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Analysis and Comment (66)

Five years on, the bush and people are recovering well from the Black Saturday fires. AAP Image/Joe Castro

Five years on from Black Saturday, most survivors are doing OK

Five years on from the devastating Black Saturday fires that swept through central Victoria in February 2009, research shows that people and communities are largely recovering well. In the first major…
A growing body of research suggests placebos may be as good as real drugs for treating depression. Victor/Flickr

Antidepressants may be no better than a placebo, so why take them?

Seventeenth-century Oxford scholar Robert Burton’s lifework, The Anatomy of Melancholy, weighs in at a door-stopping 1,400 pages. But his cure for the “Black Choler” of depression came down to just six…
Silent suffering? The Thinker by Albino Flea

Men, masculine pride and how to cope with depression

Masculinity plays an important role in dealing with problems such as depression. Men often don’t feel able to reach out for assistance because both the symptoms of depression and the act of seeking help…
Robin Williams died at the age of 63. Claudio Onorati/EPA

Comparing depression to cancer doesn’t help anyone

Robin Williams’s suicide has led many to open up about depression in an effort to raise awareness about how many people are living in misery. One of the most common themes in this public discussion has…
You may find yourself talking to a therapist who is completely inappropriate to your needs. James Nash/Flickr

Talking therapies can harm too – here’s what to look out for

People seeking therapy should always talk to a practitioner who provides good quality treatment that’s appropriate to their needs. Because research shows that even the innocuous-sounding “talking therapies…
Temptation is everywhere. Vivian Viola

Losing weight might make you healthier but not happier

Supermodel Kate Moss' quip that “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” captured the sense in society that being thin is the recipe for happiness. Obesity causes a range of health problems, including…
We are only now realising how poor diets impact mental health and well-being. Λ |_ ν-\ Γ Ø/Flickr

You are what you eat: how diet affects mental well-being

Over the last half century, the global food industry has profoundly changed the way we eat. While we understand how these dietary changes have impacted physical health, their effect on mental well-being…
Not just a man’s game. Roonb

Anabolic steroid use is not just about bodybuilding

The use of anabolic steroids has been associated primarily with men. But over the past few decades, we’ve been discovering more about different groups who use these drugs – including women and younger…
People who attribute mental illness to brain disease or genes tend to blame affected people less, but see them as more hopeless and dangerous. lauren rushing/Flickr

Brains, genes and chemical imbalances – how explanations of mental illness affect stigma

Depression, schizophrenia and other psychiatric conditions are increasingly linked to abnormalities in the brain and in our genes. Many professionals believe these developments hold the key to better treatments…
Dejected South Korean fans after their team lost against Algeria. EPA/Kim Chul-Soo

Suicide rates and World Cup results: beyond the numbers game

Several studies appear to show quite noticeable associations between hosting and performance at World Cups and suicide rates. When France hosted (and won) the football World Cup in 1998, the suicide rate…
Eating is clearly more than just about getting the right nutrition. Brianna Lehman/Flickr

Health Check: how food affects mood and mood affects food

Eating good food promotes overall health and well-being, but what you eat may also impact how you feel. Research suggests that not only can the food you eat affect your mood, but that your mood may influence…
Are we turning a corner in our understanding of the brain? Abode of Chaos

From lost memories to brain drugs, a neuroscientist explains

The Conversation organised a public question-and-answer session on Reddit in which Barbara Sahakian, professor of Clinical Neuropsychology at Cambridge University, discussed subjects from depression to…
Friend or foe: what do you see? Kquedquest

Trauma makes us shun kindness when we need it most

It seems intuitive that many of us would fear and avoid emotions such as anger and anxiety. But some people fear positive emotions such as happiness and contentment, and of accepting the compassion, kindness…
Clinical depression is distinguished severity, duration, persistence, and recurrence. darcyadelaide/flickr

Feeling down: when does a mood become a disorder?

We’ve all felt sad, anxious or down at one time or another, but where does the normal experience of emotion end and the clinical picture of a mood or anxiety disorder begin? Psychiatry has two widely used…
For managers, the challenge is in trying to motivate and engage stressed staff. Image from shutterstock.com

Managing stress and mental illness in the workplace

Common mental health disorders, including depression and anxiety disorders, are the second leading cause of disability in Australia and affect around 20% of the working age population at any one moment…
Addressing contrary patterns of thinking, or cognitive biases, could help ameliorate negative feelings. Mira Manns

Feeling anxious? There could soon be an app for that

Cognitive bias modification is a new approach to treating emotional problems. It holds considerable promise for the remote delivery of mental health interventions. The story of how this new approach came…
For people with depression or anxiety, finding an effective medication can be a difficult task. Eddi van W.

