Posts Tagged ‘Mental Health’

A few good links

Monday, January 7th, 2013

A few links I found interesting for one reason or another:

Digital mental Health - Pros and perils of social media in a mental health inpatient setting

Heresy Corner - Obesity and Sin

Cranmer - Homosexuality is an issue blown out of all proportion

Connexions – Mind your language

The Neurcritic - Spirit Possession as a Trauma-Related Disorder in Uganda

Theology Matters - Gnosticism and Modernity

Epiphenom – That was the year that was 2012


Taking refuge from modernity: 21st century hermits.

Sunday, January 6th, 2013

I found this Abstract interesting.

Idiopathic environmental intolerances, such as ‘multiple chemical sensitivity’ and ‘electrosensitivity,’ can drastically affect the quality of life of those affected. A proportion of severely affected patients remove themselves from modern society, to live in isolation away from the purported causal agent of their ill health. This is not a new phenomenon; reports of hermits extend back to the 3(rd) century AD. We conducted a literature review of case reports relating to ancient hermits and modern day reclusion resulting from idiopathic environmental intolerance, in order to explore whether there are similarities between these two groups and whether the symptoms of these ‘illnesses of modernity’ are simply a present-day way of reaching the end-point of reclusion. Whilst there were some differences between the cases, recurring themes in ancient and modern cases included: dissatisfaction with society, a compulsion to flee, reports of a constant struggle and a feeling of fighting against the establishment. The similarities which exist between the modern-day cases and the historical hermits may provide some insight into the extreme behaviours exhibited by this population. The desire to retreat from society in order to escape from harm has existed for many centuries, but in different guises.


My Nan’s a recluse and I’ve only seen her once, briefly, in ten years, and am not permitted to see her now even though she’s dying.

If life were different, I would be a total recluse also.

In regard to the abstract, I assumed the behaviour of most ‘historical hermits’ stemmed from spiritual reasoning, rather than anything else. As for sitting on a pole for years……

An historical irony is of course that folk were attracted to hermits, and through this mechanism the Gospel spread. Once a community had built up around the hermit, the solitude-loving monastic pioneer would move on further into the wilderness, and the process would begin again.

Wifey told me this is how much of  the Northern territories of Russia were colonised and taken for the Gospel.

Are folk that are spiritual but do not practice religion more prone to mental illness?

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

Two articles appeared yesterday in the media claiming those who are ‘spiritual’ but not practicing organised religion were more prone to mental health problems, than those practicing religion and those neither religious nor spiritual.

Daily Mail:

Being spiritual may give life deeper meaning, but it can also make you more susceptible to mental illness, new research suggests.

A study found that people professing to be spiritual, but not conventionally religious, were more likely to suffer from a host of mental challenges.

They suffered problems including abnormal eating conditions, drug abuse, anxiety disorder, phobias and neurosis.

They were also more likely than others to be taking medication for mental health problems.


They are more likely to suffer from a range of mental health problems than either the conventionally religious or those who are agnostic or atheists, found researchers at University College London.

They are more disposed towards anxiety disorders, phobias and neuroses, have eating disorders and drug problems.

In addition, they are more likely than others to be taking medication for mental health problems.

Professor Michael King, from University College London, and his fellow researchers wrote in the British Journal of Psychiatry: “Our main finding is that people who had a spiritual understanding of life had worse mental health than those with an understanding that was neither religious nor spiritual.”

Before I move on I want to note that both articles concluded with this comment from the researchers:

The nature of this association needs greater examination in qualitative and in prospective quantitative research.

The study was published in The British Journal of Psychiatry:



Religious participation or belief may predict better mental health but most research is American and measures of spirituality are often conflated with well-being.


To examine associations between a spiritual or religious understanding of life and psychiatric symptoms and diagnoses.


We analysed data collected from interviews with 7403 people who participated in the third National Psychiatric Morbidity Study in England.


