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COVID-19 Information - 20/03/2020 :: 31/03/2020

Your mental health and wellbeing during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak

Mental Health Foundation Australia (MHFA) recognises and understands the distress and concern many people may be experiencing in relation to the coronavirus (COVID-19) and offers the following mental wellbeing advice.

With the evolving tensions surrounding COVID-19, the Mental Health Foundation Australia (MHFA) believes that this is the time to show solidarity as a community. Whether that be, creating online support groups, or reaching out to friends and asking how they’re coping. Reactions of concern, anxiety, fear, sadness, anger and denial are completely normal; however, we ask you to refrain from panicking.

Try to remember that medical and scientific experts are following strict protocols to contain the virus and treat those affected. It is important to remain calm and practical and continue with your usual regime as much as you can.

We understand that children absorb information from the news, social media and discussion adults have around them. The best way is to be open and honest with children, sharing information in small amounts showing that you trust and value them, in-turn also helping to enhance their resilience

 

If you are in a position of self-isolation, this may be the time to finally watch that TV show you’ve been wanting to watch or, read a book you’ve been meaning to get around to. If you’re asked to self-isolate, try not to leave the confines of your home unless absolutely necessary. It is in times like this, that we must take care of ourselves and those around us to recover from this crisis situation. We ask you all to observe good hygiene habits and keep as safe as possible during this time.

Although it is important to stay up to date with information, we recommend you stick to the facts and rely on scientific sources for your information. This is the best way to maintain perspective and manage your feelings positively.

Here are some credible sources -

Above all, if you suspect that you or a family member has COVID-19 you should call (not visit) your GP or ring the national COVID-19 Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

Let us all play our part and contribute to a sense of community and wellbeing. Remember that COVID-19 can affect anyone regardless of their nationality or ethnicity. Please acknowledge any feelings of distress and seek further professional support if required by calling the MHFA Helpline on 1300 MHF AUS (643 287).

Maintaining a positive and realistic outlook on COVID-19 and isolation:

  • Remind yourself that this is a temporary period of isolation which will be over soon. Acknowledge that stress can impact anyone during and after such adversity and it understandable to be stressed right now.
  • While you might feel uncertain right now, it is important you have faith in the competency of the scientific community to give you the best advice and care for you and your family’s heath.
  • Connecting more with your cultural identity and having faith in your own ability to get through this tough time will help boost your resilience.
  • Maintain a realistic and practical perspective. Don’t expect yourself to be excelling in work or study right now or staying at your normal standard of productivity. If you have been put into quarantine or are self-isolating recognising this challenge, knowing you will overcome it, and giving yourself time to relax and recover in this time period is vital.
  • This is an opportunity to slow down and reflect on what makes you happy in life. Learn about the factors that affect your physical and mental health during the outbreak.

Social aspects: Being isolated is difficult, especially when you live alone. Here are some tips that might help:

  • Make time to call friends and family regularly. Video chat in particular can be helpful when you are feeling disconnected and it allows you to make and eat meals together, play games, drink some tea and chat all in an online space.
  • If you are being particularly affected by this event or are unwell and struggling to cope, let your place of work or study know as soon as possible so you can arrange appropriate adjustments to allow you time to recover.
  • Reach out to others if you need help getting supplies, or just need someone to talk to and support you in what can be a very lonely and isolating situation. If you are in a position to help others and provide them with comfort as well do so. Empathy and compassion strengthen our sense of community – something which is vital when we are not allowed face to  face contact. 

How to cope with not being allowed outside: If you have been told you are not allowed to go outside managing this and exercise can be difficult, especially if you find yourself quarantined in a confined space.

  • Try opening your windows and curtains to let in light and air; if you have indoor plants water them and connect to nature that way.
  • Try meditating or just mindfully sitting next to your window and practicing appreciation for the feeling of sunlight on your skin or hearing the breeze outside.
  • Try and set up a space where you can regularly get some physical activity. In confined spaces this might involve doing some yoga or stretches throughout the day, using gym equipment if you own it, following a quick work out tutorial that involves no additional equipment, having a mini dance party in your room, or even just walking around your room regularly.
  • If you are working from home, try to maintain a healthy balance by allocating specific work hours, taking regular breaks and, if possible, establishing a dedicated work space.
  • If you take medication for your mental health or any other condition make sure you have contact with someone you trust who can pick up your scripts for you.

