Archive for the ‘Depression Help’ Category


Govt pledges $50m to mental health

The Federal Government has announced a $50 million funding boost for mental health services.

Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon says $20 million will go to suicide prevention programs.

Ms Roxon has also unveiled the make-up of a new national advisory group on mental health, to be led by former head of the Mental Health Council, John Mendoza.

Ms Roxon says the new council fulfils an election commitment.

“The advisory council is a mechanism to provide the Government with independent, balanced and confidential advice from a wide range of experts to inform national mental health reform efforts, and provide continuing impetus for reform,” she said.

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Anti-retroviral treatment not keeping pace with new infection: UN report

A report from the United Nations says more HIV-positive people are getting anti-retroviral treatment, but the supply of the drugs is not keeping pace with the rate of new infections.

The idea of getting anti-viral drugs to 3 million people by the end of 2005 failed.

However the report says this initiative, which became known as ‘three by five’, did jump start the push for treatment, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa where the AIDS epidemic is most severe.

Reductions in the price of key drugs have helped the expansion, though experts warn that the increasingly common combination of HIV with tuberculosis and particularly drug resistant strains represents a critical threat.

The director of the World Health Organisation’s HIV-AIDS program, Doctor Kevin De Cock, says while 1 million new patients get treatment each year, 2.5 million are infected with the virus.

He says there is still a lot of work to be done to prevent infections.

“I think remarkable things have been achieved … this is a very complicated infection,” he said

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Beautiful mind conquers depression, wins Brain Bee

By Natasha Johnson

Quinn McGennisken ... 'I just felt so helpless and hopeless'

Quinn McGennisken … ‘I just felt so helpless and hopeless’ (ABBC: Charles Sevigny, file photo)

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Located in the shadow of a power station two hours east of Melbourne, Traralgon is predominantly a working-class town. But it’s also home to Australia’s school neuroscience champion.

Last July, Quinn McGennisken from Lavalla Catholic College beat 750 year 10 and 11 students from around Australia and New Zealand to take the national Brain Bee title.

In the final, the then 16-year-old with a preference for humanity subjects beat a field of boys with a maths/science bent.

“There were a few misconceptions about me,” Quinn said.

“I have blonde hair and I’m a girl, so they used to put me down. So I thought, I’m going to do it just to prove them wrong.”

Quinn’s Mum runs a local takeaway store and her Dad operates mobile food vans. But her competitors came from more academic families.

“We understand that many of them were actually sons of doctors and they’d actually had special training at their local universities to assist them in this competition, whereas Quinn and I had just looked at diagrams in the textbook,” teacher Mara Bormanis said.

The Brain Bee required weeks of extracurricular study to progress through each of the three rounds which were run over several months.

“This competition is extremely tough. The subject matter is equivalent to second year medical student anatomy studies,” Ms Bormanis said.

But at the same time Ms McGennisken was displaying her intellectual brilliance, she was privately grappling with the mental torment of anorexia and depression.

“It’s like I’ve got two brains in my head, fighting against one another,” she said.

“So one’s sort of saying, ‘Don’t eat’ and the other is saying, ‘No, you do’ and ‘Be reasonable. This is normal’.”

Her illness began about four years ago after teasing at school. At her lowest point, Quinn ate only an apple a day, became physically ill and missed two to three days of school a week for a year.

“She just would go into her room and just curl up into a ball, and wouldn’t come out and talk,” mother Bronwyn McGennisken said.

Quinn says at times she didn’t want to live.

“I just felt so helpless and hopeless a lot of the time,” she said.

“It’s terrifying because you think you’re watching them die,” Mrs McGennisken said.

It was particularly painful for Quinn’s grandmother, who lives with the family. Throughout her 82 years, Joan Kerr has suffered several bouts of depression which also afflicted her three siblings.

“It was very hard seeing Quinn like that. Just blaming myself I think – ‘Perhaps it’s my fault she’s like it’. It’s very hard,” she said.

Mrs Kerr says she tried to help, but didn’t think she made much of a difference.

But Quinn disagrees.

“I was helped by the fact that I’d seen her overcome bouts of depression,” she said.

With counselling and medication, Quinn began to recover and her experience triggered a passionate desire to learn about the brain.

“When you know there are actual chemical imbalances involved and the biological aspects of some of these illnesses and just those things that go on at the more nitty gritty level, you do understand your illness better,” she said.

Mrs McGennisken says she thinks it has given Quinn an objective and a purpose that’s not focused on her body self-image.

Quinn is now planning a career in the mental health field, and in preparation for the international Brain Bee, she won the rare opportunity of working experience at the Howard Florey Brain Research Institute in Melbourne.

Institute director Fred Mendelsohn says Quinn’s achievements are exceptional even for someone doing it under the very best conditions.

