I just created a space for patients, caregivers, and professionals interested in MentalHealth. I hope for this group to become a space where people across the spectrum of Mental Health can find a well-meaning community to connect, discuss and collaborate with. Feel free to join in :)
Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and the Mental Health Innovation Network have launched a new resource called the "Global Mental Health Policy Influence Toolkit". This policy toolkit aims to provide innovators with tools to develop their policy influence or engagement strategy, touching on how to:
NHS England has launched an online library of programmes and apps to support people with mental health conditions.
The library, launched yesterday, contains a list of digital tools endorsed by the NHS for use in clinical practice with an initial focus on depression, anxiety and improving access to psychological therapies.
It is available on the NHS Choices website and adds to the site’s existing health apps library, which recommends smartphone and tablet apps on healthy living, health information and several specific conditions.
NHS England said mental health was chosen as the first area of focus due to the growing evidence base demonstrating that online tools can be effective in mental health treatment, helped by the flexibility of online services and greater discretion for people who want privacy.
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This factsheet aims to provide information on bipolar disorder. It will include information on the symptoms of bipolar disorder and how it can be treated and managed. It will also cover the recommendations for treatment that the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) makes.
• Approximately 1% of the population has bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder causes dramatic mood swings from extreme highs (mania) to extreme lows (depression). • Symptoms of mania include: increased energy, euphoria, impulsive behaviour and enhanced belief in own powers. Symptoms of depression include: lack of energy, feelings of worthlessness, low self esteem and suicidal tendencies. Psychotic symptoms can also be experienced in bipolar disorder. • There are different types of bipolar disorder depending how often you experience episodes and how extreme they can be • It is thought that genetics, brain chemicals and environmental factors play a role in causing the illness • Mood stabilisers, antidepressants and antipsychotics are commonly prescribed to treat bipolar. Often a combination of medication can be useful. Psychological treatments also have a role to help people overcome depressive periods as well as understanding the illness and promoting self care.
Researchers at Mayo Clinic developed a new scoring system to help determine which elderly people may be at a higher risk of developing the memory and thinking problems that can lead to dementia. The study is published in the March 18, 2015, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most significant cause of dementia in the elderly: it affects over 35 million people worldwide. It is reckoned that Alzheimer’s could reach epidemic proportions in developed countries unless therapies to cure or prevent it are obtained. Studies conducted so far reveal that the therapies are more effective when they are applied before the brain has become severely damaged. What is more, the spotting of early phases of the disease may help to develop new treatments.
People with a severe form of schizophrenia have major differences in their brain networks compared to others with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and healthy individuals, a new study from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) shows
Seeking deeper insight into epileptic seizures and their effect on the human body, Johns Hopkins' ResearchKit study will collect heart rate sensor and accelerometer data from Watch, gyroscope data from iPhone and dynamic user feedback to track a variety of biometric measurements during a seizure episode, according to a source familiar with the project. The iPhone and Watch apps, now in beta testing, are slated to go live on Sept. 18.While sensor readings are automated, like many current iPhone-based ResearchKit initiatives, other metrics are not so easily ascertained. Activating the test process and measuring lucidity, for example, require some form of direct user interaction, a steep demand considering the extremely stressful nature of a seizure event. To help participants complete individual sessions they are given physical cues to answer contextual onscreen survey questions via Watch's Taptic Engine. Alternatively, a caregiver might be able to initiate the testing process if present, the person said.
China has a staggering 173 million people with some sort of diagnosable mental disorder, according to a 2012 study in the journal Lancet. Of those, 158 million have never received any treatment. And China averages one psychiatrist for every 83,000 people. So many patients depend on their families for help.
The brain region that helps people tell whether an object is near or far may also guide how emotionally close they feel to others and how they rank them socially, according to a study conducted at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and published today in the journal Neuron. The findings promise to yield new insights into the social deficits that accompany psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia and depression.
Although community-based services are widely regarded as the best approach for providing mental health treatment and care, most low- and middle-income countries continue to spend the vast majority of their scarce mental health resources managing people with mental disorders in mental hospitals.
To better understand this vexing issue, 78 mental health experts representing 42 countries were surveyed on the relative usefulness of different methods to expand community-based mental health services, and/or to downsize institution-based care. Results indicate that there are several successful paths to deinstitutionalization. Most respondents emphasized—directly or indirectly—the importance of political skill and timing.
Based on the survey, five principles for deinstitutionalization were identified: community-based services must be in place; the health workforce must be committed to change; political support at the highest and broadest levels is crucial; timing is key; and additional financial resources are needed.
