Mental Health

Knock me down with a feather, I agree with a newspaper editorial

A newspaper editorial  challenges our laws on suicide reporting.

News media in other free countries would be amazed at the restrictions on reporting deaths in New Zealand by suicide. For a long time it has been against the law to even call such a death by its name until after an inquest, usually months later, and even then only if the coroner permits. The most we may legally report at the time of the death is there are “no suspicious circumstances” or “police are not looking for anyone else”. Readers no doubt draw the right conclusion; circumlocution soon loses its point.

The euphemisms are ridiculous.

Not before time, Parliament is considering a bill to relax the restriction. If it is passed, it will become lawful to refer to a “suspected suicide” before an inquest is held. But in other ways the law is being tightened and one of them would restrict references to historical and overseas suicides. When a suicide bombing occurs overseas it may be illegal to report it in this country, according to Wellington lawyer Graeme Edgeler’s reading of the bill as it has emerged from a select committee.    Read more »


Reader content: We should be ashamed

Labour Associate Health Spokesperson David Clark has raised the issue of emergency departments having to cope with mentally ill patients with increasing frequency. He puts this down to a lack of resources for people with mental illness and who no longer have the support they used to.

I have worked in the mental health field for over fifty years and have seen the ‘worst’ of the old asylums and the ‘best’ of the new community approach to the treatment and support of people with mental illness. Indeed, my PhD was an evaluation of the difference between people treated in asylums (and I use the word deliberately) to those treated and supported in the community. At the time I completed my PhD research I concluded that on the whole, people with mental illness were better supported and treated in the community than in hospitals. I had run a meta-analysis of ten years of research into the different approach and felt my conclusions were sound and based on empirical evidence.


I began work in civilian life as a psychiatric nurse at a 2000 bed asylum just outside of London. A number of patients had been there for many years and were fully institutionalised or dependent on the institution for their support, basic necessities of life, treatment and rehabilitation. I was one of the early adopters of community care and confirmed my ideas with a PhD and many years of study so became an ‘expert’ in such matters.

How I was wrong.   Read more »

Face of the day

Humans of Dublin's photo.

Humans of Dublin’s photo-Facebook

Today’s face of the day has been at rock bottom and has clambered back up and made a happy life for himself. His story is the kind that I relate to. Very few people have it easy in life. I admire those who despite what life throws at them have the courage to do what needs to be done to get them back on track.

On February 5th I came down to wish my mother a happy birthday before I went to work and found her dead… She’d have been 45 that day. She was my best friend and my idol, and I was her only child. I was broken.
Read more »

Face of the day

Murray Wilson/ Fairfax NZ Mike King talks about suicide prevention and mental health at the MUSA Lounge at Massey University

Murray Wilson/ Fairfax NZ
Mike King talks about suicide prevention and mental health at the MUSA Lounge at Massey University

Today’s face of the day is Mike King. I was privileged to meet Mike earlier this year when I was waiting in the makeup room while Cam was getting ready to go on a show on Maori Television. He is a really lovely guy and is doing a really important job talking about suicide prevention and mental health. Guys like Mike have made it easier for men to ask for help and to talk about what they are going through. He is a role model and living proof that real men, real blokes, can suffer from depression just like the rest of us and can also get help and get better. Having lived with a husband with depression for ten years I know first hand how much it hurts both the depressed person and everyone around them. I suffered from depression myself for a few years so I know what it is like on the other side as well. Read more »

Were you, or are you still, a picky eater? You could be mental


Children with severely selective eating habits were more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression or social anxiety than kids who consumed a wide variety of foods, the study found. Read more »

Photo Of The Day

1941 - Dodge Center High School Graduation Photo

1941 – Dodge Center High School Graduation Photo


The life of Shirley Ardell Mason was chronicled by Arthur Flora Rheta Schreiber in the book “Sybil”. It was published in 1973 and then made into a television movie in 1976, starring Sally Field. Mason’s real name was not used in order to protect her identity.

For those in the field of mental health, Sybil’s is the most well-known case of the extremely rare Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder)- the study of which made and continues to make medical history.

Sybil was, at least for a time a Sensation who’d achieved recognition of the first-name-only variety.

Read more »

Coming Out about Depression

A newspaper has an interesting article about coming out about depression and one man’s experiences.

Logging on to my laptop, I emailed my secretary telling her I needed to work from home for a few days after coming down with another bout of flu.

The first bit was certainly true: I could barely get out of bed, never mind leave the house. But what had floored me wasn’t a bug, but another episode of the depression that had dogged my life for as long as I can remember.

Depression that left me paralysed, tearful and unable to cope with the simplest task. Depression that I lied about to myself and concealed from nearly everyone else – certain that revealing the truth would stop my successful career in its tracks.

No wonder. Perceived stigma surrounding mental health problems persists: this week, Ruby Wax, who has courageously spoken about her depression, advised against transparency with employers.

“When people say ‘Should you tell them at work?’ I say ‘Are you crazy?’ You have to lie,” she said.

“If you have someone who is physically ill, they can’t fire you. They can’t fire you for mental health problems but they’ll [find] another reason.”

It’s no coincidence that people use language like “coming out” when confessing to mental health issues. There is the fear that your true self will not be accepted, or that it could be held against you. It has taken me years to realise the opposite is true: in my case, being open about my struggles with depression with peers and seniors has liberated me.

Read more »

Could depression just be an allergic reaction?

Could depression actually be nothing more than an allergic reaction?

Our understanding and awareness of depression has, thankfully, evolved some way beyond the old-fashioned “pull-yourself-together” response. Most now know that it’s a multifaceted, shape-shifting, and frequently debilitating condition that transcends race, sex, and creed. But we still don’t know exactly why some become depressed and some don’t.

We know that people may be genetically predisposed to depression and anxiety disorders. We also know that specific life events may trigger depressive episodes in those who have previously been the picture of mental health. But so far we’ve been unable to identify one single, definitive catalyst. However, new research suggests that, for some people, depression may be caused by something as simple as an allergic reaction. A reaction to inflammation—a product of the body, not the mind.

George Slavich, a clinical psychologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, is one of an increasing number of scientists who believe we need to be looking at our physiology to better understand depression—that, perhaps, it’s not all in the head. “I don’t even talk about it as a psychiatric condition anymore,” he told the Guardian. “It does involve psychology, but it also involves equal parts of biology and physical health.”

The thesis is simple: Everyone feels like shit when they’re sick. That ennui we feel when we’re unwell—listlessness, lack of enthusiasm, troubled sleep, tearfulness, and a general feeling of wading through tar—is apparently known among psychologists as “sickness behavior.” Our bodies are pretty intelligent, see—they behave this way so that we stop, lie still, and let our system fight whatever infection of virus has us croaking for Gatorade on the couch.

These kinds of emotional responses are also typical of depression, though. So scientists are asking: If sick people feel and act a lot like depressed people, might there be a link?

Read more »

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 »