Ways to reduce stress in isolation:

  • Do some deep breathing and meditation to calm your mind
  • Try journaling about this experience, it might teach you something new and it will help you better understand your emotions, concerns, and mental wellbeing.
  • Try maintain a regular sleep routine and healthy diet.
  • Use this time to focus on things you love and enjoy that have maybe been neglected recently
  • Do something fun like playing some online games, arts and crafts, play some music, or cook a creative dish. Do something that makes you laugh!
  • Stay away from media coverage of the virus. You can find all essential updates on the DHHS website. News coverage will only increase your stress
  • Practice gratitude: while it might feel hard to find things to be grateful for in times like these, you can also use adversity to boost your gratitude for simple things like family and friends, the natural environment, good health, your food, and your favourite book. This helps to boost resilience and open our eyes to the broader picture.

Ways to seek help and help others:

If you need mental health support in this difficult time please call our mental health support line listed here.

If you feel helpless and want to support your community right now here are some things you can do:

  • If you are ill stay home to prevent infecting people in the community who are vulnerable.
  • Check in on relatives and friends who either might not have anyone to talk to right now or might need support to get the groceries and essentials they need.
  • Search Facebook for COVID-19 support groups in your area where you can volunteer to deliver groceries for vulnerable people who need to self-isolate right now.
  • Look for a foodbank in your community where you can either donate food or money online to help support those unable to buy their own groceries.
  • If you witness discrimination in your community in response to COVID-19 call it out and support those who might be feeling excluded as a result of stigma attached to the illness right now.

If you suspect you may have the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) call the Coronavirus hotline – 1800 675 398 open 24 hours, 7 days.

Staying well during self-isolation - an episode of 'Health Report' presented by Norman Swan

https://abclisten.page.link/X7iFF2nnJfcosnLu9

Available now through the ABC listen App - http://bit.ly/ABCradioApp

 

Information & Resources:

https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert

https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/victorian-public-coronavirus-disease-covid-19

View File

MHFA Newsletters 2020 - 03/02/2020 :: 30/04/2020

MHFA NEWSLETTERS

 

View File

Reports - 01/10/2019 :: 31/10/2019

National Mental Health Month 2019 - Post-event Report 2019

Annual Report 2019 

 

Victorian Mental Health Month 2018 Post-event Report 2018

 

MHFA Press Releases - 01/01/2020 :: 31/10/2020

 

 

Being overweight in childhood may heighten lifetime risk of depression - 23/08/2017 :: 23/09/2017

Date:May 18, 2017

Source:European Association for the Study of Obesity

Summary:New research suggests that being overweight, especially from a young age, may substantially increase the lifetime risk of major depression.

New research presented at this year's European Congress on Obesity suggests that being overweight, especially from a young age, may substantially increase the lifetime risk of major depression.

The study by Deborah Gibson-Smith from VU University Medical Center in the Netherlands and colleagues found that being overweight at age 8 or 13 was associated with more than triple the risk of developing major depression at some point in their lives, whilst carrying excess weight over a lifetime (both as a child and as an adult) quadrupled the chance of developing depression compared to only being overweight as an adult.

More than one in three children in the USA are overweight and nearly one in five children aged between 2 and 19 years are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A similar picture emerges in England where one in three 10- and 11-year-olds in their last primary school year are now overweight or obese, according to the National Child Measurement Programme.

Previous studies have shown that people who are obese are more likely to become depressed, but few have looked at the influence of early-life obesity over the long term, or the age-related effect of obesity on depression risk.

In this new study, the researchers investigated the relationship between overweight during childhood and lifetime depression in 889 participants from the population-based AGES (Age, Gene/Environment Susceptibility)-Reykjavik study (2002-06) -- a follow-up study of a longitudinal study examining people born between 1907-35 and living in Reykjavik, Iceland in 1967. They also examined whether the detrimental effect of obesity on mental health is due to life-long obesity or the result of being overweight in adulthood.

Between 2002 and 2006 a random sample of surviving participants from the Reykjavik study were invited to join the AGES study. Participants, whose average age was 75 years, were assessed to see whether they had current depressive symptoms or had ever had a major depressive disorder in the past. Information about height and weight at ages 8 to 13 were obtained retospectively from school records, and from mid-life (age around 50 years) was from the data collection previously done as part of the Reykjavik study (started in 1967).

A BMI of between 25 and 29.9 was considered overweight. During the study, 39 participants were diagnosed as ever having had major depression. The data were adjusted for sex and the age at which the BMI measurements were taken.