By Carley Chavara, Intern, Environmental Change and Security Program, The Wilson Center
In high-income countries, as many as 10 to 15 percent of women experience depression, anxiety, or other non-psychotic mental health challenges during pregnancy or the year after giving birth. In developing countries, the chances rise to 16 percent of pregnant women and 20 percent of postnatal women, according to Jane Fisher, professor of women’s health at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.
Despite the prevalence of these so-called perinatal common mental health disorders (PCMDs), they remain extremely underreported and undertreated. “We have a huge problem that has been kept under the carpet and it is just beginning to emerge,” said Dr. Ricardo Araya of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine at the Wilson Center on April 9.
PCMDs can increase the risk of preterm birth and low birth weight, cause irregular behavior among new mothers, and even lead to suicide. Accounts of psychological disturbances in pregnant women and new mothers go back as early as the mid-19th century in European literature.
While thousands of academic papers and other publications have documented evidence of PCMDs since then, social stigma has prevented more widespread awareness and treatment. It’s a “topic that has had to work hard to provide evidence about its fundamental importance to the health of women who are pregnant or who have recently given birth,” said Fisher.
While headlines like U.K. tabloid The Sun's "Madman In Cockpit" are hardly surprising, such sensational links between mental illness and horrific tragedies can have an undesired outcome when it comes to stigma.
Here are five ways to have a more productive conversation about the complex interplay between mental health, violence and tragedies such as this one.
1. Depression doesn't cause violence.
The public's perception of mental illness -- which is largely fueled by movies featuring mentally-ill individuals turned violent and news headlines that thread mental illness into every story about mass killings -- needs a readjustment.
People who are depressed are not likely to be violent. If they were, we'd all be in trouble: One in five of us will experience a serious mental health issue at some point in our lives, but only 3-5 percent of violent acts in the United States are committed by an individual with serious mental illness -- a tiny fraction of the country's violent crimes.
"If we were able to magically cure schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression, that would be wonderful, but overall violence would go down by only about 4 percent," said Dr. Jeffrey Swanson, an expert on mental health and violence and a professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Duke University School of Medicine, in a recent interview with Pacific Standard.
What makes this misrepresentation even worse is that individuals who suffer from mental illness are 10 times more likely than the general population to be the victim of violent crime, an under-reported issue that is overlooked in favor of misleading depictions of depression as a violent condition.
2. Suggesting mental illness as the root cause of violence stigmatizes those who live healthy, full lives with conditions like depression.
Approximately one in four U.S. adults in a given year suffer from a diagnosable mental illness, making it highly likely that you know someone who has been affected. However, only 25 percent of people who have mental health symptoms feel that others are understanding toward people with mental illness, according to the CDC. And it's no secret why.
Public diagnoses, such as the discussion surrounding the Germanwings tragedy, plague every single mental illness sufferer. The truth is, the majority of those who have a mental health problem live healthy and complete lives. They are reliable at work and beloved by their families. Yet many people categorize them as "abnormal" because of unsubstantiated scapegoating during these types of tragedies, which can have a real impact: Studies have shown that knowledge, culture and social networkscan influence the relationship between stigma and access to care. When people feel stigma, they are less likely to seek the help they need.
The vast majority of people with mental illnesses are law-abiding, responsible and productive citizens.
3. Mental illness disclosure policies can push people further into the closet.
Lubitz was seeking treatment for an undisclosed medical condition that he kept from his employers, alleged the public prosecutor’s office in Dusseldorf, Germany. They didn’t say whether it was a mental or physical condition, but investigators did note that they found a torn-up doctor’s note declaring him unfit for work, reported CNN. Employees in Germany are expected to tell their employers immediately if they can’t work due to an illness, according to Reuters, and that doctor's note would have kept Lubitz grounded and out of the cockpit.
Lubitz had passed special health screenings, including psychological ones, before he was hired on as a co-pilot in 2013, reported ABC News, but unlike in the U.S. airline industry, annual mental health screenings for pilots aren’t a requirement in Germany. Additionally, per Federal Aviation Administration rules, U.S. pilots must disclose all “existing physical and psychological conditions and medications” or face fines of up to $250,000 if they’re found to have delivered false information. That means if he were an American pilot, Lubitz would have been obligated to disclose any and all conditions, as well as the medicines he was taking, in order to remain in good standing at his job. Because of these and other policies, U.S. airline standards areregarded as the strictest and safest around the world (though not without their flaws).
But just because the FAA requires full health disclosure to an FAA-designated Aviation Medical Examiner doesn’t mean that pilots may feel completely safe disclosing their conditions, according to Ron Honberg, director of policy and legal affairs at National Alliance On Mental Illness.
