Archive for November, 2010

What is Mental Health?

Australian Institute of Health & Welfare

The National Health Priority Areas Report on Mental Health defined mental health as:

‘the capacity of individuals and groups to interact with one another and the environment,  in ways that promote subjective wellbeing,  optimal development and the use of cognitive,  affective and relational abilities’. A diverse range of social, environmental, biological and psychological factors can impact on an individual’s mental health.  In turn, people can develop symptoms and behaviours that are distressing to themselves or others, and interfere with their social functioning and capacity to negotiate daily life.  These symptoms and behaviours may require treatment or rehabilitation, even hospitalisation.

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People spend ‘half their waking hours daydreaming’

The outcome of this study backs up my belief that happiness and mental health are dependent on ‘living in the present moment’.

12 November 2010 Last updated at 13:08 GMT

BBC Mobile UK

People spend nearly half of their waking hours not thinking about what they are actually doing, according to a US study conducted via the iPhone.

More than 2,200 volunteers downloaded an app which then surveyed them about their thoughts and mood at random times of day and night.

The Science study suggested minds wander, even from demanding tasks, at least 30% of the time.

A UK expert said other studies confirmed people are easily distracted.

The iPhone was a novel research tool for researchers at Harvard University.

Participants agreed to be contacted, at which point they selected what they were doing from a menu, whether they were actually thinking about it, and how happy or sad they felt.

This study shows that our mental lives are pervaded, to a remarkable degree, by the non-present”

End Quote Dr Matthew Killingsworth Harvard University

Remarkably, some participants were prepared to answer the survey even when making love.

While their study sample was composed entirely of people who owned the device, and were prepared to download and be disturbed by an app of this kind, the researchers said it provides an insight into how our minds can wander during the day.

After gathering 250,000 survey results, the Harvard team concluded that this group of people spent 46.9% of their time awake with their minds wandering.

Dr Matthew Killingsworth, one of the researchers, said: “Mind-wandering appears ubiquitous across all activities.

“This study shows that our mental lives are pervaded, to a remarkable degree, by the non-present.”


In addition, the survey data on happiness appeared to show a modest connection between the degree of mind-wandering and the level of happiness.

People who were most distracted away from the task in hand were more likely to report feelings of unhappiness.

Reports of happiness were most likely among those exercising,  having a conversation or making love, whereas unhappiness was reported most while people were resting, working, or using computers.

Dr Killingsworth said: “Mind-wandering is an excellent predictor of people’s happiness.”

However, whether mind-wandering is the cause, or the result of unhappiness is still not proven by the research.

Professor Nilli Lavie, from the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London, said that while any attempt to try to measure the wandering mind was “heroic”, the results of the study might be rendered less reliable by the type of participant it attracted.

She said: “Mind-wandering may simply be ubiquitous in the type of person who is engaging in this type of iPhone application, and who is prepared to be distracted from whatever they are doing in this way.”

However, she said that her own laboratory research had found similar or even higher levels of mind-wandering among subjects given less demanding tasks to complete.

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To keep on good terms with adult children..

To keep on good terms with adult children,  continue to be warm and loving, but do as little as possible for them or to them,  as much with them as you both enjoy and respect them enough to be willing to leave them alone if this is what they want.

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The reason students do badly…

The main reason so many students are doing badly and even good students are not doing their best,  is that our schools,  firmly supported by school boards, politicians, and parents,  all of whom follow external control psychology,  adhere rigidly to the idea that what is taught in school is right  and that students who won’t learn it, should be punished.

This destructive,  false belief is best called schooling.


The faster you go…

The faster you go, the more students you leave behind. It doesn’t matter how much or how fast you teach. The true measure is how much students have learned.

Dr. William Glasser

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Mental health patients ‘locked up in hospitals without legal authority’

The Guardian  27 October 2010

Health regulator says blanket measures introduced in the name of patient security may infringe human rights law

Mental health patients are increasingly being locked up in hospitals without legal authority, a practice which may infringe human rights law, the health regulator said today.

The Care Quality Commission said the proportion of people in low secure beds has increased significantly since 2006. More than a quarter of psychiatric patients are now in held in low secure units (LSUs). Three years ago, the figure was less than a fifth.

