Thursday, October 29, 2009

Humour - Why can't I tickle myself?

This is a little off the beaten laughter path, but believe it or not, some research is being conducted in this area. In fact, researchers at the University of California in San Diego have even constructed a "tickle machine."
Some scientists believe that laughing caused by tickling is a built-in reflex. If this is true, then, theoretically, you should be able to tickle yourself. But you can't -- not even in the same area and the same way someone else tickles you into hysteria! The information sent to your spinal cord and brain should be exactly the same. But apparently, for tickling to work, the brain needs tension and surprise -- something that's obviously missing when you tickle yourself. How the brain uses this information about tension and surprise is still a mystery.

Advocacy - The older we get the more we help out

Seems the older we get, particularly as we can no longer physically do what we used to do, the more we are prepared to help out others, as this study reveals.

Source: J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2009 Nov;64(6):723-32. Epub 2009 Oct 13. This study examined 'felt obligation' to help others in two domains (close others and society) as protective factors against losses in psychological well-being following functional decline. Lagged-dependent regression models were estimated using data from 849 respondents aged 35-74 years and without any functional limitations at baseline in the 1995-2005 National Survey of Midlife in the United States.
Greater felt obligation to help close others protected against declining self-acceptance in the face of more severe functional decline, and greater felt obligation to help society protected against declining personal growth and self-acceptance.
Greater felt obligation to help close others and society protected against increasing depressive symptoms at younger ages in adulthood.
Findings suggest the importance for additional research on how aspects of altruism can promote psychological adaptation to declining functional health in middle and later life.

Advocacy - Seniors do not access mental health help enough

Seniors who were hospitalised for a psychiatric illness were less likely to get recommended follow-up care if their Medicare plans required that they pay more for mental health care than for other medical care, researchers have found.
“We have solid evidence that people who get appropriate care after leaving the hospital are less likely to be readmitted to the hospital and have better mental health outcomes,” said Dr. Amal N. Trivedi, assistant professor of community health at the Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown University and an author of the study.
“What our study found is that these co-payments act as a pretty potent barrier to getting appropriate care,” he added.
The study, published recently in The Journal of the American Medical Association, reviewed the records of 43,892 Medicare beneficiaries who had been hospitalised for a mental illness between 2001 and 2006.
Beneficiaries who incurred the same out-of-pocket costs for mental health visits as for any other doctor visit were 10.9 percent more likely to get recommended follow-up care within a week of being released from a psychiatric hospital than were those who had to pay more for mental health care, the researchers found.
Overall rates of follow-up care were low, however. Only 45 percent of seniors who had parity in coverage — meaning they paid the same for mental health visits as for other doctor visits — obtained follow-up treatment within seven days of discharge from a psychiatric hospitalization, compared to 32 percent of those who did not have parity.
The gap was nearly 11 percent after figures were adjusted for differences in patients’ gender, race and socioeconomic status, the researchers said.
The vast majority of Medicare plans require patients to pay more for mental health care visits than for other care, the study found. That should change by 2010, when a new federal law requiring parity in cost-sharing for mental health services goes into effect.

From a report in the New York Times

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Childhood cheeseburgers and adult weight gain

If you have trouble keeping weight off and you're wondering why – the surprising answer may well be the cheeseburgers you ate – when you were a toddler.

To view the full article click on the link below

Omega 3 Fatty Acids and feeling good

In a study of 106 healthy volunteers, researchers found that participants who had lower blood levels of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids were more likely to report mild or moderate symptoms of depression, a more negative outlook and be more impulsive. Conversely, those with higher blood levels of omega-3s were found to be more agreeable.

To view the full article click on the link

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Anxiety - Longtitudinal Study
Here's is an excellent magazine article, based on a longtitudinal study into Temperement. If you have wanted to know, in an easy to read manner, a lot about anxiety, this is an article for you.

