Tag Archives: depression

Daily Prompt – The Climate Doesn’t Control You

Daily Prompt asked: The idea that the weather and people’s moods are connected is quite old. Do you agree? If yes, how does the weather affect your mood?

There has been a lot of research that supports the claim that the weather indeed affects people’s moods (but not the other way around). Seasonal Affective Disorder,also known as ‘winter depression’, for instance highlights the correlation that exists between the change in seasons and the changes in some people’s moods (winter = low mood and lack of interest). Having read quite a few research papers around the topic, it is pretty hard to argue against the idea that the weather affects our moods.

However, I argue that we can manage the effects of the weather on us. Sure, rainy days and the bitterly cold and dark winters may initially bring us down. Some of us may get upset when it rains or when it is cold simply because we expect the sun to come out. But we should not get carried away. We need to realise that we do not- and cannot- control the weather, but we can control our reactions to it. Yes, it is disappointing when it rains on the day we booked a bouncy castle for our child’s birthday party, or on the day that we plan to have a barbeque. But what can you do? Blame the heavens? Well, you could, but what good would that do? Instead of slumping and huffing and puffing, we could change our outlook. Change our plans, or even better, have a plan B. Plan ahead and develop  a few alternatives.

We should also cherish the moments when the weather is not the one that we are hoping for because those days will make us treasure the sunny, bright days that will come.

Focus on the things that we can control; not the ones that we cannot.

Life is too short to be disappointed or upset because of the weather.

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Sometimes Teachers Just Need To Shut Up

Teachers are not only there for the academic side of things. They also serve as counselors, peace-maker and sometimes, therapists. You know what I mean. Students at some point will have concerns and worries about their friends and families. These worries are often carried into the classroom and would sometimes translate to bad behaviour or social withdrawal.

When students misbehave, most teachers resort to shouting and/ or punishment. Often, this results in escalation of the situation and a vicious cycle of bad behaviour – teachers shouting – suspension. It does not help. Granted that bad behaviour is never acceptable and should not be tolerated, aggressive responses may not help in the long run.

On the other hand, the usual response by a teacher to a student who is upset or has opened up about their problems is to shower them with advice. While this is good in some cases, giving advice may not work for others.

For both situations, what I suggest is for the teacher to ask the students what their problems are or what’s bothering them. Even though bad behaviour is a regular occurrence for some pupils, try to remember that these behaviours could be the result of something deeper- a family problem or a problem with their friends, for instance. Try to keep an open mind.

Be quiet and listen to what they have to say. Keep in mind that some of them may not have people around them who would listen to them whole-heartedly. Some of them may just need to off-load.

Try not to pass judgement too quickly. Assess the situation and offer advice only when needed. Seek help from authorities and other agencies in appropriate situations.

Dr. Dan Olweus and the Olweus Bullying Prevention Programme

This week is anti-bullying week in the UK and I want to share the things that I have read, watched and heard about how to fight against bullies. Also, I want to share how bullying affects everyone. In the video below, Dr. Dan Olweus explains what bullying is and  why it is important to stop it.

In the next video, children explain their experiences with bullying and how the Olweus Programme helped their school stop bullying.

Bully Project: Emotional Documentary on the Effects of Bullying

Most of us who have been to school or have worked with people have experience and/or witnessed bullying. It is an unpleasant experience. But still, after all the interventions (e.g. Olweus Programme), bullying is still present and it is still terrorizing kids, adults and families all over the world.

What can be done? How can bullying be reduced or eliminated? In my opinion, everyone- from students to patents to teachers up to the government, should actively educate each other on the negative effects of bullying. Since quite a lot of bullying cases stem from bullies’ ignorance of Special Needs and/ or people’s difference, they need to be made aware of this.

The documentary below shows just how devastating the effects of bullying are by featuring accounts of the major key stakeholders (students, teachers, parents, community members).

 

Depression, Suicide Ideation and Attempts in people with Autism

depression-1_3People with Autism Spectrum Disorders have long been known to be susceptible to depression. In some cases, this can lead to suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts. A lot of people with Autism unfortunately have to endure heightened amounts of stress, difficulties in initiating and maintatining friendships and romantic relationships and bullying. In addition to these, not everyone with Autism are equipped with the necessary coping strategies tocombat these negative life events. As a result, these events may lead to derpession and suicidal tendencies.

A research conducted by Mayers, Gorman, Hillwig-Garcia and Syed (2013) found that 14% of people with Autism aged 1-16 have thougth about committing suicide and a large number of them actually attempted to kill themselves. This is an alarming statistic considering the age of the participants. It is therefore important to recognise the signs and react appropriately when they occur.

COMMON SIGNS

There are a few common signs that indicate that a person may be at risk of committing suicide.

  • Self-harming. 
  • Saying things like ‘I am better off dead’- Yes, it is pretty obvious, but a lot of peopl take these kinds of statements lightly.
  • Being withdrawn.
  • Drug abuse
  • Engaging in extremely violent behaviour

EFFECTIVE STRATEGIES 

  • Effective communication- Listening to the person’s perspective is very important. Understand what they are thinking and feeling (hard as it may be for them to communicate). Avoid aggressively confronting them or threatening them as this will only aggrevate the situation.
  • Remove potential means of suicide
  • Monitor their emotional state as much as possible
  • Seek professional help

The whole point of this article is to open your eyes to the unfortunate possibility (and high likelihood) that a person with Autism may be depressed and could be thinking about committing suicide. It is important for them to have a secure and open relationship with the people around them. Whether you are a parent, teacher, carer or a friend of a person with Autism, you can help reduce their risk of depression just by being there for them. Be patient with them and make sure that they communicate their feelings with you. Never ever ignore any signs of loneliness or unexplained aggressive behaviours. Remember that they need our support and guidance.

