Archive for the ‘Anorexia’ 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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Youth suicide dropping, but self harm on the rise

A young woman rests her head in her hands in a depressed pose

Experts say depression and anxiety can manifest themselves in self harm. (ABC News: Giulio Saggin)

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Australia has managed to reduce the number of teenage suicides but the latest figures from the Institute of Health and Welfare show there is a new problem that needs to be tackled, self harm.

In the past decade there has been an alarming rise in the number of young people who intentionally hurt themselves, with more than 7,000 taken to hospital in one year.

Youth suicide has long been recognised as a real and significant issue in Australian society.

But Professor George Patton from the Centre for Adolescent Health says more commonly, deep emotional pain can manifest itself as self harm.

“The act is not necessarily about killing yourself and for most young people self harm is not about killing yourself, it’s a way of dealing with emotions that you’re finding difficult,” he said.

“They may be emotions of feeling anxious, feeling angry, feeling unhappy, a mixture of all of the above.”

The latest figures from the Institute of Health and Welfare, released this morning, reveal the rate of self harm is rising dramatically.

In the decade from 1996 to 2006, the rate of hospitalisations from self-harm went up by 43 per cent among young people.

For young women, the increase was even higher at 51 per cent.

The institute’s Deanna Eldridge says that equates to 7,300 young people in the most recent statistical year.

“Overall it only accounts for about 2 per cent of all hospitalisations of young people, but in terms of injury it’s about the sixth leading cause of hospitalisation.

The Institute’s figures show about 80 per cent of the hospitalisations for self-harm were for deliberate poisoning.

Professor Patton says that is a reflection of the most serious cases but it is really only the tip of the iceberg and most cases of self-harm do not need immediate medical attention.

“The commonest type of self harm the young people report is deliberately cutting themselves,” he said.

“Self poisoning is the next most common and then things like deliberate risk taking, beating up on yourself or self battery – they’re less common again.”

Self harm is most common during puberty and reaches a peak at an average age of 15.

It is a problem all around the world and the rise of cases in Australia fits with similar trends in other Western countries.

Professor Patten says there is a growing feeling that the rise in self harm is actually a reflection of the growth of individualism and loss of connections.

“They are really important for young people as they’re growing up and so kids are growing up feeling that they actually need to deal with their problems themselves,” he said.

Youth depression groups, like Reach Out! have helped make progress in bringing down the suicide rate but spokesman Jonathan Nicholas thinks the figures show there is still a lot of work to do.

“We’ve made some good inroads into suicide but the journey is far from over and it says that we’ve actually got to do more in intervening early with young people and getting them to the supports they need and making sure that they are not reaching the point where they want to die,” he said.

Adapted from an AM report by youth affairs reporter Michael Turtle.

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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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Turning point for Disability Services

Disability Services in Tasmania is set for its biggest shake-up since it was de-institutionalised almost a decade ago.

A State Government commissioned review has so far identified significant problems in the allocation of funding, with no emphasis on measuring how clients benefit.

North-west residents in particular have less support and access to disability services than those in other regions.

Liz Forsyth, who heads the review for KPMG, has indicated a single point of contact for people with disabilities is one of the likely outcomes, as well as a new funding model.

“It’s about improving service access for people with disabilities and their families, ensuring that we can bring together the services around the person rather than the person having to fit into the service system,” she said.

“It’s looking at getting earlier intervention so families can be supported to maintain their family member and it’s about improving geographic equity in the system as it exists today.”

KPMG’s final report should be handed to the State Government by the end of the month.

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‘Exorcisms, cruel techniques’ part of Mercy Ministry treatment

The peak body for mental health professionals has issued a warning on the potential dangers of faith-based cures for mental health problems.

The Sydney Morning Herald has revealed allegations of incorrect treatment of several troubled young women by the Christian group, Mercy Ministries, which is linked to the Hillsong Church.

On its website, Mercy Ministries claims to treat women aged 16 to 28 years old by “providing homes and care for young women suffering the effects of eating disorders, self harm, abuse, depression, unplanned pregnancies and other life controlling issues.”

But three former patients told the Herald that the programs involved “emotionally cruel and medically unproven techniques”, such as exorcisms and “separation contracts” between friends.

The girls reportedly left the Mercy centre suicidal, after being told they were possessed by demons.

The newspaper report also claims Mercy Ministries received the women’s Centrelink payments during their residential stay.

Mental Health Council of Australia spokesman Simon Tatz says it is important people receive treatment that is evidence-based, for instance psychiatry and certain drug treatments.

“It’s about getting people into treatments that are proven to work,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Federal Human Resources Minister Joe Ludwig says the allegations regarding Centrelink are being investigated.

Meanwhile, coffee chain Gloria Jean’s says it will continue its sponsorship and fundraising of the Mercy Ministries program.

A spokeswoman says the company was told the allegations were unfounded.

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Professor defends anti-depressant study

Prozac is a commonly used anti-depressant (file photo).