Click on the link for the full article

Mediterranean Diet Improves Mental Health

Eating a Mediterranean-style diet — packed with fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, olive oil and fish — is good for your heart, many studies have found. Now scientists are suggesting the diet may be good for your mental health, too.

For the full article click on the link

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Are there benefits in being depressed?

Evolutionary Theory, which indicates that as we evolve we hold onto traits that benefit us, would see depression as a necessary protective mechanism. The ultimate reward of recognising depression is that the depression acts as a trigger for change.

for more on this story, click the link

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Amazing sand art - you MUST check it out!

Every now and then you come across something amazing. I did that today. It's a YouTube clip about a sand artist called Kseniya Simonova and she does sand art - tells stories through sand. Wow it is INCREDIBLE! (How big can I make the word INCREDIBLE!!??). It is also very moving. So if you want to be inspired take a look.

I also look at it from the view point of "who would have thought"? You know that feeling, when sometimes we are feeling down, not feeling good enough and we are busy comparing ourselves with other people we know? Well this kind of 'thing' such as watching the sand art, reminds me of what we do not know and what potentials are out there for us. Things we haven't even thought of, potentials untapped.

Maybe that sounds a bit dramatic but while you are watching Kseniya's art, think of all the 'lonely' times she would have had perfecting it - think of her telling others she wants to do sand art ("sand art!" would have come the response!). Well she did it and it's great.

And she is gorgeous! I say that because she could easily be out there doing other 'girly' stuff but she has dedicated herself to this art. Well I'll get off my podium now and let you go and watch the 2 videos I saw.

Video 1

Video 2

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Link between childhood abuse and adult unemployment and poverty

The National Institute of Mental Health (America) has released a Ph.D study by David Zielinski that has linked childhood maltreatment to higher rates of unemployment and poverty.

It is generally understood that negative early life experiences can adversely affect a person’s physical and mental health in adulthood but few studies have looked at the link between childhood maltreatment and later socioeconomic well-being.

Results from the study:

> Adults who were physically or sexually abused or experienced any type of maltreatment in childhood had a higher chance of being unemployed compared to non-victims, as well as living below the poverty line and using social services.
> There was an increased risk of unemployment related to the type of abuse. Those who were physically abused had a 140% increased chance of being unemployed while those with multiple forms of abuse had a 190% increase.
>However, those who had been sexually abused or experienced severe neglect did not show differences in unemployment compared to non-victims
>Physical abuse resulted in a 60% increased chance of living below the poverty line, which rose to 180% for those with multiple forms of abuse


>Why are some forms of abuse linked to higher levels of unemployment than others?
>Assessing childhood abuse in the unemployed may aid increased targeted job training and job counselling programs for this population.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Link between anxiety and depression and being fat

Common mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression, may increase a person's risk of obesity, and people with repeated episodes of these disorders are particularly at risk, British researchers say.
In the study, published in the Oct. 7 online edition of the BMJ, researchers analyzed data from four medical screenings of 4,363 British civil servants aged 35 to 55 conducted over 19 years (1985 to 2004). Each screening included assessment of mental health and measurement of height and weight.
Read more ....

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Mental Health Mental Upper

Hi! I came across this today so thought I would share. "Saturation Praise" For 60 secs the only things you can think about are what you like about yourself or the world. So if you're feeling a little down try to muster up enough energy to give it a go.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Our viscious cycles

I've regularly counselled people where, before the session begins, I'm fairly sure I will find a dys-functional pattern of behaviours that lead to a regular cycle of predictable outcomes. Just recently I counselled a man 'stuck' in depression. According to him he'd had depression for at least 6 months and had been on medication for a few months, having to change medications 3 times until he found one where the side effects were minimal. He said the medication stopped the severity of the lows. What medication will not do is stop the pattern of thinking that may lead to depression.

In the first session of counselling often what takes place is a lot of listening on my behalf as the counsellor. This gives the client the chance to 'off load' what they see is the problem. For this man it was feeling as though he could not make a choice, resulting him often feeling as though his head was 'stuck in the sand', blocking out the outside world.

