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Equality and Mental Health

The first census into the ethnicity and mental health service users reported that black people are 44% more likely than average to be detained under the Mental Health Act.It also found that black Caribbean men are 29% more likely to experience physical restraint.

The Government's proposed mental health bill will not deliver race equality in mental health.In fact,it threatens to do the opposite.The bill should include an explicit statement of non-discrimination and respect for diversity.

Control and restraint in mental health units should be subject to clear restrictions.Proposed powers for police to enter people's homes and take them for treatment without a warrent should be withdrawn.It is very likely that these powers will be disproportionally used against black people.

Despite several years of consultation and rejected drafts of the bill,and the advice of a parliamentary scrutiny committee,the government has repeatedly stated its intention to press on.Leading mental health charities,like Mind,Mental Health Alliance and Turning Point,signed a petition against the bill and delivered it to the Parliament.

Questions of detention,seclusion and restraint raise the issue of violance in mental health disorders,which in turn relates to drug use,discrimination and social dislocation or exclusion.Until we as a society ensure that these disadvantages are equally distributed across ethnic groups,mental health workers will continue to struggle with the messy reality that confronts them.In the inner cities many face a daily dose of violance,yet want to stay-clear of anti-discriminatory practice that put many professions to shame.(Dr.Anna Williams)

Counselling before Plastic Surgery

The government will launch a website for people considering cosmetic surgery.The aim of the website will be to advise people to seek therapy before any medical cosmetic procedure.The will try to suggest to people that,if they really think about altering their appearance,they should consider talking to a counsellor or psychotherapist first.

Sir Liam Donaldson,chief medical officer,said that tere was a lack of balanced information.He commented that people need to make informed choices about whether to have cosmetic surgery or a non-surgical cosmetic treatment.He added that well-informed patients can help to drive standards among providers in a field of health care where there had been concerns.

Along side the list of questions to ask the clinic,to establish how risky the operation is and how qualified the surgeon is to carry it out,the website also tackles the insecurity that motivates some people to want to change the way they look.

The website suggests the alternatives to cosmetic surgery.It states that if a person feels his/her appearance could result from anxieties about social situations or from problems with relationships,he/she might want to discuss it with his/her GP or another health professional,possibly a counsellor.They might be able to help an individual with addressing the concerns in other equally effective ways.

The website follows a report from the expert group on the regulations of cosmetic surgery which found strong evidence of hard-selling by clinics to vulnerable groups of people.(Dr.Anna Williams)

Students' Self-Harm

An independent mental health charity's report says that colleges and universities must educate teachers on mental health.Teachers need to end the stigma surrounding troubled young people who harm themselves.

Truth Hurts,the new report of the national inquiry into self-harm among young people says that the presentation of positive attitudes towards mental health issues is crucial to colleges and universities,if students are to stop hurting themselves.It also calls for further staff education and training on self-harm as well as more campaigns aimed at removing the stigma of self-harm.

There are widespread misunderstandings about self-harm among professionals and relatives which prevent young people from seeking and getting support.Young people experience of asking for help frequently made their situation worse.Many have met with ridicule or hostility from the professionals they have turned to.

What need to be done is to build a better understanding of why young people self-harm,and provide high-quality information for them,their families and professionals connected with them.It is only through positive mental health promotion that we can start to challenge stigmas around self-harm and help young people affected by it.If self-harm was not such a taboo subject,many people would have sought help earlier.(Dr.Anna Williams)

Depression as UK's Biggest Problem

Depression,anxiety and other forms of mental illness have taken over from unemployment as the greatest social problem in the UK,health economists warn.

Among the experts,Richard Layard,the government's advisor on mental health,advocates a network of 250 centres across the country to offer psychological therapies instead of the drugs widely handed out by GPs in the absence of sufficient therapists.

Around 15% of the population suffers from depression.The economic cost in terms of lost productivity is huge-around 17 billion or 1,5% of UK gross domestic product.There are now more than 1 million mentally ill people receiving incapacity benefits,more than the total number of unemployed people receiving unemployment benefits.

The National Institute of Clinical Excellence (Nice) has advised that drugs are not the best answer.They may work in adults in short term,but patients more easily relapse when they stop taking them,and many suffer side-effects.It also recommended that GPs should not prescribe most of the modern antidepressants,like Seroxat,to under-18s because risks outweigh benefits.

Only 4% of all those with depression and anxiety disorders received psychological therapies in the past.Yet,so called talking therapies are popular with patients who often do not want to be medicated.

Lord Layard said that it was improvement for the government to begin by envisaging what kind of provision was necessary and only after that consider how fast it could be established.He estimmated that around 800,000 patients a year would require cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).That means the country would need an extra 10,000 therapists.(Dr.Anna Williams)

Cards to Explain Abuse

Secondary school pupils have been sent information cards explaining what constitutes sexual abuse after a survey revealed that most young people did not know their legal rights in this area.