Some antidepressants work better than others – now we know why

Three million Australians are currently living with depression or anxiety, and antidepressants are now the third most commonly prescribed class of medication in Australia, after antibiotics and cholesterol-lowering…
That dude doesn’t look like a squid. Fathzer

Surfing on prescription helps kids at breaking point

The NHS is funding a pilot programme that prescribes surfing lessons for young people with depression and low self-esteem. Based in Dorset, the Wave Project is open to people aged between eight and 21…
Strong leaders cultivate an environment where employees feel empowered, have autonomy in their decision making and come together as a team to be creative and solve problems. Alan/Flickr

Australian workplaces failing to create a healthy environment

Working Australians are showing increasingly higher levels of stress and distress, according to the third annual Stress and Wellbeing survey by the Australian Psychological Society (APS). Workers are also…
These ones look rather large. Autowitch

Are high-speed antidepressants as sweet as they sound?

Depression is a common, recurrent, disabling and potentially life-threatening disorder that accounts for much misery worldwide. Current treatments are imperfect: most studies suggest that chemical antidepressant…
Blue with the flu? max_thinks_sees

Inflammation depression link is not to be sneezed at

Have you ever had the flu, and along with the physical symptoms a temporary feeling of being low and fed up? Though most of us would shrug these feelings off as a result of not being able to go out with…
Recent studies show psychedelics can have a positive effect on a range of mental health issues. Shutterstock

Shroom to grow: Australia’s missing psychedelic science

A recent Norwegian study on psychedelic drugs and psychological well-being not only highlighted fewer mental health issues among users of these drugs but also underscored the reinvigoration of scientific…
Telling people there’s no “cure” for depression or bipolar can leave them feeling like a victim. PA/Paul Faith

People with depression and bipolar must have more choice

An increasing number of people are trying to cope with depression and bipolar in the UK. But we also have an over-reliance on drugs and waiting lists can be a year long for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy…
Psychiatric diagnosis relies on identifying a patient’s signs and symptoms rather than clinical tests. PA/Ben Birchall

Explainer: what is the DSM?

Traditional psychiatry uses the approaches of medicine to try to understand mental health problems and guide treatment. This means relying on diagnosis – identifying what are believed to be mental illnesses…
Barriers can reduce the number of suicides at a particular location but broader means restriction measures are more complex. AAP/Dan Peled

Reducing access to the means of suicide

Brisbane Lord Mayor Graham Quirk’s recent announcement that barriers are to be erected on the Story Bridge in an effort to reduce suicides is very welcome. Studies consistently show that barriers have…
Finding out that you a genetically predisposed to depression can make you feel worse. Lloyd Morgan

Genetic testing for depression creates an ethical minefield

A friend of mine is currently undergoing chemotherapy treatment following surgery for breast cancer. Recently, she told me that she would happily pay the AUS$4000 for a genetic test to detect whether she…
Many cultures believe that dreams tell the future, and the messages in our dreams are warnings. Gisela Giardino

The science of interpreting common symbols in dreams

Research shows that everyone, even those who claim they never dream, actually do. But few of us can make any sense of our dreams. My colleagues and I have been working on a way to try to make sense of…
Learning more about the contribution of multiple risk factors to major depressive disorder will help predict risk. Iris Shreve Garrott

Predicting the risk of depressive disorder – promises and pitfalls

The possibility of harnessing genetic science to head off major depressive disorder, the world’s leading cause of disability, is getting closer. But molecular intervention for this common multifactorial…
Drugs treat symptoms but do nothing to help people navigate depression. Shutterstock

Treating depression ethically requires more than drugs

Spot the problem in this scenario. Richard* is stressed. While he’s a high-flyer (a Rhodes Scholar no less), he’s under the pump at work and has just moved his family across nations. The job is taking…
Depression is more than the experience of sadness or stress. Sander van der Wel

Explainer: what is depression?

