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Analysis and Comment (157)

The vulnerability of mentally disordered people warrants a range of strong protections to prevent wrongful convictions. Emmanuel Huybrechts/Flickr

Justice for all: how should the law deal with false confessions?

Confessions constitute strong evidence of wrongdoing, but not all of them are reliable. So what can the legal system do to ensure justice is done? A US judge is deciding on exactly this matter in a prominent…
There just aren’t enough psychiatrists to meet demand. Psychiatrist via Shutterstock

Why is it so hard to see a psychiatrist?

Getting psychiatric care in the United States is a lot harder than it should be. Patients around the country are having a hard time booking appointments for outpatient care, and face significant hurdles…
The mental health problems of children with intellectual disabilities are largely undiagnosed and untreated. SriHarsha PVSS/Flickr

What about the mental health of kids with intellectual disability?

High-quality epidemiological research shows children and adolescents with intellectual disability are four times more likely to have diagnosable mental health problems compared to others their age. This…
Don’t blame it on the snow. Ilaria Coradazzi

Explainer: what is seasonal affective disorder?

It’s that time of year again - the end of daylight savings and the beginning of the dark season. While many of us look forward to seasonal festivities, millions can also expect feelings of depression…
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…
People with complex trauma appear like they are always anticipating or responding to a threat. file404/Shutterstock

Complex trauma: how abuse and neglect can have life-long effects

Experiencing trauma has significant implications for mental health. We’ve known this for some time but particularly since the early 1970s after observing and studying the effects of war on American servicemen…
Comedies such as Please Like Me help to break the stigma around mental health. ABC Publicity

ABC’s Mental As … it’s OK to laugh about mental health

So what’s funny about mental illness? Very little. It can be hard to smile, let alone laugh, when every day feels like a wet blanket. When someone makes a joke about mental illness, it often trivialises…
A psychotic episode can be a one-off event or an ongoing illness, but it’s currently difficult to predict. wrangler/Shutterstock

Predicting the future course of psychotic illness

Psychotic illness is a relatively rare but often severe form of mental illness, affecting around one in 100 people at some point in their lives. It most commonly begins in adolescence and early adulthood…
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…
Brain on the whiteboard. Brain by Shutterstock

How neuroscience can teach children about mental health

At a recent talk I gave as a Sheffield NeuroGirl, a group of three female PhD students who aim to bring interesting and exciting research on the brain to the public, I carried out a little experiment…
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…
A new law aims to eliminate the national practice of shackling people with mental disorders. Akaris Tafoei/Shutterstock

Indonesia aims to free the mentally ill from their shackles

On July 8, a day before Indonesia held its presidential election, the parliament passed the bill on mental health into law. The election coverage drowned the news of the new law, but not its significance…
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…
Ian Thorpe spoke to Michael Parkinson about being gay. Network Ten

Homophobia is a health hazard, not just for Ian Thorpe

Ian Thorpe coming out as gay during an interview with Michael Parkinson last night was both the most ordinary of stories and the most extraordinary. It also showed how deeply homophobia is ingrained in…
Therapy helps patients gradually confront situations, places and activities they’ve avoided since the traumatic event. Bill Strain/Flickr

Treating post-traumatic stress disorder: confronting the horror

While human beings have always known about the mental health effects of trauma, it was only in 1980 that the term post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, was coined. This acceptance spawned an explosion…
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…

VIDEO: How the weather affects our mood

We often use the weather as a metaphor for how we’re feeling: gloomy, sunny or under a cloud. But how does it actually affect us? In this episode of TCTV, Nick Haslam describes the influence of sunny skies…
Additional expenditure, such as that on youth mental health, is arguably not in areas where need is greatest. JLM photgraphy/Flickr

Government shows muddled mental health priorities

Despite widespread analysis of the federal budget, measures affecting mental health services have received little attention. But, like other aspects of the budget, there’s serious concern about the lack…
The proportion of women experiencing depressive symptoms is higher among mothers of four-year-olds, than among mothers with a newborn baby. Arjun Karkhanis/Flickr