The analysis revealed that carrying excess weight in childhood is a stronger predictor of subsequent depression than being overweight in mid-life. The researchers estimate that being overweight or obese at age 8 or 13 years is associated with a more than 4-times increased risk of lifetime major depressive disorder compared with children who were normal weight as a child but went on to become overweight as adults (a statistically significant result).

This is an observational study so no conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect. But the findings confirm earlier studies which report an increased risk of depression in young people who are obese.

The authors conclude: "Our findings suggest that some of the underlying mechanisms linking overweight or obesity to depression stem from childhood. A shared genetic risk or low self-esteem, which is frequently associated with those who do not conform to the ideal body type, could be responsible. Given the rise in adolescents' obesity and greater influence of social media on body image, understanding the associations between childhood obesity and depression is critical."

European Association for the Study of Obesity. "Being overweight in childhood may heighten lifetime risk of depression." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 May 2017. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/05/170518221006.htm>.
 
 



 

AFP commander and champion strongman Grant Edwards goes public with his PTSD battle - 23/08/2017 :: 23/09/2017

 Date: 21st August 2017

Source: ABC News

Commander Grant Edwards, one of Australia's most senior Federal Police officers, has been at the front line of often dangerous and disturbing investigations and wants to speak out about the toll policing takes on some of its members.

In the early days of the internet, Commander Edwards was part of an international team charged with investigating child exploitation and trafficking. The sheer volume of the material shocked him.

To shield his younger officers, Commander Edwards would insist on watching the worst of it. What he did not factor in was the psychological toll of that exposure, as many of those images would be burnt into his brain forever.

 ''We see the worst of society and the worst of life, and sometimes people don't understand the impacts that has," he said.

In uniform

Commander Grant Edwards, one of Australia's most senior Federal Police officers, has been at the front line of often dangerous and disturbing investigations and wants to speak out about the toll policing takes on some of its members.

In the early days of the internet, Commander Edwards was part of an international team charged with investigating child exploitation and trafficking. The sheer volume of the material shocked him.

To shield his younger officers, Commander Edwards would insist on watching the worst of it. What he did not factor in was the psychological toll of that exposure, as many of those images would be burnt into his brain forever.

 ''We see the worst of society and the worst of life, and sometimes people don't understand the impacts that has," he said.

Commander Edwards admits that when he joined the AFP, mental health injuries were the elephant in the room.

"If anybody had an issue it was usually dealt with by copious amounts of alcohol and a meal, and next day you've forgotten it through the haze of a hangover," he said.

AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin is the first to admit that mental health in the organisation has taken a back seat.

"You didn't talk about your weaknesses, you didn't talk about your vulnerabilities, because that was a sign you weren't doing your job, you weren't strong enough or cut out to be a police officer," Commissioner Colvin said.

Policing pressures

As a boy, Commander Edwards was bullied for being overweight and built up his strength to compensate.

"I used to watch the old Wide World of Sports in the late 70s, they had the strong man contests on there and I said to myself, 'I'd love to do that one day'," he said.

Do that he did — in 1999 he was awarded the title of Australia's strongest man.

With just his bare hands and brute strength he pulled a 201-tonne locomotive into the Guinness Book of Records. Over the years, he has also moved military aircraft, semitrailers and trams.

But he was to discover brute strength only counts for so much.

"I was a strong guy physically, I thought I was a strong guy mentally and it was probably the greatest wake-up in my life when I realised that for once I wasn't," he said.

After a highly charged year training police in Afghanistan, his health began to unravel. Medical specialists could not pinpoint the problem, and he began to withdraw from his family. Barely coping at work, he turned to alcohol and painkillers.

By 2014, Commander Edwards was supervising Queensland airport security for the G20, arguably one of the biggest policing operations in Australia's history. The pressure of protecting the world's leaders on home soil was immense.

To add to the strain, he had a voice in his head telling him he would be better off dead. Driving to work, he would imagine ending his life — then he would torture himself for his perceived cowardice.

"I'd say to myself, 'Are you that weak you can't even end it?'"

His GP was the first to suggest he may have post traumatic stress disorder.

"I heard those four letters, PTSD, and I'm thinking, 'That's my life's gone, my job's gone, I'm going to be cast as a crazy person'," he said.

In denial, he refused the offer of treatment. To go on medication might mean his weapon and security clearances would be removed. In his mind, the protectors were supposed to be infallible.

"We look back through how police and the AFP have dealt with mental illness or PTSD in the past and we've tended to stigmatise it," Commissioner Colvin said.

