News

Research finds women who have been abused by partner are three times more likely to suffer mental ill health

Women who have been abused by a partner are three times more likely to suffer depression, anxiety or severe conditions such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder than other women, according to research.

The study is one of the first in the UK to probe the relationship between domestic abuse and mental health. It found that it was two-directional: women who had been to their GP about mental health problems were also three times more likely to report domestic abuse at a later date – nearly half of those who were abused already had mental health problems.

Domestic abuse victims more likely to suffer mental illness – studyThe research also suggests that women do not always tell their GP of abuse. Only 0.25% of women on the primary care lists used in the study had reported domestic abuse to the GP – while police report that one in four women are affected over their lifetime.

Domestic abuse victims more likely to suffer mental illness – study, The Guardian, 7th June 2019

Mental Health Minute 2019: Heads Together

At 10:59 this morning Mental Health Awareness Week kicked off as over 300 radio stations in the UK came together to play the same message about the importance of listening.

Featuring The Duke of Cambridge, Stephen Fry, Katy Perry, Jameela Jamil & Alesha Dixon, the message was all about the importance of listening.

Find out more: www.headstogether.org.uk/mental-health-minute-2019

The Role of Early Experiences in Hearing Voices

Help us understand the relationship between early childhood experience and hearing voices


Do you want to join this study?

Studies show that 10% of the population hears voices at some point in their lives. Based on research we know that voices are often related with (negative) life experiences. Furthermore, there is some evidence that the actual content of voices is also related those specific life experiences. How this works in not clear yet. Our idea is that thoughts and feelings voice hearers have about themselves might play an important intermediate step in this relation. The goal of this study is to map those feelings and idea to gain a better understanding of voice content.

Everybody that identifies themselves as a voice hearer is invited to join the study. Click on the link below if you want to join.

I want to join!

Sleep After Trauma: How traumatic events impact sleep and well-being

Trauma and Sleep

This article has been reproduced with the kind permission of Mattress Advisor. You can find the original article here.

To better understand the relationship between traumatic events and sleep, we surveyed over 1,000 people who reported experiencing a traumatic life event that negatively impacted their sleep. Seeing as the definition of trauma is very broad, we narrowed the qualifying experiences down to the most commonly reported in a preliminary survey: traumatic grief or separation; emotional abuse or psychological maltreatment; a serious accident, fire, or explosion; bullying; physical abuse or assault; serious illness or medical procedure; sexual assault or abuse; and a victim of or witness to domestic violence. Keep reading to learn more.

From Distressed to Deprivation

Despite little being known about why we sleep, scientists have figured out exactly how much sleep we need to stay healthy. Adults require seven to nine hours of sleep every night, with anything less than seven negatively impacting health. But quality sleep can be hard to come by, especially when stress and anxiety levels are high. For those who experience trauma, their quantity and quality of sleep are often diminished. 

On average, women who experienced one of the traumatic events studied reported losing an average of 129.7 minutes of sleep each night, nearly half an hour more than their male counterparts.

Respondents who reported experiencing a serious illness or medical procedure reported losing an average of 130.5 minutes of sleep, followed by 126.4 minutes lost by those who experienced sexual assault or abuse. Considering the average American only sleeps 6.8 hours each night, losing two hours of sleep due to traumatic events likely means those affected are getting significantly less than the recommended amount of sleep. 

Consistent sleep loss can lead to sleep deprivation, adding to the symptoms people may already be experiencing from the traumatic events themselves. Lack of sleep not only leaves you extra drowsy during the day but also can cause overall fatigue, irritability, depressed mood, cognitive deficits, and various physical changes.

Lasting Effects

A single night of sleep loss can lead to negative effects the next day, but for those who have experienced trauma, sleep loss is most likely to last for months.

Around 34 percent of both men and women reported losing sleep for months after experiencing trauma compared to 10 percent of men and less than 5 percent of women who reported losing sleep for mere days. There also was a significant difference in the resolution between the genders. Nearly 25 percent of women said their sleep problems continued to be unresolved, while only 14 percent of men said the same.

Female victims of or witnesses to domestic violence reported losing sleep for the longest amount of time – averaging over two years (30.8 months) of sleep problems. Female sexual assault or abuse survivors also neared the two-year mark for loss of sleep, averaging 21.7 months.

Experiencing a traumatic event often leads to the development of acute stress disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, with many symptoms involving sleep disturbance. Not only do traumatic events and PTSD cause anxiety and depression symptoms to increase but also many victims experience insomnia, or difficulty falling asleep, and nightmares – both of which have a significantly negative impact on the quality and amount of sleep one even manages to get.

Sleep Struggles

After experiencing a traumatic event, sleep can suffer in a variety of ways. We asked our respondents about the type of sleeping disorder or interfering symptoms that keep them up at night.

Nearly 80 percent of respondents reported suffering from insomnia, a common condition that can have serious consequences for physical and mental health. Having difficulty falling or staying asleep for a long period increases the risk of stroke, seizures, obesity, heart disease, mental health disorders, and even shortens life expectancy. 

Almost half of those with sleep problems reported trying to alleviate them. The majority (70 percent) turned to sleep aid medications, but it was only effective for 57 percent of those who tried it. Although only 35 percent tried medications other than sleep aids, 61 percent found the method to be effective. Cognitive behavioral therapy was rated the most effective method of treating sleep problems, but it was also the least undertaken. 

While there are numerous treatments and sleep aids that can help combat insomnia, when insomnia is a symptom of a bigger problem, it’s better to treat the root cause. Otherwise, relief is only temporary.