Mothers' mental health worse four years after giving birth

Becoming a parent is a journey into unchartered waters – the physical and emotional demands of looking after a newborn are exhausting and constant. Not surprisingly, depression and anxiety are common among…
Bruises fade, but stress stays on. Teenager bullying image via Helder Almeida/Shutterstock

The health impact of childhood bullying can last a lifetime

It is still not clear how the experience of being bullied in childhood translates into long-lasting health problems. A new US study has found that victims of bullying have high levels of a protein in their…
Surprisingly few police have the knowledge and skills to know how to deal with people in crisis. Shutterstock

Training police to better respond to people with mental illness

Police officers encounter people with mental illnesses every day, whether they are perpetrators, victims, or witnesses of crime. In 2013 alone, NSW police responded to more than 40,000 mental health incidents…
Rosie Batty responded to the death of her son, Luke Batty, at his father’s hands with a brave public plea for understanding of the difficult reality they all faced. Supplied

Violence and mental illness: harsh reality demands sensitive answers

The violent and senseless death of 11-year-old Luke Batty in Victoria has not only drawn attention to the serious problem of family violence but has also raised questions about the role that undiagnosed…
The benefits of forced treatment at home are not clear cut. PhotographPhil

Jury out over forced home treatment for mental illness

The principle that people with mental health problems can be given treatment against their will while detained in hospital is well established. In the UK the Mental Health Act 2007 extended this principle…
Past failures cannot detract from the significance of documenting current abuses of children Stephen Mitchell

Back to the future: revisiting the treatment of child asylum seekers

The 1,000-plus children currently detained in immigration detention facilities in Australia and Nauru are at risk of serious mental health and developmental problems. The Human Rights Commission this week…
Mental health problems beset prisoners at very high rates. v1ctor Casale

Prison suicides betray problems with our criminal justice system

Nick Clegg has launched the Department of Health’s latest action plan for mental health services, Closing the Gap: priorities for essential change in mental health. While the report was overshadowed by…
Excess dopamine activity is not the only neurological change seen in patients with schizophrenia. Image from shutterstock.com

Why we shouldn’t ditch the quest for new schizophrenia drugs

The landscape of pharmaceutical development for mental disorders has changed over recent years, with pharma companies abandoning traditional neuroscience drug discovery programs and turning instead to…
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…
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…
George W Bush: a man not to be misunderestimated. John Giles/PA Archive

Dangerous link between power and hubris in politics

Most people agree on the qualities that a leader should have: we prefer to follow people who are confident, decisive, ambitious and persuasive rather than the insecure, dithering, apathetic and weak. So…
Sunlight has repeatedly been found to boost positive moods, though the link is weaker than many people imagine. Image from shutterstock.com

Here comes the sun: how the weather affects our mood

The weather supplies many metaphors for our changeable minds. Moods can brighten and darken, dispositions can be sunny, futures can be under a cloud and relationships can be stormy. Like the weather, our…
Read with caution. David Jones/PA

Hard evidence: how dangerous is mental illness?

Once again, the issue of mental illness and public danger has hit the headlines, following the murder of Christina Edkins by Phillip Simelane. It was reported Simelane was released from prison with no…
The process of being born may affect how our brain develops and whether we’re susceptible to brain disorders. JoséMa Orsini

Giving birth to new insights into brain development and disease

Each one of us is the complex product of nature and nurture, genes and environment. They combine in a myriad of complex ways during embryonic and postnatal development to sculpt our brains and bodies…
Christina Edkins' murder was a rare and awful thing. Joe Giddens/PA

The Sun splash missed point on ‘mental patient murders’

1,200 killed by mental patients – shock ten-year toll exposes care crisis The Sun used this apparently shocking statistic this week to blame the criminal justice system for the death of Christina Edkins…
We know young refugees have an increased risk of depression, but this is only part of the story. Image from shutterstock.com

Getting the facts about refugee and migrant mental health in Australia

Refugees and asylum seekers living in Australia are particularly vulnerable to self-harm and suicidal behaviours, but aren’t getting the specialised mental health care they need, according to a Spotlight…
‘Hug a hoodie’ as David Cameron would say. ssoosay

Hard Evidence: has life got worse for young people?

