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Archive for the ‘Mental Health News’ Category

It never ceases to amaze me about the things journalists come up with in the tabloids let alone the lengths families go to to  save their reputation and that of their loved one who has acted inappropriately.

Matthew Newton, son of Bert Newton – Australian icon. 

Latest article if you are not familiar with the reporting: http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/08/30/2996958.htm

Let’s do a quick summary of Matthew’s father shall we?

Bert Newton – alcoholic, psychiatric ward stay, Electroconvulsive Therapy, caught drink driving on numerous occasions, lost licence, well-known assertion Bert assaults Patti (wife) during drunken rages.

Matthew Newton – Ice and Marijuana (and the like) addict, assaults first girlfriend, quashed case, assaults second girlfriend, psychiatric ward, mental illness, suicide watch.

I’m going to be very blunt here and say that it is blatantly obvious to me that Bert never learnt from his family of origin how to adequately deal with life’s problems therefore he turned to the bottle to suppress his emotions which subsequently ignited his internal rage that he took out on his wife using violence.

Matthew comes into the picture and doesn’t learn a healthy way of dealing with his problems from the male role model in his life (his God, his father). He learns by example to suppress not express his feelings and problems and turns to drugs and alcohol to kill his internal pain. He too (under the influence) takes out his internal rage on the women in his life.

Matthew may have a mental illness but I can bet your bottom dollar it was ignited by his drug use. To blame his actions on his illness is what makes society think all mentally ill people are dangerous. This type of reporting only serves to fuel public stigma, not reduce it.

We see and experience it all so often yet the tabloids continue to gloss over this family like they are “perfect” and have a poor mentally ill child.  When will the world realise that children are products of their upbringing?

Sure, Matthew’s an adult but so am I! We are of similar age. Had I have known back then what I know now I would have literally dived into Alanon a long time ago. There are people in their 50’s and 60’s who still don’t understand why their life has always been “up the creek”.

I feel for Matthew and hope that he finds the strength to get into and continue in a 12 Step recovery program like Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous to help him deal with his demons for his failure to do so will spread the dysfunction down the Newton line. 

I have made an oath with myself that my family’s dysfunction stops at me.

Where does yours stop?

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Children born to older fathers face a greater chance of developing bipolar disorder, according to one of the largest studies linking mental illness with advanced paternal age.

Previous research has connected schizophrenia and autism with older dads, and a Danish study published last year added bipolar disorder to the list.

The new study, led by researchers at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, strengthens the evidence.

The leading theory is that older men’s sperm may be more likely to develop mutations. Even so, the odds of a person becoming bipolar are so low the study’s authors said it shouldn’t dissuade older men from becoming fathers.

Researchers analysed Swedish national registry data from more than 80,000 people, including 13,428 with bipolar disorder who were born between 1932 and 1991.

The risks started increasing around age 40 but were strongest among those 55 and older. Children born to these dads were 37 per cent more likely to develop bipolar disorder than those born to men in their 20s.

They also faced more than double the risk of developing bipolar disorder before age 20. Scientists call that early onset disease, and while they have long known bipolar disorder tends to run in families, early onset disease has been thought to be most strongly linked with genetics.

The age of the mothers didn’t appear to be much of a factor.

While the findings don’t explain what might cause some older men to have bipolar children, it “reinforces the notion that there’s a strong biological component to this,” said Dr Harold Pincus, vice-chair of psychiatry at Columbia University.

Lifetime risks for it have been estimated at roughly 1 per cent to 4 per cent. The study results suggest that having an older father might increase that slightly.

The findings aren’t definitive, but even if the link proves to be real, Pincus noted that still means most people with older fathers won’t ever get bipolar disorder.

Sperm are produced throughout a man’s lifetime, and scientists believe as men age there is a greater chance for mutations that could contribute to disorders in their children.

Advanced paternal age also has been linked with birth defects, and some sperm banks have age limits for donors because of that.

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While listening to Marilyn Manson today I found myself wondering whether he had any hidden messages in his music and whether people who hear hidden messages in music have a mental illness.

I googled it and found out that backward messages in music (commonly known as Backward Masking) have been a controversy ever since the late 60’s when messages were found backwards on some Beatles albums that hinted Paul McCartney had died. The controversy raged extensively in the late 70’s and early 80’s when religious fundamentalists claimed that Satan possessed the minds of singers causing them to insert messages backwards into albums.