Methods of Mediation

Your sleeping environment can have a big impact on your quality and duration of sleep. For those who don’t have chronic insomnia, there are environmental changes that can lead to a better night’s sleep. Here are some of the activities respondents engage in to help get some much-needed shut-eye. 

Around 30 percent of respondents changed the position or arrangement of their furniture, and 27 percent installed blackout curtains. Thirty-six percent tried sleeping with the TV on, a change that may do more harm than good. While some background noise may help people fall asleep faster, the blue light and changes in brightness and volume that occur while the TV is on can impact the quality of sleep. Sleeping with the TV on can keep you in the lighter stages of the sleep cycle, preventing your body from experiencing the stages where memories are consolidated and restorative work is done. 

Background noise that has been proven to help sleep, however, also happens to be the method most tried. Forty-three percent of respondents tried playing white noise to help them sleep, an evidence-based method that has been proven to workWhite noise is very bland and not much fun to listen to, but that is exactly why it aids sleep. Loud noises and changes in volume, like those from TVs, can easily alert the brain to wake up. When white noise is playing in the background, though, other noises are drowned out by the monotone sound, preventing you from being roused from slumber.

You’re Not Alone

Everybody is different and what works for one may not work for another. But when people have shared experiences, even if the details differ, there are certain pieces of advice worth following. 

Many of the people surveyed advised that fellow sufferers reach out and get help. Seeking out a professional for treatment is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s important to fight the stigma, and remember you are not alone. Reaching out and seeking help can be life-saving.

Find Your Sleep Solution

Getting a good night’s rest can seem impossible when recurring thoughts keep you from drifting off, and nightmares wake you up, but there is help out there. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for a helping hand because you’re not alone. The sleep you’re missing out on can have detrimental effects to both your mental and physical health and can prolong the underlying problem. 

If a change in environment is the method you want to try next, it may be time to look at your mattress. A good mattress is key for a quality night’s rest, and at Mattress Advisor, we’re here to help. No need to worry about picking the perfect mattress yourself; just take our Mattress Finder Quiz and let the experts do the work.


Methodology

We surveyed 1,013 people using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. Respondents had to report they’d experienced a traumatic event that negatively impacted their sleep to qualify for the survey. 

For this study, we looked at a specific set of traumatic events. We used the types of trauma and violence categories from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and ran a preliminary survey. The final list of traumas we decided to explore in this project was determined based on the results of the preliminary survey. If a survey participant did not select one of the traumas presented in this project, they were disqualified from the survey. 

Neglect and bullying were also traumas included in our study. However, due to low sample sizes for these traumas, they were excluded from our visualization of the data. 

Respondents were 61.8 percent women and 38.2 percent men. The average age of respondents was 36.5 with a standard deviation of 11.1.

All averages included throughout this project were calculated to exclude outliers in the data. 

This was done by finding the initial average and standard deviation of the data. Then, we multiplied the standard deviation by two and added that amount to the initial average. Any data points above that sum were then excluded. 

In parts of this project, the averages for the number of months of negatively affected sleep after trauma are broken down by gender and trauma experienced. It should be noted that some of the groups had lower sample sizes than normal. These have been marked in the study. 

Sleep problems occurring after trauma are discussed in this project. In addition to the options included here, respondents were also given the option of reporting dreams as a sleep consequence after trauma. This was excluded from the final visualization of the data. 

The parts of this project that deal with methods and environmental changes used to alleviate trauma-related sleep problems are based on the people who reported using them. For example, respondents had to first report that they tried methods or environmental changes to treat their sleep problems before answering questions about specific methods and changes. Of all respondents, 49.7 percent reported using methods to alleviate their sleep problems. In terms of environmental changes, 31.2 percent of respondents reported employing them to improve their sleep.

Sources 
Fair Use Statement

We all face difficult experiences in our lives. Every type of trauma impacts us in many ways, and that can often include how long and how well we sleep. If someone you know is struggling or you want to start a conversation about mental health, you are free to share this study. If you choose to do so, please link back to here so that people have the chance to review the entire project and its methodology.

This article was written for Mattress Adivisor and we have been given permission to reproduce the article for our website. We have made a small edit to the original, removing two paragraphs concerning mental illness. Thank you to Mattress Advisor and the author for allowing us to share this research and information on our website.

Can A Hormonal Imbalance Negatively Impact One’s Behaviour?

Jane Fisher discusses  why hormonal imbalances can be a root cause of mental health challenges and that this occurs much more frequently than most would think.

A hormonal imbalance is defined by medical experts as “too much or too little of a hormone in the bloodstream.” Although hormonal imbalances are often discussed as a problem that primarily affects women, men can also experience health issues related to an excess or deficiency of hormones. In addition to the physical symptoms that can result, various mental health challenges can also occur as a result of a hormonal imbalance. When the chemistry of one’s body changes significantly, mental health conditions that lead to hearing voices can occur. Because there are so many health problems that can cause changes in one’s cognitive state, it is crucial to become familiar with those conditions and symptoms. 

Hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism

Hormones such as testosterone, estrogen, and the like have the power to do much more than create unpleasant physical symptoms. Certain hormone-linked health conditions can actually lead to mental health disorders. Hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism are two examples of this. Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland becomes overactive, leading to excess production of the hormone thyroxine. Conversely, hypothyroidism is characterised by an underactive thyroid gland. In this case, not enough of the thyroid hormone is produced. Individuals who have been diagnosed with either hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism can develop anxiety, moodiness, depression, and panic attacks. They can also experience fatigue and insomnia, which can result in further behavioural changes.