Smoking, drinking and hanging around street corners is a common characterisation of a bored, unhealthy, unemployed youth. Life is getting worse for young people, we’re often led to believe, but what do…
Australian Aboriginals are at most risk of bad physical and mental health and they have the worst health services in the country. publik16/Flickr

Improving Aboriginal health and well-being: a view from the north

Aboriginal people living in remote communities have much worse health status and longevity than other Australians. And this imbalance will not be remedied until governments work with Aboriginal leaders…
Given the money Australia has spent on mental health, it’s surprising that population data doesn’t show expected gains. Ben Barnes

Why hasn’t the mental health of Australians improved?

Despite two decades of investment in improving mental health services, the mental health of Australians has not improved. This may be because haven’t been spending money on the right approach and need…
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott (centre) speaks to the media as Professor Patrick McGorry (right) and Senator Connie Fierravanti Wells look on during a press conference to launch the Liberal-National Party coalition plan for mental health. LISA MAREE WILLIAMS/AAP

Mental health is largely missing from the election campaign

Launching the Coalition’s policy for Efficient Mental Health Research and Services late last week, Tony Abbott said he wished all his policy statements attracted such media attention. Given the Australian…
Prisoners' mental health was identified as an issue in the 1700s. Pickersgill Reef

Police are unprepared to care for people with mental illness

As long ago as 1780, John Howard noted that prisons were housing more “idiots and lunatics” and emphasised the detrimental effects that this had on the prison regime for both sets of prisoners. But while…
Asylum seekers are often left traumatised by their journey. Will they be able to receive appropriate mental health treatment when processed and resettled in PNG? EPA/Adrian Elang

Rudd’s PNG plan could worsen asylum seekers' mental health

It is currently unclear how Australia and Papua New Guinea will ensure a protective and supportive resettlement environment for refugees under the recently announced Regional Resettlement Arrangement (RRA…
The idea that mental health services are getting better is just smoke and mirrors. Flickr/Erika Linds

Mental health is in no fit state, whatever the politicians say

Foundation essay: This article on the state of mental health services is part of a series marking the launch of The Conversation in the UK. Our foundation essays are longer than our usual comment and analysis…
The world might be a brighter place if we all shared our research. Joe Burke

China a research superpower but we could be left in dark

Over the past 25 years we have seen an explosion in top-level clinical trials in China. But only a tiny proportion of that research is available on the main databases used by doctors and researchers in…
There are many pieces to the mental health puzzle: and it isn’t all about the brain. stephenphampshire

‘Mental illness’ isn’t all about brain chemistry: it’s about life

Do you believe ‘mental illness’ is all about brain chemistry? It wouldn’t be surprising if you did, because this is the message we regularly receive about various forms of troublesome feelings, thoughts…
The declining health levels of asylum seekers should spark the Australian government to take action. EPA/Made Mahardika

Attention Australia: take charge of asylum health

Seventy asylum seekers have been moved from the Manus Island immigration detention facility to Christmas Island following a long overdue decision by the Gillard government. The decision to keep families…
Torture, not treatment: Guantanamo Bay detainees have been force fed using this kit. US department of defense.

Should Brady be kept alive? The ethics of force-feeding

Moors murderer, Ian Brady, is fighting to end his life. This week he has appeared in public for the first time since his trial in the 1960s. He has been force-fed for the past 13 years and is begging to…
To assess the risk of a schizophrenic attack, we try to work out the risk of a rare event in a bunch of people with a mixed bag of symptoms. Flickr/daniellehelm

Are you really at risk of attack by someone with schizophrenia?