Such changes in the pattern of care have rung alarm bells at the commission. It says patients were being subjected to a regime of close observation behind high fences and “airlocks”, where patients sometimes faced “unsafe or abusive practices”.

The regulator cited cases where the mentally ill were limited to “two to six sheets” of toilet paper and where nurses were unable to administer care because they were busy guarding patients.

One example saw a male nurse assigned “to preserve the dignity” of a highly disturbed female patient who was constantly attempting to remove her clothing. Other female patients in a different unit also complained that male nurses were involved “during night-time observation, bathing and toileting”.

The commission said these were “serious concerns for the dignity and safety of vulnerable [people]”. “Examples of poor practice being followed in the name of patient security included blanket measures that risked infringing human rights law, and disregard for privacy and dignity that was verging on unsafe or abusive practice,” said the report.

There had also been an alarming trend of security measures that banned mobile phones or forbade patients from preparing their own meals. The commission said, in some circumstances, this could “amount to an unwarranted infringement of patients’ ECHR article eight rights to a family and private life”.

The commission recommends reviewing the national policy of standards in such units. Matt Kinton, the report’s author, said there was a “real worry that the more mental health wards look like prisons, the less they function as hospitals where people will get better and be able to live independently”.

Kinton said one of the driving forces of this trend towards security was that the private sector had built many new low-security wards. “It is the old adage that if you build a hospital, patients will fit it.”

The regulator also noted that there was a sharp rise in the doctors prescribing compulsory treatments for mental health problems. On average, 367 community treatment orders (CTOs) have been made each month. This is at least ten times the number anticipated when the legislation was introduced in 2008.

Patients detained in hospital can be discharged under CTOs and supervised by a doctor who stipulates a strict prescription of medicines and can sometimes restrict patients movements. If a patient refuses, they can be returned to hospital.

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Courage is…

Courage is not the absence of fear,

It is taking action in spite of fear.

M. Scott Peck

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Alcohol More Dangerous Than Heroin, Study Finds

by The Associated Press

November 1, 2010

British researchers found that alcohol damages nearly all organ systems when drunk in excess, and is involved in more crime than most other drugs, including heroin.

Alcohol is more dangerous than illegal drugs like heroin and crack cocaine, according to a new study.

British experts evaluated substances including alcohol, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy and marijuana, ranking them based on how destructive they are to the individual who takes them and to society as a whole.

Researchers analysed how addictive a drug is and how it harms the human body, in addition to other criteria like environmental damage caused by the drug, its role in breaking up families and its economic costs, such as health care, social services, and prison.

Heroin, crack cocaine and methamphetamine, or crystal meth, were the most lethal to individuals. When considering their wider social effects, alcohol, heroin and crack cocaine were the deadliest. But overall, alcohol outranked all other substances, followed by heroin and crack cocaine. Marijuana, ecstasy and LSD scored far lower.

What governments decide is illegal is not always based on science.

The study was paid for by Britain’s Centre for Crime and Justice Studies and was published online Monday in the medical journal, Lancet.

Experts said alcohol scored so high because it is so widely used and has devastating consequences not only for drinkers but for those around them.

“Just think about what happens [with alcohol] at every football game,” said Wim van den Brink, a professor of psychiatry and addiction at the University of Amsterdam. He was not linked to the study and co-authored a commentary in the Lancet.

When drunk in excess, alcohol damages nearly all organ systems.  It is also connected to higher death rates and is involved in a greater percentage of crime than most other drugs, including heroin.

But experts said it would be impractical and incorrect to outlaw alcohol.

“We cannot return to the days of prohibition,” said Leslie King, an adviser to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and one of the study’s authors. “Alcohol is too embedded in our culture and it won’t go away.”

King said countries should target problem drinkers, not the vast majority of people who indulge in a drink or two. He said governments should consider more education programs and raising the price of alcohol so it isn’t as widely available.

Experts said the study should prompt countries to reconsider how they classify drugs. For example, last year in Britain, the government increased its penalties for the possession of marijuana.  One of its senior advisers, David Nutt — the lead author on the Lancet study — was fired after he criticized the British decision.

“What governments decide is illegal is not always based on science,” said van den Brink. He said considerations about revenue and taxation, like those garnered from the alcohol and tobacco industries, may influence decisions about which substances to regulate or outlaw.