Hormonal imbalances after pregnancy

Whether a woman has just had her first child or fifth child, postnatal hormonal changes have been shown to cause significant shifts in behaviour and mental health. Up to 80% of mothers who have just given birth experience some level of sadness or anxiety. This is due to the sharp decrease of both progesterone and estrogen that occurs after childbirth. Additionally, a condition known as postnatal depression is characterised by loss of interest in activities, difficulty controlling one’s anger, intense sadness, feelings of anxiety, crying, and moodiness.

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)

Although many have heard of premenstrual syndrome, premenstrual dysphoric disorder (or PMDD) is a far more severe hormonal condition. This condition can result in severe depression symptoms, intense anxiety, irritability, feelings of hopelessness, and decreased interest in many activities. Even though the symptoms ultimately go away after a short period of time, it is crucial for women who have these symptoms to seek treatment (since they will continue to come back each month).

Although most people do not initially think of a hormonal imbalance as the root cause of mental health challenges, this occurs much more frequently than most would think. The conditions listed above are just a sample of the potential health conditions that trigger a hormonal imbalance, and resulting behaviour changes. If you or someone you know could be experiencing a shift in personality due to a hormonal imbalance, it is important to seek medical advice as soon as possible.

Increasing Mental Well-Being by Increasing Accessibility

The Desire for Full Integration

Increasing mental well-being begins by understanding what it means to those who need to increase it.

Jane Fisher discusses increasing mental well-being begins by understanding what it means to those who need to increase it. Working to effectively understand not just the needs of those who hear voices but understand the community they live in on a day-to-day basis is a great start.

Last year, there were 66,620 people with physical or sensory disabilities registered in Wales. Of these, not all had adequate access to mental health care or physical spaces in which they felt comfortable expressing their needs, especially regarding psychiatric care. Increasing accessibility to mental health services is only one challenge. Other challenges include accessibility features that cater specifically to the needs of those who hear voices so that they can successfully participate in Welsh society and workplaces.

A study conducted regarding what those living with the diagnosis of schizophrenia need to increase their well-being found that taking part in social contacts such as attending meetings at work and receiving home visits from medical professionals or loved ones was incredibly important. Engaging in secure professional relationships was deemed incredibly important in allowing the subjects in the study to integrate into society in a way that made them feel positive and increased their mental well-being. This begs the question of what medical professionals and Welsh society can do to cater to these needs. Because professional interactions were so important, these changes can begin in the workplace.

Technology That Increases Accessibility

Smart technology isn’t just for making your life at home easier. It’s being integrated into workplaces all over the world in an effort to increase productivity as well as accessibility. Research released recently shows that wearable technology can be helpful for people with mood disorders or who live on the schizophrenia spectrum. The technology included in these devices can monitor things such as levels of mental attention. Non-gelled electroencephalogram and electrodes can be processed to assess the attention level of a person and that data can be used to help them understand how to increase their mental and social awareness in situations like one might encounter in the workplace. The ability to monitor social interaction and possibly, in the future, brain activity are other noted benefits of wearable smart technology in terms of accessibility.

Access to More Data

What’s great about smart technology is that it provides mental health professional with a treasure trove of data regarding the behaviours and needs of people all over Wales. This data can not only be used to understand what is needed to increase mental well-being but also used to understand why, when, how, and where certain schizophrenic episodes take place. That kind of data is invaluable in a community like Wales where it’s generally hard to access the resources needed to engage in comprehensive studies that yield actionable results.

A Better World for All

Increasing mental well-being begins by understanding what it means to those who need to increase it. Working to effectively understand not just the needs of those who hear voices but understand the community they live in on a day-to-day basis is a great start. With the help of smart technology and the data it can collect, mental health professionals in Wales can begin to increase access to proper health care and develop higher-level solutions.

Found in Translation

Is Asperger’s syndrome the next stage of human evolution?

Professor Tony Attwood believes the “out of the box” thought processes of people on the autism spectrum will solve the world’s big problems.

He is credited with being the first clinical psychologist to present Asperger’s syndrome not as something to be “fixed ” but as a gift, evidenced in many of the great inventors and artists throughout history.

Professor Attwood is highly regarded for his ability to connect with and bring out the talents of people with Asperger’s. He describes himself as a translator between the “neurotypical” and Asperger’s worlds.

You can see the video presentation here,

Source: Australian Story, ABC, September 2017 (Australia)

Gwen Adshead on treating the minds of violent offenders

The Life Scientific, 26th Februry 2019, BBC Radio 4

“Whether it’s a news story or television drama, human violence appals and fascinates in equal measure. Yet few of us choose to dwell on what preoccupies the mind of a perpetrator for long. 

Professor Gwen Adshead, however, thinks about little else. As a Forensic Psychotherapist, she works with some of the most vilified and rejected members of society. They are the violent offenders who are detained in prisons and in secure NHS hospitals, like Broadmoor, whose actions have been linked to their mental illness. 

Gwen has sought to understand the psychological mechanisms behind their violent behaviour so that she can help them. A pioneer in the field, she provides an environment in which men and women are encouraged to speak the unspeakable and think the unthinkable, in the hope that they will one day be able to change their minds.”

You can listen to the programme here

She died, went to hell and heaven, then woke up at the morgue

Testimony from Paulina who shares about when she died in a bus accident and went to hell, then to heaven, had an encounter with Jesus and then woke up at the morgue.

