Wednesday, 29 August 2012

How social media is supporting people with depression

Ruby Wax co-founded Black Dog Tribe, "the place where people can talk to one another about their feelings without reservations" a site that encourages people to share their experiences and talk about depression.

See link to Guardian article about how online communities support people

Talk Out Loud - Mental Health Stigma Programme

10 Minute video made by children with mental health problems about stigma.

The website gives information about mental health, different mental health needs and how to help others.

What are the early signs of mental disorders?

This information comes straight from the World Health Organisation's website. To me it seems to be very much from the traditional biomedical approach towards mental health, as it focuses on symptoms and disease and viewing them them as being disorders or not normal.
Anyway, what do you think?
Q: What are the early signs of mental disorders?
A: A mental or behavioural disorder is characterized by a disturbance in thinking, mood, or behaviour, which is out of keeping with cultural beliefs and norms. In most cases the symptoms are associated with distress and interference with personal functions.
Mental disorders produce symptoms that sufferers or those close to them notice. These may include:
  • physical symptoms (e.g. aches and sleep disturbance)
  • emotional symptoms (e.g. feeling sad, scared, or anxious)
  • cognitive symptoms (e.g. difficulty thinking clearly, abnormal beliefs, memory disturbance)
  • behavioural symptoms (e.g. behaving in an aggressive manner, inability to perform routine daily functions, excessive use of substances)
  • perceptual symptoms (e.g. seeing or hearing things that others cannot).
For more information, see the rest of the article at:

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Flour power!

As a charity fundraiser, when a colleague is leaving, or just to cheer everyone up, my PAVO colleague Claire is always there with the most de-licious cakes. All baked and decorated by herself!

Here are some raspberry cheese cupcakes she made lately, just to make you feel a little bit hungry...

Claire told me - "baking is a real stress reliever for me, I find it really therapeutic, and rewarding.  I love finding and trying new recipes or making a special cake for someone.  I'm not that fussed about eating it (honest!), but I do get a huge sense of satisfaction when others enjoy the results!"

And it was Claire who put me on to a blog by another amazing baker - Anneliese Giggins. Anneliese took on the enormous challenge of baking all of the 218 recipes in famous cook Mary Berry's "Baking Bible." And by doing so she helped fight off the "baby blues," the social isolation and lack of confidence she experienced after leaving a fulfilling job to become a full-time Mum. You can read more about her story in a newspaper article here. Don't forgot too to check out her blog for more on her story of "baking away the blues" -

I'm not sure how many cakes Claire has baked in total, but just to whet your appetite, here's a picture of another of her amazing creations.  In my view, it's more than just a cake, it's a work of art!

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Brain Blogger

This Blog aims to capture the multidimensional aspects of health: biological, psychological, sociological, technological and economic perspectives. It challenges the traditional biomedical model by appointing Dr Engel's influential biopsychosocial model.

Dr. Shaheen Lakhan serves as editor of Brain Blogger and executive director of the Global Neuroscience Initiative Foundation (GNIF)

GPs say Austerity Britain has led to rise in abortions, anxiety and alcohol abuse

Research manager Richard Kunzman tells the story behind Insight Research Group's survey into 'Austerity Britain' through the eyes of 300 GPs: 

The last four years have been tough for everyone. Although we assumed that increased workloads and financial worries had affected the nation’s health to a certain extent, we wanted to hear from GPs about what they believed was happening on the ground based on their daily experiences in their practices.

The results are particularly insightful and show the extent to which the economy is not only affecting the average person on the street but also the GPs that treat them.

The GPs we surveyed felt that worries over financial security coupled with many people working longer hours have raised our stress levels. This has not only led to an increase in various mental health disorders but has also influenced other aspects of our life and wellbeing – from family planning through to levels of exercise.

The middle class has been especially affected by the turbulence of the economic recession – amongst all of the conditions that were investigated, GPs routinely associated the increases they’ve seen with middle Britain. But these pressures are not limited to one demographic either – married women and single women were both as likely to request a termination due to financial concerns.

It’s a particularly tough challenge for time-poor GPs who are faced with many patients who just need someone to talk to. Their only real option in the immediate term is to prescribe medication, which of course is rarely the solution.

Here are the top findings according to Insight Research Group’s survey of 300 UK GPs:

• 76% said they believed the economic climate of the last four years has had a negative impact on their patient’s health

• 77% felt there had been an increase in new cases (since 2008) of mental health disorders linked to the stresses of the economic climate. Of those 231 UK GPs:
     o 46% thought the greatest increase was in depression
     o 54% felt the greatest increase was in anxiety disorders
     o 83% said mental health conditions have had an impact on their practice

• 64% felt patients are drinking more alcohol

• 77% said they believed more of their patients are working longer hours due to concerns about job security

• 62% felt they had seen an increase in the number of DLA (Disability Living Allowance) applications for patients who appear to be more in financial distress than in genuine need of support as a result of their health condition

• 38% believed more of their patients who are smokers are quitting or reducing the number of cigarettes they smoke to save money.