“To do it with those difficulties really compounds your admiration for what she’s achieved,” he said.

This weekend in Montreal, she’s aiming for the world title.

Win or lose, her family is just relieved she’s healthy and happy enough to attempt it.

“I’m just proud of her because whether she achieves or doesn’t achieve, it doesn’t matter. She’s a good person,” Mrs McGennisken said.

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Health Dept says new northern mental health complex nearly finished

The Health Department has announced progress on building more housing in Tasmania’s north for people with mental illnesses, a month after concerns were raised about patients sleeping in backpacker hostels.

In March the parents of a psychiatric patient raised concerns that their son was sent to stay in tourist accommodation after being discharged from Launceston’s Ward 1E psychiatric unit.

The Health Department today said its $2m accommodation complex in the northern Launceston suburb of Rocherlea is on schedule to be finished in August.

The Northern Manager for Mental Health Services, Susan Crave, says the units will provide a home for people with mental illnesses, but won’t eliminate the need for other accommodation.

“I think they’re very separate issues,” she said.

“I think the backpacker issue, you know, is a totally different one.

“When we look at a range, we always have to look at a wide range of accommodation for the various clients that we’re seeking to accommodate.

“This facility is set up, the ten beds are for long-stay clients, so it’s up to 24 months,” said Ms Crave.

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School mornings too early for studying teens: report

The researchers showed that the average teenager misses more than an hour of sleep each night and is forced to wake up 2.5 hours earlier than their natural rhythms would dictate (file photo).

The researchers showed that the average teenager misses more than an hour of sleep each night and is forced to wake up 2.5 hours earlier than their natural rhythms would dictate (file photo). (Getty Images: Peter Macdiarmid)

Scientists have confirmed what parents of teenagers have always suspected: adolescents are out of sync with the rest of the world.

Most teens probably do not get enough sleep and suffer in their school work because their internal clocks make them night owls, according to a new study published on Tuesday.

Australian researchers showed that the average teenager misses more than an hour of sleep each night and is forced to wake up 2.5 hours earlier than their natural rhythms would dictate.

High school students with a late-night “circadian preference”, as the biologically driven cycle is called, reported doing more poorly in school and feeling more frequently depressed and unhappy.

“For all people, there is a genetic disposition to being either a ‘morning lark’ or a ‘night owl’,” explained lead author Suzanne Warner, a professor at Swinburne University of Technology in Hawthorn.

But she says that when hormonal changes kick in at the start of adolescence, young people start to stay up later and – given the chance – wake up later too.

She said most of the students in the study were such “evening persons”.

“Teenagers find that they are most alert in the evening and do not feel sleepy until later, and so find it difficult to get enough sleep during school term,” she said.

The key is melatonin, a hormone that signals to the body that it needs rest and sleep. In teenagers entering puberty, it is released later and later in the evening.

Dim the lights

Professor Warner says there are also environmental factors that contribute to the problem.

Ambient light tends to minimise the amount of melatonin secreted, and the constant use of computers could keep adolescents up past their natural bedtime, even after lights are turned out.

“One thing parents can do is to lower the lights and switch off computers and televisions an hour before bedtime,” she said.

In the study, Professor Warner and two colleagues compared the sleep patterns of 310 students during a school term and while they were on holiday.

Whereas the adolescents slept more than nine hours during the school breaks, they averaged less than eight hours when hitting the books.

‘Night owls’ were more likely than ‘morning larks’ to have negative attitudes about themselves, to express feelings of unhappiness and voice irritation with their classmates, according to the study.

They also complained of low energy, and “impaired” daytime functioning.

“For classes that start before 9:00am, we have to question whether the students are going to be alert and able to learn,” Professor Warner said.

Previous research has shown that nine hours is the optimal amount of sleep time for teenagers.

Circadian clocks are found in organisms ranging from bacteria to human beings, and impose a roughly 24-hour schedule on our activities, such as sleeping and eating.

The mechanism controlling these rhythms is found in individual neurons located in the suprachiasmatic nuclei inside the brain. Scientists have identified at least one gene that determines whether one’s “clock” will be naturally set for early or late rising.

The same process is involved in jet lag, Professor Warner points out.

“You could say that a lot of young people feel quite jet-lagged coming into the school term – it is a very similar feeling,” she said.

She said parents should rethink a tendency to let adolescents set their own bedtime schedule.

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Marketing influences antidepressant prescriptions: study

Pills spill out of a bottle.

The research found drugs which are well branded and marketed are more commonly prescribed than similar alternatives. (File photo) (ABC News: Giulio Saggin)

New research into marketing by pharmaceutical companies has found that doctors and psychiatrists are being influenced by the branding of antidepressant drugs.

Dr Steven Ward from Perth’s Murdoch University will publish research later this year which compares the chemical ingredients of antidepressants and the marketing of them to health professionals.

