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January 2011



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Archive for January 10th, 2011

First Published Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Learning to Fly

Gratitude Enhanced by Focusing on End of Pleasurable Experience

One of the greatest challenges to achieving happiness through gratitude is routine, familiarity and habit. We behave as if the things we enjoy now – health, job, family and friends – will continue forever, despite knowing it’s impossible. Usually only a change of some kind really captures our attention.

Attacking this complacency is at the heart of a new study which can be used to enhance the power of gratitude. Dr Jaime L. Kurtz, reporting her research in Psychological Science, hypothesises that one way to increase people’s subjective well-being is to focus on when pleasurable experiences will end (Kurtz, 2008; PDF).

Six weeks isn’t long

In her study Dr Kurtz recruited participants who were about six weeks from finishing college and graduating. They were asked to write about their experiences at college in one of three conditions:

  1. 1.  Encouraged to view 6 weeks as a long time.
  2. 2.  Encouraged to view 6 weeks as not very long.
  3. 3.  Just told to write about what they had done on a typical day (control group).

Then, over the next two weeks participants were asked to complete four surveys. Participants in the first two conditions were encouraged to think about what they were grateful for: things like friends, clubs and activities, but with their remaining time at college framed either as very short or relatively long. Participants in the final control condition continued describing their typical day.

As Dr Kurtz predicted it was those in the second group who were happier after the intervention; the other two groups showed no significant improvement. It seemed that just being encouraged to think grateful thoughts was not enough to increase happiness. What made the grateful thoughts beneficial was focusing on the imminent end of this pleasurable experience.

On top of being happier, students encouraged to think how little of college remained were more likely to take advantage of the time they had left. They displayed greater motivation by taking part in more college-related activities. Dr Kurtz suggests thinking about the end of their experience at college put them in a ‘now or never’ frame of mind.

Life is short

It is hard to admit to ourselves that life is finite: elderly parents won’t be around forever, close friends will move far away and we will eventually grow old and die. Naturally we consider these sad facts of life depressing and guess that no good can come of their contemplation.

But what this study suggests is that thinking about endpoints as a way of stimulating gratitude can be beneficial. Finite ends seem to inspire people to think carefully about what it is they have, because soon enough, and usually sooner than we would like to think, it will be gone.

Source:   http://www.spring.org.uk/2009/01/gratitude-enhanced-by-focusing-on-end.php

The Key To Happiness

Happier.com: Go Beyond the Books

Happier.com is a new website aimed at self-discovery and self-improvement which is currently free to access.

We could all do with a little more happiness in our lives and that is what Happier.com is all about. It includes happiness assessments and tools for increasing your happiness based on psychological research. This site is associated with psychologist Professor Martin Seligman at the University of Pennsylvania who is a leading light in research on positive psychology.

Amongst the assessments you can take are an authentic happiness test, an optimism test and one that will be familiar from previous posts here on PsyBlog: the VIA Character Strengths survey. Further assessments to appear on the site will include measures of life satisfaction, life balance and the emotions.

After assessing your current levels of happiness, the exercises section aims to help increase your happiness. Exercises available at the moment are aimed at helping control negative thoughts, increase gratitude, let go of grudges and ‘have a good day’. More are planned for the future.

Source:   http://www.spring.org.uk/2009/01/happiercom-go-beyond-books.php

First Published Thursday, 22 January 2009

ALS patient on hunger strike over home care


A desperately ill Sudbury woman heralded as a champion —
athletically and of human rights — is entering the sixth day of a
fast to end her suffering and her life.

Minna Mettinen- Kekalainen, 42, has fought for years to keep
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) from preventing her from doing
the things she loves — skydiving, rowing and raising two children.

But she no longer has it in her to fight a provincial organization
she says is refusing to help her when she is at her weakest.

Mettinen-Kekalainen is alone, bedridden or confined to a wheelchair,
unable to change her adult diapers or bathe herself, and in constant pain.

Her only source of nutrition is the feeding tube in her stomach, but
she is refusing to let friends administer the four cans of supplement
she should be receiving daily.

Once the subject of newspaper articles about her indomitable spirit
in coping with ALS and a role model for people raising autistic
children, Mettinen-Kekalainen (who also suffers from Asperger
Syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder) is not receiving home care.

She says it’s being denied by the North East Community Care Access
Centre because she complained about nurses contracted by the
organization whom she claimed were not following her doctor’s orders.

The centre is unable to comment on Mettinen-Kekalainen ‘s case
specifically, but maintains it doesn’t deny care to anyone who needs
it — provided the home environment in which it is offered is “safe.”
Safe, said executive director Richard Joly, includes being free from
harassment and abuse.

Mettinen-Kekalainen told The Sudbury Star last week she threatened to
report the nurses to the Ontario College of Nurses because they were
not giving her the care her doctor ordered.

She and friend Jason Bushie say the nursing agency and the Community
Care Access Centre have deemed that harassing behaviour.

The truth in the dispute may never be known. What is evident is that
Mettinen-Kekalainen seems destined to spend her last days in living
conditions that would be considered unfit if a dog were subjected to them.

Bushie said his friend, whom he met 18 months ago at the Sudbury
Rowing Club, just wants to die. He said she has been promised nursing
care, but is being told there are no nurses to provide it.

She hasn’t had a bath in months, her diapers go unchanged for weeks
and “Minna’s just given up,” said Bushie. “She’s hit her wall.”

Among her many problems is that Mettinen-Kekalainen dearly misses her

Her son, 18, left home because he couldn’t cope with her illness. And
earlier this month, Mettinen- Kekalainen sent her 16-year-old
daughter to live with relatives in Vancouver because she was afraid
the child would get up one morning and find her dead.

Bushie said he’s shocked at how his friend’s health has declined in
the last month or so. He’s even more surprised that news stories
about Mettinen-Kekalainen ‘s condition a week ago have not resulted in
her receiving help.

“This goes beyond disgusting,” Bushie said. “We send peacekeepers to
other countries to help people living in conditions like hers.”

Nickel Belt MPP France Gelinas calls Mettinen-Kekalainen ‘s story
“heart-wrenching. “

She listened to it online at
<http://ca.youtube. com>http://ca.youtube. com
/user/SudburyCCACex posed, where Mettinen- Kekalainen is chronicling
her fight with the centre and her last days in video.

Gelinas, the NDP’s health critic, said judging from those videos,
Mettinen-Kekalainen “is a person of integrity. She’s very strong and

She is also someone who needs home care and should be receiving it.

“Our home care system is broken,” said Gelinas. “It needs to be fixed.”

She blames for-profit nursing agencies contracted by North East
Community Care Access Centre for siphoning money from client care to
their bottom lines.

“As long as we have competitive bidding that puts profit ahead of
people’s needs, we’re going to have a broken system,” Gelinas said.

Bob Fera, former chair of the Manitoulin-Sudbury Community Care
Access Centre, fought the province for years over funding cuts to
home care services.

Now retired, Fera was contacted in Florida where he is spending the
winter. If Mettinen-Kekalainen is being denied care because the
centre can’t find nurses to tend to her, “that’s not acceptable,” said Fera.

And just because a client is difficult shouldn’t affect whether they
receive care.

“You treat the need, not the person,” said Fera.

Hard-to-service clients such as Mettinen-Kekalainen are becoming
“more the rule than the exception,” he said. If they were in
hospital, they would be cared for regardless of how difficult they were.

But Joly maintains there are limits in hospitals and long-term care
residences to the harassment and abuse to which employees are subjected.

“We are letting them die,” said Fera of hard-to-service clients.

“For many of them, if they don’t have family, they’re dead.”

Mettinen-Kekalainen has contacted the Sudbury MPP Rick Bartolucci’s
office, looking for help. When contacted Friday, an aide to
Bartolucci said he was not available and suggested calling the media
line for the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care for comment.

A Health ministry media spokesman said he could do no more than
provide information on how much money Dalton McGuinty’s Liberal
government invests in home care in the northeast. That information
had not arrived by the end of business Friday.

Mettinen-Kekalainen told The Star last week her last hope was gaining
admission to Maison Vale Inco Hospice, where she could spend her
remaining days in comfort.