Of the participants 35% had a religious understanding of life, 19% were spiritual but not religious and 46% were neither religious nor spiritual. Religious people were similar to those who were neither religious nor spiritual with regard to the prevalence of mental disorders, except that the former were less likely to have ever used drugs (odds ratio (OR) = 0.73, 95% CI 0.60–0.88) or be a hazardous drinker (OR = 0.81, 95% CI 0.69–0.96). Spiritual people were more likely than those who were neither religious nor spiritual to have ever used (OR = 1.24, 95% CI 1.02–1.49) or be dependent on drugs (OR = 1.77, 95% CI 1.20–2.61), and to have abnormal eating attitudes (OR = 1.46, 95% CI 1.10–1.94), generalised anxiety disorder (OR = 1.50, 95% CI 1.09–2.06), any phobia (OR = 1.72, 95% CI 1.07–2.77) or any neurotic disorder (OR = 1.37, 95% CI 1.12–1.68). They were also more likely to be taking psychotropic medication (OR = 1.40, 95% CI 1.05–1.86).


People who have a spiritual understanding of life in the absence of a religious framework are vulnerable to mental disorder.

OK, the major problem with drawing any conclusion from this study, is the ‘chicken and egg’ question. Which came first, spirituality or mental illness?

Put simply, does being ‘spiritual’ without being religious cause mental problems? Or does having mental problems cause folk to search for spiritual understanding without wishing to practice religion?

The popular assumption will be that a spiritual outlook causes mental problems; however, it is equally valid to claim that those with existing mental health problems seek a spiritual understanding for comfort.

Another intrigue thrown up in this study relates to the mentally ill and the practice of religion.

Is it possible to infer that those not practicing religion have less social support, increasing vulnerability?

If this is the case, then the question must be asked as to why this group has a reluctance to be part of a religion.

Religion, was articulated as: “the actual practice of a faith, e.g. going to a temple, mosque, church or synagogue”.

Is it possible that the mentally ill feel their respective place of worship is uncomfortable for them?

If so, then searching questions must be asked.

UPDATE: The Spectator has a blog on this in which they rightly note the ‘Chicken and egg’ issue.

A few good links

Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

A few links I found interesting for one reason or another:

Hurriyet Daily News - Christianity no longer a religion, says Turkish minister

Haven - Myth and Stigma – Emotion vs. Intelligence: BPD & Rational Thought

British Religion in Numbers - Welcome to 2013

Psychology Today - How to Discover Our Core Gifts Within Our Wounds

Words on the Word - Keep ‘em coming back with the December Biblical Studies Carnival

Ekklesia - Another moral wrong from IDS on work and welfare

The Emotionally Sensitive Person - Loneliness: Additional Survey Results

Law and Religion UK - 2012 and 2013: retrospect and prospect

And finally The World of Mentalists 2012 Award Results:

Best Mood Disorder Blog
Purple Persuasion

Best Psychosis Blog
A Path With Heart

Best Eating Disorder Blog
Giant Fossilized Armadillo

Best Personality Disorder Blog
Beauty From Pain Blog

Best Anxiety, Stress or Trauma Blog
Conversations With My Head

Best Autistic Spectrum Disorder Blog
Aspergers & the Alien

Best Psychiatry, Psychology or Psychotherapy
Mind Hacks

Best Nursing, Social Work or Professions Allied to Medicine Blog
The Masked AMHP

Best Student or Academic Blog
World of Oid

Best Mental Health Not Otherwise Specified Blog

Chaos and Control

Juxtaposing hearing the voice of God with hearing voices associated with mental illness

Sunday, December 30th, 2012

I want to draw attention to a fascinating little article on CNN Belief written by psychological anthropologist and juxtaposing hearing the voice of God with hearing voices associated with mental illness.