A violent attack by someone who is mentally ill quickly grabs the headlines. And it’s usually implied that mental illnesses are a preventable cause of violent crime. Tackle that and we can all sleep safer…
Want to be happy? It’s all about the green. epSos.de/Flickr

It’s official: city parks make us happy

Spending time with nature in our cities' parks and gardens can improve individual satisfaction in life and make us less aggressive, anxious and stressed. So isn’t it time we placed access to nature alongside…
A teddy bear bought by murdered soldier Lee Rigby for his son, Jack, sits alongside a family photograph. PA/Dave Thompson

Making soldiers safe at home is essential for mental health

The brutal killing of Drummer Lee Rigby on the streets of Woolwich has raised serious questions about the safety of our soldiers at home, and how such violence could affect their recovery from the psychological…
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…
The majority of diagnoses for depression, anxiety and PTSD are made by GPs who don’t use the DSM criteria.

DSM-5 won’t increase mental health work claims – here’s why

The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-5) has copped the predicted criticisms since its release on the weekend. Most centre on the idea that more of us will…
Sufferers of internet disorder might find it starts to impose on real life, such as causing difficulties in socialising. Flickr/Fle

Five new mental disorders you could have under DSM-5

Since it was first published in 1952, the DSM has been the has been the diagnostic bible for many psychiatrists. Each time the manual is updated, new conditions are introduced, often amid much controversy…
DSM-5 has been described as the bible of psychiatry but the assumption that professionals use it for their own gain is far fetched. PA

DSM-5 tells us more about psychiatry than psychiatrists

DSM-5, the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association, was published in the US at the weekend. Given that not even its most passionate supporters would…
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…
Medication misuse is out of control in the US and more psychiatric labelling in DSM-5 will not help. Whale05/Flikr

Under new psychiatric guidebook we might all be labelled mad

“We are all mad here” explains the Cat to Alice when she wonders about the strangeness of Wonderland. Well, life is starting to follow art. If people make the mistake of following DSM-5, the new diagnostic…
The UK has a strict policy of gender segregation on psychiatric wards, and so should Australia. Image from shutterstock.com

Sexual assaults in psych wards show urgent need for reform

Women admitted to psychiatry wards experience high levels of violence and sexual assaults, according to a report released this week by the Victorian Mental Illness Alliance Council. Across the nine different…
The DSM-5 doesn’t attempt to define what is “normal”; and having a DSM diagnosis is not the same as being “insane”. Image from shutterstock.com

Mental disorders: debunking some myths of the DSM-5

The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) is due to hit psychiatrists' and psychologists' shelves next month. Produced by the American Psychiatric…
Children who go through puberty early have poorer mental health than their peers. But it’s not a simple case of cause and effect. Image from shutterstock.com

Growing up too fast: early puberty and mental illness

Puberty has long been recognised as a transition point in which many emotional and behavioural problems emerge. These include depression and anxiety, substance use and abuse, self-harm and eating disorders…
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…
Gender and sexual minorities are known to be at high risk of suicide. Guillaume Paumier

Preventing suicide among gender and sexual minorities

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, and intersex (LGBTI) people were recognised as being specific high-risk groups for suicide in a 2010 senate committee report. While every suicide may not be preventable…
Without treatment, half of PTSD sufferers experience chronic problems that can last for decades. marcusjroberts

Explainer: what is post-traumatic stress disorder?

People have probably always known about the psychological effects of experiencing life-threatening events such as military combat, natural disasters, or violent assault. Literature through the ages – some…
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…
The risk of PTSD is determined by the frequency and severity of the potentially traumatic events. AAP

Reliving the pain of war: military deployment and PTSD

Serving on operational deployments in conflict zones carries not only the obvious physical threats, it also poses significant mental health risks. While depression and anxiety disorders are common among…
Bushfire affected property at Sommers Bay in Tasmania, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013. Residents of the worst-hit town Dunalley in the Tasmanian bushfires returned on Friday to see the full extent of the devastation. AAP/David Beniuk

Natural disasters have unexpected impacts on mental health

Radical circumstances (bushfires and natural disasters) flush out the mental illness in society. Whenever there’s a disaster, there’s a rush on hospital admissions for psychiatric problems. But on the…
Some of life’s problems are just not solvable. Sean Dreilinger

Listen up worry warts, ruminating won’t solve your problems

We all do it from time to time – replay scenarios over and over in our minds. Problem is, these repetitive and, at times, uncontrollable thoughts inevitably leave us feeling worse and make us more prone…
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…
The roadmap was released after the COAG meeting on Friday December 7, 2012. AAP/Alan Porritt

