone Larry in 2006.

The report also states that one in five people suffer from “emotional injury, stress and despair” after severe weather events.

“There’s really clear evidence around severe weather events” said Professor Ian Hickie, director of the Brain and Mind Research Institute.

The Future

Hickie reckons that climate change and severe weather will play a major part in influencing our mental health in the future.

“When we talk about the next 50 years and what are going to be the big drivers at the community level of mental health costs, one we need to factor in are severe weather events, catastrophic weather events” he said.

 

“What we have seriously underestimated is the effects of climate change on social cohesion… that is very hard to rebuild and they are critical to the mental health of an individual.”

Hurricane Irene

Over in the US, Jeffrey Katz, a Clinical Psychologist and American Red Cross Disaster Mental Health Chairman for South Eastern Virginia, has some advice for those suffering in the wake of hurricane Irene.

In the Daily Press Katz recommends eating well, keeping hydrated, maintaining normal routines, talking to those around you, and not getting ahead of yourself if there’s a lot to do.

If after a few months you are still feeling depressed, are not interested in things you used to do, and have difficulty eating or sleeping, then you may benefit from seeking professional help.

 

Mental health support a priority for those with mental illness

Mental illness often ignored by many churches

A new study by Baylor University has found that some church communities are sadly lacking when it comes to support for families in their congregation who are affected by mental illness and this can destroy a family’s connection with their church.

Almost 6,000 people from 24 churches from four Protestant denominations were surveyed as part of the research and asked about family stresses, strengths, faith practices and desires for assistance from the congregation.

Mental health support a priority for those with mental illness

Out of those who took part, 27 percent of families were found to be affected by mental illness. They reported more problems and requested more assistance than the others, and for them, support with issues surrounding mental health was a priority.

The researchers found that those who had a member of the family with mental illness ranked help with issues like depression and mental illness as second on the list of desires for assistance from the congregation.

Difference in response “staggering”

Support for mental health issues wasn’t considered as important for those who weren’t affected by mental illness as they ranked mental health assistance from the church as 42nd on the list of priorities.

“The difference in response is staggering, especially given the picture of distress painted by the data: families with mental illness reported twice as many problems and tended to ask for assistance with more immediate or crisis needs compared to other families” said study co-author Dr. Matthew Stanford, professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor.

“The data give the impression that mental illness, while prevalent within a congregation, is also nearly invisible.”

Lack of awareness and understanding

Dr Diana Garland, Dean of Baylor’s School of Social Work and a co-author of the study says the findings suggest that it amounts to lack of awareness and understanding.

“Families with mental illness stand to benefit from their involvement within a congregation, but our findings suggest that faith communities fail to adequately engage these families because they lack awareness of the issues and understanding of the important ways that they can help” said Dr Garland.

“Mental illness is not only prevalent in church communities, but is accompanied by significant distress that often goes unnoticed. Partnerships between mental health providers and congregations may help to raise awareness in the church community and simultaneously offer assistance to struggling families.”

The study is the first study to look at how mental illness of a family member influences an individual’s relationship with the church and appears on-line in the journal Mental Health, Religion and Culture.

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.

Childhood Mental Ailments Targeted With New Treatments

The causes which underlie childhood obsessive compulsive disorder along with Tourette’s are to be targeted by new treatment options.

To date there have been many similarities in how these two disorders have been treated, pertaining to their sharing of similarities in their psychiatric features, the genetic factors inherent, and the environment in which they present themselves.

But more effective treatments are now being put forward.

The Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology is a peer-reviewed journal that in its latest issue contains the new ideas. The Guest Editor, one Barbara J. Coffey, MD, MS concludes that “studies are still few, and validated predictors, moderators and mediators of treatment response are still very much needed.”

Riluzole

Promise has been shown for the treatment of the conditions by Riluzole, a drug used for the treatment of neurodegenerative disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. It is evidential from clinical trials taking place that it can also be used for treatment of OCD in children, however there is further study needed to access the side effects. The potential of this drug being used in this way is outlined by Jane Song, Paul Grant, and Susan Swedo of the National Institute of Mental Health as, being of potential benefit in helping to control the symptoms of OCD.

Pancreatitis

This benefit is possible based on Riluzole’s ability to block the releasing of glutamate from nerve cells. It has been used at therapeutic doses, yet there have been instances of pancreatitis in children to date as a side effect of use, which is causing concern obviously.

Tourette’s Breakthrough

The vocal tics associate with Tourette’s have undergone new study too, with the avenue of new treatments the goal. It has been determined that these vocal tics occur because of how neural networks, brain circuits, and chemical neurotransmitters behave in the affected person.

Brain Images

It is now expected that new brain scanning technology will help to find a better treatment allowing for more specific targeting of brain regions as can be pin pointed through the brain imaging.

Infectious Disease Onset

It is also being discussed in this new edition of the journal how infectious diseases may lead to the onset of such conditions, with Streptococcus becoming increasingly linked with certain Paediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders.