The key to the article is the fact that voices associated with mental illness tend to be “insults, sneers and contemptuous jibes” and that is certainly my own experience. It’s usually loud, obnoxious, intrusive and ALWAYS negative. Whereas:

God talks back in a quiet voice they hear inside their minds, or through images that come to mind during prayer. But many of them also reported sensory experiences of God. They say God touched their shoulder, or that he spoke up from the back seat and said, in a way they heard with their ears, that he loved them. Indeed, in 1999, Gallup reported that 23% of all Americans had heard a voice or seen a vision in response to prayer.

These experiences were brief: at the most, a few words or short sentences. They were rare. Those who reported them reported no more than a few of them, if that. These experiences were not distressing, although they were often disconcerting and always startling. On the contrary, these experiences often made people feel more intimate with God, and more deeply loved.

I’ve only ‘heard’ God on very rare occasions, but can personally attest to the vast difference between that, and voices associated with mental illness.

Great article and topic, well worth a read….

Using tragedies opportunistically to spout bullshit

Sunday, December 16th, 2012

I couldn’t watch the news yesterday or go online, as I simply couldn’t cope with the gut crunching imagery conjured up in my mind as a result of the US school massacre.

I braved it today and found myself shaking with rage.

First up, an article arguing not for the banning of guns, nor arguing the case for keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill; nope, arguing instead for the banning of psychiatric medication. Yep, you heard me right.

There’s talk online that the gunman was potentially suffering from a personality disorder; as far as I can make out, that’s all we know. We don’t know which particular disorder, or what medication he may, or may not, have been receiving, but that does not prevent this sort spurious bullshit:

No gun can, by itself, shoot anyone. It must be triggered by a person who makes a decision to use it. And while people like NY Mayor Bloomberg are predictably trying to exploit the deaths of these children to call for guns to be stripped from all law abiding citizens who have done nothing wrong whatsoever, nobody calls for medication control.

Why is that? After all, medication alters the mind that controls the finger that pulls the trigger. The saying that “guns kill people” is physically impossible. People kill other people, and as we all learned from watching the O.J. Simpson trial, you don’t need a gun to commit murder.

We should be outlawing psychiatric medications, not an inanimate piece of metal

I’ll let you read the rest of it if you can stomach it.

Piers Morgan Tweeted this earlier:

Putting my cards on the table; mentally ill folk should not be allowed to own guns. I’m mentally ill, and am no danger to anybody, with or without a gun, but I still should not be legally allowed to own one, for the simple fact that I am mentally ill.

Does that mean I believe that all mentally ill folk are potentially mass killers, no it doesn’t. My main concern with the mentally unstable having easy access to guns, is to do with the ease of dispatching oneself into eternity.

That’s my opinion.

But what if this tragedy has nothing to do with guns, mental illness, evil, or what have you, but is instead a by-product of godlessness?

That’s the other angle being pumped out at the moment; this time, of course, by Christians.

Don’t believe me, check out The Freethinker



In the wake of the Connecticut shootings, many Christians are placing the blame on people’s lack of faith in God, on the increase of secularism in our countries and our schools, and on people’s increasing unwillingness to submit to God. Some are saying that this tragedy is God’s way of trying to cause people to repent for their depravity – a kind of punishment for people’s lack of devotion to God. These Christians are arguing that tragedies like this stem from us as a nation turning away from God.


And so on…..

Apparently this T-Shirt is doing the rounds:

I really can’t articulate a response to this any better that Prof McGrath

I am glad that fundamentalists are finally being a bit more honest about what they mean by “God.”

They clearly do not mean an omnipresent being who cannot be excluded from any place. It’s quite a different notion from that encountered on more than one occasion in the Psalms, for instance. The ancient Israelite author never said “Where shall I go to flee from your presence? I know – a public school!” And in the Book of Jonah, the main character’s attempt to flee from the one who he himself says “made the sea and the dry land” on a boat is depicted as a fool’s errand. And could you imagine any ancient Israelite or Christian author taking seriously the notion that God could be kept out of somewhere?

