All Posts Tagged: TED

Mental Health Monday—the stigma of mental illness

ruby waxIn recent weeks Ruby Wax and Stephen Fry have once again reminded us that the lives of the famous are not always as perfect as we might think. Not for the first time, these two stars of British TV have publicly discussed their mental health: Wax her depression and Fry his bipolar disorder. Their continued openness furthers a helpful trend among celebrities. But for the vast majority with such conditions, discussion is not the norm.

Stigma and discrimination have long been major barriers to people with mental illness. The true scale of these problems has become apparent only relatively recently. In a global study published last year (The Lancet Study), we showed that 79 per cent of people with depression had experienced discrimination in the previous year. More than 1000 people were interviewed across 35 countries, and a remarkably consistent picture emerged: such experiences are common and may severely limit how far people with mental illness can lead normal lives. 71 per cent said that they wished to conceal their diagnosis of depression from others. 

Although concealment is an understandable reaction to being shunned, it creates a problem. Concealment means that fewer friends, family and colleagues know that the person has a health problem, and so their prejudices may remain unchallenged. Concealment reduces social contact and perpetuates stigma. On the other hand, disclosure also brings real risks of discrimination. Those with mental illness are constantly confronted with this dilemma of keeping quiet or opening up.

The consequences of stigma and discrimination can be severe or even life-threatening. The average life expectancy of people with mental illness is at least 15 years shorter than that of the general population in Europe. This is, at least in part, due to less effective treatment by family doctors and hospital staff of the physical health problems of people who also have mental illness: staff sometimes misdiagnose physical complaints as being “all in the mind”, rather than investigating problems thoroughly. A further challenge is that, in every country where this has been studied, the great majority of people with mental illness do not get any treatment at all for these conditions. In poor countries this is largely because treatment is not available, but it is now clear that another important reason is that people do not seek help because stigma makes them fear loss of reputation.

Given that depression is the third biggest contributor to the global burden of disease – and the leading contributor in middle and high-income countries – anything that helps ease its impact and that of other mental illnesses needs exploring” (Graham Thornicroft and Diana Rose in The New Scientist [2013])

One of England’s most famous comedians discusses the stigma of mental illness in the following talk. Hopefully you will be both amused and awakened!

Mental Health Monday—the brain of anorexia

I thank you, God—You’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration—what a creation! You know me inside and out, You know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Like an open book, You watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before You. (Psalm 139)

“Often referred to as self-starvation, anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that results in drastic, life-threatening weight loss. Estimated to affect 1 percent of adolescent females in the United States, anorexia nervosa has one of the highest death rates of any mental health condition.

“In the United States, approximately 86 deaths in 100,000 among 15-to-24-year-olds are attributed to anorexia nervosa—about five times more than what is expected among people in that age group. Perhaps more troubling, the suicide risk among individuals with anorexia nervosa is approximately 32 times that of the general population.

“Anorexia nervosa is most likely to occur among teenage girls and young women—at least 90 percent of sufferers are females—although it can strike both males and females at any age. Because the disorder robs the body of the fuel it needs to perform properly, the body begins to slow down critical functions in an effort to conserve energy.” (US News & World Report)

dr hillDr. Laura Hill is the president and CEO of the Center for Balanced Living in Worthington, Ohio. Her explanation and interpretation of eating disorders is one of the best around. First, Dr. Hill opens with the idea that physical illnesses are looked at in a different light than mental illnesses, and that recovery for mental illness can be easier if it is approached as if it were a physical illness.

In explaining this concept, Dr. Hill also addresses the brain biology that is an eating disorder. To help demonstrate this concept, Dr. Hill explains that those who suffer from eating disorders experience constant noise in their thought patterns; noise that is so loud and confusing that the only way to control it is through controlling eating habits. To give the audience an idea of what this is like, voice recordings of typical thought patterns are displayed for a very real, very dramatic depiction of the anxieties surrounding the everyday struggles of those with an eating disorder. After watching Dr. Hill’s TED Talk you will be able to understand the biological forces behind an eating disorder and how they work in conjunction with the social and emotional struggles one can experience.

