Guardian Mental Health

This page shows the latest items from the Guardian Mental Health newsfeed.

Dreading a dark winter lockdown? Think like a Norwegian

Studies show people living in the Arctic Circle are armed with a mindset that helps combat the long ‘polar night’. It might come in handy for us all…

When Kari Leibowitz first arrived in the Norwegian city of Tromsø, she was both intrigued by, and fearful of, the approaching winter. Two hundred miles north of the Arctic Circle, the city does not see the sun from mid-November to mid-January. It was a far cry from the state of New Jersey, where she had grown up, or Stanford, California, where she had been studying before travelling to Norway.

As a health psychologist, Leibowitz’s aim was to understand the ways that Tromsø’s citizens coped with the long “polar night”. In many countries, the short days of winter are thought to cause lethargy and low mood, resulting in “seasonal affective disorder” (SAD). This is sometimes assumed to have a purely biological basis – levels of mood-regulating neurotransmitters such as serotonin are generally lower in winter than in summer, and last week a study suggested that people with more neurotic personalities are particularly susceptible to low winter moods. SAD is often treated using standard antidepressant drugs, as well as psychotherapies.

There are many things to enjoy about the winter

I love the cosiness of the winter months

Winter brings many wonderful seasonal changes

Winter is boring

Winter is a limiting time of year

There are many things to dislike about winter

Most people don’t realise their beliefs about winter are subjective. They feel there’s nothing they can do about it

Related: Fjord focus: is Norway’s friluftsliv the answer to surviving a second lockdown?

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26 September 2020, 4:00 pm

Escape to the country: how Covid is driving an exodus from Britain’s cities

The pandemic has triggered a reappraisal of urban living, with increasing numbers fleeing city confines in search of green space

Debbie Gould had never seriously entertained the idea of leaving London before the coronavirus crisis. The 65-year-old retired makeup artist had lived in the city her whole life, first in Highbury in north London, then in a two-bed townhouse in Hackney in the east, with a garden “not much bigger than a postage stamp”, she says, which she loved nonetheless.

But the thefts when lockdown was finally lifted were the first thing that started to change her mind. Her neighbours’ houses were broken into. Then some bikes were taken. The final straw came when her caravan was stolen.

The pandemic has turned so many lives upside down and, for Gould, the city she loved had suddenly felt dangerous and claustrophobic. Her local park, London Fields, “turned into Glastonbury” every weekend, she says.

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26 September 2020, 6:00 am

My sister thanked me for taking care of her baby before prison officers wheeled her away | Katie Horneshaw

Anna has been putting on a brave face, but she and the other incarcerated mothers have not seen their children since March

Ollie was an impossibly wriggly newborn when I first brought him in to visit my sister in prison. All of three weeks old, he was already a regular – Mum had brought him in several times before I had worked up the courage to make the trek.

The last time I’d seen my sister, she was being wheeled out of the Sunshine hospital postnatal ward and back to prison, 24 hours after giving birth to Ollie, her first child. She’d been informed in the early stages of induced labor that her application to keep Ollie with her in the prison’s mother and baby unit had been denied by Child Protective Services, and her baby would instead be coming home with me.

Related: My daughter, the murderer: a mother’s desperate journey through the mental health crisis

Related: ‘It’s harder for them than it is for me’: when a mother does time, her children do too

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25 September 2020, 8:00 pm

'Theatre of strength': where the thin blue line meets the mental health crisis

Victoria has a long and tragic history of police shootings of people in extreme mental health crisis. What are the factors contributing to excessive use of force?

On 15 September, a man brandishing a large kitchen knife was spotted inside a toilet in the Lilydale Marketplace. Armed with the knife, he made his way to a medical centre where he filled out a new patient form. The police were called to the busy shopping complex at 8.30am. First responders confronted the man outside the medical centre. He was asking the officers to kill him.

“We now have two more police vehicles,” a bystander told a live radio broadcast on 3AW. On mobile phone footage, the 24-year-old man appears agitated as he sparks a cigarette. The police had been negotiating with him for half an hour. They urged him to put down the weapon. The man rushed towards the police officers. “And we now have police in black,” the bystander continued. “Oh shit, they’re shooting. They’ve just shot. There’s just been three or four rounds. I can’t see.” Two officers fired their weapons and shot the man. Police believed the man, who remains in a stable condition, suffered from mental health issues.