Five views of the Roadmap for National Mental Health Reform

Patrick McGorry, Professor of Psychiatry at University of Melbourne Last year at COAG, Mental Health Council of Australia CEO Frank Quinlan, social inclusion advocate David Cappo and I discussed a blueprint…
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…
Current immigration policies promote uncertainty, fear and disempowerment, which contribute to mental illness. AAP

One step forward, two steps back for asylum seeker mental health

The recent overhaul of Australia’s immigration policies aims to protect the lives of asylum seekers by removing any advantage of arriving by boat. Whether this goal will be achieved remains unclear. But…
Those who know the identity of their donor from a young age are less likely to experience psychological problems. Ron Wiecki

Rights of donor children must come before egg donation compensation

University of Tasmania academic Meredith Nash recently argued on The Conversation that women who donate their eggs for fertility treatments should be financially compensated. It’s a risky and time-consuming…
People who were abused as children are more likely to suffer mental health and substance abuse disorders. Dawn Ashley

Protecting the abused from further trauma during the Royal Commission

There is great support within the community for the Royal Commission into child sexual abuse. Many people have high hopes it will right the wrongs of the past and help us, as a nation, to eliminate future…
Whatever the specific cause of ADHD-like behaviours for a particular child, it’s the people and institutions around them that define it as problematic. Katy Stoddard

We need a different national conversation about ADHD

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is the most diagnosed childhood disorder in Australia. Most of us now know someone, or someone’s child, who has been diagnosed with ADHD. Reports on television…
Many of us feel that our internet use verges on problematic but this is different to addiction. justingaynor

Internet use and the DSM-5’s revival of addiction

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. The term “addiction” is conspicuously…
As an adolescent and child psychiatrist, I dispense all sorts of labels – but what do they mean? emildom

Psychiatric labels and kids: benefits, side-effects and confusion

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. As a child and adolescent psychiatrist…
Overall, there will be fewer symptoms and disorders listed in the new psychiatry manual. Axel Buhrmann

Redefining autism in the DSM-5

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. For autistic people and their…
Trichotillomania, where individuals pull out their hair, has long been considered a mental disorder, but where does it fit in the DSM-5? Tigresblanco

Don’t pull your hair out over trichotillomania

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. Trichotillomania is a psychological…
The inclusion of hoarding on the DSM-5 will drive an integrated response to this complex problem. Hoarding Grap Wikimedia Commons

When stuff gets in the way of life: hoarding and the DSM-5

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. We’ve all got boxes of old letters…
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…
Criteria for mental health disorders have been formulated by expert committees. But are they right? Psychiatry image from shutterstock

Explainer: what is the DSM and how are mental disorders diagnosed?

Welcome to 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. The Diagnostic and…
The symptom-based approach of the current DSM does not take life events into account. Woman image from shutterstock.com

Forget talking, just fill a script: how modern psychiatry lost its mind

Welcome to 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. You’re feeling down…
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…
We need to keep questioning the justifications for depriving those with severe mental health problems of their liberty. Shanon Wise

Time to rethink mental health laws for treatment without consent

Each Australian state and territory has a Mental Health Act that enables those with severe mental health problems to be detained and treated without their consent. While the criteria differ, generally…
New and emerging technologies may deliver effective, equitable, and cost-effective mental health services. Alec Couros

Harnessing technology for better mental health services

On R U OK? Day this year, this website turned the spotlight on services that help and support people who are not okay – in particular on challenges that organisations such as Lifeline experience in meeting…
Around 40% of farmers who died by suicide had accessed some type of professional mental health service. AAP

Farmer suicide isn’t just a mental health issue

They toiled and they fought through the shame of it - Through wilderness, flood, and drought… …The miseries suffered, unvoiced, unknown - And that’s how the land was won. Henry Lawson’s characterisations…
Certain types of media reporting may trigger further suicidal behaviours among vulnerable people. garryknight