But even though creating laws that exclude a real and omnipresent God from public school would be utterly futile, there are in fact no such laws in the United States.

What is excluded is the use of state power and influence to promote religion in general or some sectarian religious dogma in particular.

And so I think that, when fundamentalists say that their God is excluded from public schools, they are speaking the truth. The God they worship is not the true God, the one that is omnipresent and ultimate, but political power and coercive imposition of their views on others.

That is what fundamentalists worship and serve. That is what they lament seeing expelled from public schools. And that is what they opportunistically use tragedies like the recent one to promote.

Those who know or seek the true God will not bow before such idols, and will call those who do so out, and seek to expose them for what they are, namely worshippers of false gods.

I’ll leave it there…..

Quote of the Day

Sunday, December 16th, 2012

How can I rejoice when all I know is blankness and despair? If we cannot climb over the mountain, we must burrow underneath. The first reading at Mass, from the prophet Zephaniah, tells us how. If we aren’t rejoicing, we need to know that God is rejoicing over us. He is so filled with joy and delight at the prospect before him, he is dancing — indeed, dancing for joy.

SOURCE: Digital Nun

Blue Christmas: Mental Illness takes no seasonal break

Friday, December 14th, 2012

With eleven days to go until Christmas it seems timely to post my annual “Mental health and Christmas” post.

As those suffering from mental health problems are already more likely to be experiencing chronic loneliness, stress, and anxiety; the festive season can be a double-edged sword accentuating these problems. Christmas can be one of the best and one of the worst times of year.

Calls to the Samaritans will spike this time of year and over this period they will receive a call every 7 seconds; so whilst you’re reading this, they will received three calls from those in desperate need.

With the economic situation as it is currently, coupled with the financial pressures of Christmas, this year threatens to be exceptionally difficult for many. Obviously financial worries can have a devastating impact on mental health and can lead to serious problems such as stress, anxiety and depression.

Coupled with this are fears related to benefit cuts and many chronically ill folk will be anxiously awaiting the outcome of their ATOS DWP assessments and appeals etc.

Whilst the best efforts are made to cheer up psychiatric wards with decorations and such, some patients can feel more stigmatised, forgotten and abandoned than ever, especially if they have no family and friends to visit.

Many folks suffering from mental illness take solace online, but even this refuge can go rather silent over Christmas. This is worth remembering.

We need to be extra vigilant for exacerbation of mental health conditions brought on by isolation or increased stress from this festive season. Christmas has become a difficult time for many people in our society, but it’s a marvelous opportunity to reach out to them.

And there is a practical way you can help.

Mind are currently running a campaign to raise funds:

The following text is taken from the Mind Website Page entitledWhy the Mind Infoline is needed more than ever this Christmas:

For many thousands of people trying to cope with a mental health problem, Christmas can be a time to feel increasingly scared, lonely and isolated.

This year will be my third Christmas working on the Mind infoline. I take calls from people looking for support, either for themselves or a friend or family member who is experiencing mental health problems.

It’s only 6 December, but I’m already receiving calls from people worried about how they’re going to get through the holiday period. Experiencing a mental health illness can cause people to become isolated. Around Christmas, this can become even worse. The thought of spending Christmas alone can be very upsetting, even overwhelming.

Many organisations and mental health services start to wind down and close up for the holidays. This leaves people who rely on support from various services feeling alone and without help at a time when they need it the most.

This is when, I feel, the Mind infoline becomes a lifeline.

By helping people to find alternative support services, the Mind infoline becomes a key link between those who need support and the services that can help. In some cases, just being a friendly voice at the end of the phone, someone who can listen to someone’s worries and fears, and letting that person know that they are not alone is a huge help in itself, and a very important part of my job.

At times I might talk to callers who feel that there is no way out of their situation and start to experience suicidal thoughts and feelings.  This can be a frightening experience for anyone to go through.