You Say

Lauren Daigle

I keep fighting voices in my mind that say I’m not enough
Every single lie that tells me I will never measure up
Am I more than just the sum of every high and every low?
Remind me once again just who I am, because I need to know

You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing
You say I am strong when I think I am weak You say I am held when I am falling short
When I don’t belong, You say I am Yours
And I believe, I believe
What You say of me
I believe

You say I am held when I am falling short
When I don’t belong, You say I am Yours
And I believe, I believe
What You say of me
I believe

The only thing that matters now is everything You think of me
In You I find my worth, in You I find my identity

You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing
You say I am strong when I think I am weak
You say I am held when I am falling short
When I don’t belong, You say I am Yours
And I believe, I believe
What You say of me
I believe

Taking all I have and now I’m laying it at Your feet
You have every failure, God
You’ll have every victory

You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing
You say I am strong when I think I am weak
You say I am held when I am falling short
When I don’t belong, You say I am Yours
And I believe, I believe
What You say of me
I believe

Oh, I believe
Yes, I believe
What You say of me
Oh, I believe

The mind unravelling

The Mind Unravelling, Start The Week. BBC Radio 4

How far does evolution explain mental health? The psychiatrist Randolph Nesse tells Kirsty Wark that negative emotions make sense in certain situations but can become excessive. He argues that positioning disorders in light of natural selection helps explain the ubiquity of human suffering – and may help in finding new paths for relieving it.

The neuropsychologist AK Benjamin investigates the boundaries of sanity and madness in his book, Let Me Not Be Mad. Through a series of consultations with patients, he explores the mind unravelling at the seams. But the question remains whether this unravelling mind belongs to the doctor or the patient.

The poet George Szirtes looks at the damaging impact of international events on a single family, in his memoir of his mother Magda. The Photographer At Sixteen follows Magda from her teenage life in Hungary, through political uprisings, internment in two concentration camps and transition to life in England. He explores the effect of an unravelling world on a family’s mental health.

You can listen to the programme on Start the Week BBC Radio 4 (Transmission 11th February 2019)

A Clean Home And Your Mental Health: Explaining The Relationship

Having a clean, tidy home helps you feel more organised, relaxed and can indirectly help the one in ten people living with voices. People living with diagnoses such as schizophrenia and people hearing voices have been shown to benefit from a relaxing environment and techniques, according to mental health charity, Mind UK and Rufus May. Recently, there has been much said about the link and importance of mental health in the workplace environment, but the maintenance of your home environment can also play a part in your overall mental health. 

Clutter Affects Our Self Esteem

A disorganised home can impact your mood and how you feel about yourself. Studies in the past including one by UCLA researchers have repeatedly established a link between clutter and mental conditions such as stress, anxiety, and depression. In 2016, comparethemarket.com found that the UK hoards the most clutter across Europe. One in two British people admitted to holding onto stuff longer than they should.

Women seemed to be more affected by the relationship between a tidy environment and stress levels, according to a University of California study. Overall, 85 percent of adults in the UK were regularly stressed as of January 2018. With a tidier home, you are shown to feel more relaxed and make better food choices. Both of these are irrevocably linked to mental health and self-esteem. An unclean home also means that physically, both you and your family (particularly children) are increasingly exposed to toxic fungi making you prone to immune reactions such as asthma.

A Clean Home Means Higher Energy Levels

A cleaner home can also boost your energy levels. People with tidier home environments reported that they got better sleep; a key influencer of your energy levels. In 2011, the National Sleep Foundation confirmed this link in a study where three-fourths of the participants said a clean, quiet room was important for their sleep. A better night sleep acts as a restorative to your body functions. Depression has also been linked to fatigue and the sleep quality which forms an indirect connection between depression and a clean home. 

Better Concentration And Focus

Organisation in the home and the workplace helps to channel focus and concentration. Productivity rises in environments that are not cluttered or messy due to the increased ease of performing the tasks needed.

This has been applied and proven in the workplace by multiple researchers and the same premise applies at home. A messy environment can increase the time taken to perform simple tasks, remained focused and negatively affect your stress levels. The Centre for Facilities Research released a study showing 88 percent of its participants found a messy environment to be a distraction while order promoted concentration and learning. 

Having a clean house does more than help you feel accomplished and happy. It supports your physical health by reducing your chances for illnesses including allergic reactions and asthmatic flare-ups. It also reduces stress, fatigue and promotes better mental health all around.

You can read more articles by Jane Fisher here

Safe Spaces for Suffering & Joy

Safe Spaces for Suffering & Joy is our sixth Compassionate Mental Health gathering, and our first to be held in London. As with our previous events, we are bringing together a wide cross section of people with a shared interest in transforming the way we live and work with mental health crises and distress.

This one-day gathering is an opportunity to explore alternative approaches for living and working with mental distress. We’ll look together at how we can create spaces for people to experience suffering and joy – spaces that are safe, compassionate and balance open-hearted, non-hierarchical relationships with wise boundaries.

Safe Spaces for Suffering & Joy takes place on Monday 1 April 2019 at Kingsley Hall in Bromley-by-Bow, London.

You can go here to
for the event here.

Is Your Job Putting Your Health at Risk?

Sometimes, we don’t even realise how demanding our jobs are, but the 9-5 working routine takes a toll on both your mind and body. In today’s society, a job is often more than a way of earning money. It’s a part of our identity and sometimes even a lifestyle of its own. This means that many of us will end up doing more hours that we’re contracted to, just in an effort to do our jobs well. In the UK, more than 5.3 million people do an average of 7.7 hours unpaid overtime every single week. Whilst chasing professional success is an admirable thing, it shouldn’t come at the expense of your physical and mental health. If you’ve been feeling consistently ill or stressed, your work could be to blame.