The facts about safe reporting of suicide

The issue of media reporting of suicide was once again thrust into the spotlight this week, with mental health researcher, clinician and former Australian of the year Pat McGorry renewing his calls for…
Better efforts are needed to address avoidable risk factors for suicide, such as alcohol and drug abuse. yaruman

Reducing Indigenous suicide through empowerment and pride

We’ve long known that rates of suicide in Indigenous communities are higher than the wider Australian population. But we’re much less clear about why this is the case. Each life lost to suicide reminds…
Anders Breivik was sane when he murdered dozens of people in Norway last year according to a jury. EPA/Heiko Junge/Pool Norway

Anders Breivik is guilty: the fine line between bad and mad

One of the most high profile court decisions on “madness” and crime has concluded. In a unanimous decision, the Oslo District Court in Norway has convicted Anders Behring Breivik of the murder of 77 people…
We need to learn from lessons of the past when it comes to veterans' mental health. AAP Image/Lukas Coch

Vietnam and Iraq: lessons to be learned about mental health and war

Physical injury and death in war is expected. But we also now know the stories of large numbers of veterans suffering major psychological trauma. These involve Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety…
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…
Young men with mental health problems take an average of 9.5 extra days off work each year. PixieClipx

Bottom line on young men’s mental health shows high cost of inaction

Mental illness in young men costs the Australian economy $3.27bn a year in lost productivity, according to a report released today by the Inspire Foundation and Ernst & Young. The report, titled Counting…
Two teams of psychiatric assessors have come to different conclusions about Breivik’s mental state. AAP

Mad or bad? Expert witnesses and the Anders Breivik trial

On July 22, 2011, Norwegian Anders Breivik killed 75 people, as a statement against Norway’s liberal immigration policies. He was a member of an extreme right wing group and a product of a dysfunctional…
Children of fathers who show signs of depression in the year after birth have more than three times the rate of behavioural problems by the time they reach school. Mark Menzies

Helping mentally ill fathers for the sake of their children

The idea that mental illness can harm family relationships is not new. But it’s usually the mother’s parenting that has been the centre of attention. So an article I co-wrote in today’s issue of the Medical…
Using lab rats allows us to experiment in ways that would not be acceptable in humans. ressaure

Rats, rewards and mental illness

Many forms of mental illness can affect our moods. But that isn’t all they do: they can also damage our willpower. Problems such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity…
Genetic variants that contribute to the risk of schizophrenia are present in everyone. Flickr/Akelei van Dam

Schizophrenia risk linked to common genetic variants

A quarter of the risk for developing schizophrenia can be traced to genetic variations that are common in the general population, a study by Queensland researchers has found. A new method of genetic analysis…
For long term refom, education and child development sectors must be involved. wakingphotolife

Time to go back to the drawing board on mental health reform

As the Commonwealth Government’s community consultation period for mental health reform comes to an end this week, health bureaucrats will begin finalising Australia’s Ten year roadmap for national mental…
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…
New guidelines for ADHD emphasise comprehensive assessments before a diagnosis is made. Flickr/Woodlywonderworks

New ADHD guidelines: a prescription for more than just Ritalin

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) is seeking feedback on new clinical guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in children and…
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…
Grape growers are already suffering emotional stress because of climate change. ryanovineyards/Flickr

Positive mental health key to tackling rural climate change

Mental health has been an issue in rural areas for the past few decades. Climate change will only add more stress to the lives of rural people. While a report by the Climate Institute shows broad scale…
Emotional disorders are often relegated to second place in considerations of mental health. Lauren Garza

Crying out for a change in mood on emotional disorders and anxiety

A few weeks ago, my children came home from school to announce they were raising money for World Vision’s 40-hour famine. Naturally, I applauded them and we hopped on the internet to learn about the tragedy…
Letting go of prolonged negative feelings is likely to improve happiness and well-being. Chapendra

Bitterness makes the heart grow sicker

Maxims like turn that frown upside down may annoy you when ill-timed but it seems they have some evidence-based science behind them. A growing body of research shows that your state of mind may have a…
A long-term threat of natural disaster is likely to increase rates of anxiety among young people. AAP