Many people know what it’s like to feel sad or down from time to time. We can experience negative emotions due to many things – a bad day at work, a relationship break-up, a sad film, or just getting out…
Governments, industry and communities must work together to address suicide risk factors for FIFO/DIDO workers. AAP/Bagus Indahono

Mining, fly-in, fly-out workers and the risk of suicide

Barely a week passes without media coverage of some aspect of the real or perceived impacts of fly-in fly-out (FIFO) and drive-in drive-out (DIDO) work, especially in the mining sector. We hear about the…
Trials show ketamine acts more quickly than other antidepressants because it affects different parts of the brain. JLM Photography

Special K: ketamine’s road from tranquilliser to possible antidepressant

The drug ketamine has been used for medical purposes since it was developed in the 1960s, but it is perhaps more widely known for its illicit use as a hallucinogenic tranquiliser. Now we’re beginning to…
Over seven million Australian adults have experienced a mental illness. Image from shutterstock.com

Mental health report card: it’s time to address quality of life

The National Mental Health Commission (NMHC) today released its first annual report card on the state of mental health and suicide prevention services in Australia. Called A Contributing Life, the report…
People with diabetes have a higher risk of developing emotional problems than the general population. sriram bala/Flickr

How psychological support can help people living with diabetes

Medical advances are important but we believe the key to living successfully with diabetes is something else entirely. Paying attention to the behavioural and psychological aspects of the condition is…
It’s normal to have recurring waves of grief after the loss of a loved one but prolonged, severe grief requires treatment. white ribbons

Why prolonged grief should be listed as a mental disorder

MATTERS OF THE MIND – a series which examines the clinician’s bible for diagnosing mental disorders, the DSM, and the controversy surrounding the forthcoming fifth edition. Grief is one of the most universal…
Many non-western cultures recognise states of mind that look like mental illness but don’t fit DSM categories. Todd Huffman

Strange or just plain weird? Cultural variation in mental illness

MATTERS OF THE MIND – a series which examines the clinician’s bible for diagnosing mental disorders, the DSM, and the controversy surrounding the forthcoming fifth edition. There’s an old saying that psychology…
Sadness is a natural human emotion. D Sharon Pruitt/Flickr.

Is the promotion of happiness making us sad?

Western culture places an extraordinary emphasis on happiness – and continuous happiness – as the goal each of us should strive for in our lives. But we’re increasingly realising this goal may actually…
Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder which affects between 1% and 6% of the population. thewoodenshoes/Flickr

Explainer: what is bipolar disorder?

During a manic episode, the main character of popular television series Homeland, CIA agent Carrie Mathison (played by Claire Danes) colour codes the evidence in a terrorism case, making vital links that…
Emo music may be bleak but there’s no evidence to show it causes depression. Flickr/Corrie

Monday’s medical myth: emo music makes you depressed

Like death metal and grunge before it, emo music has copped more than its fair share of criticism since it rose to prominence a decade ago. Rather than being seen as an outlet for young people to express…
Long-term meditators have larger sections of the brain responsible for regulating emotion. Tezatrataz/Phra Ajan Jerapunyo Abbot of Watkungtaphao

Beyond spirituality: the role of meditation in mental health

Meditation has traditionally been associated with Eastern mysticism but science is beginning to show that cultivating a “heightened” state of consciousness can have a major impact on our brain, the way…
You can use all kinds of iPhone apps to track and improve your health. chunghow33

Reviewing the top medical iPhone apps … what’s the diagnosis?

Want to quit smoking, lose weight, manage your diabetes or get a good night’s sleep? No worries. There’s an app for all of that. But it’s not always clear which medical apps are based on solid evidence…
ECT is the most rapid and effective treatment for depression but it’s still plagued with stigma. Irina Souiki

It’s time to move on from ECT’s shocking past

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) has come a long way since earlier, darker days when it was known as electric shock therapy and conjured images from One Flew Over the Cukoo’s Nest. But just when it seems…

Research and News (15)

Research Briefs (45)

Study links depression with hearing loss

A new study shows hearing loss is associated with depression in American adults, particularly women and those under the age…

Most musicians suffer pain: study

Australia’s orchestral musicians are suffering for their art, according to new research. Psychologists found that 84% of…

Living alone increases depression risk

People living alone are 80% more likely to develop depression than any other social group. Finnish researchers studied 3,500…