“If a person feels that it’s safe to disclose, and that they’ll have an opportunity to get help -- that there won’t automatically be adverse consequences like being prohibited from ever flying again -- then they’re going to be more likely to disclose [a mental illness],” said Honberg. “But I think historically pilots have known that if they admitted it, they’d never be able to fly again.”
Generally speaking, barring industries where a person may be responsible for public safety (like a pilot or a police officer), one is not obligated to disclose any of this information to his or her employers in the U.S. Just as people don’t have to tell their bosses about diabetes, cardiac disease or HIV diagnoses, employees can’t be forced to discuss their mental health history beyond anything that may interfere with a person’s function at the job, explained Honberg. And employers can’t ask job candidates about their medical records or medical history except to ask about whether something might impact a person’s functional limitation in a job.
“It has to be focused on if they’re capable of doing the job,” said Honberg. “Are there physical or mental health factors that may preclude them from being able to do that?”
The FAA does not track rates of dismissal for pilots who disclose mental illnesses versus other conditions, or the number of pilots who continue to fly after disclosing a mental illness. But until we have all the facts about Lubitz’s situation, it’s important to hold off on any policy changes that might attempt to close up perceived loopholes, he said.
“It’s really important to have all the facts, particularly before we decide on any policies to prevent anything like this from happening again,” said Honberg. “We want to somehow create a proper balance that on the one hand protects public safety and on the other hand encourages people to seek help if needed."
4. The conversation surrounding mental illness and mass violence reveals our ingrained ethnic and racial biases.
Lubitz allegedly committed mass murder and, as many people have pointed out, it is troubling that his acts are ascribed to mental illness when, if he were Muslim or a racial minority, he would likely be assigned a two-dimensional ideological motivation.
Yes, this is a disturbing expression of the dominant culture's racial pathologies, but rather than trying to correct the balance by referring to white mass murderers in an un-nuanced fashion, as some have suggested, perhaps the more productive action would be to view the underlying mental health problems among everyone who carries out mass violence -- regardless of race, religion or country of origin.
Again, most people with mental illness will never be violent, but those who are violent often do have an underlying trauma or condition. "More and more evidence from around the world is suggesting that many of the terrorists wreaking havoc both in America and abroad are racked with emotional and mental trauma themselves," wrote Cord Jefferson in The Nation in 2012:
To be clear, nobody’s saying that all -- or even most -- terrorists aren’t cold, bloodthirsty killers who know exactly what they’re doing every time they commit another heinous act. But there is reason to believe that a significant number of foreign and domestic terrorists are suffering from the exact same mental distresses by which we quickly assume men like James Holmes and boys like Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the Columbine killers, to be afflicted.
Indeed, Jefferson went on to note a study of Palestinian men who had signed up to be suicide bombers that found 40 percent showed suicidal tendencies by traditional mental health measures, and recruiters admitted looking for "sad guys" to carry out mass violence.
More generally, the way we view mental health and race has a lasting public health impact: Minority and immigrant communities in the U.S. are dramatically underserved, according to a government report (and corroborated by the American Psychological Association). One major problem, according to the Surgeon General's report, is misdiagnosis or lack of diagnosis due to cultural biases on the part of mental health practitioners.
5. We may never have a diagnosis, and we have to be okay with that.
When tragedy strikes, it's a natural human inclination to want an explanation to help get closure for our feelings of anger and loss. When such information is unavailable to us, our grief remains in this limbo of sorts -- or worse, we search for our own answer to help us move forward.
To be told that a scene of mass death is the result of an accident of terrorism is to be given not only an explanation of the cause but also an idea of how to reckon with the consequence -- through justice, or revenge, or measures meant to prevent a recurrence.
According to CNN, a physician did declare Lubitz unfit to work the day of the flight, and instead of sharing that information with Germanwings, Lubitz disposed of the note and boarded the plane. But even in light of such information, it's highly unlikely that we will ever know exactly what was going on in the mind of this pilot, and it is far from our place to speak as though we have a definitive answer.
In the words of Gourevitch, we are left with a sense of "cosmic meaninglessness and bewilderment" when horrific events such as this one occur, and while that is one of the toughest collections of emotions to grapple with, there is no credible alternative in cases like this.
Epilepsy is a very prevalent neurological disorder. Approximately one-third of patients are resistant to currently available therapies. A team of researchers under the guidance of the Institute of Cellular Neurosciences at the University of Bonn has discovered a new cause to explain the development of temporal lobe epilepsy: At an early stage, astrocytes are uncoupled from each other. This results in the extracellular accumulation of potassium ions and neurotransmitters, which cause hyperexcitability of the neurons.
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