Prozac is a commonly used anti-depressant (file photo). (Reuters: Darren Staples)

According to new research, millions of people taking commonly prescribed anti-depressants might as well be taking a placebo.

The study – the first to include unpublished evidence from the major drug companies – was co-authored by Professor Irving Kirsch from the Department of Psychology at the University of Hull in Britain.

It examined the clinical trials submitted to gain licences overseas for some of the most commonly used anti-depressants used in Australia, including Prozac and Effexor.

The study does say the drugs are effective in extreme cases of depression.

But Professor Irving told the ABC’s European correspondent Rafael Epstein the study also suggests the benefits of the drugs may have been exaggerated by companies cherry-picking the best results for publication.

IK: “The published data is biased is the sense that those trials, those clinical trials that have shown the least benefit for the active drug compared to the placebo … are likely not to get published.”

RE: Do you think that having access to all the data bolsters your findings?

IK: “Yes, it gives us an unbiased and a more accurate assessment of what the effects of these medications are compared to a placebo.”

RE: So is your conclusion that these drugs … they don’t really do much good?

IK: “It looks like, for many people, the major component of what is making them better is not the chemical that is in the drug. Now there is one exception, and that’s in the extremely depressed patients – those at the very extreme end of depression. They tended to not respond to placebo, but did continue responding to the drug.”

RE: The people who make the drug Prozac say that there is extensive scientific and medical experience to demonstrate that drugs like that are effective anti-depressants.

IK: “Our study was an analysis of their data. We didn’t do our own study. We analysed all of the data that the manufacturers of Prozac sent to the US regulatory agency when getting the drugs licensed – so it is not our data. It’s their data that suggests that the drugs give a limited benefit over placebos.”

RE: One of the spokesmen for GlaxoSmithKline said that you only looked at a small subset of the total data available. Is he wrong?

IK: “We looked at all of the data that the company submitted to the FDA.”

RE: So he’s wrong?

IK: “We didn’t look at other data because – with the other data which, for example, was collected after the licensing and approval process, we don’t have access to the unpublished data and what we wanted to have was an unbiased estimate of the effect of these medications.

“Until the drug companies make public all of the data that they obtained, that is the only way that one can get an unbiased estimate.”

RE: Does that mean you’d like to see the drug companies forced to publish all their data?

IK: “Yes, the data ought to be available so that physicians, patients and regulatory agencies can know exactly what the effects are, how much of those effects are due to placebo effect and for whom these medications are effective and for whom they are not.”

RE: But you think they are over-prescribed?

IK: “I do think that they are currently over-prescribed, and that there is an under-utilisation of alternative treatments right now.”

RE: By alternative, do you mean people simply talking through their problems with a professional?

IK: “That would be one alternative and, in fact, the research shows that psycho-therapy and especially cognitive behavioural therapy seems to be as effective as anti-depressant medication, but without the side effects and with a lower relapse rate.”

This isn’t the belief of the editor.

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NSW rejects RNS emergency recommendation

The New South Wales Government has accepted 43 of the 45 recommendations made by a committee looking into Sydney’s Royal North Shore (RNS) Hospital, but says it will not support a recommendation to change the way emergency patients are sorted.

The inquiry was launched after a number of serious issues at the RNS, including the miscarriage of Jana Horska in the hospital’s emergency department toilets after she waited two hours for treatment.

The Upper House committee, chaired by Christian Democrats MP Reverend Fred Nile, handed its report to the Government five days before Christmas.

The report identified problems including an unacceptable tolerance of workplace bullying, a disconnect between management and staff, and a shortage of nurses.

There were also revelations during the inquiry about live cockroaches in operating theatres and beds collapsing during surgery.

Health Minister Reba Meagher says one of the recommendations not supported by the Government involved modifications to the triage system.

“This is not a decision for Government, nor is it a decision for management,” she said.

“The method of triage is one that has been established by the informed decision making of the Australasian College of Emergency Physicians.

“The Government has noted that recommendation and referred it to the Australasian College for their consideration.”

Ms Meagher says there have already been significant improvements at the hospital over the past few months.

“Every week, the performance of Royal North Shore Hospital has been improving and we’re determined to see that change continue,” she said.

“The recommendations that have been brought forward by the Nile inquiry will inform and add to that process.”

But Opposition’s health spokeswoman Jillian Skinner says low morale and understaffing are still major problems at the hospital.

“This hospital needs more nurses, it’s short of beds still, it needs specialist doctors and they’re all tearing their hair out about what they see as flawed redevelopment plans,” she said.

“This is a Minister who is clearly out of her depth.”

A special commission of inquiry was called last month into the NSW health system, after the deputy state coroner found the RNS caused the death of a 16-year-old when it made every conceivable error in its treatment.

The girl, Vanessa Andersson, died at the hospital in 2005, two days after she was admitted for a skull fracture she suffered when she was hit by a golf ball.

The coroner, Carl Milovanovich, found the teenager died of respiratory arrest due to the effect of the medication she was administered. The inquest heard anaesthetist Sanaa Ismial gave Miss Anderson the wrong dose of a painkiller.

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