In an e-mail to The Star on Friday, Mettinen-Kekalainen said her
request has been rejected because there is no telling how long she
will live, despite her condition. Most people admitted to the hospice
die within 10 days, and she could live for months.

Mettinen-Kekalainen said she expects it will take three weeks to die
of starvation.

“I need to go and get some peace,” she said in the e-mail. “I am
continuing my hunger strike until I receive that peace.”

(If you have a comment on Minna Mettinen- Kekalainen’s situation,
e-mail cmulligan@
Article ID# 1392830

A Call To Assist Wherever Possible In Minna’s Case:

“I have a request for anyone with any power to do anything about this:

Don’t get bogged down in how sad you feel about what is happening. Don’t — if you can do anything more — just write about this. Don’t treat her death as the only inevitable conclusion in all this. Find a way to pressure the right people until Minna gets her services back, free of abuse/neglect and free of coercion to avoid reporting abuse/neglect.”


“No one deserves to live and to spend their final days in this manner.  Those within the ‘caring’ professions whose job it is to ensure that those in need and at their most vulnerable are granted appropriate, professional and dignified care should perhaps review why they entered their profession in the first place.  They should surely be held accountable.  This is a most upsetting case, and sadly yet another example of how ‘not’ to conduct a caring, professional agency.  This is not a time for sitting back and accepting the way things are.  It’s a time to highlight gross inadequacies.  Time for change.  Minna’s life meant and continues to mean a great deal.  It should not end in this manner. Action in Canada must be taken to put things right and to ensure a higher regard for human life than is currently shown.”  Julie



Steve Murray, spokesperson for this rally communicated with Carol
Mulligan at the Sudbury Star (the reporter that
has been following Minna’s Story). Carol has confirmed that Minna has
started eating again. While this is good news it does not end our
fight to help reinstate care. We will continue with the protest on
Friday as Minna is excited that we are working on this cause!!

http://www.facebook .com/group. php?gid=50628557 006&ref=mf

Protest For Minna


We Are Protesting:

FRIDAY JANUARY 23rd from 8AM until NOON in front of MPP Rick
Bartolucci’s office located at 93 Ceder st, corner of Ceder and
Lisker, the Canada-Broker Building.
Then at NOON we are Marching to the Community Care Access Centre
which is located in the Rainbow Centre 40 Elm St, Suite 41-C the
north east corner of the mall at the corner of ST Anne Rd and Notre Dame Ave.

For Further and Updated Information:

Facebook Group: Minna’s Hunger Strike – Call to action for an ALS
patient denied care http://www.facebook .com/group. php?gid=50628557 006&ref=mf
The Sudbury Star:
<http://www.thesudbu rystar.com/ PrintArticle. aspx?e=1392830>http://www.thesudbu rystar.com/ PrintArticle. aspx?e=1392830
<http://ca.youtube. com/user/ SudburyCCACexpos ed>http://ca.youtube. com/user/ SudburyCCACexpos ed

Thursday January 22nd – 9:38 a.m.

Community to protest patient’s plight
ALS patient Minna Mettinen-Kekalainen has been denied home care


Laurentian University social work students will stage a day-long protest Friday to keep attention focused on the plight of a Sudbury woman with ALS who says she is being denied home-care services she desperately needs.

The students will demonstrate in front of Sudbury MPP Rick Bartolucci’s office from 8 a. m. to noon, then march to the North East Community Care Access Centre in the Rainbow Centre for a demonstration until 4 p. m. to raise awareness about the case of Minna Mettinen- Kekalainen.

Mettinen-Kekalainen, 42, began a hunger strike last week — refusing to accept liquid supplements through the gastric feeding tube inserted in her stomach — to garner publicity for her battle with the access centre.

Mettinen-Kekalainen, who has been recognized for starting the adaptive rowing program at the Sudbury Rowing Club, claims she is being denied home care, such as nursing and personal support, because she threatened to report nurses she said weren’t following her doctor’s orders to the Ontario College of Nurses.

The access centre has said it cannot comment on Mettinen- Kekalainen’s case because of privacy laws, but executive director Richard Joly said the organization has a duty to protect its workers and does not send them into environments where they may face harassment or abuse.

* Follow on YouTube at ca. youtube.com/user/SudburyCC

ACexposed Steve Murray, a third-year social work student, said Wednesday he and two classmates were absolutely outraged by Sudbury Star stories outlining Mettinen- Kekalainen’s difficulties with the access centre.

Mettinen-Kekalainen, herself a Laurentian social work graduate, is chronicling her story in a video diary on YouTube at http://ca.youtube.com/user /SudburyCCACexposed.

Mettinen-Kekalainen’s story “hit home,” Murray said, because she is a Laurentian alumnus and because “this could happen to anybody.”

The students are determined to keep public attention on Mettinen- Kekalainen’s situation and the huge injustice that is being done to her.

Murray said there have to be other ways to resolve a disagreement such as this one than withholding services from a person who needs them.

Students want both Bartolucci, who has been contacted about Mettinen- Kekalainen’s case, and the access centre to know that people think the woman is being treated inappropriately and that “there are better ways to deal with” her.

“This is not going to be swept under the rug,” said Murray.

A friend of Mettinen- Kekalainen, who is also her legal power of attorney, said she has begun accepting her food supplement again, ending her hunger strike.

Jason Bushie said Mettinen- Kekalainen has also experienced a positive mood swing in the last few days. She has been deemed a palliative patient by her family physician, but that is not stopping her from getting out, in her motorized wheelchair and via Handi-Transit, for outings such as one she took to a Sudbury bookstore Wednesday.

Bushie said Mettinen- Kekalainen still is not receiving personal support or nursing care from the access centre, although there have been attempts to try to set up appointments. Her voice has been so affected by ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, that she can no longer use the telephone and must rely on e-mail for communication. That is making it more difficult to set up appointments for treatment.

Bushie said last week the access centre told him it does not have nurses available to care for his friend, since the nursing agency that complained about Mettinen- Kekalainen refused to treat her.

Mettinen-Kekalainen suffers from asperger syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder characterized by autistic-like behaviour and deficiencies in social and communication skills.

Murray said social work students hope their protest will get more people in the community talking about Mettinen-Kekalainen’s situation. They also hope it will cause the access centre to reconsider its position on her care and prompt Bartolucci to get more active in her case.

Opinion: A dog would get better treatment than Minna Mettinen-Kekalainen

Posted By Carol Mulligan/The Sudbury Star
Anger burns my stomach as I drive along Regent Street back to The
Sudbury Star after spending an hour with Minna Mettinen-Kekalainen.

Anger and I are no strangers. It overcomes me at times for no reason
and out of all proportion. But this is different. This is righteous
anger. I am determined to make it work for something good.

A few minutes after 10 a.m., I visit Minna’s home as promised,
following wheelchair tracks in the freshly fallen snow to her front door.

Reluctant to enter, I knock loudly, open the door, then step in,
yelling her name. When she does not answer, I hesitate, then remember
the disease that is crippling her body is now claiming her voice so I
can’t hear her call to come in.

Minna suffers from amyotropic lateral sclerosis or ALS. Once a proud
athlete and adaptive rower, Minna sits in her wheelchair, breathing
oxygen from a hose, fighting exhaustion to keep her eyes open so she
can talk with me.

Minna and I have met once before during an interview about her battle
with the North East Community Care Access Centre to receive home
nursing and personal care such as bathing and diaper changing.

Minna and her friends have been scathing in their attacks on an
organization I believe does what it can to help as many people as it
can with the resources it has. It has been difficult to figure out
the true story.

But the fact is this. Almost two weeks after The Sudbury Star first
wrote about her, nothing has changed for Minna Mettinen-Kekalainen.

She still has Lou Gehrig’s disease and is deemed a palliative patient
by her family doctor.

She still has not received any nursing care or personal support from
the CCAC since a private nursing agency contracted to care for her
refused to treat her after she threatened to report its nurses for
not following her doctor’s orders.

In the last week or so, a speech therapist and a dietitian have
visited her. I cannot figure out why. Minna is being fed through a
gastric feeding tube inserted into her stomach, although she was
refusing her liquid supplement for days in a hunger strike to protest
against her treatment.