“Drugs that are legal cause at least as much damage, if not more, than drugs that are illicit,” he said.


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Maturity is…


To be mature is to be personally, and not merely physically, grown up.  Maturity is the stability and resourcefulness of one whose personal growth measures up to the demands of life.

Now, life is the complex and necessary endeavour of human beings to master material nature and to form under God a whole community developing towards happiness – and to do this against the disruptive influence of irrational forces, competitive, self-interest and sectional social interests.

Personal maturity, therefore – the accomplishment of a person who has responded consistently to life’s call for integration and wholeness – will have certain basic characteristics and will be built on  certain  very definite foundations.

Since life is complex and we are endowed with reason or intellect to cope with it, the first requisite of personal maturity is sure to be understanding.

Next, since life involves he needs and feelings of those about me, and of countless of other human beings besides myself, together with the opportunities for fulfillment which social organisation confers upon us, there is, in the making of personal maturity, no substitute for genuine love and for personal involvement in an order of love.

Finally, since life is a daily confrontation with real and threatening evils which oblige us, while struggling for its more important benefits, to seek our fundamental happiness in its enduring values, there is no access to mature living without personal or spiritual strength.

Maturity is Threefold and Fivefold

Personal maturity, therefore, involves simultaneously a person’s mind, heart and character.

Through understanding, maturity is an expansion or growth of the mind.

Through love, maturity is a perfection of the heart. The emotionally mature person has an educated heart – an acquisition which as such is unrelated to formal schooling or academic attainment.

Through personal or spiritual strength, maturity is the emergence and positive affirmation of character.

Development of mind, heart and character all go together.  For example, an objective understanding of life needs love, which alone gives the appreciation and compassion necessary for an understanding of persons.

Love, for its part, requires knowledge and understanding and love is only sensitive in proportion to the subtlety of a person’s discernment.

Love also provides the motivation necessary for the formation of character, just as understanding clarifies the goals and the means that are vital in this formation.

Moreover, without strength of character love easily degenerates into a corrupt indulgence of feelings and nothing tends more than this does to cloud and distort a person’s understanding of life.

Now, if character is synonymous with spiritual strength, this overall spiritual strength is the fruit of particular spiritual strengths acquired through consistently healthy action in various aspects of living.  These habitual strengths have traditionally been called virtues (virtus = strength).  They can be acquired – as the old maxim explains: “Sow an act and reap a habit, sow a habit and reap a character.”

The acquired habits or virtues that go to make up mental health or personal maturity are almost innumerable.  We could talk of patience, kindness, truthfulness, prudence, generosity, chastity, sobriety, courage and so on.  But in one way or another they all come under the three great headings which we are using – they would be habits that make for a true mind, a loving heart and a strong character.

Character itself is obviously the whole person under the aspect of his or her strength, consistency or integrity in doing and enduring.  However, on analysis, it can be seen to involve three complementary or component strengths, viz. acceptance, confidence and control.

The strength to accept calmly our providential share in the distribution of natural gifts and limitations and of circumstantial blessings and burdens, and to endure with equanimity the evils of life which we cannot change, is called Acceptance.

The strength to emphasise consistently in ourselves and in others what is good, to live above evils and not to be bluffed or disheartened by them, to change things for the better where we can and to anticipate and work for the victory of life and love and happiness, is called Confidence.

The strength to discipline our feelings, so as to establish and keep order in the part of life that is entrusted to us, and not to be led by desire or fear to betray love, is called Control.

At the same time, it is clear that the animating principles of character are always understanding and love.

It seems, therefore, that in these five great virtues, personal strengths or resources – understanding and love, acceptance, confidence and control – we have the principal attitudes by which a person manages to face life successfully as a whole.

Readings for mental health Vol.1 G.R.O.W. (International), A.C.T. Australia

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Drugs in Portugal: Did Decriminalisation Work?

By Maia Szalavitz   26th April 2009

At the recommendation of a national commission charged with addressing Portugal’s drug problem, jail time was replaced with the offer of therapy.

The argument was that the fear of prison drives addicts underground and that incarceration is more expensive than treatment — so why not give drug addicts health services instead?

Under Portugal’s new regime, people found guilty of possessing small amounts of drugs are sent to a panel consisting of a psychologist, social worker and legal adviser for appropriate treatment (which may be refused without criminal punishment), instead of jail.

