Mental Health

Depression in politics – Is it the same in New Zealand?

The Sydney Morning Herald has an article about depression amongst their nation’s leaders. 

It is an interesting read and one written with compassion. There are some interesting parallels with recent events, but what struck me is the high prevalence amongst MPs.

It made me wonder if it happens here. I suspect it is similar.

Warren Entsch wanted to walk away. Wave goodbye to Parliament and never look back.

The Member for Leichhardt, a sprawling electorate in far north Queensland, is one of Parliament House’s big characters, a former toilet cleaner, RAAF serviceman, union representative and wildlife catcher. But now he felt so small.

It was 1999 and the Kim Beazley-led Labor opposition was hounding him over a Defence Force contract awarded to a concrete company of which he was a director and company secretary. Reporters staked out his family farm, begging his neighbours and relatives for dirt on him. His face beamed from the TV set of every airport lounge he entered, yet another politician drenched in muck.

“It was 10 days of absolute hell,” he says.  “I was sick. I was devastated. I had to go to Canberra Hospital for chest pains. There were a couple of days where I couldn’t get off the couch in my office.”

Fifteen years later, you can still hear a crack in his voice. The anguish is raw. The past is never really past.

“I always feel for someone who is getting beaten up by the media – what you go through from a mental health perspective is absolutely intense.

“For some people it is the final straw.”

Entsch, 64, always insisted he had done nothing wrong, and Labor eventually abandoned a bid to take him to the High Court. He made a vow: to help any fellow politicians who find themselves in a similar position.

“Whenever I hear of anyone in crisis or with conflict in their lives I am the first person to go support them.”

They speak about marriage breakdowns. Problems with their kids. Alcohol abuse. A scandal hovering above their heads like a giant wave about to break. Some MPs have admitted to thinking about suicide.

Religious or not, Entsch will often refer them to Peter Rose, the official Parliament House chaplain. Every federal politician interviewed for this piece mentioned Rose – known affectionately as “the padre” – and praised him highly.

“I have his number on speed dial and so do many MPs,” Entsch said.

Read more »

Homeless for one night – the hypocrisy

Every year the bleeding hearts raise awareness of homelessness by sleeping outside.   Although the intent is probably in the right place, the execution is just laughable.

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown gave up a basic human right everyone should have – a roof over their head – last night.

Instead of being tucked up snug in bed, the mayor and 10 council staff slept in cardboard boxes, on couches and in cars.

The sleep-in was to raise awareness and funds for the homeless for World Homeless Day in the Salvation Army’s team-based 14 Hours homeless event.

While the capital’s homeless community was small, they were some of the city’s most vulnerable, Wade-Brown said.

“Every person should have a roof over their head. That’s why I’m dossing down for the night to support this fundraiser.”

Joining the mayor to sleep outside of their comfort zone were other groups and businesses.

But for some of the city’s homeless joining in, the conditions were still better than their usual sleeping arrangement.

For Wayne, being invited to the event would give him a better night’s sleep than usual. Read more »

Can mental illness make people less prone to cognitive biases?

One of the usual methods of attack against me and my effectiveness is to attack my mental health status. The left wing, and more recently the ferals on the West Coast, like to say that because I suffer from a mental illness then somehow what I say can be discounted as the mad rambling of a mental idiot.

I have never hidden or shied away from honesty around my depression. My belief is that other can learn from it and they do. Several times a month people email me or phone to discuss my past posts on depression and medication. That honesty and openess though is often held against me.

However there is some evidence to suggest that sufferers from mental illness are less prone to cognitive biases.

Madness and irrationality may seem inextricably related. “You are crazy!” we say, when someone tells us about their risk-taking behaviour or their self-defeating actions. The International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10) and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) describe people with depression, autism, schizophrenia, dementia, and personality disorders as people who infringe norms of rationality. But not all people diagnosed with a mental disorder behave irrationally, and not all people who behave irrationally are diagnosed with a mental disorder.  Read more »

Mental health days

In New Zealand, you are expected to come to work if you are physically able.  But what about  if you’re having an 0ff-day mentally?

Workers pulling sickies are costing the economy millions of dollars but a business boss says the answer could be as simple as letting staff start late if they’re nursing a Christmas party hangover.

A Wellness in the Workplace survey show sickies taken by people who aren’t really ill are estimated to account for 303,000 lost days of work each year, at a cost of $283 million.

Some employers say it’s a significant cause of workplace absenteeism, and one in five say staff treat sick leave as an occasional perk, the survey found.

The country’s largest health insurer, Southern Cross, which did the survey, said while it was impossible to gauge the exact level of fake sickness businesses needed to look at workplace culture and how often sickies were happening.

