Mental Health

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

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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

Sybil

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 »

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 »