In one call I received recently, David (not his real name) felt overcome by his grief. His wife had passed away earlier in the year and David was in an emotional place where he felt he would not be able to cope with being alone at Christmas this year. With no other family or friends around him, David felt it would be easier to end his life now rather than continue fighting the negative thoughts and painful emotions he was experiencing.

I was happy that David had picked up the phone and called the infoline. To me, this meant he still wanted to live but did not know where to turn to for help and support. I was able to reassure David that he was not alone, that there was a way forward, and found him David was feeling more positive about accessing support and was happy to know that there was help available.

This year in particular, thousands of people have been terribly affected by the welfare and benefits reform. It’s an issue that Mind has focused a lot of resources and time on campaigning directly to the government for a fair and supportive benefits system. And on the Mind infoline, it is a subject that we have received thousands of calls about, and I anticipate that for many people, it will be the scrooge-like figure looming over Christmas.

Many people are already struggling to cope after having their benefits cut. They may well have to forfeit Christmas in order to just survive. For those with children, it can be a stressful and painful experience.

In a call I took recently, I talked to a single mother who was struggling to feed her young family due to the cuts which had been made to her benefits. Lucy (not her real name) was now faced with having to try and find a way to explain to her children why Santa would not be leaving Christmas presents this year.

Although she had been putting some money aside in the run up to Christmas, the increase in her electricity bill meant that any spare funds had to go on the bills. Lucy was very emotional and blamed herself for not being a good mum. She felt alone and frightened that the stress from her financial situation would have a detrimental impact on the anxiety and depression that she experienced.

Lucy just wanted to give her children a Christmas like all their friends at school had, she did not want them to miss out.

Thankfully there were a number of organisations and services in her area that could help her, not just with financial difficulties but also emotionally. Hearing the relief in the Lucy’s voice when I started providing information about the different types of support available was satisfying, knowing that a short five minute call had had such a big impact on the caller and her family.

Working on the Mind infoline over Christmas is a humbling experience. Having family and friends and good health is something I will never take for granted.

But as a charity, the Mind infoline resources are stretched over Christmas. And unfortunately, as the number of calls to the line keep rising, we are not able to answer every call.

If I could have one wish this Christmas, I’d wish that that we could get enough donations to fund the Mind infoline so we could answer every call, that we could give support to everyone who is alone and scared.

This Christmas, no one should have to face a mental health problem alone. Anything you could spare us in the Big Give could be doubled, doubling the support we could give to people trying to get through.

I really urge you to push a few quid their way if you can afford it; you never know, you might just save someone’s life.

You can donate here.

Note: I actually nicked the term: “Blue Christmas” from Believer’s Brain and Maggi Dawn

2Day FM Radio presenters Mel Greig and Michael Christian receiving medical assistance

Sunday, December 9th, 2012

I’m sure most of you are aware of the Australian radio station prank telephone call, in which presenters Mel Greig and Michael Christian posed as the Queen and Prince Charles to obtain medical information from The King Edward VII hospital, relating to the condition of the pregnant Duchess of Cambridge.

There has been a global response to this as nurse Jacintha Saldanha who took the prank call and transferred it through to a duty nurse, was found unconscious and pronounced dead on Friday.

The reaction in the media and on social networks has been unequivocal;  Saldanha killed herself as a direct result of the prank and the radio presenters have blood on their hands.

For me personally, there is no single human act sadder and more distressing than suicide.

Also, I’ve never been a fan of pranks, I don’t find them funny or clever, someone always gets humiliated and hurt.

There isn’t a single reasonable person not gutted and distressed for Saldanha and especially for her two young children and family.

This said, I have been disturbed by the reaction to the radio presenters Mel Greig and Michael Christian. They have been on the receiving end of terrifying online death threats; have been moved into hiding, and are both receiving medical support, even to the point of being on suicide watch themselves.

The media are circling like vultures, the same media that these radio presenters are part of, the same media that revels in these pranks, the same media that would be hounding these two nurses were Saldanha alive today.

