Post Of The week – Thursday 9th January 2014

1) A Couple More Things About Depression

When we were looking at the clinical characteristics of depression, there was some surprise that about twice as many women as men are diagnosed with depression and that depression is increasingly a disease of late adolescence and early adulthood. In previous versions of this course, the gender issue was one we focused on more, supported by some good text book resources. There seems to be less focus on gender now in the resources to which we have access. To set things right, here are a couple of links. Firstly, this link here explains some research done with women who had just given birth.

Rates of depression and mental illness are startlingly high. Childbirth is a time when women have extended access to medical treatment and when long-standing problems might come to the surface. The research authors claim that screening for depression would identify women with mental health problems which had not been diagnosed before they became too serious. Not everyone agrees with this though. Here’s a critical challenge from James Coyne.

This article looks at school based depression and anxiety prevention programmes.

The premiss is that incidence of anxiety and depression is high: 20% of children up to the age of 18 will have suffered an emotional disorder of depression or anxiety. By creating a programme for everyone in school or by specifically targeting vulnerable individuals, it might be possible to reduce this number and prevent people getting ill later in life. The article explains what the evidence is for how effective this might be and what problems schools might face in making it work.

2) Drug Trials

This week in General Studies, we watched Ben Goldacre’s TED talk about health and bad science. Drug trials have been in the news, with a group of MPs calling for evidence from all trials to be made public. You can read the story and follow a link to the All Trials campaign from this address here.

The British Psychological Society also support this campaign: see here.

To understand more about how drugs are trialled, what the problems are and what might be done about them, watch this TED talk by Roger Stein.

3) Stigma Of Mental Health

It’s been a while since we did some research on this but it remains a central issue. Here is Ruby Wax, who has spoken powerfully about her own experience of mental illness and campaigned against the stigma around it, giving an interview on the BBC.

As part of the story about greater understanding and openness, here is a news story about a new role for mental health professionals in the criminal justice system.

4) Are Talking Cures Any Good?

CBT is increasingly the treatment of choice across a range of disorders and is dealt with extensively on this blog. First the good news. As part of the AS course, we look at evidence about the treatment of bulimia nervosa using CBT. This article suggests that it is highly effective.

On the other hand, there is the suggestion that the focus on CBT excludes other forms of talking cure that might be equally effective. This gives you the details.

Counselling has sometimes been dismissed within the medical and psychological community as just talking about stuff which needs proper treatment. The same might also be said about meditation. This article however suggests evidence for the effectiveness of meditation as a treatment for common psychological conditions.

This should interest in particular those of you who study RE because it represents the coming together of western ideas about medicine and health with eastern ideas about spiritual well-being. There is increasing interest in the idea of mindfulness which has its origins in eastern religious thinking.

5) How To Revise

Particularly in AS, we look at learning strategies for use in lessons. I show you a slide from this source here showing red, amber and green ways of learning.

This news article offers support to the idea that spreading your learning out over time is important.

It doesn’t say whether interleaving your learning is a good idea. Interleaving means swapping between different topics or subjects at regular intervals.

6) Managing Worry

As we go through the stress topic, we will look at the idea of how you think about the things which make you stressed will alter your experience of stress. We will challenge the idea that the negative effects of stress are inevitable. For the questions on stress, I have blogged a link to the work by Peter Kinderman on rumination. Worry is different because it is about what might happen as opposed to what has already happened. Nevertheless, this article stresses the way worry shapes our experience of disorder and therefore suggests that challenging the way we think might be an important way of taking charge of ourselves and our health.

7) Varenicline

As part of the addictive behaviour topic in A2, we look at drug treatments for addiction. Here’s some research on varenicline, one of the treatments we study. It sounds as if more is going to be published on this soon.

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