There is a push given for the link between infectious diseases and these conditions to be further explored, and a panel of experts setup for the exploration of new treatments based on the infectious disease mechanism.

Background

Tourette’s syndrome affects the brain. It is mainly evident in its causing movements outside of the control of the individual and leading to the development of nervous tics. In milder cases it is less likely that the condition will ever be diagnosed.

In the main if Tourette’s is to present itself in the individual then it will do so when the child is quite young, usually between the ages of five and seven years old.

Therapies

There are new behaviour therapies for Tourette’s increasingly becoming available. These can be in the restraining therapy form, which can serve to counter the nervous tic associated with the condition.

Exposure and response therapy is another method of treatment which has the same function. Talking therapy has been found to deal with the condition also. Here it is evident that just talking through the condition with a psychotherapist, may lead to the individuals’ ability to cope with their condition.

The bulk of the medicines currently in use to better the condition are along the lines of neuroleptics, they do however come with certain side effects which may leave the individual having a ‘jerk’ response giving the illusion that the condition is getting worse and not better. This is only at first however and the condition will become less severe with time.

LGB Youth at Suicide Risk Supportive Environment Decreases Risk

There’s a 20% increased likelihood that members of the youth gay, lesbian and bisexual community will attempt suicide, as opposed to heterosexual youth, according to the latest research.

The research determined also that when these youths are living in an environment which is supportive to their sexual preference, there is a distinct decrease in suicide likelihood.

Many Studies

The comparisons were made by Mark L. Hatzenbuehler PhD from the Columbia University of New York. He explained how there have been many studies which have shown the increased suicide likelihood amongst young members of these communities in comparison to heterosexual counterparts.

Social Environment

The new study may explain according to Hatzenbuehler why this is so. For the study, data from almost 32,000 11th grade students was taken. They had previously completed the Oregon Healthy Teens survey. By means of this data Hatzenbuehler was able to create a composite index pertaining to 34 counties in the USA based on the social environment therein.

It was found that in counties where there was a support given to homosexuality there was a decrease in the suicide prevalence amongst homosexual youth, whilst in the counties where it was not supported, the figures stood at a 20% increased likelihood to attempt suicide.

In determining the aspects of what exactly is a supportive environment, factors which included active anti bullying regimes, active anti-discrimination policies and the presence of gay alliances were determined to represent such support. Where schools implemented such policies there was in effect a fostered inclusive and supportive environment.

Hetero and LGB

The rate of suicide it was determined from the data analysis, was not only lower in regards to the homosexual youth community, but amongst the heterosexual youth also. Overall it was found that 21.5% of youths of LGB status had attempted to commit suicide in the previous year.

This was compared with 4.2% of young people of heterosexual origin. The findings concluded that the LGB community members in the more supportive environments were 20% less likely to have attempted suicide.

Mental Health

So too it was evident that mental health wise, there was less existence of these conditions within LGB community members who lived in supportive environments. These mental health issues pertained not only to depression, but binge drinking, victimisation and abuse by adults.
Hatzenbuehler concluded that; the study shows documentary evidence that the social environment appears to confer risk for suicide attempts over and beyond individual-level risk factors. As a result of the findings, measures will be put in place which will reduce sexual orientation disparities in attempts at suicide,

Mum of Suicide Death Daughter Pushes for Mentally Ill Gun Control Measure

The suicide by gunshot wound of another young woman has led to calls on a ban on the under regulated sale of guns in The United States by the victim’s mother.

The 23-year-old had gone in to a department store just prior to her death and made the purchase of a $320 shotgun. Immediately after this she had gone to the back of her motor vehicle and fired a fatal shot. Her mother had believed she was going into the mall in order to acquire an electric blanket, but to her horror she found that this was not the case.

JILL Frankenberry Connor is now on a voyage to find some way to make sense of her daughter’s death and improve the lot of others. She wants to aid in removing the weapons from people’s hands, the instruments by which they can commit suicide with such ease. Her drive is to make it more difficult if not impossible for mentally ill people to purchase firearms.

Her own daughter had been receiving treatment for mental illness. Severe depression had plagued the 23-year-old since youth. Jill has made contact with her Senator with a view to the establishment of a database which would carry the names of persons who have a mental illness. She is determined that such a database should be used by arms dealers when an individual is seeking to purchase a gun, and if they are on it that the transaction should not be allowed to take place.

She believes that the database would work best if the name of the person was the only information that could be accessed by the vendor.

Gun Owners More Likely to Kill Themselves Than Trespassers

Research has shown that gun owners are turning their weapons on themselves more often than they are on thieves.

New evidence has emerged that goes against a previous Supreme Court ruling on the ownership of guns focusing on the weapons being used to defend against intruders into their homes. The research points out that it was suicide which accounted for approximately 55% of firearm deaths year on year over the course of the last decade in The United States.

The statistics were revealed from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Health researchers in the public health arena have come to the conclusion that there is an increased likelihood that someone in that home will die from gunshot wounds, when there is a weapon present.