I vaguely remember a case of subliminal messages in music held against Judas Priest. The band was involved in a civil action that alleged they were responsible for the suicide attempts in 1985 of 20-year old James Vance and 19-year old Ray Belknap in USA;. On December 23 1985 Vance and Belknap got intoxicated then went to a playground at a Lutheran church in Reno. Belknap shot himself dying instantly, and Vance followed, but survived with a severely disfigured face. He died three years later after a suicidal overdose of painkillers.

The mens’ parents and their legal team alleged that a subliminal message of “do it” had been included in the Judas Priest song “Better By You Better Than Me”.  They alleged the command in the song triggered the suicide attempt. The case was eventually dismissed.

I am a heavy metal/emo fan and I came across this article printed in the Canberra Times that indicated that teenagers’ taste in music is associated with antisocial behaviour, vulnerability to suicide and drug use.

University of Queensland School of Music senior lecturer Felicity Baker and Kids in Mind Research director William Bor investigated if music could trigger mental health problems among young people.

It came after 16-year-old friends Jodie Gater and Stephanie Gestier committed suicide in Melbourne.

”In the aftermath of the double suicide of two teenage girls in 2007, the media linked the themes of emo music and the girls’ mental state,” Dr Baker said in a paper published in Australasian Psychiatry.

”Emo music short for emotional music typically expresses the outpouring of emotions usually associated with relationship break-ups or other tragic events. But it is not just emo music that has been the subject of scrutiny by the media.

”Rap music, country and heavy metal have also been blamed for antisocial behaviours, including violence, theft, promiscuity and drug use.”

Dr Baker and Dr Bor reviewed the findings from several studies to determine if music could trigger drug use, violence, antisocial behaviour and suicide among young people. ”Preference for heavy metal music and rap music correlate with a range of antisocial and other behaviour,” Dr Baker said.

”While the research does not suggest that music causes such behaviours, it may well be that music preference is indicative of an underlying emotional disturbance or vulnerability. In fact, the research found that those adolescents with antisocial behaviour who listened to heavy metal music felt disconnected, lacked a stable identity, and had low self-esteem.

”Anger, violence and misogyny were especially associated with rap music. Similarly heavy metal music, particularly for girls, was associated with self-harm or suicidal ideation.”

Dr Baker said more research was needed to determine whether music preferences of those with mental health issues differed markedly from the general adolescent population.

I’ve been a fan of heavy metal music for many years and thinking back now I associated it with a release of emotions and a way to express my defiance in life’s situations, not with self harm or suicidal ideation. Come to think of it I was a bit promiscuous and theiving in my teenage years too.

I can understand why researchers found that heavy metal music indicates an underlying emotional disturbance or vulnerability but I can’t understand why it’s so important to research the connection. After all, the research did find that the music does not cause drug use, violence, antisocial behaviour and suicide among young people. You will never get rid of heavy metal music. Surely taxpayer’s money could be used more effectively like providing more mental health services to the population.

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Researchers from the Queensland Brain Institute are set to conduct a world first trial into the link between prenatal vitamin D levels and schizophrenia.

Funded by the NHMRC and led by QBI’s Dr Darryl Eyles, a team of four researchers will study blood spots taken from newborn babies who have gone on to develop schizophrenia in early adulthood.

“Undeniably, low maternal vitamin D affects the way the brain develops,” Dr Eyles said.

“Over the past four years we’ve been able to show that low vitamin D intake in animals during pregnancy results in offspring with brain abnormalities similar to those seen in patients with schizophrenia.”

The next step is to test the hypothesis on humans.

By analysing the blood spots of new born babies, the team will be able to tell the baby’s vitamin D levels at the time of birth.

This type of study is possible because of a biobank located at the Statens Serum Institute in Copenhagen where the they have not only stored newborn blood spots since 1981, but kept ongoing medical records for each sample.

“This is a true test of the hypothesis,” Dr Eyles said.

“The Danes are only able to give us 1.6 microlitres of plasma so we’ve had to come up with a method of determining the vitamin D levels in that tiny amount of blood.

It is expected that the analysis will commence in September.

“If we establish the link in this huge patient cohort, we will be able to show that having low maternal vitamin D does not necessarily mean a child is going to develop schizophrenia but, if a child has a particularly vulnerable genome, the low maternal vitamin D may be the environmental trigger,” Dr Eyles said.

“It’s the combination of gene and environment which triggers the disease.”

Schizophrenia affects approximately one percent of the world’s population.

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I recently had coffee with two people affilliated with a major lending institution. They are involved in reposessing houses.