• 60% felt that more patients are cancelling sporting activities (gym memberships etc) to save money

• 34% believed there had been an increase in patients putting off starting a family until their financial security improves

• 17% felt there had been an increase in patients specifically requesting terminations of pregnancies due to concerns about financial security

Whose health has been worst affected in the recession?
• The greatest increase in new cases of mental health disorders as a result of the economic downturn is believed to be amongst those aged between 36 to 45 (49%), and those who have kids and are married or living with their partner (58%)
• When it comes to gender breakdown, GPs believed there to be higher increases of depression, anxiety and alcohol abuse amongst men
• The only condition where GPs felt women experienced the greatest increase in new cases since the 2008 recession is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (66% versus 19% in men)

The survey gathered the opinions of 300 GPs from across the UK about how Britain’s health has been affected by the turbulent economy since 2008 based on their experiences with patients. In addition, the research included over 40 in-depth qualitative interviews undertaken through Insight’s online GP community, e-Village. To differentiate between general health trends and specifically the impact of the economic recession, GPs were asked to only consider those instances where patients linked their behaviours and/or conditions with financial hardship or concerns about job security during their health visit. 

Mental Health Today

You can read the full report here

Study links recession to rising suicides

A recent study published in the British Medical Journal, Suicides associated with the 2008-10 economic recession in England: time trend analysis, has found that a painful double-dip recession, rising unemployment and biting austerity measures may have already driven more than 1,000 people in the UK to commit suicide in the past two years.

Study lead David Stuckler from Cambridge University explained:  "Much of men's identity and sense of purpose is tied up with having a job. It brings income, status and importance. There's also a pattern in the UK where men are three times more likely to commit suicide than women, while women are much more likely to report being depressed and seek help."

The analysis found that between 2008 and 2010 there were 846 more suicides among men in England than would have been expected if previous trends continued, and 155 more among women.

Between 2000 and 2010 each annual 10 percent increase in the number of unemployed people was associated with a 1.4 percent increase in the number of male suicides, the study found.

These findings suggest that about two fifths of the recent increase in suicides among men (increase of 329 suicides, 126 to 532) during the 2008-10 recession can be attributed to rising unemployment.  

The study provides evidence linking the recent increase in suicides in England with the financial crisis that began in 2008. English regions with the largest rises in unemployment have had the largest increases in suicides, particularly among men.

You can read the full study here.

Earlier this month data from the government's Health and Social Care Information Centre showed the number of prescriptions dispensed in England for antidepressants rose 9.1 percent in 2010.

A study published last July, also by Stuckler, found that across Europe, suicide rates rose sharply from 2007 to 2009 as the financial crisis drove unemployment up and squeezed incomes.

More on this report here

The countries worst hit by severe economic downturns, such as Greece and Ireland, saw the most dramatic increases in suicides.

World Health Organisation estimates suggest that nearly a million people die from suicide every year at a rate of one every 40 seconds.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Eleanor Longden: Learning from the voices in my head

Some of you may have seen Eleanor Longden give an inspiring presentation at our Making A Difference conference in Newtown back in May.

Earlier in the year Eleanor was invited to present a short, 6 min talk at TEDxLondon on voice hearing - it's now online here.  She needs people to consider rating it and leaving some feedback. Talks with the highest ratings will be invited to give extended presentations at TED 2013 in California, so this would be a great opportunity for spreading the word.

At 17, Eleanor Longden had a promising future ahead of her; then she was diagnosed with schizophrenia. After a lifelong battle with the voices in her head, today she has a Masters in psychology and a second chance.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Taking risks to engage service users

My colleague Freda Lacey, who is the Development & Participation Worker in the team, recently attended a networking event run by Participation Cymru to talk about engagement and mental health. She drew upon the team's recent experience planning and running an event called Making a Difference Together, which was held in Newtown on 16 May 2012. You can find out more about the actual event here on our website.

At the networking event Freda spoke for about 30 minutes on the innovative approach taken by the team to engage with people who experience mental distress. She particularly highlighted the importance of taking risks - and "thinking outside the box" - when planning events so that people can really let their voice be heard.  You can listen to a recording of her presentation, and see her slides here, on the Participation Cymru website.

The conference Freda describes was one of three events held throughout Wales and supported by the Stronger in Partnership network and NLIAH (National Leadership and Innovation Agency for Healthcare). Individuals had the opportunity to talk to representatives from social services, the police, Citizens Advice Bureau, psychiatric and psychology services and say exactly what they thought about the services provided. One of the people who attended wrote passionately about his experience of the day:

"I came home yesterday absolutely shattered but full of hope.  I learnt more yesterday about Mental Health and indeed myself  in what seemed like a few very short hours, than all of my ten years fighting the illness and the system.
I don't normally write letters of praise but you and your team have taken the system and given it a good old shake up and to give us "a voice" - fantastic!  Until yesterday I thought I was a "Victim"..... 