Mental Health Monday—how does the human brain work?

Fill the earth and subdue it! (Genesis 1:28) 

It seems that exploration is woven into the fabric of the human spirit. Perhaps the urge is simply the manifestation of the Creator’s command: Subdue the earth!”

In my lifetime exploration has concentrated on outer space and inner space. I was in Junior High when President Kennedy set a goal to put a man on the moon in ten years. Now, with the Hubble Telescope we have viewed vast regions of the cosmos hitherto unknown to humankind.

DNA1In recent decades exploration has turned to inner space. In 2003 the Human Genome Project announced the complete mapping of the human genome. Each of your cells has a master code of 23 pairs of chromosomes. Each chromosome contains hundreds to thousands of genes, which carry the instructions for making proteins that make you absolutely unique.

brainCurrently, however, the three-pound mass between your ears is the most exciting frontier of exploration. For example, working at MIT, Sebastian Seung and his collaborators are working on a plan to thin-slice a mouse brain and trace, from slice to slice, each neural pathway, exposing the wiring diagram of the brain and creating a powerful new way to visualize the workings of the mind. Seung says, “We possess our entire genome at birth, but things like memories are not “stored” in the genome; they are acquired through life and accumulated in the brain.”

In this video Seung demonstrates his hypothesis of how the human brain works. It’s a bit technical but worthy of your exploration…

Mental Health Monday—Gratitude: secret of happiness

It happened that as Jesus made His way toward Jerusalem, He crossed over the border between Samaria and Galilee. As He entered a village, ten men, all lepers, met Him. They kept their distance but raised their voices, calling out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” Taking a good look at them, He said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” They went, and while still on their way, became clean. One of them, when he realized that he was healed, turned around and came back, shouting his gratitude, glorifying God. He kneeled at Jesus’ feet, so gratefulHe couldn’t thank him enoughand he was a Samaritan. Jesus said, “Were not ten healed? Where are the nine? Can none be found to come back and give glory to God except this outsider?” Then He said to him, “Get up. Go on your way. Your faith has healed and saved you.” (Luke 17:11-19)

The one thing all humans have in common is that each of us wants to be happy,” says Brother David Steindl-Rast, a monk of Mount Saviour Benedictine monastery in New York, dividing his time between hermitic contemplation, writing and lecturing. Happiness, he suggests, is born from gratitude: “Gratefulness makes us aware of the gift and makes us happy. As long as we take things for granted they don’t make us happy. Gratefulness is the key to happiness. Practicing gratitude is so central to my spirituality.”

Mental Health Monday—The power of vulnerability

Now the man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame. (Genesis 2:25)

 At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakednessSo they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselvesIn the evening the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the Lord God among the trees. Then the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” He replied, “I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked.” (Genesis 3:7-12)

Adam and Eve were created “naked.” Physical nakedness is body language that speaks of a crystal clear spirit, one that is transparent and vulnerable. Nakedness means there are no shades covering the windows of our souls!

Brene BrownDisconnecting themselves from their Creator, Adam and Eve felt shame. Brené Brown says “shame is the fear associated with disconnection.” The couple immediately assumed control of the new situation. They covered themselves and hid. The shades of the soul were drawn. For the first time each experienced the anguish of being alone spiritually. In His infinite love the Father, knowing there’s no healing in hiding, calls to reconnect with the couple. They must come out of hiding and remove their false fabrication of self. They must become vulnerable just as God did in the birth of Jesus.

Stephen Russell observes: “Vulnerability is the only authentic state. Being vulnerable means being open, for wounding, but also for pleasure. Being open to the wounds of life means also being open to the bounty and beauty. Don’t mask or deny your vulnerability: it is your greatest asset. Be vulnerable: quake and shake in your boots with it. The new goodness that is coming to you, in the form of people, situations, and things can only come to you when you are vulnerable and open.”

Dr. Brené Brown has produced a video entitled, The Power of Vulnerability. She is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. She has spent the past thirteen years studying  vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame. Brené is the author of three #1 New York Times Bestsellers: Rising StrongDaring Greatly and The Gifts of Imperfection.