Speech therapy may be helpful, but what Minna needs is a bath and to
have her diaper changed. She admits there have been attempts to get a
personal support worker to her home, but no one has arrived yet. It
has been weeks since she was bathed and had her diaper changed, and
says she has a rash the size of a dinner plate on her bottom.

She cries when she points to the clutter in her bedroom, and says the
rest of her place has become a giant storage locker. We cry a lot
together during that hour.

Minna is concerned about her friend and power of attorney Jason
Bushie, a young man she only met 18 months ago but on whose shoulders
rests the sole burden for her care.

Minna is afraid Jason is going to burn out as he juggles his banking
job and she weeps about the unfairness of her care falling on her
younger friend’s shoulders.

She is heartbroken after speaking with her 16-year-old daughter last
night in British Columbia via computer. The girl was sent to live
with relatives after Christmas and is lonely and wants to come home.
Her mother is torn between missing her and regret that she didn’t
send her daughter to live with relatives sooner. Maybe it would have
spared her the trauma of watching her mother deteriorate before her eyes.

The conversation continues from one tearful subject to another as
Minna unloads her frustration and sadness. A Buddhist, Minna wonders
what she has done in another life to deserve to be treated so badly.
The thought is shared without self-pity, but rather in puzzlement
that it had come to this.

The founder of Sudbury’s adaptive rowing program, Minna said people
in the rowing community were proud to stand beside her when she
collected medals and garnered other honours for her achievements.
None is around to help her today.

Minna has also been a model for parents of autistic children in
Sudbury. She has asperger syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder that
she has fought her whole life to overcome.

When reminded how she has inspired people dealing with challenges,
Minna lowers and turns her head aside. She cries and whispers she no
longer wants to inspire anyone. She just wants help.

The North East CCAC says it cannot speak about her case because of
confidentiality requirements. Sudbury MPP Rick Bartolucci has been
approached and asked for help. I admire Bartolucci a great deal and
recall the dozens of times he was outraged, while in Opposition, at
stories like Minna’s. I dearly wish to see some of that outrage now.

I want to pick up the phone and invite North East CCAC executive
director Richard Joly to come with me to visit Minna. To look in her
sad face and tell me how in God’s name a woman in her condition could
pose a threat to anyone.

I want to phone Rick Bartolucci and urge him to come with me to
Minna’s home. To pad in his sock feet as I did through the wet
wheelchair tracks to her bedroom where she sits alone, in a dirty
diaper, reaching out for help via the laptop computer mounted on her

I know these men, both Richard and Rick, and know them to be
kind-hearted. I believe if they got out from behind their desks and
met Minna, this situation could be resolved.

To help stem her tears, I urge Minna to focus on something positive
for the next day. Just for the next day.

She brightens when she remembers that social work students at
Laurentian University are planning a protest Friday to draw attention
to her situation.

Imagine that, she says. Young people whom she has never met going to
those lengths for her. She cries that total strangers are doing
something for her that dozens of people she has helped and inspired
in the rowing and autistic communities did not or could not.

ALS is eating away at Minna Mettinen-Kekalainen ‘s body, but it would
not surprise me if she died of a broken heart. As I lace up my boots
and leave her home, I cannot imagine leaving a sick dog alone in
conditions like those in which I am leaving Minna. If she were an
animal, I could call animal welfare authorities to rescue her. It’s
not that easy to find help for a desperately ill woman.

I am sick with shame as I leave Minna’s home. That in My Sudbury, My
Ontario, there is no help for a woman like Minna Mettinen-Kekalainen ,
no matter how difficult she can be to deal with. If someone would
just take the time to sit with her and see this from her perspective.

All I can do is come back and write about Minna.

This is Minna’s story, but it is happening in our Sudbury.

Our hearts should be breaking, too.

Denying care ‘unacceptable: ‘ students

Social work students from Laurentian University are demanding
immediate action to resolve the case of a Sudbury woman suffering
from ALS who says she is being denied home care.

About a dozen students staged a day-long protest downtown Friday to
draw attention to the story of a woman they say has fallen through
the cracks of a health-care system that is broken.

They admitted they don’t have all the facts in the dispute between
Minna Mettinen- Kekalainen and the North East Community Care Access
Centre, and protest leader Steve Murray said he recognized the agency
couldn’t speak about the case because of confidentiality laws.

“We are not here to make anyone or any agency seem like a bad guy,”
said Murray, speaking through a megaphone in front of Sudbury MPP
Rick Bartolucci’s constituency office just before noon.

“But we are here to ensure that this issue does not get swept under the rug.”

Murray said the purpose of their demonstration was twofold — to get
Mettinen- Kekalainen the services she needs and isn’t receiving, and
to call for collaboration to find out what happened in this case and
to ensure it never happens again.

“Our message to both the government and the agencies involved here is
that this situation is completely unacceptable, ” said Murray.

He appealed to Bartolucci, who has said his constituency staff has
done everything it can to help the ailing woman, to keep working on
Mettinen- Kekalainen’s behalf.

“Our message to you, Mr. Bartolucci, our representative, (is that)
one of your constituents is in need and she needs you now more than ever.”

Mettinen-Kekalainen is claiming she is being denied home care after
she threatened to report nurses who were caring for her to the
Ontario College of Nurses for not following her doctor’s order.

The care access centre cannot comment on her case, but has said there
is more to it than is being reported. Executive director Richard Joly
said Friday his organization never withdraws services from clients
without presenting them with other options.

Joly has also said the agency cannot expose its workers to threats of
harassment or abuse when they visit clients’ homes.

Murray said Canadians won’t sit back “while essential services are
withheld from someone who needs them.”

The students decided to protest on Mettinen- Kekalainen’s behalf
after reading Sudbury Star stories outlining the woman’s situation.
Mettinen-Kekalainen , a former student in the same social work
program, attended the rally at one point in her motorized wheelchair,
and her presence bolstered marchers’ morale.

Mettinen-Kekalainen also suffers from asperger syndrome, an autism
spectrum disorder that can affect interpersonal communications. Some
of her friends have speculated the disorder can make her appear
difficult to deal with.

Student Miranda Maunsell said she joined the protest because she
thought it “simply deplorable” that someone could be denied care when
they need it.

She, too, acknowledged there is more to the story than she knows.

“But people that are in jail and (have) committed murders … still
have the right to be treated. I don’t think it matters what you’ve
done. Everyone has the right to have their basic needs met.” Neither
Bartolucci nor access centre officials met with protesters, but
student Robin Cheslock slipped up the elevator to visit Bartolucci in
his constituency office.

Cheslock said the MPP reiterated his position that his staff has done
“anything and everything they can to advocate on behalf of Minna.
However, his office can’t interfere on individual cases such as this.
He has to let the process run its course.”

Cheslock said Bartolucci said he supported students’ right to protest
and “encouraged us to continue on with what we’re doing and voice our
opinion and advocate for people in situations such as this, and to
carry that drive and desire further, not just through graduation, but
later on in our careers.”

Sudbury, Ont., woman whose home care was discontinued will be treated again

The Canadian Press

SUDBURY, Ont. — A woman in Sudbury, Ont., suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease who has been without home care for more than two months will soon receive the treatment she needs.

Advocates say Minna Mettinen-Kekalainen was refused home care by the three nursing agencies in the area.

She also has Asperger syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder, which friends say can make her difficult to deal with.

Provincial NDP health critic France Gelinas stepped in to act on Mettinen-Kekalainen’s behalf and says the Sudbury region community care access centre has found a solution.

She says they reached an agreement with one of the agencies that had been refusing care, and that Mettinen-Kekalainen accepted the arrangements.

Gelinas says Mettinen-Kekalainen, who needs her adult diaper and feeding tube changed and needs to be bathed, will receive home care again starting Feb. 2.

First Published Friday, 23 January 2009


The relationship between migraine and mental disorders in a population-based sample.

Ratcliffe GE, Enns MW, Jacobi F, Belik SL, Sareen J.

Department of Psychiatry, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada; Community Health Sciences, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada; Epidemiology and Service Research Unit, Institute of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, Technical University of Dresden, 01187 Dresden, Germany; Department of Psychology, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Objective: There is emerging evidence from clinical and community samples to suggest that migraines are associated with mental disorders. The present study utilized a large population-based sample to investigate the association between physician-diagnosed migraine and mental disorders.