And what of the reporting of the suicide? We know the police are dealing with the death as ‘not suspicious’, but that’s all we know. Mental health agencies have urged not to speculate on the reasons behind the death.

Consider this from the Sydney Morning Herald:

leading psychiatrist and former Australian of the Year Patrick McGorry called for calm, saying suicide was a complex issue that was unlikely to be caused by one individual factor.

“I feel sorry for them because they obviously had no intention of causing any harm. Blame is hardly ever useful,” Professor McGorry said.

“Most people are in a state of mental ill health leading up to when they kill themselves and it would have needed more than just that trigger to actually bring that about.

“You could say that a stressful life event like this was a contributory cause – and maybe she wouldn’t have killed herself at this point in time without that having happened – but it was likely that there were some other factors going on too.”

Frank Quinlan, chief executive of the Mental Health Council of Australia, said there was a risk of compounding the tragedy by targeting the radio presenters.

“It’s hard to imagine that the vitriol and hatred and anger that we’re seeing in this case is going to result in anything positive,” he said.

“What this case shows is we need to be having a conversation about suicide and about mental health in general and how we can better support people who may be vulnerable – that’s really the only prospect we have of getting anything positive out of this. The message to all of us needs to be to take a moment to pause before we jump to accusations that could have a lasting effect.”

Jeff Kennett, chairman of the national depression agency beyondblue, expressed his concern for the radio DJs, saying the call was meant as a “harmless prank” that was never intended to hurt anyone, and he hoped the Australian community would be understanding.

“This is going to have terrible ramifications in terms of the impact on people’s lives and I hope that both Mel and Michael are strong … We’ve got to be careful we don’t become so politically correct that we deny ourselves the opportunity like now to extend to these two all the support we can to ensure that they come through this as strongly as possible.”

Jaelea Skehan, acting director of the Hunter Institute of Mental Health, said it was too early to know all the facts in the case and caution was needed.

“We don’t know whether the radio prank played into this woman’s death because we don’t know anything about her the circumstances of her life,” she said.

“While it’s obviously tragic for everyone concerned, her family, her colleagues and all who knew her, it’s also tragic for the two people who have been named and shamed in association with it.”

Ms Skehan has led the Mindframe committee on media guidelines on reporting suicide and mental health for the last decade.

“The kind of behaviour that people have been criticising the radio hosts for, they’re now doing very similar types of behaviour back towards them with vitriol,” she said.

“If people are arguing that public humiliation has been related to the death of this women then must one must also reflect that public humiliation directed towards those two people on the radio is not going to be helpful either.”

There will be an inquest into this tragedy, but in the meantime, the media have a two-fold responsibility in this case. The first is the ethical considerations of pranks, and the second is in the responsible reporting of suicides. The Samaritans provide media guidelines for the reporting of suicides.

What the radio presenters did was irresponsible and potentially illegal, but they are a product of the very industry that would hound them to the brink.

I hope those of us on social media will think twice before jumping on the condemnation bandwagon, whilst keeping Jacintha Saldanha and her family in our prayers.

A few good links

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

A few links I found interesting for one reason or another:

A Reluctant Sinner - By setting up a Twitter account the Pope is like a general leading from the front — The virtual world is a battleground

Independent (Owen Jones) - Tragic deaths that demand a better response than I witnessed

Bishop Nick Baines – Cutting Edge

Seattle Times - Russia wrestles with hysteria over end-of-the-world prophecy

BRIN - Faith of the Faithless

Fr Stephen Smuts -An Archdiocese of the Internet?

Law and Religion UK - Opinion polls on assisted dying

Thomas Creedy - Postmodernism, Evangelism, Apologetics and the Future of the Church

The biblical World - Evangelism in a Globalized World: 1 Thess 1:4-8

The Emotionally Sensitive Person - Looking at Loneliness: Survey Results

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