"What it's done is create an environment where people aren't sure about coming forward."

It would take a breakdown before Commander Edwards recognised he was wounded in ways not seen by the naked eye. Years of being the strongman had finally caught up with him.

Edwards' warm response from AFP not always the case

Commander Edwards was surprised at the acceptance and help he received from his superiors, but not every outcome was so positive.

In February this year, an officer took her own life in the Melbourne headquarters of the AFP. The incident led to a flood of complaints from disgruntled former and serving members.

"When someone does put their hand up and says, 'I'm unwell', until very recently they have been made non-operational or moved to a different area," Angela Smith of the AFP Association said.

"Because you've now become a broken biscuit. You're treated as though you've got some sort of communicable disease."

Most of the AFP's psychological support was centralised in Canberra and officers from the regions would have to phone in for support. As part of a raft of mental health reforms, a network of welfare officers has been pushed out to the regions where officers are stationed.

"Cops want to talk to cops, unsworn want to talk to unsworn. You just want to talk to someone who you think is going to understand you and identify with the issue that you're going through," Ms Smith said.

The AFP has also set up a mental health board to further work on their approach. It is part of a wider sea change sweeping through defence and first responder organisations.

"We haven't always done it well in the past," Commissioner Colvin said.

"We need to remove the stigmas, we need to make it OK for a police officer to put their hand up and say, 'I might need a break' or, 'I might need a little bit of help'."

Talking about PTSD 'not a career-killer'

Grant Edwards is now commander of the Americas based in Washington DC, responsible for Australia's police presence from Alaska down to South America.

Despite that workload, he is leading the charge for change within the AFP and internationally. He is still recovering and on medication but, more importantly, he understands now that admitting your vulnerabilities can make you a stronger man.

"You can move a 14-tonne truck but you can be exceptionally weak in the psychological sense, and it's OK to say that," Commander Edwards said.

"It's not to be embarrassed, it's not a career-ender, it's not a life-ender.

"You're stronger by coming out and dealing with your issues."

If you or anyone you know needs help:

 

 Reference;

”AFP commander and champion strongman Grant Edwards goes public with his PTSD battle”, ABC NEWS, 21st August 2017. < http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-08-21/afp-strongman-grant-edwards-opens-up-about-ptsd-battle/8811844

 

 

You're not yourself when you're sleepy - 23/08/2017 :: 23/09/2017

Date:July 17, 2017

Source:Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

Summary:More than a third of Americans don’t get enough sleep, and growing evidence suggests it’s not only taking a toll on their physical health through heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and/or other conditions, but hurting their mental health as well.

    

More than a third of Americans don't get enough sleep, and growing evidence suggests it's not only taking a toll on their physical health through heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and/or other conditions, but hurting their mental health as well.

According to a recent study led by Postdoctoral FellowIvan Vargas, PhD, in the journal Cognitive Therapy and Research, those who are sleep deprived lose some of their ability to be positive-minded people. That may not sound serious, but medical experts say an inability to think positively is a serious symptom of depression that could be dangerous if left unaddressed. An estimated 16.1 million adults experienced a major depressive episode in 2014.

"In general, we have a tendency to notice positive stimuli in our environment," said Vargas. "We tend to focus on positive things more than anything else, but now we're seeing that sleep deprivation may reverse that bias."

In their study, Vargas and his team took 40 healthy adults, and randomized them to either 28 consecutive hours awake, or a full eight hours of sleep. All participants participated in a computer test measuring their accuracy and response time at identifying happy, sad and neutral faces to assess how they pay attention to positive or negative information.

The team found that those who were acutely sleep deprived were less likely to focus on the happy faces. They didn't necessarily focus more on the negative, but were less likely to focus on the positive. The study may have implications for those experiencing depression and/or anxiety.

There are many symptoms of depression -- including feeling sad and no longer being able to enjoy things you typically would, but poor sleep is associated with a particularly serious sign of the condition.

"Depression is typically characterized as the tendency to think and feel more negatively or sad, but more than that, depression is associated with feeling less positive, less able to feel happy," Vargas says, "Similarly, if you don't get enough sleep, it reduces your ability to attend to positive things, which over time may confer risk for depression."

Interestingly enough, in the present study, those with a history of insomnia symptoms were less sensitive to the effects of the sleep loss. The authors believe this might be because those with a history of insomnia symptoms have more experience being in sleep-deprived conditions and have developed coping methods to modulate the effect of sleep loss.