The research has found drugs which are well branded and marketed to health professionals are more commonly prescribed than similar, less marketed alternatives.

Dr Ward says GPs also rate drug company representatives as their second most important source of information on pharmaceuticals.

“We relied on looking at, was brand name that important or was it the actual drug, or the chemical differences in the drug that were the driving factor? We find that they’re equally important,” he said.

“That’s very surprising, regardless of medical training, I expected it to be less important, particularly for psychiatrists.”

He says the pharmaceutical industry spends $21,000 per Australian doctor each year marketing and branding drugs.

“With for example financial planners, there is a requirement to disclose any gifts, inducements etc,” he said.

“Here we have a group of people who are making important decisions and if there are any inducements and so on, there may be a role for some sort of transparency in that process.”

Australian Medical Association president, Rosanna Capolingua, has rejected the findings saying doctors prescribe the medication they believe will benefit the patient most.

“Often when a new drug is launched, information is distributed,” she said.

“You may see doctors using that new drug on a patient because it has new benefits.

“It may have better qualities than other medications and you’ll see that trend occur.”

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Whingeing Aussies bring themselves down

By Fiona Best

In many cases, the answer to illness is not mind-numbing medication, but taking time out. (File photo)

In many cases, the answer to illness is not mind-numbing medication, but taking time out. (File photo) (Reuters: Darren Staples)

No wonder so many Australians are depressed, anxious and chronically unwell. It seems to me that by and large we are a very ungrateful lot and we whinge and whine so much that it makes us sick.

When we are not complaining about something, we are gossiping shamelessly about Britney Spears’ latest tragedy, our best friend’s failing marriage or about who is having sex with whom.

Just read the papers, watch the current affairs shows, and listen to the talk at work. Notice how it makes you feel inside? It is addictive behaviour, it is destructive and it is nasty.

We are in the habit of complaining about what is wrong with everything – including ourselves – without making changes in ourselves or offering open hearted, enlightened suggestions for changes in our systems.

We blame, envy and complain. We hate the Government, we are angry with our parents, we resent paying our taxes, we hate the corporations, our employers just want to rip us off, we envy those who have too much and we despise those who have too little.

Many are addicted to alcohol, to drugs – legal and illegal. Others shop – hoping to find the meaning of life in the next pair of designer jeans.

In my work as a counsellor with people suffering ‘depression’, I have found people are obsessed with illness, searching the internet to make sense of their physical symptoms, terrified they might discover they have a brain tumour, heart disease or cancer.

And in many cases, the answer is not a label like ‘manic depression’ accompanied with mind numbing medication.

It is simply learning to take time out, breathe and live in the ‘present’. Being grateful for what you have and learning to live without whingeing, blaming or complaining. Ignoring all the negative thoughts around us.

All you need is love

In Australia where we have so much and contrary to what we have been led to believe, money, possessions, academic qualifications, drinking, drugging, cosmetic surgery and the fantasy of eternal youth do not make people happy or well – at least not in any deep and lasting sense. Sure, we may be temporarily elated if we win the lottery but will that money buy us what we are really seeking? What are we really seeking?

The answer is love. Humans seek to love and to be loved. That is it – honest to God. We just want to be loved in all our less than perfect humanness, warts and all.

Having all the possessions one desires will not make them lovable. It may inspire envy but will not inspire love.

The only way for us to find happiness is to become decent and lovable people. Decent and lovable people do not talk badly about others behind their backs; they respect other people’s privacy and do not need to find out all the details of the latest divorce or office gossip.

They are grateful and generous with their time and money without expecting notoriety. They recognise that they are just ordinary, flawed human beings and therefore they do their very best not to judge others.

Through their pain and suffering, through letting go of their old destructive and self seeking approach to life, they have learned to change their priorities, their attitudes and their behaviours. They regularly make mistakes, drop the ball, pick it up again and try to do better next time.

For God’s sake Australia – we have the potential to be wonderful, loving people with so much to offer our sad, sick and ailing population. Let us strive to be grateful, lovable and useful instead of aiming to be rich, pretty, politically correct and possessive.

Everything else will take care of itself.

Fiona Best is a counsellor and physiotherapist in Brisbane, and author of Poor Me No More.

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‘Happiness curve’ bottoms out at 44: study

By Barbara Miller

Researchers say we shouldn't get too down about hitting age 44, as many 70-year-olds are as happy and healthy as young adults. (File photo)

Researchers say we shouldn’t get too down about hitting age 44, as many 70-year-olds are as happy and healthy as young adults. (File photo) (ABC News: Giulio Saggin)

Those approaching middle age like to think that life begins at 40, but research suggests that just a few years later we are at our most depressed.

Scientists from the United States and the United Kingdom who studied happiness and depression levels in 80 countries, have pinpointed 44 as the most unhappy year of life.