It was also uncovered that in homes where a suicide has occurred there is an increased likelihood that there is a gun present in that home. These homes were found to be between three and five times as likely to have a gun present than a home where no suicide had occurred.

There had been a partial ban on gun ownership in place in many states during the early part of the century and there was a statistically recognizable drop off in suicides during the time of the ban. The American Public Health Association, the American Association of Suicidology along with two additional groups had filed a legal brief in support of the ban before its lifting.

The bulk of suicide attempts using guns are successful in comparison with other means of suicide with jumping showing a 34% rate of death, and overdose representing a 2% kill rate

Support Groups more Beneficial than Drugs in Dealing with Depression: Survey

Ten new studies have formulated evidence that support groups do indeed have many added benefits for people with depression. The nature of the support group, whereby sufferers get the opportunity to speak with persons who are in the same boat, drives these benefits.

Within a support group there is the opportunity to receive emotional support, the chance to receive help in a practical way and according to many professionals who have reviewed the findings of the reports ‘they are better than physiotherapy.’ 1269 patients were involved in the research where peer group support, was compared against peer intervention and standard intervention methods like standard treatment. Group cognitive behaviour therapy was another method under the microscope in the surveys and studies.

It is the sense of helping others in a practical way that sees the support groups stand head and shoulders above other methods of dealing with depression, it is the connection with people that drives the healing. Counselors are seen as easier to relate to than medical professionals, down to their training in the art of people and not exclusively medicine. The problem with solely using medicine and drugs to treat the problem, is that drugs do not assist with addressing life problems, whereas counseling and support groups do. That is according to medical practitioners themselves.

New study links excessive gaming with serious mental health issues

It’s a long standing debate, whether or not playing video games for long periods can negatively affect your mental health, or whether playing video games can improve mental processing and help enhance problem solving skills.

Now there’s a new study about to be published in the Journal Paediatrics that claims excessive gaming can lead to serious mental health issues and that pathological gamers are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety and have poor academic performance.

However, the Entertainment Software Association have hit back and said that the research is “flawed” and that there is no concrete evidence that computer and video games cause harm.

So what do we know?

Psychology Professor Douglas Gentile from Iowa State University led the study which involved surveying over 3,000 kids in Singapore. The kids were questioned on their gaming habits using questions similar to those used to assess gambling addiction as gaming addiction is not currently a recognisable disorder whereas gambling is.

Gentile found that 9 percent of those surveyed played games for over 30 hours a week and these “pathological” gamers were the ones that showed most signs of mental health problems.

According to Gentile, when you play games your brain behaves in a similar way as when you take drugs like cocaine. In other words chemicals are released as well as certain hormones. Over time you get used to the level of chemicals so need more intensity or new games to get the same level of excitement.

Ok but the US Defence Department as well as other researchers have said in the past that that playing video games can increase reaction times and improve mental processing so it’s difficult to know who to believe.

In his defence, Professor Gentile says it’s not the games that are the problem but the gamer. Gentile believes that the real problem is an impulse control disorder.

“You know you should do your homework, but you just can’t stop playing. You know you have to go to bed, but you have to get just one more level. What needs to be changed is not the game. What needs to change is players need to learn to put it back into balance.”

It’s all in the details really and video games alone aren’t the problem. Doing anything as stressful as intensive gaming for more than 40 hours a week on a prolonged basis is bound to have some sort of impact on mental health, especially where kids are concerned.

The debate continues.

Physical exercise good for mental health but only in your leisure time

We are always being told that those who indulge in physical exercise regularly are less likely to be depressed so if you have a physically demanding job you may think you are ok but apparently not.

According to researchers from the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College Hospital in London, for exercise to be effective for mental health it has to take place outside of work in your leisure time.

Apparently those who are in physical jobs are not any more protected against mental health problems like depression and anxiety than those who are sitting in front of a computer all day.

The researchers are referring to the results of a study involving over 40,000 participants from Norway.

Each of the participants was asked how often they took part in light physical exercise and intensive physical exercise during their leisure time, in other words, not whilst they were at work.

They were also asked how physically demanding their job was and answered questions designed to identify any symptoms of depression.

The results showed that those who took part in regular physical exercise outside of work, even light physical activity which is activity that doesn’t make you break out in a sweat or get out of breath, were less likely to suffer from symptoms of depression than the rest.

Those who did not indulge in exercise in their spare time were nearly twice as likely to suffer from symptoms of depression as those who did.

“Our study shows that people who engage in regular leisure-time activity of any intensity are less likely to have symptoms of depression” said lead researcher Dr Samuel Harvey of King’s College London.

“We also found that the context in which activity takes place is vital and that the social benefits associated with exercise, like increased numbers of friends and social support, are more important in understanding how exercise may be linked to improved mental health than any biological markers of fitness.

“This may explain why leisure activity appears to have benefits not seen with physical activity undertaken as part of a working day. It is not just a question of getting your heart rate up. There is something else going on here.”

According to Dr Harvey, physical exercise should be more widely recommended as a treatment for depression and anxiety.