Method: Data were from the German Health Survey conducted between 1997 and 1999 (N=4181, response rate 61.4%, age 18-65 years). Lifetime and 12-month history of migraines were assessed by self-report and by a physician. Past 12-month DSM-IV mental disorders were assessed using the Composite International Diagnostic Interview.

Results: After adjusting for sociodemographic factors, past-year migraine was significantly and positively associated with depression, dysthymia, bipolar disorder, panic attacks, panic disorder, agoraphobia and simple phobia [adjusted odds ratios (AOR) ranging from 1.74 to 3.21]. After additionally adjusting for other mental disorders, any anxiety disorder (AOR=1.82) and any mood disorder (AOR=1.61) remained significantly associated with past-year migraine.

Conclusion: Although causal inferences cannot be made due to the cross-sectional nature of the data, the present study adds to a growing body of literature that suggests a strong association between migraines and mood and anxiety disorders.


Migraine aura intensifying

First Published Friday, 23 January 2009

New York Times News Service — In the world of therapy, Dr Aaron T. Beck is a rock star.

Considered the father of cognitive behavior therapy, a form of psychological treatment that has swept the country in recent decades, he has been so famous for so long that some are surprised to find out that he is still, at 87, hard at work.

Beck has recently come out with a new, overarching theory of depression, the mood darkness that in any given year afflicts an estimated 5 percent of Americans (and probably a higher percentage this year).


The Depression Cycle

The Depression Cycle

Depression In Children:


Depression In Adults:


Sex and Depression: In the Brain, If not the Mind


As everyone knows, sex feels good.

Or does it? In recent years, I’ve come across several patients for whom sex is not just unpleasurable; it actually seems to cause harm.


Depression May Underlie ‘Transmission of Poverty’

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Children from poor families are more likely than their peers to be depressed as teenagers, with effects that can ultimately make it harder to climb out from poverty, a new study suggests.


Quarter of Australian Children Have Mentally Ill Parent

Almost a quarter of Australian children are living with a parent who has a mental illness, according to new research published in the January issue of the Psychiatric Bulletin.

Of these, just over one percent (or approximately 60,000 children) have a parent who has a severe mental illness, such as schizophrenia, manic depression or clinical depression.

The study of the prevalence of parental mental illness in Australian families was carried out by a researcher team from Australia’s Charles Sturt University and LaTrobe University.

To date, there have been few estimates of numbers of children in families with a parental mental illness in Australia. Instead, policy-makers have relied on American data, or small-scale Australian estimates.

In this study, the researchers used three methods to estimate the prevalence of parental mental illness. First, they combined figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics mental health studies with family characteristics studies to establish a population estimate.

According to this estimate, 23.3 percent of all children in Australia have a parent with a non-substance mental illness. A smaller proportion – 1.3 percent – has a parent whose mental illness is severe.

The second approach examined the records of all mental health service users in the state of Victoria between 2003 and 2004 – 38,455 people in total. This showed that 7,829 service users (20.4%) had dependent children.

The final approach used data from a community study of over 700 8- to 12-year-old children living in three Australian states. Of these, 14.4 percent reported having at least one parent with a mental illness.

Writing in the Psychiatric Bulletin, the study authors said: “Unfortunately, although parental mental illness does not in itself guarantee poor outcomes for children, more severe parent disability has been associated with less sensitive and competent parenting, significantly greater mental illness in offspring, insecure infant attachment, and lower quality of the mother-child relationship.

The estimate of just under 60,000 children living with a parent with a severe mental illness in Australia is likely to be very accurate as the figures are extrapolated to the Australian context from the 14,403 children of Victorian parents with a severe mental illness. This suggests a large number of children likely to be at risk owing to their parents’ severe mental illness.

The authors believe their new estimates provide important information to developers of psychiatric policy and programs. They said: “This provides basic evidence to governments and mental health support agencies of a large number of children, many of whom could be considered to be living in a high-risk family environment.

Maybery DJ, Reupert AE, Patrick K, Goodyear M, Crase L. Prevalence of parental mental illness in Australian families. Psychiatr Bull. 2009 Jan; 33:22-26   [Abstract]

Wish I Could Fly ...

Computerized CBT for Adolescent Depression (“Stressbusters”) and its Initial Evaluation Through an Extended Case Series

Abeles P, Verduyn C, Robinson A, Smith P, Yule W, Proudfoot J.

Central Manchester and Manchester Children’s University Hospital NHS Trust, UK; Institute of Psychiatry, London, UK; University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

Background: “Stressbusters” is an interactive computer software programme based on a clinically effective face-to-face CBT protocol for young people with depression. It was designed for teenagers with mild to moderate depression, and comprises eight 45-minute sessions.

Method: Twenty-three young people (aged 12-16; mean age 14.87 years) with symptoms of depression were recruited from CAMHS teams in Manchester and London, and received the Stressbusters treatment (range 1 – 8 sessions, mode 8 sessions).

Results: On the K-SADS at initial assessment, 95% met diagnostic criteria for a depressive disorder, with a high group mean score of 35.48 (SD 9.84) on the MFQ. Post-treatment, 22% of young people met criteria for a depressive disorder, with the group mean score on the MFQ falling significantly below clinical cut-off to 20.32 (SD 11.75). These gains were maintained at 3-month follow-up. Significant improvements were also found in the adolescents’ global functioning (CGAS), self-reported anxiety (RCMAS), depressive cognitions and attributions (ATQ and CTI-C), and in adolescent- and parent-reported emotional and behavioural difficulties (SDQ).

Conclusions: Taken together, these results provide promising preliminary data for the clinical efficacy of Stressbusters as a valid form of CCBT for adolescents with depression.


First Published Saturday, 24 January 2009

Book Cover

Helene Guldberg

‘Autistic children are now seen as a burden’

Dr Michael Fitzpatrick talks about how raising an autistic child is made infinitely harder by the charlatans waging the ‘war on autism’.

Dr Michael Fitzpatrick’s Defeating Autism: A Damaging Delusion is not only a moving personal account of the challenges faced by parents of a child with autism. It is also a powerful exposé of the damaging effects of the numerous campaigns that promise to ‘defeat autism now’ through various ‘biomedical’ treatments, such as special diets and supplements, detoxification and medication.

‘Parents are fighting the wrong battles against the wrong people at the wrong time’, Dr Fitzpatrick told me when we met in a café in Hackney, London, near his GP surgery. He believes parents are held back from doing what is best for their own children by the false promises of biomedical campaigners, whose ‘rage’ is ‘a divisive and destructive force’.

Not only are many of the so-called ‘cures’ for autism that they promote worse than useless – causing discomfort and distress to the children, and even, in very rare cases, death – but the continual drive to ‘defeat autism’ prevents parents from coming to terms with their children’s condition, and can cause them to have a rather negative view of their own children.

‘The unresolved grief of parents of children with autism is a particular problem’, writes Fitzpatrick in his book, ‘because they still have a child though perhaps not the child they anticipated’.

There has been a similar experience in my own family. The firstborn child of my youngest brother, Chris, was diagnosed with a severe form of epilepsy at the age of six months. Although there was a possibility that a combination of anti-epileptic drugs or neurosurgery might cure his epilepsy, in retrospect it was clear that his neurological disorder would very likely result in moderate or severe learning difficulties.

Facing up to the fact that your child may never develop normally or lead an independent life is very hard for any parent, and will inevitably take time. But at some stage acceptance is necessary, not just for the parents’ own peace of mind, but also for the good of their children. Otherwise, as Fitzpatrick asks, ‘what happens to the child, the human being, who is seen only as a “burden”?’ Of course, raising a child with severe learning difficulties is difficult, but it is a lot more difficult in the absence of acceptance.

Parents of children with autism who are bombarded with all kinds of promises of wonder treatments are prevented from working through their grief and reaching the stage of acceptance. All of the emphasis on ‘windows of opportunity’ and the importance of ‘early intervention’ puts an immense amount of pressure on parents of children with autism and other learning difficulties, who often end up running around desperately seeking a ‘cure’, and trying one after another; they can become obsessed with ‘fixing’ their child.

‘At best, [these “wonder cures”] divert and dissipate already over-stretched parental energies; at worst they encourage an enduring rage that is likely to compound family difficulties, to intensify isolation and lead ultimately to demoralisation’, writes Fitzpatrick in Defeating Autism.