Reference:

Mayes, S.D., Gorman, A.A., Hillwig-Garcia, J. & Syed, E. (2013). Suicide Ideation and Attempts in Children with Autism. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 7(1), 109-119.

Does Homeland address Mental Health Awareness responsibly?

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Homeland is one of the most popular TV shows in America and is getting more and more popular around the world. In 2012, it has won 6 Emmys including best lead actor (Damien Lewis) and lead actress (Claire Danes) in a drama series, 2 Golden Globes and many more. Recently, it was awarded the best drama, best actor (Damien Lewis) and best actress (Claire Danes) at the 2013 Golden Globe awards.

If you have not watched it or at least heard about it (were you hiding in a hole somewhere?), Homeland is a drama series about Carrie, a CIA agent (Claire Danes) who believes that Nicholas Brody, an ex-prisoner of war (Damien Lewis), is a converted terrorist and is planning an attack on American soil. Despite Carrie’s brilliance, her colleagues do not always trust her decisions because of her unorthodox ways of working.

What is more interesting (for me, at least) is the fact that Carrie is suffering from bipolar disorder (Manic Depressive Disorder). In the first series, she tried to conceal her illness from her work colleagues because she is afraid that her colleagues will lose their trust on her, or worse, she could lose her job. She gets her medication from her sister, Maggie, who is a trained and practicing psychiatrist. Maggie issues Carrie pills ‘under-the-table’, and these pills seem to manage Carrie’s condition.

Many have weighed-in about Homeland’s portrayal of bipolar disorder, with some applauding it’s bold yet sensitive writing while some claim that the show’s representation is irresponsible. Negative points stem from the fact that Carrie is being treated secretly and unofficially, which could encourage the public to do the same. Additionally, some argue that Carrie’s high level of intelligence, confidence and success paint a wrong representation of people with bipolar disorder.

In my opinion, Homeland’s creators, writers and indeed, Claire Danes, are doing a magnificent job. Firstly, they have a person with psychiatric condition at the centre of the show and as a protagonist. Normally, characters with psychiatric conditions are portrayed as bad/evil (SEE MY ARTICLE ABOUT BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT). It is somewhat refreshing to see someone like Carrie being the centre of the plot. Secondly, the programme shows both the highs and the lows that a person with bipolar disorder might experience. Carrie is known to be a ‘genius’ in her own right in what she does. However, her behaviours are somewhat erratic and she has the tendency to break down if pushed too much.

It is important to note that Carrie’s case is an extreme one. Not everyone who has MDD is a genius like Carrie and not everyone’s situation can be managed by pills, just like Carrie. However, her situation is representative of what people with mental illnesses go through everyday. Over 60% of women employed in the United Kingdom are living with a mental illness. These people try their hardest to manage the stresses and strains of each working day, just like Carrie. However, they are all not CIA/MI5 agents like her. They are teachers, shop assistants, doctors, nurses and lawyers, trying to function well in this society. Nevertheless, we need to understand them and give them the right support to flourish.

Homeland also brings about the existing stigma about people with mental illnesses. As mentioned, Carrie did not conceal her illness to her work colleagues until the end of the first series, because she was afraid that she could lose her job (which she did in the end of the first series) and the trust of her colleagues. Unfortunately, this reflects much of what is going in the ‘real world’. A lot of workers hide their mental illness, and are scared to ask for help because of the stigma- which should not be the case. Workers are protected by the Equality Act 2010 which states that:

“…most employers have no right to ask for information about your health when recruiting. However, in an interview, they can ask whether you have the ability to do key elements of the job. There is also a specific exception in vetting applicants for work in national security such as intelligence services. If your mental illness has lasted 12 months or more you are likely to have rights as an employee under the Equality Act. Telling your boss, occupational health or human resources department will mean your employer is obliged to consider making ‘reasonable adjustments’ to your working life to help keep you well. You can ask them not to tell colleagues, but they may need to tell the human resources department.”

I feel that the inclusion of this issue in a well-known show like Homeland may increase people’s awareness of it. Hopefully, it will result in more people opening up to their significant others and it may also increase people’s understanding of mental health. One criticism that I have though, is that in the show, Carrie has not received any other psychological treatments apart from medication, although in the end of the first series, she underwent Electro-convulsive Therapy (ECT). Although ECT is still a controversial treatment, there are studies that have shown that it can be effective. Cognitive-behavioural therapies (CBT) coupled with the right medication has been shown to be the best treatment for people with bipolar.

Finally, the best thing about the show is that Carrie does not let her condition define her. She struggles with it at times, but she copes with it. She does not use it as an excuse forany bad things that happened to her.

The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive (BBC Documentary)

Below is an old-ish BBC documentary about Manic Depression, also known as Bipolar Disorder, presented by Stephen Fry. There are two subtypes of bipolar disorder: Bipolar I and Bipolar II. According to the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders (DSM-VI), a person has to have an episode of mania for at least a week in his/her lifetime in order to be diagnosed with Bipolar I. A diagnosis of Bipolar II on the other hand, requires an episode of hypomania and an episode of depression.

Enjoy the documentary:

Part 1:

 

Part 2: