Interesting BBC World Service documentary on mental health featuring stories from around the globe. The Truth About Mental Health
Mad or Sad Duration:29 minutes First broadcast:Friday 31 May 2013
From time to time we all find ourselves in some kind of emotional turmoil. But when do everyday anxieties or unusual thoughts tip over into a mental health problem? And who decides what’s normal, and whether a treatment that works in one country will work elsewhere?
Last October in a village outside of Bangalore, Keshava was dramatically rescued from ten years of being bricked into a room, in his own home. As police knocked down the walls, the young man in his thirties emerged, dishevelled and naked. He’d been locked in a tiny room, without doors or daylight, and was fed through a window. Keshava had become increasingly unwell in his twenties. Unable to cope with his increasingly violent outbursts, or get him the help he needed, his family gradually walled him in.
Stories of mental illness like this are happening all around the world, and in this opening programme Claudia Hammond explores how mental illnesses are treated in different parts of the world. Do we all experience similar conditions and respond to the same treatments? Or are our beliefs about our minds so tightly bound to the culture in which we live, that local solutions provide the best chance of recovery? Claudia visits Cultural Psychiatrist, Dr Micol Ascoli, at Newham’s Centre for Mental Health, who believes that service users’ own cultural interpretations of mental illness are crucial to their recovery
Children and War Duration: 29 minutes First broadcast: Friday 07 June 2013
It’s a common misconception that children, unlike adults, are so resilient that they can bounce back from the emotional and psychological impact of war and conflict. The evidence contradicts this and world experts in the field warn that, while some children do recover fully from exposure to the horrors of war, others experience long-term mental health problems.
As the war and fighting in Syria continues to claim more lives and destroy many others, Claudia Hammond reports from Jordan on how this latest conflict is exposing yet another generation to the traumatic impact of violence, killing and loss. She investigates what actually helps to alleviate the suffering of these children and prevent a life-time of recurring emotional distress.
From the Al Zatari refugee camp in the north of Jordan she hears about the scale of the challenge facing international organisations like Save the Children. And she meets a group of Syrian mental health professionals from the Arab Foundation for Care of Victims of War and Torture who, as refugees themselves, are running a mass outreach programme, developed by some of the world’s leaders in child trauma at the Children and War Foundation, to teach as many Syrian children as possible, psychological techniques and coping strategies.
Four Walls Duration: 29 minutes First broadcast: Friday 14 June 2013
Solitary confinement is a form of torture that undermines identity and mental health. In “The Truth About Mental Health – Four Walls” Claudia Hammond talks to ex political prisoners about their experiences and how they dealt with living in such inhumane conditions. Advice too from Professor Craig Heaney who works with prisoners in Supermax prisons in the United States of America and psychiatrist Professor David Alexander who has worked with many hostages.
Healing Norway Duration: 29 minutes First broadcast: Friday 21 June 2013
July 22, 2011 has been described as the day Norway cried. After detonating a car bomb in Oslo, killing eight and injuring many more, Anders Breivik took a ferry to the island of Utoya. There, dressed as a policeman, he began a murderous spree, hunting down and indiscriminately shooting young people on the island who were attending a youth camp. Seventy seven people were killed in total, many of them teenagers, and hundreds injured.
This was the worst mass murder in Norwegian post-war history and the whole country was in shock. But Norway used this national tragedy to pioneer new ways of caring for their citizens. Claudia Hammond reports on the ground-breaking new ways Norway has been road testing to deliver psychological and mental health support to those who survived, and to those who lost relatives and friends.
Treatment Gap Duration: 29 minutes First broadcast: Friday 28 June 2013
If you have a mental health problem, where you live in the world makes a big difference to the care you receive. In many lower and middle income countries, three-quarters of people with mental health problems don’t have access to mainstream mental health services. Even in wealthier, developed countries, the figure is close to 50%.
Claudia Hammond investigates some of the alternatives that occupy this ‘treatment gap’.
Psychiatrist Dr Monique Mutheru is one of just 25 psychiatrists in Kenya. In the absence of services to meet the mental health needs of Kenyans, traditional healers and witchdoctors play a crucial role in diagnosing and treating them. Claudia examines a programme which brings health workers and traditional healers together. It provides training for traditional healers to refer their severely ill patients to the clinic and avoid harmful practices that some healers carry out, such as lobotomy and bloodletting.
Even in developed countries like the United Kingdom, where mental health services are freely available, some people with mental health problems feel that the treatments do not help. The Hearing Voices Network provides support to ‘voice hearers’, through support groups, helping them to manage and engage with the voices that trouble them.
Hikikomori Duration:29 minutes First broadcast: Friday 05 July 2013
In Japan hundreds of thousands of young people withdraw from society for years or even decades. They are known as hikikomori and Claudia Hammond travels to Tokyo to discover more about this mysterious condition and why it is so prevalent in Japan.
A new study published in the BMJ Open suggests eating five a day is linked to better mental well-being.
Eating your “5 a day” increases changes of higher mental well-being, the researchers say.
A previous study suggested that consuming five portions of fruits and vegetables a day is the optimum amount for lowering the risk of death from any cause, which contradicts another study that suggested we should be eating seven portions of fruit and veg a day.
The researchers from this latest study, led by Dr. Saverio Stranges of the University of Warwick Medical School in the UK, used data from the Health Survey for England, which included nearly 14,000 adults over the age of 16.
This survey collected detailed information on the mental and physical health of the participants, as well as their health-related behaviors, demographics and socio-economic characteristics.
In addition, the team assessed the participants’ mental well-being using the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale, putting the top 15% of participants in the “high mental well-being” group, the bottom 15% in the low group, and those between 16-84% in the middle group.
‘The higher the veg and fruit intake, the lower the chance of low well-being’
Overall, the researchers found that high and low mental well-being were typically associated with the participants’ fruit and vegetable intake.
In detail, 35.5% of participants with high mental well-being ate five or more portions of fruits and vegetables a day, compared with only 6.8% who consumed less than one portion.
Additionally, 31.4% of the individuals from the high mental well-being group ate three to four fruit and veg portions per day, and 28.4% ate one to two.
“The data suggest that [the] higher an individual’s fruit and vegetable intake, the lower the chance of their having low mental well-being,” says Dr. Stranges.
The researchers also considered other health-related behaviors – such as smoking, alcohol intake and obesity – and found that only smoking and fruit and vegetable intake were consistently associated with mental well-being.
Dr. Stranges explains:
“Along with smoking, fruit and vegetable consumption was the health-related behavior most consistently associated with both low and high mental well-being. These novel findings suggest that fruit and vegetable intake may play a potential role as a driver, not just of physical, but also of mental well-being in the general population.”
Alcohol intake and obesity were associated with low, but not high mental well-being, the researchers add.
Enhancing well-being while preventing cancer
According to the team, high mental well-being is more than simply the absence of symptoms or illness – it is the condition of feeling good and functioning well. They add that optimism, happiness, self-esteem, resilience and good relationships are also part of this mode of being.
According to co-author Prof. Sarah Stewart-Brown, mental illness “is hugely costly to both the individual and society, and mental well-being underpins many physical diseases, unhealthy lifestyles and social inequalities in health.”
She says enabling people to maintain good well-being is important from a research perspective.
“Our findings add to the mounting evidence that fruit and vegetable intake could be one such factor and mean that people are likely to enhance their mental well-being at the same time as preventing heart disease and cancer,” she adds.
When asked about whether the study accounted for physical activity, Dr. Stranges told Medical News Today that one of the limitations of the study was that such data “was not available in the Health Survey for England,” leaving room for further study