My brother and his wife spent the first years of their son Magnus’ life trying everything they thought would help; and many of the things they tried were empirically tested treatments that had some degree of success. But there was no ‘cure’ for Magnus, and when my brother was forced to face up to this fact, his grief was intense. Soon afterwards, however, he also felt that an enormous weight had been lifted off his shoulders. As he recently told me, it is then that he was able to stop desperately hoping for a ‘recovery’, and concentrate on developing a relationship with Magnus as a son whom he could love and cherish for who he is.

Fitzpatrick touchingly describes the grief he and his wife went through while getting to terms with their son James’ autism – a profound grief that eventually led to acceptance:

‘We have come to accept that James will never lead an independent life and our efforts are devoted to ensuring that he gets the level of support he needs to maintain the highest possible quality of life. And we try to look on the bright side. We relish his enjoyment of simple pleasures, his infectious laugh, his wonderful smile, his curly red hair. We will never have to worry about his exam results or over what time he returns home from a night of clubbing’, he writes.

Having come to terms with the fact that James, who now attends a residential school, would not ‘recover’ from autism, ‘we try to do the best we can to strengthen his engagement with the world… seeking mutually enjoyable activities that foster social interaction, such as swimming or trampolining, and trips to restaurants and supermarkets’.

It is understandable that parents will try anything they think may possibly improve their children’s condition. That is why Defeating Autism: A Damaging Delusion is such an important book. Fitzpatrick shows clearly that parents need to channel their energies into strategies that will benefit their autistic child and their families, not spend all of their time and energy on trying untested, time-consuming, expensive and potentially harmful treatments.

‘I decided to write the book after seeing so many parents go down the rabbit hole, latching on to one idea after another that they believed would offer some hope of a cure’, Fitzpatrick told me.

In his book, he painstakingly analyses the available evidence for everything from the ‘wonder cure’ of secretin and detox and immune system treatments to special diets and supplements – and exposes the distinct lack of scientific evidence for their efficacy. There is no evidence that these treatments work, and worse, some of them are potentially harmful.

Fitzpatrick writes: ‘Here is another paradox thrown up by the biomedical movement. Its supporters are strident in their demands for trials of the safety of vaccines [but] when it comes to biomedical treatments they reject any suggestion that these should be subjected to proper evaluation. They are outraged by the presence of infinitesimal quantities of mercury in vaccines (which prevent bacterial contamination without ever being associated with any adverse effect), yet they seem quite happy to inject children with a product like secretin, a crude extract of pig pancreas that was developed for the purpose of testing pancreatic function but has never been tested in any way for therapeutic use.’

Fitzpatrick warns that ‘plausible theories and their misguided advocates could deliver desperate parents into the hands of unscrupulous practitioners’, adding: ‘This was confirmed to me one day in [my surgery] when the mother of a boy with autism told me that she had spent the equivalent of his disability living allowance for one year on a course of secretin injections provided by a Harley street clinic. For a single parent reliant on benefits, the outcome of this encounter with a biomedical practitioner was not only disappointment when the miracle cure failed, but financial hardship for the whole family.’

Some may interpret Fitzpatrick’s message as one of resignation. But his book is far from pessimistic. Instead – by exposing the charlatans who take advantage of parents and by trying to help prevent parents from diverting their energies – it could make a big difference to families with autistic children. As Fitzpatrick told me: ‘It is not resignation to accept the current state of science in relation to autism.’ There are no ‘cures’ and most of those who claim to be able to defeat autism are preying on the grief of desperate parents.

‘My aim with this book is to encourage parents to emphasise the positive in relation to their autistic children, to pursue interventions for which there is good evidence of benefit (and some guarantee of safety) and to avoid the diversions and dead-ends offered by the perspective of “defeating autism”’, he writes in the introduction.

As Roy Richard Grinker, professor of anthropology at George Washington University and author of Unstrange Minds, says of Fitzpatrick: ‘He shows us that our children are indeed being helped tremendously, not by unscientific autism treatments that falsely promise cure or recovery, but by educators, scientists, evidence-based therapies, and new understandings of what it means to be human, and different, in the twenty-first century.’

Fitzpatrick also persuasively and eloquently demolishes the key plank of the two main vaccination panics: claims in the UK of a link between the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism, and in the USA of a link between mercury-based vaccines and autism.

When I met with Fitzpatrick back in 2004 to discuss his previous book, MMR and Autism, he stressed that any risks associated with the MMR vaccine were virtually non-existent: ‘When 500million doses of a vaccine have been given in 80 countries over more than 30 years, and serious adverse reactions are found to be extremely rare, then it is fair to describe it as “safe”’, he said. And he argued that the case for immunisation is indisputable: ‘Diseases that had caused devastating epidemics in living memory, and had produced a significant toll of death and disability into the postwar period, have virtually disappeared.’

Campaigners argue that there has been a growth in autism cases of ‘epidemic’ proportions in the Western world over the past two decades – due to everything from vaccines and antibiotics to pesticides and diet. But the increased prevalence of autism is better explained by increased awareness and improved diagnosis, along with the broadening of the concept of autism, Fitzpatrick shows.

Instead of trying to fight the ‘environmental toxicity’ of the modern world, parents should concentrate on fighting for the best possible education and social care for their children. But above all, they should interact with them, he says. Fitzpatrick argues: ‘Sometimes it is more difficult simply to spend time with our children than it is to pursue investigations and treatments.’ He explains that children with autism may retreat into their own world. They may pursue obsessional rituals and challenging behaviours. ‘The very fact that it is so difficult to engage with children with autism underlines the importance of continuing to try’, he writes.

‘[Acceptance] means parents and others accepting and loving the autistic child as another human being, and it means accepting that the quest for a miracle cure is not likely to be helpful for their autistic child, for any other children they might have, or indeed, for themselves.’

This book should be read, not only by parents of autistic children, but by policymakers, professionals and practitioners working in the field of autism, and by academics and scientists interested in the media and the public presentation of science and medicine.

Defeating Autism: A Damaging Delusion, by Michael Fitzpatrick is published by Routledge. (Buy this book from Amazon(UK).)

Source:   http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php?/site/article/6135/

First Published Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Big Ben

By Dean Beadle

Dean Beadle is a nineteen year old young adult with Asperger’s Syndrome. He tours the UK giving speeches at conferences and events and writes a regular column at The Autism File.

I meet hundreds of people every month at conferences and events: teachers, psychologists, parents, teaching assistants and therapists. They may come from varying occupational backgrounds but they all have one thing in common: a fantastic approach to autism, and a passionate desire to develop a better understanding of the condition. I therefore thought that this was indicative of an improvement in society’s attitude towards autism in general. I was delighted to think that this was a sign of conditions changing for people with autism and that, as a result of this developed understanding, those in charge within local authorities were making the right choices for their individuals with the condition. I was quickly proven wrong.

There is still a huge amount of ignorance in the UK regarding autism and Asperger’s Syndrome, as many people seem to believe that people stop being autistic at eighteen. At least this is how it seems, because services are mostly withdrawn at this difficult transitional age.

The services available to adults with Asperger’s Syndrome and autism are lacking to say the least. We are blessed that there are so many inspirational and life-changing services in the UK for children and young people with autism – I get to see them firsthand. I’m not saying that these services are perfect, but they are in comparison to adult service provisions.

It saddens me to think that all of those incredible services are effectively useless if not developed further and continued. Before eighteen, all of those parents, TAs, teachers and therapists are improving children’s lives; helping them to develop those much needed social and emotional skills, which make their world a happier place. This can all come undone as we pull the rug of support out from under their feet at eighteen. We are helping them half way up the mountain of life, if you will, and then leaving them there. This position is impossible for them: they only made it that far because they were aided and encouraged and now they are expected to continue alone. This can be incredibly daunting; especially when you consider that there is potentially a long way to fall if the young adult makes a mistake and there is no one there to catch them anymore.