I myself work in mortgagee sales and  the conversation ventured into the attitude of borrowers who are in the process of having their house reposessed.

What shocked and saddened me were the remarks made by these representatives of this major lending institution.

They laughed at the fact that Mr X had been threatening to kill himself for 6 months and they skited that he’s never going to do it as he hasn’t got the guts. They called Mrs X “a nutter” for scrawling obsence messages about the bank on the walls of her home because they repossessed her house. They boasted about Mr X hanging himself in the garage of his own home.

I was apalled and utterly disgusted at their attitudes but could not speak up as I was supposed to be sucking eggs. Not only did they degrade mental illness and the utter hoplessness and depression these people must feel but they offended me being a sufferer of a mental illness.

It goes to show the hardened attitude our banks have developed towards the everyday borrower. I imagine they become immune to the feelings of others after some time in the business and must develop a hardened outer shell otherwise they’ll become too involved in their work. Or maybe they’re just a pack of inconsiderate bastards.

Is it too much to ask that our banks show a little more compassion and understanding for the current economic climate and how it affects the everyday person?

I’m just glad that my attitude will never stoop so low as to laugh at someone who has a mental illness and there are people like me in the business who can sympathise with homeowners and the hardships they are facing trying to support their mortgage.

It was after this conversation that I began to question why I am in the line of work I am in.

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The devastating effects of mental illness have been well documented in films, books, and academia. But until recently there has been little said about the sisters and brothers of the mentally ill. Now researchers are starting to look at what they’re calling the “well-sibling” syndrome.

“As hard as parents may try, and they do, to meet the needs of their well siblings,” says Dianne Marsh, a Psychologist of the University of Pittsburg. “time and energy are simply finite. And so siblings often feel like the forgotten family members. Everyone else’s problems are more important than theirs.”

Marsh conducted one of the first studies of well siblings of the mentally ill and wrote about it in her book, Troubled Journey. Her co-author, Rex Dickens, himself the brother of three mentally ill siblings, says that over time, sisters and brothers of the mentally ill become frozen souls.

“You sort of shut down, emotionally, in part of your life,” says Dickens, “and that carries over to other areas. You can’t trust, you can’t feel, you can’t talk. There’s a core that gets frozen in time, maybe to be dealt with later, but it never does get dealt with.”

Marsh and Dickens found that well siblings have higher rates of depression than the general public.

Other siblings worry they might “catch” what their brother or sister has. Clea Simon is a Boston journalist who wrote the memoir, Madhouse: Growing up the Shadow of Mentally Ill Siblings. Both of her older siblings were struck with schizophrenia when she was only 6.

“When you see your brother or sister grow up and change from your brother and sister to something scary and weird and alien,” says Simon, “you just think that’s what happens. You think that when you hit 16, you’re allowed to date, and drive, and then you’re hospitalized.”

Simon often witnessed, or became the target of, her siblings’ violent outbursts, which is why she, and many other well siblings, believe they may now suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder – a collection of debilitating symptoms from flashbacks to nightmares.

And while all families are different, most siblings seem to be affected at least by survivor’s guilt Why was my sister or brother afflicted? Why not me?

“And as they mature and they go on to careers and relationships and families,” says Marsh, “over and over again we heard that it is with a sense of loss for their sibling who may not be able to move on.”

As siblings age, there are practical concerns beyond the existential ones. In one clinical survey, 94 percent of well siblings reported a pervasive worry that they will have to care for a mentally ill brother or sister when their parents no longer can. And that worry is not an idle one.

Read about the lives of Olivia Stanas who has bipolar disorder and her siblings Rose & Audrey and the affect the illness has on Rose, Audrey and her family or the lives of Pamela Spiro Wagner and Carolyn Spiro where Pam has Schizophrenia and is looked after by Carolyn by clicking HERE.

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Over the centuries, many people have been naturally drawn to writing about their life and their experiences, through journals, creative writing, and other forms of written expression.   Day to day life can be stressful as people strive for balance between family, friends and work. 

The Black Dog Institute of NSW Australia are interested in whether certain kinds of expressive writing can be helpful for people in managing their moods, stress levels and general health. The ‘Writing and Mood’ study is investigating whether particular ways of writing about our lives and our experiences can offer benefits for our moods, emotional and physical health. 

They are also interested in whether people with certain personality styles find writing in certain ways to be more helpful than others.

To participate you must be between 18-65, speak/write English and have access to the internet and email.

For more information click HERE.

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