The majority of us work in desk-based jobs, which don’t exactly seem like dangerous environments to be in. However, working 10 years in a sedentary role can actually double your risk of getting colon cancer. In some workplaces, staff might be exposed to toxic chemicals on a regular basis. In some professions, like dentistry and radiology, physical health risks like this cannot be avoided. However, it’s important that employees are able to properly protect themselves from risks like this and also take breaks when they need to. In other professions such as lorry driving, expose to toxic chemicals is not generally expected. However, bladder and lung cancers are more prevalent in drivers because of the toxic chemicals in car materials.

Health issues caused by work can usually be solved by having a good work-life balance. Having sufficient time outside of work to look after ourselves whether that’s by getting enough rest, exercising or socialising, is crucial to our performance at work. There are even studies that have shown that happy employees are 20% more productive than unhappy employees. It’s in the interest of everyone that employees get enough time outside of their jobs.

With our thanks to Katie Myers who writes for Stanley R Harris.. Katie created this infographic and wrote the introduction above.

This infographic from the team at Stanley R Harris looks at the physical and mental health risks commonly faced in different professions. Hopefully, it will encourage people to prioritise their health when they need to. Whilst pursuing a successful career can be great for your personal fulfilment, it’s important for your physical and mental health to take time outside of working hours to properly recuperate – doing so will benefit both your health and your career.


Relating to Voices, 3 April, Oxford

Wednesday 3rd April | 10.00 – 16.00 pm | St Catherine’s College, Oxford University | Manor Road | Oxford OX1 3UJ

On 3 April, the Educational Voice-Hearing Network will be delivering an all-day seminar on ‘Relating to Voices’. The event takes place in the Collaborating Centre for Values-based Practice in Health and Social Care, St Catherine’s College, Oxford University. For more information about the event go here

Places are free. Demand for places is expected to be high, so early booking is advised. A free lunch at St Catherine’s College is included. To book a place, click here.

News and Events

 

Here you can find information about all the news and events that have been published on this website.

Life in prison: Alan Rusbridger talks to Dr Sohom Das

Former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger meets Dr Sohom Das, a consultant forensic psychiatrist. His job is to assess, treat and rehabilitate mentally ill offenders. 

Dr Sohom discusses the effect that a life behind bars has upon the mind, tells Alan about the times when he has made a difference, and talks about the challenges of treating mentally ill offenders inside jail.

BBBC Radio 4, 29/08/2019 https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m00045kk

How we care for vulnerable people

The key quality a healer requires, in the Buddhist perspective, is compassion: the capacity to recognise a person’s humanity, respond to their suffering with kindness and help them recognise the hidden strengths that lie beyond their difficulties.

I grew up on the edge of London, close to several large mental hospitals. My father was a psychiatric social worker for a time, and he grimly remarked that the Victorians had placed the institutions out of the city to keep the residents out of sight.

There’s been a sea change in our attitudes to mental health since then and Muckamore Abbey Hospital, just outside Antrim, was set up in 1949 as a model of enlightened good practice. But police are now investigating allegations of physical and emotional abuse directed towards residents with severe mental illness and learning difficulties.

The individuals responsible need to be held to account, but events like this raise questions for me about the values that underpin how we care for vulnerable people. A starting point is recognising that this work is important and challenging.

Until I started teaching mindfulness around a decade ago I had little contact with this sector, and my experience since then has been sobering. Engaging with mental illness means touching a person’s pain and confusion, and I sometimes feel baffled by the challenge of connecting with people with very serious problems.

Meeting professionals, whose work I’d largely taken for granted, I’m often struck by the depth of their kindness and patience. On one mindfulness course I taught for prisoners a woman prison officer befriended a man who was on suicide watch. The meditation seemed to help a bit, but what really lifted him out of depression was the deep kindness with which she listened to him. She told me she was just doing her job, but what a job she was doing!

In Buddhism, caring for people in need is recognised as a high calling. The Buddha said, ‘If you want to care for me, you should care for the sick,’ and doing so is considered a spiritual practice that can be as transformative as meditation or reflection. The key quality a healer requires, in the Buddhist perspective, is compassion: the capacity to recognise a person’s humanity, respond to their suffering with kindness and help them recognise the hidden strengths that lie beyond their difficulties.

One response to serious problems in the health and social care systems addresses standards and safeguarding; another considers how to attract and retain good staff. But, engaging with these issues as a Buddhist, I think that, if we want these services to offer genuinely compassionate care, we must recognise this as a moral and spiritual challenge, as well as an organisational one.

Thought For the Day, BBC Radio hhttps://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p07lx8xl

Optimism

It turns out that optimism is good for our health.

Thought For the Day, BBC Radio 4, Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner – 28/08/2019

It turns out that optimism is good for our health. A new study shows optimists can cope better with stress and so are more likely to live longer.

The epitome of British optimism is our summer music festivals which a quarter of adults attended over the last year, optimistically buying tickets in October, hoping or even praying for sun in August. Adult festival goers sometimes dress as broccoli, mermaids or just their best sequined selves, creating an alternative reality of pleasure but also, of purpose. Each year our family heads to Shambala Festival, which has a two part mission, “Adventures in Utopia. Act Now”. Utopia and action may seem mismatched – but these beautifully encapsulate a Jewish idea that the meaning of life is the unceasing, positive belief that we can and must change the world. Not only this, it’s a commandment, a mitzvah to joyfully impact on our world.