Now this all sounds quite negative, but it doesn’t have to be. I have witnessed a few exceptional adult services. I have heard of incredible services in Leicester that help autistic people to find and maintain jobs. This is a service that is much needed and has reaped some impressive results. Moreover, the Options Group, who provide services across the Midlands and the North of England, provide a life-long support network. They have transitional services which aid young people in making life decisions. They also provide a life-long supported living service for those who require it. Within this service, autistic adults are supported in coping with the outside world, and are given the support and reassurance that’s needed to help them to prosper. I have been lucky to see the work of the Options Group and passionately believe that their work should serve as a global example. Other councils and organisations should follow their lead and provide similar services to adults in their areas.

National Gallery on Trafalgar Square

It concerns me that there are millions of adults across the UK, and indeed the world, who are deemed intelligent and therefore they are assumed, quite incorrectly, to be coping with life well. I empathise with these autistic adults as I am one of them. I was an A-grade student, and am now building a career and running my own life. However, this does not mean that I have no issues, far from it! My condition still impacts massively on my day-to-day life. I am currently finding it difficult to understand my emotions: differentiating between fancying, fondness and love is a bit of a grey area for me; I’m constantly questioning my emotions and I sometimes struggle to understand how I feel. This leads to a lot of uncertainty, stress and confusion. I am lucky that I have a strong support network and have people who I can share these concerns with: people who can offer me reassurance and help me to find clarity in times of confusion.

I want other adults with AS or autism to have that too. Education has come a long way in the UK and our autistic children are mostly fortunate enough to have the support and guidance they need. The next step is extending this support to adults. This is why I am delighted that the National Autistic Society has launched the “I Exist” Campaign. I believe the campaign totally sums up how so many adults with autism in the UK feel. We are asking to be acknowledged and given a safety net; an individualised foundation of reassurance and support for us to build our lives upon. We want our needs (however varying they might be) to be met. This isn’t too much to ask.

It remains to be seen what the long term outcome of the NAS Campaign will be, but I am confident that we will see a great change and improvement in adult services as a result of it. However, this change will only occur if people like us, who either have autism and Asperger’s or live and work with people who do, stand up and make ourselves heard. My mantra in life is: “If you aren’t heard, shout louder”, and this is exactly what we have to do. We have needs that must be met. We are important in the society that we live in. We exist.

Help Me To Fly

Source: The Autism File Issue 29 Autumn 2008

I Exist Campaign News

First Published Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Stephen Fry

Stephen’s story

Stephen Fry has experienced mental health problems for much of his life. But it wasn’t until he was 37 that he was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder. “I’d never heard the word before, but for the first time I had a diagnosis that explains the massive highs and miserable lows I’ve lived with all my life.”

During research for his documentary ‘The Secret Life of The Manic Depressive’, Stephen found out that the illness affects hundreds of thousands of people in the UK. He was also dismayed to discover the extent of prejudice surrounding mental health problems. “I want to speak out, to fight the public stigma and to give a clearer picture of mental illness that most people know little about.”

Stephen thinks better public awareness is essential to help people break their silence. “Once the understanding is there, we can all stand up and not be ashamed of ourselves, then it makes the rest of the population realise that we are just like them but with something extra.”

Source:   http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/what-were-doing/our-campaign/peoples-stories/stephens-story

Ruby Wax

Ruby’s story

Ruby Wax has experienced episodes of depression for most of her life, but it wasn’t until she finally checked into a clinic, that she realised how widespread mental problems are: “It’s so common, it could be anyone. The trouble is, nobody wants to talk about it. And that makes everything worse.”

Ruby has written about depression and used the topic for her one-woman shows as a way of getting the subject out in the open. “We need to take the stigma out of mental illness. People shouldn’t be ashamed of it.” Ruby manages her depression through therapy and medication and is optimistic about the future: “It used to be the ‘C’ word – cancer – that people wouldn’t discuss. Now it’s the ‘M’ word. I hope pretty soon it’ll be okay for everyone to talk openly about their mental health without fear of being treated differently.”

Source(includes video):   http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/what-were-doing/our-campaign/peoples-stories/rubys-story

Frank’s Story

In 2003, Frank Bruno was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.  He believes events in his personal life contributed to the breakdown.  “Build-up of pressure, marriage breaking up, someone you love dying, it’s like having three radios on at the same time.”

In his boxing career, Frank won forty fights.  But it was the blows outside the ring, when people found out about his mental health, that really hurt.  “Some people don’t want to know you any more.  They delete you, rub you out.”

Pledge to help end mental health prejudice

Frank has made a full recovery. But he keeps an eye on his mental wellbeing. “I keep training, eat well and look after myself, know what I mean?”

Reacting to the narrow-mindedness he faced, Frank says “If this happens to someone’s father, brother or sister, I reckon it would make them act differently.”

Source:  http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/node/24752

Trisha Goddard Pledged to Help End Mental Health Prejudice with Time to Change

Trisha’s Story

Trisha has personal experience of mental illness, even spending time in a psychiatric hospital.  And compared to when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, Trisha believes that her mental illness was more difficult to deal with.

“Both experiences were horrible. But with breast cancer, people ran towards me with open arms and hugged me. With depression, people ran away.”

Comparing the two experiences, Trisha sees clear evidence of how people behave differently to those with mental health: “When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I was inundated with ‘Get Well Soon’ cards. When news leaked out that I was in a psychiatric hospital following a breakdown, not a peep. And certainly no cards.”

According to Trisha, part of the problem is that people are more comfortable talking about physical health than mental illness. “With breast cancer, people talk about it and wear pink ribbons; people are open about it.”

As Trisha knows only too well, the reactions of other people can make recovery from mental illness even more difficult, quite often without realising it.“When I tried to talk to people about my depression, they made me feel embarrassed and ashamed. They wouldn’t look me in the eye. And that made me feel guilty.”

One in four of us will have some sort of mental health problem, so Trisha’s keen to see an end to this intolerance. “In time, I really hope attitudes can change.”

Source:  http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/trisha


Loneliness a Harsh Reality For Many with Mental Illness

Cathy Heycock

A research study by mental health charity SANE Australia reveals people affected by mental illness pay a high price when it comes to relationships and social contact, with the study showing half have no close relationship with another person.

The research, conducted between September and December 2008, focused on the emotional and physical relationships of people living with a mental illness, the consequences of this for their lives and what can be done about it.

The most disturbing result was the impact of mental illness on personal relationships, with almost half having no friends, wanting to, yet struggling to connect with others. Physical intimacy, which includes hugging and touching others, was rare for many. In fact – astonishingly – almost one in six had not touched or been touched by another person for more than 12 months.

The study found the numbers of respondents who had:

• No close relationship
(General community with no close relationship
• Not touched or been touched by another person
for 12 months
• No sexual contact in last 12 months 35%

SANE Australia Executive Director Barbara Hocking says extreme social isolation is known to damage mental health, yet it is something many people with mental illness have to endure.

Not only are many people with mental illness dealing with their symptoms and associated problems such as poverty, they are leading isolated lives and often have no partner or even friends to share their lives,” Ms Hocking said. This impedes their recovery.

While governments are promoting social inclusion, these findings highlight the very real need for immediate, specific action to ensure such basic human needs for social contact are not being ignored.

Sexual health and intimacy also emerged as areas of concern for respondents:
• Had not discussed the issue with their doctor
or health worker

• Did not know enough about sexual health 65%
• Not receiving routine health checks (e.g. pap tests,
prostate checks)


Ms Hocking says these figures reflect the general poor physical health care provided to people regarded all too often as solely “mental health patients.

The key recommendations of the report are:

  • *Promotion of social inclusion: recovery-focused rehabilitation programs, to improve confidence, communication and social skills
  • *Support to develop relationships: education and training in how to discuss mental illness and its effect on emotional, physical and sexual intimacy
  • *Improved sex education: mental illness often starts in late teens, disrupting learning of life skills and education. More practical education about sexuality and related issues needed
  • *Sexual health checks: health professionals need incentives to provide regular breast screening, pap smears, STD testing, prostate checks and routine tests.

SANE is calling on government agencies at all levels to improve opportunities for those affected to close relationships with others and improve their capacity for recovery.

Sane Australia SANE Research Bulletin 8:Intimacy and mental illness SANE 2009 Feb;issn 1832-8385   [Full text (PDF)]

If we had turned away Churchill…

Alastair Campbel
by Alastair Campbell
Former press chief to Tony Blair

Charles Darwin

Darwin suffered panic attacks
Tonight Newsnight is covering the report I have written with historian Nigel Jones on famous figures in history who had mental health problems.