Act now on climate change to protect Australians' mental health

In September 2010, BHP Billiton CEO Marius Kloppers proposed Australia take action on climate change before the rest of the world to maintain its international economic competitiveness. A report released…
Facing up to our carbon responsibilities might make Australians happier. the waving cat/Flickr

A carbon tax is good for Australia’s mental health

Let’s face it; we just don’t like the word “tax”, do we? Such a brouhaha, such a fuss. But let’s just take a break from the group hysteria to look at the carbon tax from a few different points of view…
Better understanding of sibling risk will lead to earlier diagnosis and treatment. Flickr/kmakice

One-in-five risk of sibling autism

A study published overnight in the journal Paediatrics shows the siblings of autistic children have a much higher risk of autism than previously thought. Nicole Rinehart, clinical psychologist and Associate…
Mentally ill detainees should be placed in the community for treatment and support. AAP

Asylum seeker mental health probe long overdue

The Commonwealth Ombudsman yesterday launched an investigation into rising rates of self-harm among detainees of Australia’s immigration detention centres, after it emerged that 50 instances of cutting…
Convicted killer Arthur Freeman is led away from the Supreme Court in Melbourne. AAP

The fraught issue of how we deal with mentally ill offenders

Arthur Freeman’s involvement in an altercation in Victoria’s Barwon prison this week has again highlighted the fraught issue of how we deal with offenders who commit crimes that many of us assume could…
Sadly, there’s no magic button to stop excessive gambling. Mick Tsikas/AAPimage

Get rich or die trying: when gambling becomes a problem

GAMBLING IN AUSTRALIA – Why do some people develop gambling addictions while others can dabble for years at the pokies or the track without issue? The Productivity Commission’s 2010 report on gambling…
Australia needs to reassess where it stands on mental health. Flickr/knicolai

Rethinking our mental health laws

Even a cursory glance at Australia’s mental health system indicates shortcomings in the provision of a range of services to people with mental impairments. Since 1993, when the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity…
US psychiatrist Allen Frances is confusing the issues. Julie70/Flickr

Early intervention for psychosis: not just popping pills

A controversy is brewing on the website Psychology Today and subsequently in The Australian newspaper. At the heart of the issue is US psychiatrist Dr Allen Frances' comments on the Australian Federal…
Mentally ill Australians have a life expectancy 25 years lower than the rest of the population. AAP

Mental illness is no excuse for turning a blind eye to smoking

Almost half of all cigarettes smoked in Australia, the US and the UK are smoked by people with a mental illness. It’s a startling statistic and it paints a grim picture for the physical health of the one…
People with depression are less able to cope with stress. OliviaGR

Depression can break your heart, literally

Having a “broken” or a “heavy” heart is a description often used by people who are feeling down or depressed. It turns out they’re not that far off the mark. People with depression are three to four times…
A DNA test can detect fragile X syndrome with 99% accuracy. AAP

ADHD, autism or something else entirely?

Most people are not aware of fragile X syndrome but they may well be affected by it or know someone who is. Commonly under-diagnosed or misdiagnosed the condition is often mistaken for Attention Deficit…

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Research Briefs (46)

More people talking about mental health

People who suffer from mental health problems are now more willing to disclose their experiences, according to a recent study…

Compassion can be taught

According to a study by The University of Wisconsin-Madison, adults can be taught to be more compassionate for others. A…

Singing your way to better health

Religious songs can help elderly African-Americans remain happy and healthy. Researchers documented the reactions of 65 elderly…

Contemplating death is good for you

The thought of death can lead to better health, altruism, and even reduced divorce rates. A new study commissioned by the…

Marijuana impairs memory

Independent of its effect on neurons, marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient (THC) impairs memory by affecting passive support…

Quality of sleep improves with age

Sleep quality is best in those over 80 and worst in people aged between 40 and 59, according to new research from the University…

Better mental health means a better economy

Improving mental health improves the economy, according to a review of published work carried out by the University of Cape…

Birth weight linked to mental health

Premature or low birth weight babies are more likely to suffer from anxiety and mood disorders later in life, according to…