Optimism must be realistic. At Shambala, sessions on climate change confirmed the seriousness of our situation but an optimistic response, based on hope in possibilities and information about realistic responses enables and galvanizes action. You can’t change things if you believe that things can’t be changed. This is not blinkered naivety – we know that life can be excruciatingly hard, but we can consciously retrain our brains and our reactions and so our actions.

The 18th century Rabbi, Nachman from Breslev taught “that no matter how low a person has fallen, there exists an indestructible, even very tiny part that can regrow and can form the basis for new life.”

Our task is to find that indestructible part in ourselves, that essence that no misfortune can erase and to bind ourselves to it, to concentrate on it and allow it to make us happy. So even when we find ourselves in the deepest, darkest pit without the slightest trace of hope or light – still, we can will always find our way out if we focus on the pure, indestructible, redeeming feature that exists in each and every one of us, and use it to rebuild ourselves. The route to joyfulness is through recognizing our brokenness.

At festivals and weddings, the Torah commands us to eat, drink, be happy, dance, and relish life to the fullest. But Judaism teaches it’s not enough just to enjoy – it’s not holy hedonism, not just adventures in Utopia but also action. For instance, we’re commanded to be joyful on festivals but we also have to include and care for the stranger, the orphan and the widow.

Adventures in Utopia could be a possibility but, as they say at Shambala, only if we act now.

Listen to the programme here https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p07lsv99

Tim Waterstone on Desert Island Discs, BBC Radio 4 Tim discusses his difficult relationship with his parents and how this has affected his life.


Sir Tim Waterstone is the founder of the bookshop chain that bears his name. Born in May 1939, he was the youngest of three children. His father, who worked for a tea company all his life, served in the Royal Army Service Corps during the war, and so was absent when Tim was very young. Their relationship was difficult throughout his childhood. Tim was educated at boarding schools from the age of six, when his parents went to India for two and a half years. After studying English at Cambridge and a stint working in India, he joined Allied Breweries, moving to WH Smith in 1973. Eight years later he was fired and at this point he decided to open his own bookshop.

You can listen to the programme here

Thought For the Day: Rev Dr Giles Fraser, 30th July 2019

In this fascinating exploration of meaning of reality. Rev Fraser discusses Philip K. Dick and the film based on his work “Blade Runner”. Fraser acknowledges the importance of Dick’s visions, the intersection with madness and the ultimate clarity of his understanding of the underpinning distopian realities of the modern world. You can listen to it here.

Thought For The Day, BBC Radio 4, 30th July 2019

D for Diagnosis: Ever Changing Labels

Treatment for most mental health problems is designed for the “unicorns”; people who have just one clear-cut diagnosis. But in reality, many people experience more than one problem and their symptoms can be shared across different formal diagnostic categories. The true picture is one of cross-cutting, porous diagnostic boundaries.
In this third and final programme in her series, Claudia looks at how new science is adapting to this new reality, making links between and within the traditional boundaries of different conditions in order to develop new treatments. The hope is that the end result will be more personalised, individualised treatments rather than a one-size fits all approach to care.
Researchers at the MRC’s Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit at the University of Cambridge are working across boundaries with a new strategy called the transdiagnostic approach. They are testing new treatment modules where the person needing help, whether they have anxiety, depression, OCD or PTSD, is supported to select from a menu of treatments, like a pick and mix choice, to target the symptoms that are most affecting them. This transdiagnostic approach, Professor Tim Dalgleish says, better matches how people experience mental health difficulties in real life. Pat and Emily tell Claudia how the transdiagnostic treatments have given them new tools to cope with their difficulties and clinical psychologists and research scientists Dr Melissa Black and Dr Caitlin Hitchcock describe how this approach could be adapted for many other mental health problems.

You can listen to the BBC Radio 4 programme here


D for Diagnosis: What’s in a Label?

Why a mental health diagnosis can carry its own health warning.

In this second programme in the series, Claudia considers the value and the accuracy of diagnoses in mental health. Unlike a broken wrist, diabetes or anaemia, where you can be fairly hopeful that the testing makes the diagnosis watertight, there is not a single x-ray, blood test or biopsy that can give a definitive diagnosis of a mental health problem. Instead the symptoms that a person describes are assessed and a diagnoses given based on how they cluster and fit with diagnostic categories. The whole process is much more fluid, with many symptoms shared or absent both within and between different disorders and conditions.

As Suzy describes, a mental health diagnosis can be seismic for the person concerned. In a positive way it can bring recognition, relief, treatment and recovery and in a negative way it can bring judgement, prejudice, discrimination and isolation. Because a diagnosis in mental health is above all, intensely personal. It can feel aimed at the very centre of you and your identity.

Claudia explains the backdrop to the classification of mental health conditions. She looks at the Psychiatrists’ Bible, a.k.a. the DSM or the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual and considers the enormous growth in each of five volumes published over the past 70 years (it’s said the last edition is big enough to stop a bullet). How does this American framework affect how we view, assess and treat mental health difficulties in this country?

There are some who disagree profoundly with formal classification framed by the DSM, describing it an inappropriate “medical model” for mental health problems. Claudia talks to clinical psychologist, Dr Lucy Johnstone, who has never, in her 30 year career, given a diagnosis and believes the starting point should be not “what’s wrong with me?” but “what’s happened to me?”. But Claudia also hears from others, including the former President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Professor Sir Simon Wessely, who maintain diagnoses are accurate, valuable and flexible enough so that good clinicians can use them as the starting point for care.