The report, for the anti-discrimination campaign Time to Change, is called A World Without… It tries to imagine how different the world would be without the achievements of five giants of history – Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, Charles Darwin, Florence Nightingale and Marie Curie.

Why those five?

Because all left a huge mark on the world; also because all of them, at some point in their lives, had what today would be termed mental illness, mainly depression.

Darwin’s panic attacks

As I watch politicians and other public figures deal with the pressures of modern leadership, not least dealing with 24 hour scrutiny by a harsh and often unforgiving media, I sometimes wonder how these great historic figures would have fared had they been alive today.

Winston Churchill

Would another wartime leader have been as successful as Churchill?
As I say in the Daily Mirror, would media and public have been understanding about their conditions, or used them against them?

Let’s say Britain had decided to reject Churchill on account of his Black Dog and his drinking. Would another leader have emerged to lead Britain as he did, to the same outcome, victory over the Nazis? We will never know.

When I read of Darwin’s panic attacks, his stomach disorders, his palpitations and his bursting into floods of tears, I can’t help wondering whether he would have survived a live press conference in the modern age.

“Well,” says the 24 hour news anchor “Charles Darwin in some distress there as he tries to explain his controversial theory of evolution, and it’s hard to see how his theory can gain acceptance if he can’t explain it without crying. Anyway, send us your texts and e mails and help answer the question of the day – should celebrity scientists cry in public? For yes press green, for no press red. Now, more on David Cameron’s new maths czar, Carol Vorderman…”

When I cracked up

Marie Curie in her laboratory

Double Nobel laureate Marie Curie suffered severe depression
As we’re talking numbers – one in four of us will suffer mental illness at some point in our lives. I am among the one in four.

I had a drink problem and a nervous breakdown in 1986. I have had depression on and off ever since. I was really lucky.

When I cracked up, my old boss took me back to my old job, despite his anger at my having left in the first place. And when Tony Blair asked me to work for him, I told him in detail about my mental health history.

“I’m not worried if you’re not worried,” he said. “What if I am worried?” I said. “I’m still not worried,” said TB.

Something to offer

But the stats suggest I am in a minority. Nine out of 10 people with mental health problems say they have experienced discrimination. Four out of 10 employers say they would consider taking on someone with a history of mental illness.

That leaves six out of 10 who would not. Six out of 10 who cannot see that someone with a history of mental illness just might have something to offer.

People who, if a Churchill, a Lincoln, a Darwin, a Nightingale or a Curie had applied for a job, and admitted to their sometimes troubled state of mind, would have turned them away as being unfit for purpose…

Alastair Campbell’s film on the A World Without… campaign can be seen on Newsnight on 9 February, BBC Two at 2230GMT and on the Newsnight website.

Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale might never have succeeded with modern stigma against mental illness

She became world-famous as the saviour of countless lives and the inventor of modern nursing, but a new report suggests that Florence Nightingale might never have been able to transform hospitals if she had to combat today’s stigma against mental illness.


© Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2009

The Role of Gender in Mental Illness Stigma

Barbara Isanski

mental illness

The mentally ill don’t get a fair shake. Many employers don’t want to hire them, and health insurers don’t want to treat their illnesses. Even within their own communities and families, the mentally ill are often treated with contempt and outright anger. There have been many efforts to combat the stigma of mental illness, but with limited success at best. That’s in part because the stereotypes are so powerful: Mental patients are either violently dangerous or docile and incompetent. We fear the first and disdain the latter.

These are not equal opportunity stereotypes, however. The image of dangerous mental illness, including violent alcoholism, is much more often directed at men. Similarly, women are much more likely to be caricatured as pathologically dependent and depressed. Psychologists James Wirth of Purdue University and Galen Bodenhausen of Northwestern University wanted to know if these gender biases contribute to the harmful stigma of mental illness. Specifically, they suspected that when the mentally ill act “out of character,” violating the stereotype, they might arouse more of our sympathy and leniency; if it’s more uncommon, it’s probably more authentic. By contrast, we might be more apt to blame and stigmatize the mentally ill when they conform to stereotype.

The psychologists decided to explore this provocative idea with a national survey. They had a group of volunteers from around the country, varying widely in age, education, and socioeconomic status, read a case history of a person with mental illness. Some read about Brian, who was a stereotypical alcoholic, while others read about Karen, who showed all the classical symptoms of major depression. Still others read switched-around versions of these cases, so that Karen was the one abusing alcohol and Brian was depressed. The idea was to see if the typicality of Brian and Karen’s symptoms (or lack of it) shaped the volunteers’ reactions and judgments.

And it did, without question. As reported in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, the volunteers expressed more anger and disgust – and less sympathy – toward Brian the alcoholic than toward Karen the alcoholic, and vice versa for depression. They were also more willing to help Brian and Karen when they suffered from an atypical disorder. Most striking of all, the volunteers were much more likely to view Brian’s depression (and Karen’s alcoholism) as genuine biological disorders – rather than character defects or matters of personal irresponsibility. What this suggests is that stigma-busting campaigns need to closely consider the potentially powerful role of intersecting stereotypes in shaping when and how mental illness stigma is expressed.

Wirth JH, Bodenhausen GV. The Role of Gender in Mental-Illness Stigma: A National Experiment. Psychol Sci. 2009 Feb;20(2):169-73   [Abstract]

The art of surviving mental illness

Paintings in the Wellcome Collection exhibition of Bobby Baker’s ‘visual diary’ of her road to recovery from depression. Photographs: Andrew Whittuck

The composer Giacomo Puccini once said that “art is an illness”, but, for the artist Bobby Baker, painting is the medium through which she has fought mental illness.

Bobby Baker
Diary Drawings
The Wellcome Collection,

Starts 19 March
Until 2 August

The two images above show Baker’s journey from severe depression to wellness over the last 11 years. They are part of an exhibition – opening tomorrow at the Wellcome Collection in London – of 158 of her 711 diary paintings, charting in watercolour the course of her battle with her psychiatric health.

The image above right reveals Baker’s state of mind last summer. She painted it in August, when she was feeling extremely positive about life. “It shows hope,” Baker says. “I feel very lucky to have survived it [her mental illness] and to be in this position now.”

Baker first went to see a psychiatrist in 1996. “I had a great husband, children and career, but I wasn’t able to hold it all together any more,” she recalls. “I ended up weeping, weeping.”

She started to keep a visual diary of her mental illness while attending a local authority day centre in London. Her decision to paint every day until she got well quickly became a way of hanging on. “It was an obsession to keep going,” she says.

The left-hand image depicts Baker’s most depressed and violent feelings. She painted it in 1997, at a time when she was self-harming. “I hate looking at that picture – it’s grim,” she says.

“I was aware I had a mask on and I wondered if I took it off what would be behind it. That’s how I imagined my skull and eyeball to look like. I find it very shocking.”

The road to recovery came when Baker spent seven weeks in an acute psychiatric ward: “I was so angry about the way I was treated that I decided to self-medicate. I prescribed exercise and healthy eating and writing.”

While many artists have had mental health problems – Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Vincent van Gogh all reportedly suffered from clinical depression – Baker says she actively used her art as a talking point with the professionals who were trying to help her. “Recovery is about communicating, so if my pictures can communicate with people in some way, that’s great,” she says.

Baker is hopeful about the prognosis for mental health care. She says that although services “are not there yet”, things are much better than many imagine. “We are very negative in this country, but we have some extraordinary practice here [compared to mainland Europe].”

Ultimately, Baker would like mental health services to become much more holistic. “It’s very easy, when you are mentally ill, for people just to look at your mental illness, but recovery is about the whole of you,” she says.

Source:   http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2009/mar/18/mental-health-bobby-baker-exhibition

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First Published Wednesday, 28 January 2009

By Christina A. Samuels

A high-profile employee’s recent resignation from a well-known advocacy
group for people with autism has drawn attention to the work of a federal
board charged with providing a strategic plan for the government on research
into autism spectrum disorders.

The Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee was created through the 2006
Combating Autism Act. Among its tasks is to “develop and annually update a
strategic plan for the conduct of, and support for, autism spectrum disorder
research, including proposed budgetary requirements,” and submit that plan
to Congress.