Vargas and colleagues recently presented a related study at SLEEP 2017, the 31st Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC, on the association of insomnia and suicide, finding that people who suffer from insomnia are three times more likely to report thoughts of suicide and death during the past 30 days than those without the condition.

The study comes amid a growing body of knowledge associating sleep disorders and depression. For example, ongoing research presented this year at SLEEP 2017 from a multi-center NIH-sponsored "Treatment of Insomnia and Depression" study (abstract 0335 here) suggests that cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) may help achieve depression remission in those suffering from both depression and insomnia who sleep at least 7 hours each night. (A clinical practice guideline published in 2016 in Annals of Internal Medicine recommends CBT-I (not sleep medications) as the initial treatment for chronic insomnia.

Additionally, a new study in the journal Child Development furthers our understanding of the connection between late night cell phone use, mental health, and disrupted sleep, finding that using a cell phone at night can increase depression in teenagers and lower their self-esteem.

Ivan Vargas, Christopher L. Drake, Nestor L. Lopez-Duran. Insomnia Symptom Severity Modulates The Impact of Sleep Deprivation on Attentional Biases to Emotional InformationCognitive Therapy and Research, 2017; DOI: 10.1007/s10608-017-9859-4

 

 

Depression overshadows the past as well as the present - 07/07/2017

Date:August 16, 2017
Source:University of Portsmouth
Summary:Depressed people have a peculiar view of the past: rather than glorifying the 'good old days,' they project their generally bleak outlook on to past events, according to new research.

Depressed people have a peculiar view of the past -- rather than glorifying the 'good old days', they project their generally bleak outlook on to past events, according to new research.

It is known depression makes sufferers see the present and the future as sad, but this is the first time research has shown it also casts a long shadow over people's memories of the past.

Psychologists at Germany's Heinrich Heine Universität Düsseldorf and at the UK's University of Portsmouth published their research in Clinical Psychological Science.

It establishes the first clear link between depression and hindsight bias, or a distorted view of the past.

Dr Hartmut Blank, in the University of Portsmouth's Department of Psychology, is one of the authors.

He said: "Depression is not only associated with a negative view of the world, the self and the future, but we now know with a negative view of the past."

Hindsight bias includes three core elements: exaggerated perceptions of foreseeability -- we think we knew all along how events would turn out; inevitability -- something 'had' to happen; and memory bias -- misremembering what we once thought when we know the outcome of something.

Hindsight bias has been studied in various settings, including sports events, political elections, medical diagnoses or bankers' investment strategies. Until now, it hasn't been used to study depression.

Dr Blank said: "Everyone is susceptible to hindsight bias, but it takes on a very specific form in depression. While non-depressed people tend to show hindsight bias for positive events but not negative events, people with depression show the reverse pattern.

"Making things worse, depressed people also see negative event outcomes as both foreseeable and inevitable -- a toxic combination, reinforcing feelings of helplessness and lack of control that already characterise the experience of people with depression.

"Everyone experiences disappointment and regret from time to time and doing so helps us adapt and grow and to make better decisions. But people with depression struggle to control negative feelings and hindsight bias appears to set up a cycle of misery.

"We have shown hindsight bias in people who are depressed is a further burden on their shoulders, 'helping' to sustain the condition in terms of learning the wrong lessons from the past."

The researchers tested over 100 university students, about half of whom suffered from mild to severe depression. They were asked to imagine themselves in a variety of everyday scenarios with positive or negative outcomes (from different domains of everyday life, e.g. work, performance, family, leisure, social, romantic). For each scenario, the researchers then collected measures of hindsight bias (foreseeability, inevitability and distorted memory for initial expectations).

The results showed that with increasing severity of depression, a specific hindsight bias pattern emerged -- exaggerated foreseeability and inevitability of negative (but not positive) event outcomes, as well as a tendency to misremember initial expectations in line with negative outcomes. Characteristically, this 'depressive hindsight bias' was strongly related to clinical measures of depressive thinking, suggesting that it is part of a general negative worldview in depression.

Dr Blank said: "This is only a first study to explore the crucial role of hindsight bias in depression; more work needs to be done in different experimental and real-life settings, and also using clinical samples, to further examine and establish the link between hindsight bias and depression."

Julia Groß, Hartmut Blank, Ute J. Bayen. Hindsight Bias in DepressionClinical Psychological Science, 2017; 216770261771226 DOI: 10.1177/2167702617712262

 

What is Mental Health? - 29/03/2017

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