D for Diagnosis, BBC Radio 4, 19th July 2019

You can listen to the programme hereD

Trieste’s mental health ‘revolution’

Trieste Mental Health Services

Each year, mental health practitioners from around the world visit Trieste in Italy to see what they can learn from the city’s approach to mental illness.

In 1978, Trieste led a ‘revolution’ in Italian mental health care by closing its asylums and ending the restraint of patients. Today the city is designated as a ‘collaboration centre’ by the World Health Organization in recognition of its pioneering work.

Reporter Ammar Ebrahim visits Trieste to see how the system works – from the informal community centres where people can drop in and stay as long as they need, to the businesses that offer career opportunities for those who have been through the system.

We hear about the city’s policy of ‘no locked doors’, and ask how Trieste deals with patients other societies may deem ‘dangerous’.

Go here to see the report

People fixing the World, BBC News: Brilliant solutions to the world’s problems. We meet people with ideas to make the world a better place and investigate whether they work.

What’s in a Name?

Neurasthenia and homosexuality were both once classified as mental illness. D for Diagnosis (BBC Radio 4) reports on ever-changing labels and considers how today’s diagnoses will be seen in the future.

Ever since the 17th Century philosopher Rene Descartes introduced the concept of dualism; the idea that our psyche or minds are separate from our bodies, the mind-body split in healthcare has had an enormous impact on the way mental health problems are recognised and labelled.

In this first of three programmes, Claudia Hammond explores the history of classification for diagnoses of the mind and discovers that diagnostic labels are very much artefacts of the cultural and social preoccupations of the time.

At the Wellcome Library in London, historian of psychiatry Dr Jen Wallis charts the modern classification of mental health conditions and the development of psychiatry as a medical specialism. She highlights pseudoscientific classifications like drapetomania, a psychiatric diagnosis given to enslaved Africans fleeing captivity and neurasthenia, an all-encompassing diagnosis of fatigue very much linked to the rapid technological advances of the 19th Century, as evidence of the permanent flux in what counts as mental illness.

You can listen to the programme here

Augustin Lesage

Augustin Lesage

Augustin Lesage was a French coal miner who became painter and artist through the help of what he considered to be spirit voices. He was untrained and is considered an outsider artist, part of Art Brut.

Augustin was born in 1876 in Saint-Pierre-les-Auchel (Pas-de-Calais) and died in 1954.

In 1911, when he was 35 years old, Lesage claimed he heard a voice speak to him from the darkness of the mine and tell him, “One day you will be a painter”. The only contact Lesage had had with the arts at that point in his life was a visit to the Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille museum in Lille during his military service. The voice experience prompted him to explore communication with what he believed was the spirit world, and within a year of his first experience, Lesage was hearing more voices, this time specifically giving him instructions. The voice told him what to paint, what art supplies to buy and where to find them. It was his belief that the voice speaking to him was the spirit of his little sister who had died at the age of three.

On purchasing his first canvas, Lesage mistakenly bought one ten times as large as he had intended. His spirit guides instructed him not to be daunted, but to begin painting. Large canvasses became his chosen format.

Lesage went on to develop a unique, highly symmetrical style, drafting detailed patterns and monolithic constructions reminiscent of Egyptian and Oriental architectural forms.

Lesage claimed, that he would never have any idea about what he wanted to portray. “I never have an overview of the entire work at any point of the execution. My guides tell me; I surrender to their impulse”.

At first Lesage never signed his paintings, and then began to sign them ‘Leonardo Da Vinci.’ It was only later that he began to add his own signature.

From 1912 Lesage began to produce a regular output of paintings. His service in the First World War interrupted his artistic pursuits, but he was able to resume his work in 1916. By 1923, Lesage was able to support himself exclusively with his artistic efforts.

His work is also categorized as part of the spiritualist movement in art.

More information from Wikipedia here and from the translinguistic other website here.

“It is all about making mental health support more accessible for younger people.

They offer a casual coffee shop atmosphere for people to meet up and just socialize while at the same time having help on hand for anyone with mental health problems.

“It is all about making mental health support more accessible for younger people. We want to make it easy to come here. This can be your coffee haunt but it just happens you can go downstairs and chat to someone about what is bugging you for ten minutes.”

A group of hitchhikers is promoting a different kind of lift – transforming a shop into a drop-in centre giving mental health support.

Gaz Owens, 25, had already raised more than £12,000 with sponsored hitchhikes.

Now he is developing the Pembrokeshire centre where people can “just have a coffee”, or seek counselling.

“At the moment with mental health you will wait to get to crisis point,” he said.

“I feel there needs to be an intervention before.”

Mr Owens, from Little Haven, and his friends organised a five-man hitchhiking race around the UK to “Get the Boys a Lift”. 

Then to raise more, they sold T-shirts bearing the phrase from a friend’s basement.

See their website here.

Echoes From The Past: Improving Mental Health With Celtic Wisdom

In this article Jane Fisher explores the value of Celtic traditions in improving our emotional and mental health

Even though 1 in 4 people will experience emotional distress this year, the total number of friends and family affected is far greater. As doctors and other healthcare professionals continue to provide mostly medicine and treatment, some people are choosing to seek healing help from the ancient Celts, just as they have for thousands of years. While it may be tough to separate history from legend, there is no denying the strong connection between the ancient Celtic people and the spiritual powers in both humans and earth. Ranging across vast expanses of territory, these originally nomadic groups built complex civilisations from western Europe to eastern Asia with their mysterious culture of ritual, symbolism, and nature.