The advocacy world continues to debate whether vaccines may play a role in
causing autism. Some advocates believe that preservatives like the
mercury-based thimerosal—no longer used in childhood vaccines—or the
combination measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination may play a role in
causing autism in susceptible children. The federal Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention says that there is no evidence, after multiple
studies, that vaccines cause autism.

The coordinating committee took up the issue as a potential research
priority, but voted on Jan. 14 to refer vaccine studies to the National
Vaccine Advisory Committee, rather than recommend funding this year.

‘Credible’ Studies Cited

Alison Tepper Singer, who was formerly the executive vice president for
communications and outreach for the New York City-based Autism Speaks, voted
in favor of the move, which put her squarely against the wishes of the
advocacy organization. She resigned the day before casting the vote.

“For some time, I have had concerns about Autism Speaks’ policy on vaccine
research,” Ms. Singer said in an e-mail statement. “Dozens of credible
scientific studies have exonerated vaccines as a cause of autism. I believe
we must devote limited funding to more promising areas of autism research.”

Ms. Singer is one of six “public” members of the Interagency Autism
Coordinating Committee, which works under the auspices of the U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services. Her term ends in 2011. The panel
also has 12 federal members, representing different government agencies.

Autism and associated disorders on the autism spectrum are characterized by
impaired social interaction, problems with verbal and nonverbal
communication, and unusual, repetitive, or severely limited activities and
interests. According to the Atlanta-based CDC, about one in 150 children in
the United States is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. An increase
in the diagnosis rate of the disorder has made it a research priority and a
challenge for schools.

In contrast to Ms. Singer’s views, Autism Speaks would like to see more
research into possible links. In a policy statement, the group said such
research is needed so that public trust in immunization programs can be
protected. Active research is needed to determine whether there are “adverse
events” from vaccines that affect neurodevelopment, if those effects are
happening more often than before, if combination vaccines increase risk, and
if certain subgroups are more susceptible than others, the organization

Priorities Skewed?

“It would be unprofessional to vote in a way that the organization wouldn’t
want,” Ms. Singer said of her decision to resign before the committee’s
meeting. “But it would have been disingenuous to vote against my

Autism Speaks has withdrawn its support of the strategic plan put together
by the committee.

According to Autism Speaks, Dr. Edwin Trevathan, the director of the
National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities at the CDC,
worried that the IACC might be duplicating efforts under way by other

Removing the vaccine-oriented studies leaves 40 others in the IACC’s
strategic plan, with budgetary recommendations of about $789 million. The
plan is now available for comment and will be sent to the new secretary of

Ms. Singer said she’s happy with the current research priorities, which
focus on early warning signs of autism, research into treatment and
appropriate services, and research into environmental causes.

But Ari Ne’eman, the president of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, said
the research priorities are tilted too much toward causation and prevention,
and not enough toward quality-of-life service issues, which his organization

“The focus on causation has been a source of real damage to the broader
autism community,” he said.

Ari Ne’eman
The Autistic Self Advocacy Network
1660 L Street, NW, Suite 700
Washington, DC  20036

Waikato River, Rangiriri, New Zealand


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Individuality, Diversity, Equality, Achievement

Auties..org is an Aspie & Autie friendly site for all people on the Autistic Spectrum who are ready to dare reach out to occupation and employment, open the doors to the community and market their abilities directly to the public and for those interested in supporting these pioneers.




Linking job seekers with vacancies in work related to autism, Aspergers and ASDs


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For further employment information, please view”:



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Autistic Association of New Zealand
P.O Box 7305, Sydenham
Christchurch 8002
tel: +64 (0)3 332 0550
fax: +64 (0)3 332 1038
e-mail: info@autismnz.co.nz
Website: http://www.autismnz.org.nz/

Autistic Children’s Sub-Committee, New Zealand Society for the
Intellectually Handicapped
5 Buchanan Street
Wellington 1

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PO Box 30979
Lower Hutt
Tel: 64 4 920 9488
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“ADDISS” The National Attention Deficit Disorder Information and Support Service…




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ARTIST Gabriel D.J. Atienza – My Life As A Comic Book

Autobiography Release Date 30th January

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Author: Judith A. Coucouvanis


“Joey Goes to the Dentist”:




Bolt is an Academy Award-nominated 2008 computer-animated comedy film produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios, and is the 48th animated feature in the Walt Disney Animation Studios canon.

The film stars the voices of John Travolta, Miley Cyrus, Malcolm McDowell, Claire Holt, Diedrich Bader, Nick Swardson, Greg Germann, Susie Essman and Mark Walton. The film’s plot centers around a small white dog named Bolt who, having spent his entire life on the set of a television series, thinks that he has super powers. When he believes that his human, Penny, has been kidnapped, he sets out on a cross-country journey to “rescue” her.



Animal Crossing Cover

Animal Crossing: Wild World /City Folk

(GameCube/Wii, Nintendo DS)

“Animal Crossing – Creating Connections via Video Games” Review – Autism Asperger’s Digest Magazine(Jan-Feb 2009) by homeschooling mom, Sandi Busch and 15 year old son, Ben Markle(AS) coming to aspie-editorial Feb 12.



We Have The Technology To Rebuild Ourselves


Take Care,


Lake Tekapo, NZ

First Published Friday, 30 January 2009

New Jersey State House



As many of you recall, earlier this month we worked with NJ Assemblyman
Louis Greenwald and NJACP to introduce legislation which, if passed, will
close five of New Jersey’s seven institutions and shift the funds into
community services. This effort has the potential to empower thousands of
individuals with developmental disabilities, including many autistic adults,
to live in the community. You can see a press conference announcing the
legislation here <http://www.youtube. com/watch? v=5XBgr2CFwtg>, the bill text
here <http://www.njleg. state.nj. us/2008/Bills/ A4000/3625_ I1.HTM>and an
endorsement from the New Jersey Star Ledger and the Philadelphia Inquirer here
<http://blog. nj.com/njv_ editorial_ page/2009/ 01/group_ homes_make_ moral_economi. html#more>and
here<http://www.philly. com/inquirer/ opinion/20090124 _Editorial_ _The_Disabled. html>.
This bill is an extremely important step towards ensuring a future with
quality of life for thousands of adults with developmental disabilities
living in New Jersey. Currently, the state ranks near to last in the country
in regards to community services for adults with disabilities and uses
institutions at one of the highest rates of any state. New Jersey ranks 49th
out of 50 in terms of the average number of individuals segregated into
institutions yet also ranks 40th out of 50 in terms of the amount of money
allocated to community services funding. Click here
<http://www.njacp. org/images/ stories/Briefing %20Paper% 20A3625%284% 29.pdf>for
a comprehensive briefing
paper<http://www.njacp. org/images/ stories/Briefing %20Paper% 20A3625%284% 29.pdf>on
why A3625 is so important, providing supporting data, facts and
explaining why A3625 will lead to a better live for adults with
developmental disabilities in New Jersey.

Ten years after the *Olmstead v. L.C. *decision ruling that people with
disabilities have a right to receive services in the community rather than
in segregated institutions, we still have a long way to go. No one should
have to live in an institution. Today, we as a society possess the ability,
the expertise and the sense of justice to end this system of segregation. In
order to do that, we need your help. This
<http://www.change. org/autisticadvo cacy/actions/ view/support_ a3625_and_ community_ living_for_ new_jerseyans_ with_development al_disabilities>action
alert will use your zip code to send your letter supporting A3625 directly
to your state legislators. Unfortunately, only New Jersey zip codes apply.
If you live in New Jersey and are unsure as to your zip code, feel free to
look it up by going to this link <http://www.nj. gov/infobank/ njzips.htm>.
The link to our action alert is as follows:
http://www.change. org/autisticadvo cacy/actions/ view/support_ a3625_and_ community_ living_for_ new_jerseyans_ with_development al_disabilities

Please help support this effort by posting this message to your mailing
lists, blogs, websites and other distribution mechanisms. Together we can
empower people with disabilities everywhere.

Nothing About Us, Without Us!

Ari Ne’eman
The Autistic Self Advocacy Network
1660 L Street, NW, Suite 700
Washington, DC 20036
http://www.autistic advocacy. org