But they say we shouldn’t get too down about it, as many 70-year-olds are as happy and healthy as young adults.

Happiness is a U-shaped curve according to this research. As middle-age approaches the average person will slide down the U to hit rock bottom at the age of 44.

They’ll be stuck in that trough for quite a few years but by the time they are in their 50s, assuming their physical health is still intact, their happiness levels will go up and risk of depression go down.

Andrew Oswald is professor of economics at the University of Warwick in England. Along with a colleague in the US he analysed data on happiness and depression levels in more than 80 countries, including Australia.

He says there was a remarkable uniformity in the findings which applied to men, women, single and married people, with or without children, and to the rich and the poor.

“We didn’t expect to see this over and over again, in many, many dozens of countries and we didn’t expect to see it so clearly in mental health measures, depression measures, say, as well as in broader happiness and simple life satisfaction,” he said.

Knowing our limits

Professor Oswald says the most plausible explanation for the U-curve is to do with the recognition in middle-age of our limitations.

“[The cause of the downward trend is] probably start your life expecting too much of yourself being the general manager, being the Australian cricket team, winning a Nobel prize, whatever it is,” he said.

“And you discover as you go through your 30s and don’t achieve that and that’s a painful realisation. If you can let that go in middle-age, maybe that’s the secret of why our people in this study become happier and mentally healthier.”

He says that it is possible that people who are incredibly high achievers will not experience that trough at the age of 44 or thereabouts.

“I suppose the problem with high achievers is I suspect their aspirations run even further ahead,” he said.

“You know, two or three people have actually won the Nobel prize twice. I suppose some Test captains go on for 20 years and so on.

“In any case those are too rare, those individuals, so I would just go back to our data. The average person in Australia or Britain or America, most countries, will follow a U-shape in mental health through their own life course.”

Better with age

Professor Ian Hickie, from the Brain and Mind Research Institute at the University of Sydney, agrees that life gets better in the late 40s. He says ageing is quite a good thing in mental health terms.

“Certainly the evidence we’ve got is if there is a time in your life you’re going to be miserable and complain about it, it’s mid-life,” he said.

“When you’re young you’re hopeful, you’re optimistic, despite your difficulties and as you age what you have to look forward to is actually better mental health.

“Contrary to most people’s ideas, getting older doesn’t get with going more miserable and having more troubles, it actually correlates with better coping with life and feeling better about your life. It seems the middle years are the killers. You just got to survive the middle years.

At age 48, Professor Hickie says he thinks he’s past the worst point in his life.

“I feel I am just going out the other end and from here on in life’s a breeze,” he said.

Victor Hugo said 40 was the old age of youth and 50 the youth of old age. And Professor Oswald also stresses that there is a positive message to take from the lesson of the U-curve of happiness.

“Just generally this research is, I hope, useful to somebody going through their 40s, maybe finding it hard,” he said.

“You are completely normal and if you stick in there then on average life will get better through your remaining decades.”

So just think of that U-shape as a smile.

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RNS may close more psych beds over Christmas

There are concerns staffing problems at Sydney’s Royal North Shore Hospital could impact on its ability to deal with psychiatric patients over Christmas.

The New South Wales Opposition claims four beds will be closed in the Cummins psychiatric unit because of problems recruiting new staff.

Opposition health spokeswoman Jillian Skinner says it will put even more pressure on the hospital’s already over-stretched emergency department.

The head of mental health services for northern Sydney, Dr Nick O’Connor, has admitted staffing problems could be a problem.

Dr O’Connor says there are up to 10 nurse vacancies and four mental health beds could be closed.

“Christmas can be very challenging,” he said. “It’s a little bit variable from year to year.

“It’s never a good time to have beds offline but at the moment, we’ve just got one bed offline and we’re working as hard as we can on a plan to bring the staff we need as soon as possible.”

He says he is working on a plan to minimise further closures.

“We’ve got both recruitment strategies and also some mitigation strategies to try and address that extra stress on the hospital system,” he said.

“This will involve some extra capacity in some of our neighbouring hospitals and possibly some secondments from other units.”

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Antarctic crew seek vitamin cure for long winter

The Aurora Australia leaves Hobart tonight for its annual Antarctic voyage.

But this year a container of pills could help expeditioners combat the long winter months.

Expeditioners can spend up to four months without sunlight as they conduct scientific research during Antarctica’s winter.

A three year study conducted into the health of crew members shows many are deficient in vitamin-D due to lack of sun exposure.

But the ship’s medical officer Dr Grahim Denyer says this year’s crew will have access to a steady supply of the vitamin.

Dr Denyer says lows levels of the vitamin can cause depression and a lack of energy.

He says it’s hoped giving out regular doses of vitamin-D will help keep crews healthy.

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