I know the hard work that goes into an event such as this. What impressed me was the "loose format".  The fact that all of the Survivors, who like me struggle at social events, it is a great testament to you and your team that we were still there for the close of the event."

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Time to Change reveal biggest mental health clichés

Anti-stigma campaign Time to Change has revealed the biggest clichés used when people try to talk about mental health issues.

'Pull yourself together' topped the cliché chart, commissioned by the programme run by the charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, which explores unhelpful comments that people say are one of the hardest parts of the illness, and often worse than the symptoms themselves.

The poll also revealed that; ‘there are people out there much worse off than you’; and; ‘snap out of it’ were other expressions used frequently.

With results showing the continuing widespread myths that still surround mental health problems, Time to Change has launched a new viral film with tips on how to start a conversation about mental health.

Sue Baker, director of Time to Change, said: "starting a conversation about mental health can sometimes feel daunting. Our aim is to take the awkwardness away from it and enable both people with a mental health problem and those without to talk about it openly and honestly."

“The more we’re all able to have a conversation about mental health, the more we will remove the stigma and discrimination that still affects so many of us living with a mental health problem.”

For more information visit 

LSE label mental health as most glaring case of health inequality in the UK

Only a quarter of people with mental health problems receive any treatment, despite it accounting for nearly half of all ill health suffered by people under 65, a new report has revealed.

This under-treatment of people with mental illnesses is the most glaring case of health inequality in the UK, the report, How mental illness loses out in the NHS, concluded.

The report, by the London School of Economics’ Mental Health Policy Group, a team of economists, psychologists, doctors and NHS managers convened by Professor Lord Layard, said that it is a “scandal” that with 6 million people with depression or anxiety conditions and 700,000 children with problem behaviours, anxiety or depression, three quarters of each group get no treatment.

Mental illness accounts for 23% of the total burden of disease. Yet, despite the existence of cost-effective treatments, it receives only 13% of NHS health expenditure, the report found.

For full story see Mental Health Today website

BBC Radio 1's Stories - Bruising Silence

Gemma Cairney leads a dynamic, poignant and revealing documentary about the hidden world of teenage abusive relationships.
The programme explores the issue of emotional and violent abuse through different types of relationships, including male on female, female on male and same sex - both from the perspective of the abused and the abuser, with additional contributions from experts in the issues.
We also wind back to the story of the then 19-year old hip hop star Chris Brown, who attacked his girlfriend, pop singer Rihanna, beating, biting and kicking her until she lost consciousness. We will take a look at how the story was reported on Radio 1's Newsbeat and how quickly it was all forgotten.
This story is based on the first official study of its kind into young abusive relationships, which was commissioned by the NSPCC and the Home Office. It reports 25% of girls and 18% of boys have been physically abused and 75% of girls and 50% of boys have suffered emotional abuse. The study also found that sexual violence happened to one in three girls and one in six boys.
Gemma talks to victims, perpetrators and carers as she tries to get to the bottom of this 'secret' world and under-reported story.
These powerful stories and experiences will be brought together with Gemma's own personal commentary.

Elyn Saks: A tale of mental illness -- from the inside

"Is it okay if I totally trash your office?" It's a question Elyn Saks once asked her doctor, and it wasn't a joke. A legal scholar, in 2007 Saks came forward with her own story of schizophrenia, controlled by drugs and therapy but ever-present. In this powerful talk, she asks us to see people with mental illness clearly, honestly and compassionately.
Elyn Saks asks bold questions about how society treats people with mental illness. She views her illness very much according to the prevalent medical model of illness.

Click here to link on presentation on TED TALKS

Mental health spending falls for first time in 10 years

A recent article in the Guardian Newspaper:

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Chipmunks and publishing

A fellow blogger at Powys Association of Voluntary Organisations, Claire, suggested posting about a social enterprise she had come across recently. Chipmunkapublishing  "gives a voice to people with mental illness and (is a) niche publisher with expertise in the mental health field of mental health service users' empowerment, carer empowerment and disability empowerment."

It's worth taking a look at the website, not only to see the books currently being published, but also to look for opportunities. It seems that the company is always looking for people who wish to write about their experiences, and also for volunteers who are willing to take on a variety of roles, from editing to marketing.

Jason Pegler is one of the founders of the company. He says, "Chipmunkapublishing is a platform to allow people to tell the truth about how people with mental health issues are treated by society, the mental health system, the state and the status quo. I want others to follow in my footsteps and help Chipmunkapublishing break down the taboo on mental health once and for all".

The company is based in the UK, but works with people round the world.