Cracking The Code

Celtic symbols continued to endure long after their homogeneous individual cultures disappeared, replaced by the dominant civilisations throughout Europe in the areas that they lived. Because of this, determining the age and original meanings of particular symbols can be difficult, though some are still known. Symbols invoking good health, safety, a bountiful harvest, or victory in battle would be carved into rocks and trees, or even constructed into giant stone monoliths such as the one found at Stonehenge. Seen often, spirals are commonly associated with the cycle of life: from birth to death, and then ultimately to another birth. The direction of these spirals, number of groups, even sizes can be interpreted to remark on any particular aspect of life’s journey. Knots are another Celtic symbol often found in today’s culture, as they make popular tattoo, jewellery, and decoration ideas. Like spirals, knots can be depicted in a variety of ways in order to focus on a particular topic, their often unbroken lines representing strength, steadfastness, loyalty and honour, amongst other uses.

Exploring The Maze

Similarly, the Celtic maze resembles the more elaborate knot symbols, though it is often accurately regarded to be more of a straight line spiral. Whereas normal mazes have a beginning and end, the Celtic maze continues indefinitely, with some depicting the worries and troubles of life within the design. In order to achieve inner peace, it is said that one should mentally follow the maze’s route in a meditative rhythm, releasing problems and stress as you go along. Because a Celtic maze has no end, you can find peace in the inward journey knowing that while troubles are an inescapable part of life, we can continue to move forward despite them. The maze, like the spiral, reminds us of our inner journey: not to escape or merely survive it, but to achieve an inward strength, healing and growth.

Turning Back The Clock

Despite the decline of their culture, the Celtic people struggled to preserve the mysterious knowledge that they accumulated over thousands of years. While anthropologists and other academics continue to study what is currently known, the picture that emerges is of a people deeply connected with the earth, as well as with the potential of the human mind. Living in an era of warring tribes, inexplicable illnesses and other tragedies, the Celts managed to endure due in part to the resiliency achieved through their balance of the physical and spiritual worlds. Perhaps in the future even more secrets, lost now to history, will be uncovered, leading us to an even deeper understanding of the power within the human mind.

Could Getting a Dog Help You Get Back to Work After Experiencing Anxiety?

Dogs can provide emotional support while away from home

Jane Fisher discusses the therapeutic benefits of the companionship of dogs.

In the United Kingdom, it was reported that 300,000 people who experience long-term mental health diagnoses lose their jobs every year. Often times, experiences such as hearing voices or having panic attacks make it impossible to return to work right away. Many individuals have looked to the therapeutic benefits of owning a dog when facing anxiety.

Being away from familiar situations can quickly provoke anxiety. Whether travelling for a new job, or simply going to the office, emotional support dogs can travel with you wherever you go. Those who have various mental health conditions can register their dog as an emotional support animal (ESA) with various organisations. While not officially recognised in the UK by the government, many workplaces, hotels, and retail establishments are now allowing dogs on to their properties for this purpose.

What makes a dog a good candidate for serving as an individual’s emotional support animal? Rather than going through formal training, an emotional support animal is simply one that brings comfort to the owner. This can be especially helpful for those with severe anxiety disorders who are returning to work after being away for a period of time.

Research shows that dogs have the ability to reduce anxiety and stress

Even if you won’t be bringing your pup to your new place of employment, dogs can boost your mental health any time you are near him or her. In fact, research has shown that caring for a dog can reduce symptoms of both anxiety and depression. Why? Science shows that the simple act of playing with your dog elevates both serotonin and dopamine in the brain. These chemicals are responsible for calming the mind, balancing your mood, improving sleep quality, and creating feelings of happiness. Additionally, those who own a dog are significantly less likely to have depression and/or anxiety. Not only is it fun to interact with your pet, but the companionship provided can go a long way in reducing the symptoms of PTSD, bipolar disorder, generalised anxiety disorder, and other mental health conditions.

Walking your dog can also help reduce anxiety

Most dogs need to be walked at least once per day. Even if you walk your dog for just 30 minutes on a regular basis, you can expect to experience an overall improvement in anxiety symptoms. The movement, distractions, and breathing involved in walking have been proven to reduce the most common symptoms of stress and anxiety. To reap the biggest benefits from this activity, walk your new companion both before and after your work day.

Science has shown that owning a dog can be an exceptional complementary anxiety treatment when returning to the workplace.

The Future of HVN Cymru

The Future of HVN Cymru

Hearing Voices Network Cymru was launched in 2001 at the ‘Mind Cymru’ conference in Llandrindod Wells.

Since then, for the last eighteen years, Hearing Voices Network Cymru has been supported by Hywel Davies. 

In honour of his commitment and determination to spread the hearing voices approach we discussed how to ensure the sustainability and future development of the organisation.

In 2019 we decided to establish HVN Cymru as a formal not for profit organisation, registered as a Company Limited by Guarantee. Now to be known as Hearing Voices Network Cymru Ltd.

Hywel will continue as the president so the organisation will benefit from his knowledge, experience and determination.

The reasons for taking this step is to ensure the ongoing work of the organisation by establishing a Board of Directors to oversee the development of the organisation. 

A major focus for future work will be to offer training in the hearing voices approach especially for individuals.

If you would like to be involved in the future development of HVN Cymru please contact us at [email protected]

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