In some other countries they have the concept of a “Mental Health” day.  You phone in, tell them you have no good reason to not come in, other than not wanting to.   Read more »

Claim your life back

Steve Deane at the NZ Herald has figured out a way to combat the Rise of Whaloil – stop looking at your phone

Former Air Force reservist Demelza Challies, of Auckland, used to sleep with a notebook by her bed so she could write down ideas about how to do her job better in the middle of the night.

A solo mother who was also studying for a business degree, Ms Challies never watched TV and hadn’t read a novel in over two years. “I’d never really switch off,” she said.

With resources increasingly stretched by the move towards civilianisation, Air Force employees would take it on themselves to devote more of their lives to work, she said.

The job, which involved supplying Hercules aircraft, became a “never-ending thing”.

“We didn’t want it to be us who was the breaking point so everybody would just keep doing as much as they could.”

Eventually it became too much and she quit the Air Force to take up fulltime study, but she still had trouble letting go.

I personally find it great – have can fit all sorts of small tasks into nooks and crannies that used to go to waste, and you’re switching from work to play without even noticing.

So if you find yourself chained to your iPad, smartphone or tablet, don’t turn it off, don’t walk away – come see what’s new on Whaleoil :)

Fixing Depression via your guts

Could depression be linked to your guts? Might legions of doctors, psychologists and psychiatrists all be barking up the wrong tree and looking in the wrong place?

Are drug companies and insurances companies likewise looking for cures in the wrong place too.

New research suggests that fixing your guts might go a long way to fixing your depression.

[James] Greenblatt’s provocative idea — that psychiatric woes can be solved by targeting the digestive system — is increasingly reinforced by cutting-edge science. For decades, researchers have known of the connection between the brain and the gut. Anxiety often causes nausea and diarrhea, and depression can change appetite. The connection may have been established, but scientists thought communication was one way: it traveled from the brain to the gut, and not the other way around.

But now, a new understanding of the trillions of microbes living in our guts reveals that this communication process is more like a multi-lane superhighway than a one-way street. By showing that changing bacteria in the gut can change behavior, this new research might one day transform the way we understand — and treat — a variety of mental health disorders.  Read more »

A blood test for depression

Scientists have developed a blood test for depression…it will certainly be a whole lot easier than filling out forms to determine the issue.

However the reality is diagnosis of depression is the easiest part…dealing with it and living it is a far great challenge.

A blood test for a major psychiatric disorder is something that many psychiatric researchers have described as a “Holy Grail.” Especially for a disorder that effects large numbers of people. And that’s exactly what one startup, Ridge Diagnostics, believes that they have achieved.

Their test takes measurements of 9 different biomarkers. The measurements are then calculated through a set of proprietary algorithms to produce what the company calls an “MDD Score” – a number from 1 to 9 that rates how likely it is that a person is clinically depressed, and the level of that depression. The cost of the test right now is about $745.    Read more »

Why some people shouldn’t tweet their every thought

Yesterday it was Little Andy who got all angry and decided to share his first world problems from the Koru Lounge.

Today it is the head of Amnesty International. Little Andy still has job but Ciarnan Helferty does not.

AI-1

Ciarnan Helferty is said to have stood down from the charity with immediate effect after the messages were criticised on the social networking site.

The charity, which says its purpose is to ‘protect people wherever justice, fairness, freedom and truth are denied’, apologised to anyone offended by the messages.   Read more »

Stephen Fry – Only the Lonely

Stephen Fry has written on his blog about his attempt to commit suicide last year.

There isn’t any point in denying that the outburst of sympathy and support that followed my confession to an attempt at self-slaughter last year (Richard Herring podcast) has touched me very deeply.

Some people, as some people always will, cannot understand that depression (or in my case cyclothymia, a form of bipolar disorder) is an illness and they are themselves perhaps the sufferers of a malady that one might call either an obsession with money, or a woeful lack of imagination.

“How can someone so well-off, well-known and successful have depression?” they ask. Alastair Campbell in a marvelous article, suggested changing the word “depression” to “cancer” or “diabetes” in order to reveal how, in its own way, sick a question, it is. Ill-natured, ill-informed, ill-willed or just plain ill, it’s hard to say.

Depression is something that no one can really understand until they have experienced it. People think that depression is a feeling of deep sadness…for me it is not anything like that at all.

But, most people, a surging, warm, caring majority, have been kind. Almost too kind. There’s something a little flustering and embarrassing when a taxi-driver shakes you by the hand, looks deep into your eyes and says “You look after yourself, mate, yes? Promise me?” And there’s something perhaps not too helpful to one’s mental health when it is the only subject people want to talk to you about, however kindly or for whatever reasons.   Read more »

Brian May interview, and discussion on depression

Watch this excellent interview with Brian May from Queen. Near the end he talks about his battle with depression (8:20).

Read more »