It became apparent that this result of feeling as though his head was stuck in the sand had happened quite a few times in his life. It had happened at work, with his family, at school (years earlier) and now in his marriage.

It appears a cycle occurs where the 'reward' is his stuckness - his head in the sand feeling. It seems odd saying this is a reward, but it is a reward in the sesne that when things get tough, when problems arise, when stress builds up, at least he can bury his head in the sand and block out the world. Trouble is he doesn't know how to get his head out later!

We attempted to work on some strategies that could break the cycle but it's proving hard to break so far. The head in the sand 'com-for-tability' combined with depression was making change very difficult. He wants to change but stuckness is proving very attractive at the moment. After all it's predicatable and 'comfortable' - nothing to do with happiness but more comfortableness.

So what's your cycle? What keeps you stuck? What are you comfortable doing (what's your head in the sand trick?). It's worth thinking about. It could be the key to getting your head out of the sand - or what ever your 'thing' is!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Staying mentally well

In the western world it is easy to relate happiness to material possessions. The more we have, supposedly the happier we are. A new car is meant to be better than an old car. Earning more money allows you to buy more and go on more holidays, buy a bigger house, a flashy boat. On it goes.

However, research repeatedly shows this is not the case. In fact happiness is an illusion if you strive for it constantly. Particularly if you believe having more means you will be happier. That would then indicate wealthy people are happier than those with less. This is certainly not the case. Mental illness does not discriminate against those with wealth and those who do not have as much. We also know a lot of mental illness, particularly depression, can be triggered by our life style and life events. Taking that into account, if more wealth makes you happier you would expect levels of depression in the wealthy to be less than those who are less wealthy. This is not the case.

So what can contribute to our happiness? It really is engaging in very simple activities. Fixing the lawnmower. Going for a bike ride. Doing a bit of gardening. Doing someone a favour. Helping others. Spending time with your family. Catching up with a friend. Engaging in a hobby. Trying something new. Taking a risk. What would it be that you would like to do that you haven't done for a while or something you've always wanted to do but haven't got around to it yet? Why not give it a go?

In fact there is a great deal of evidence to show that helping others is beneficial to our health. Volunteering to help others in some way, even something like giving someone a lift to the shops who might not otherwise be able to manage it on their own, releases the 'happy' hormones that help us be happier.

So what can you do today that does not involve spending money or striving for more in the material world? Give it a go! It might make you happy!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

How can I become more mentally healthy?

Keeping mentally healthy is just as important as staying physically healthy and it’s as easy as A-B-C: Act-Belong-Commit.

take a walk, read a book, do a crossword puzzle, dance, say g’day. Being active physically, socially and mentally helps us cope with stresses, builds friendships and lifts our spirits. Make a list of things you enjoy and spend more time doing them!

join a book club, a sporting team, a walking group or start a cooking class. Be more involved in community organisations and attend community events. Hang out with people who share your values and interests. Belonging helps build friendships, creates opportunities for meaningful participation, strengthens communities and it simply feels good!

make that extra ‘commitment’ to a hobby or a good cause. Help out a neighbour, or volunteer for a good cause. Be a coach or a mentor. Support your community clubs and groups. Try something challenging; learn a new skill. These activities give meaning to life. Being active, having a sense of belonging and having a purpose in life all contribute to happiness and good mental health. Act-Belong-Commit.

How can I get involved?

Look in your local community directory for hobby groups in your area
Contact your local council, community development officer
Surf the web. Most local governments have a community directory on their website
Ask your friends, neighbours and colleagues about groups they are involved in
Scan your local newspaper; community newspapers contain a wealth of information on local activities and events

Article from

Sunday, October 4, 2009

We need your help to make things better!

