Did you know that yesterday was World Mental Health Day? If not, why not? It’s celebrated every year, on October 10, yet lots of people still aren’t aware of it and that’s such a shame – especially when you consider that one in four people will be affected by a mental health issue at some point in their lives [source: WHO]. In fact, while it is obviously fantastic that there is a dedicated day for spreading awareness about mental health, shouldn’t conversations surrounding this extremely important issue be happening all year round? Unfortunately, mental health issues have always had a stigma associated. As a result, they are not frequently and openly discussed – especially in places of work. But the reality is that workplaces are definitely somewhere mental health should be being discussed. That’s because mental health issues not only impact the individual experiencing them, but also the people around them – their colleagues. The bottom line is workplaces that promote good wellbeing and provide support to individuals with mental health issues stand a greater chance of reducing absenteeism and increasing productivity. Plus, by being seen to be an employer that holds mental health in high regard, the company will also promote itself as one that people want to work for. So why wait until October 10 next year to start a conversation around mental health issues. Let’s put this important topic at the top of every agenda, especially in the workplace.
There’s a mobile application (app) for just about everything nowadays, including helping us deal with our wellbeing. These so-called mental health apps often provide help and comfort for the people who use them, but new research suggests they could be missing the mark by quite some way. According to researchers from The University of Sydney and The University of Adelaide, both in Australia, there could be some major problems with how mental health apps frame mental illness (diagnose it) and the advice they give for dealing with it. For the research, a qualitative content analysis of 61 mental health apps from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia was conducted. The main problem that was identified was a tendency to promote medicalization of normal mental health states, leading to overdiagnosis. Furthermore, the apps encouraged people to use them frequently and promoted “personal responsibility” for improvement of conditions. While any form of medical self-help, including apps, can be useful, they should only form part of an overall plan for coping with mental illness. The bottom line is that people should never rely solely on apps and seek help from a therapist if they are concerned about their mental health. Relying on technology, unfortunately, does have its limitations.
Being part of a community singing group makes people feel valued, increases their confidence and can help them recover from a mental illness, new research suggests. According to the study conducted by the University of East Anglia (UEA) in the UK, individuals involved in free weekly singing workshops found benefits to mood and social skills. The researchers also found that the Sing Your Heart Out (SYHO) project, which was started by Tracy Morefield more than 10 years ago in a psychiatric hospital, had even stopped some people from relapsing. The SYHO initiative is aimed at individuals with mental health conditions, as well as the general public, and regularly attracts hundreds of people to four weekly sing-alongs. Researchers from UEA's Norwich Medical School said a study of 20 SYHO group members over six months found singing and mixing socially had helped those who had suffered with serious mental health issues to function better in day-to-day life. Lead researcher prof Tom Shakespeare described it as a “low-commitment, low-cost tool for mental health recovery within the community”. He said: “We found that singing as part of a group contributes to people’s recovery from mental health problems. “We heard the participants calling the initiative a life saver and that it saved their sanity. Others said they simply wouldn’t be here without it, they wouldn’t have managed – so we quickly began to see the massive impact it was having.” The research team are now encouraging other areas to consider running community singing groups.
More than a third of mothers have experienced a mental health issue related to parenthood, an online survey has found. According to the YouGov poll of 1,800 British parents, in comparison, just 17% of fathers had experienced similar parenthood-related issues. Of the mothers who experienced a mental health issue, more than two-thirds sought professional help as a result. Their conditions included acute stress, severe anxiety and postpartum depression. One of the biggest factors that weighs on the minds of new mums is criticism. Of those surveyed, 26% said their parents were the most critical of their parenting skills, followed by 24% who cited their spouse/partner and 18% other family members. Quite shockingly, 14% said they had been criticised by complete strangers. In comparison, 5% of the 800 fathers said the same. Trouble at work is also not uncommon for new parents. About 30% of mothers who responded said they had felt discriminated against at work because they were a parent, compared with 14% of working fathers. In terms of emotional support, 60% of women said they had received it from their friends, 56% from their partner and 18% went online. However, 15% of mothers and 25% of fathers say they didn't receive any emotional support at all. If nothing else, the survey highlights the struggles many mothers and fathers go through following the birth of a child. Support is crucial in helping these parents get through such difficult times.