NSPCC posted thousands of cards to all secondary pupils in England,Wales,Northern Irland and the Channel Islands and stepped up calls for compulsory sex education classes.

The cards were produced in response to a recent survey of over 2,000 young people,in which 93% of students said their school sex education less did not include any information about sex abuse.

The NSPCC is pressuring the government to improve sex education in schools and wants all 14-to-16-year olds to be taught about sex in the context of relationships,peer pressure and the law.The NSPCC is also sending teachers a survey to find out what support,training and materials they need to build on their existing sex education provision.

The NSPCC survey found that pupils were confused about what behaviour was illegal or wrong,with 82% not realising it was against the law for a 30-year-old man to sexually touch a 15-year-old girl.Most know the age of consent,but 88% did not consider a relationship between a 15-year-old boy and a 23-year-old woman to be an abusive situation.

The NSPCC representative said that we would have to arm young people with a clear knowledge of what the law stated on sex and what constituted sexual abuse.That way young people will have more confidence to speak out on abuse.Young people cannot properly protect themselves from abuse or make informed decisions about sex without all the facts that means discussing topics like emotions,relationships and what it means to be pressured into having sex.(Dr.Anna Williams)

Therapy for Mental Disorders

Report published in June 2006 by a group of health professionals proposes that psychological therapies should be offered to every person with depression,anxiety or schizophrenia.

Only one in four people with these common mental illnesses receives any treatment.Often they are given drugs but no psychological support.Psychological therapy costs 750 pounds a year to treat one person.However,there is a severe shortage of therapists.Even if a patient is referred for therapy,there is a wait between three to nine months.

Expanding mental health services would be a huge investment,but it would pay for itself in savings to the NHS increased productivity.

One person in six is diagnosed with chronic anxiety or depression,which means that one in three families are affected.However,most GPs can only offer medication.

This is a waste of lives and money.One million people are on incapacity benefits because of mental illness.That is more than the number of unemployed.Access to talking therapies should be as big a priority for the NHS as any other proven cost-effective treatment.(Dr.Anna Williams)

Stress and your Heart

The idea that stress can damage your health is well known.However,fear,grief or hostility are completely ignored when it comes to preventing treating heart disease.

The treatment you may receive,if your heart begins to fail,are hailed as triumphs of science.Doctors use scans to see into your heart,prescribe drugs to lower risk factors in blood,insert metal to open blocked arteries and operate to by-pass problems.

Some experts claim that by concentrating on the plumbing of heart disease,we ignore powerful abilities of love and other positive emotions to protect us from the negative that harms us.

A plea for a recognition of the central role emotions play in heart disease (called psychocardiology) has just been published in a book by a leading American cardiologist Dr.Guarneri.

Dr.Guarneri found that patients whose cases seemed hopeless were transformed once the underlying emotions were recognized and dealt with.

Heart attack patients are significantly more stressed due to work,family or money problems than healthy people.Such factors are estimated to account for 30 per cent of heart attack risk.

How connected we feel to others also affects our heart disease.For example,living alone doubles the risk of heart problems.

It is vital to look at the behavioural dimension of patients with heart disease.The most toxic emotion is hostility.In the long term,it raises adrenaline levels,which increases cholesterol and makes it very hard to relax.However,once you start focusing on positive emotions,the levels of harmful imflammatory chemicals in the blood decrease.

Being optimistic can also protect the heart.Out of 1,000 men and women studied for nine years,those who rated themselves as highly optimistic were 25 % less likely to die of heart disease,regardless of their blood pressure or whether they smoked.

Research also shows that emotions can change the composition of your blood.Being depressed makes your blood stickier and prone to clotting,doubling your chances of having a heart attack.Positive emotions make blood composition healthy.Happy people have lower levels of imflammatory hormone cortisol,which raises blood pressure,heart rate and cholesterol levels.So the lesson for us all to continue being healthy is to stay positive,content,forgiving and relaxed.(Dr.Anna Williams)

Mystical Experiences

Magical mashrooms have for millennia been associated with mystical experiences.The most rigorous scientific experiment with the hallucinogen,and the first in 40 years,proved capable of producing mystical states in the laboratory safty.

Scientists at John Hopkin's University,US,selected 36 spiritually active volunteers,who might interpret the experiences best,and disqualified potential subjects who had family history or personal risk for psychosis or bipolar disorder.

One third of volunteers were given psilocybin,the mushroom's active compound,described it as the most spiritually meaningful experience of their lives,and about two thirds rated it in their top five.

Some side effects occurred.A third of volunteers admitted significant fear in the hours following their dose,and some felt momentary paranoia.

Two months later 80% reported moderately or greatly increased well-being or life satisfaction compared with those given a placebo.

Further research could lead to therapies against pain,depression or addictions.(Dr.Anna Williams)

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