The question is, does the new policy work? At the time, critics in the poor, socially conservative and largely Catholic nation said decriminalizing drug possession would open the country to “drug tourists” and exacerbate Portugal’s drug problem; the country had some of the highest levels of hard-drug use in Europe. But the recently released results of a report commissioned by the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, suggest otherwise.

The paper, published by Cato in April, found that in the five years after personal possession was decriminalized, illegal drug use among teens in Portugal declined and rates of new HIV infections caused by sharing of dirty needles dropped, while the number of people seeking treatment for drug addiction more than doubled.

Judging by every metric, decriminalization in Portugal has been a resounding success,” says Glenn Greenwald, an attorney, author and fluent Portuguese speaker, who conducted the research. “It has enabled the Portuguese government to manage and control the drug problem far better than virtually every other Western country does.”

Compared to the European Union and the U.S., Portugal’s drug use numbers are impressive. Following decriminalization, Portugal had the lowest rate of lifetime marijuana use in people over 15 in the E.U.: 10%. The most comparable figure in America is in people over 12: 39.8%. Proportionally, more Americans have used cocaine than Portuguese have used marijuana.

The Cato paper reports that between 2001 and 2006 in Portugal, rates of lifetime use of any illegal drug among seventh through ninth graders fell from 14.1% to 10.6%; drug use in older teens also declined. Lifetime heroin use among 16-to-18-year-olds fell from 2.5% to 1.8% (although there was a slight increase in marijuana use in that age group). New HIV infections in drug users fell by 17% between 1999 and 2003, and deaths related to heroin and similar drugs were cut by more than half. In addition, the number of people on methadone and buprenorphine treatment for drug addiction rose to 14,877 from 6,040, after decriminalization, and money saved on enforcement allowed for increased funding of drug-free treatment as well.

Portugal’s case study is of some interest to lawmakers in the U.S., confronted now with the violent overflow of escalating drug gang wars in Mexico. The U.S. has long championed a hard-line drug policy, supporting only international agreements that enforce drug prohibition and imposing on its citizens some of the world’s harshest penalties for drug possession and sales. Yet America has the highest rates of cocaine and marijuana use in the world, and while most of the E.U. (including Holland) has more liberal drug laws than the U.S., it also has less drug use.

“I think we can learn that we should stop being reflexively opposed when someone else does [decriminalize] and should take seriously the possibility that anti-user enforcement isn’t having much influence on our drug consumption,” says Mark Kleiman, author of the forthcoming When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment and director of the drug policy analysis program at UCLA. Kleiman does not consider Portugal a realistic model for the U.S., however, because of differences in size and culture between the two countries.

But there is a movement afoot in the U.S., in the legislatures of New York State, California and Massachusetts, to reconsider our overly punitive drug laws. Recently, Senators Jim Webb and Arlen Specter proposed that Congress create a national commission, not unlike Portugal’s, to deal with prison reform and overhaul drug-sentencing policy. As Webb noted, the U.S. is home to 5% of the global population but 25% of its prisoners.

At the Cato Institute in early April, Greenwald contended that a major problem with most American drug policy debate is that it’s based on “speculation and fear mongering,” rather than empirical evidence on the effects of more lenient drug policies. In Portugal, the effect was to neutralize what had become the country’s number one public health problem, he says.

“The impact in the life of families and our society is much lower than it was before decriminalization,” says Joao Castel-Branco Goulao, Portugual’s “drug czar” and president of the Institute on Drugs and Drug Addiction, adding that police are now able to re-focus on tracking much higher level dealers and larger quantities of drugs.

Peter Reuter, a professor of criminology and public policy at the University of Maryland, like Kleiman, is skeptical. He conceded in a presentation at the Cato Institute that “it’s fair to say that decriminalization in Portugal has met its central goal. Drug use did not rise.” However, he notes that Portugal is a small country and that the cyclical nature of drug epidemics — which tends to occur no matter what policies are in place — may account for the declines in heroin use and deaths.

The Cato report’s author, Greenwald, hews to the first point: that the data shows that decriminalization does not result in increased drug use. Since that is what concerns the public and policymakers most about decriminalization, he says, “that is the central concession that will transform the debate.”
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