Hi! The Association For Better Mental Health is moving along in leaps and bounds in fulfilling our mission of ensuring no person with mental illness suffers in silence. Of course it's a huge job, especially when you consider approximately 1.75 billion people at anyone time are experiencing some form of mental illness in the world - from depression and anxiety right through to paranoia, schizophrenia and attempts at suicide.

As founder of the Association I want to make sure I'm on track with what members want. If you visit my web site you can see that we have over 1,500 members and growing everyday. As the long time saying says "There is power in numbers" and I know when I formed the Association that I could make more changes to the world mental health scene if I had on board a lot of similar thinking people, than if I tried to go it alone.

So your input is vital. Could you spend a few minutes answering the following questions? When you have finished could you copy and paste them into an email and send it to email Mark (

1. Is it a good idea to offer members financial assistance such as the current offer to give a cash gift of $20,000 to help improve the quality of life for someone with mental illness? YES/NO

2. Is it a good idea to extend our reach to help those very disadvantaged, such as Bali residents where those with mental illness are sometimes chained up at home 24 hours a day? YES/NO

3. Do we need more of an interactive blog so that members can increase their chat with each other? YES/NO

4. What do you think should be our next project to help those with mental health issues (you and I)? I THINK THE NEXT PROJECT SHOULD BE

5. What will make this a better site and Association so that we can attract more members? What would you like to see included? I WOULD LIKE INCLUDED

Remember to copy and pasted this blog into an email with your answers and suggestions. I and the Association members will greatly appreciate your input.

HINT: To copy and paste - at the beginning of this blog put your mouse over the first word (Hi!) - left click - hold down the left click and drag the mouse to the end of this blog - then right click and choose 'copy' - then open your email and in the body (where your write your emails) right click and choose 'paste'.


Thursday, October 1, 2009

New Treatment for teenagers with suicidal thoughts

A novel treatment approach that includes medication plus a newly developed type of psychotherapy that targets suicidal thinking and behavior shows promise in treating depressed adolescents who had recently attempted suicide, according to a treatment development and pilot study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). The study, described in three articles, was published in the October 2009 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.


Youth who attempt suicide are particularly difficult to treat because they often leave treatment prematurely, and no specific interventions exist that reliably reduce suicidal thinking and behavior (suicidality). In addition, these teens often are excluded from clinical trials testing depression treatments. The Treatment of Adolescent Suicide Attempters Study (TASA) was developed to address this need and identify factors that may predict and mediate suicide reattempts among this vulnerable population. A novel psychotherapy used in the study—cognitive behavioral therapy for suicide prevention (CBT-SP—was developed to address the need for a specific psychotherapy that would prevent or reduce the risk for suicide reattempts among teens. CBT-SP consisted of a 12-week acute treatment phase focusing on safety planning, understanding the circumstances and vulnerabilities that lead to suicidal behavior, and building life skills to prevent a reattempt. A maintenance continuation phase followed the acute phase.

To read the rest of the article go to:

What is Mental Illness?

Mental illness is a collection of disorders characterized by symptoms such as extreme mood swings, disturbances in thought or perception, overwhelming obsessions or fears, or high levels of debilitating anxiety. There is no objective medical test that determines whether or not you or a loved one has a mental illness. Diagnosis is based on self-report (what you say you are experiencing), observations by family and friends, disturbances in your behaviour and the judgment and experience of a medical practitioner (your family doctor but, for more serious mental illness, a psychiatrist).

Often people wait a long time before they ask for help. They and their family feel that something is wrong – but they don’t know what. In addition, diagnosing a mental illness can take time – with many people reporting that it took months, and sometimes years to get a diagnosis that fit with what they were experiencing.

There are a number of reasons people struggle with a mental illness without reaching out for help: They simply don’t know what’s wrong and feel they are just “different;” they feel they can beat it on their own; they are ashamed and try to hide their symptoms; exasperated family and friends tell them to “get over it;” or they reach out for help but their first experience leaves them feeling disregarded and misunderstood.