Related: ‘Relax, you are OK’, witness told a knife-wielding Melbourne man before police shot him

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25 September 2020, 8:00 pm

Covid-bereaved and mental health experts call for grief support funds

Exclusive: Treasury urged to fund traumatic grief services to ward off crisis

Mental health experts have joined forces with nearly 2,000 family members bereaved by Covid-19 to warn of an impending crisis unless support services for grieving relatives are made available.

Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, together with organisations including the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) and the National Bereavement Partnership, want the government to use the comprehensive spending review to fund measures addressing particularly traumatic forms of grief.

Related: ‘She was left with no one’: how UK mental health deteriorated during Covid

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24 September 2020, 9:00 pm

Essex hospital where staff abused patients was warned by CQC

January report also noted ‘serious concerns’ about Yew Trees’ owner, Cygnet Healthcare

The private company that ran an NHS learning disability hospital hit by revelations of staff abuse of vulnerable patients had been under scrutiny from the authorities over safety and safeguarding issues for months, it has emerged.

A catalogue of physical and emotional abuses of patients at the women-only Yew Trees unit in Essex was revealed by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) on Wednesday after an inspection triggered by CCTV footage of staff mistreating patients.

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24 September 2020, 6:00 am

'The decrease in the Covid supplement is a sentence to poverty, for me and many others' | Aidan, Freya, Jess and Jade

Four people on income support tell us what the supplement has meant for them, and how the planned cut will impact their lives

When the supplement was announced, two things happened immediately. All my worries and concerns about bills and expenses dissipated, and I thought of all the things I could do with the money. I didn’t decide to have a piss-up with mates, or blow the money on pokies (though I express my right to make frivolous bets on sporting events as an Australian.)

I sat at my desk the day after the announcement and wrote down all of the things I didn’t have, the things I needed, and the things that need replacing.

The first thought: I can finally replace this sunken single mattress, and buy a bedframe too. Finally, nearing 26, and for the first time in my adult life, I got a double mattress atop an actual bedframe, not the carpet in my room. I bought new bedding. Decent quality, from the store. Everything was on sale, of course – this six month supplement isn’t going to undo intergenerational penny-pinching.

Related: Australia’s jobless to face mutual obligation rule despite few job vacancies

Related: Jobkeeper cuts to strip $9.9bn from Australian economy by Christmas, report says

Related: ‘It will change my life entirely’: young people on getting the $550 coronavirus supplement

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24 September 2020, 1:42 am

Australian teenager to address UN about Covid hardship among young women

Exclusive: Mayela Dayeh, 16, a secondary school student, says ‘there’s been an absolute decline in mental health’

A 16-year-old Australian student, Mayela Dayeh, will address the United Nations general assembly on Wednesday night to present the findings of a survey that shows young women and girls are shouldering a greater economic, domestic and emotional load and working harder during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The study, released by humanitarian organisation Plan International as part of a report called “Halting Lives – The impact of Covid019 on girls and young women”, surveyed more than 7,000 15-to-24 year-olds across 14 countries.

Related: Birth control pills should be available over the counter, advocates say

Related: Number of women leading ASX200 companies falls to just 5% of chief executives

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23 September 2020, 12:17 am

Staff at Essex mental health hospital caught abusing patient, say inspectors

CCTV shows staff at Cygnet Yew Trees private hospital slapping and kicking woman

Staff at a private mental health hospital were caught on camera dragging, slapping and kicking a patient, inspectors have said.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC), the independent regulator of health and social care services in England, carried out an unannounced inspection of Cygnet Yew Trees in Kirby-le-Soken in Essex after its provider, Cygnet Health Care, reported allegations of patient abuse.

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22 September 2020, 11:01 pm

10 awe-inspiring walks around the UK

Scientists found weekly ‘awe walks’ led to more positive emotions among study participants – here are some of the nation’s most wondrous locations

The Romantics first drew our attention to “awe” in the natural world and now scientists have confirmed its value.

Older adults who took weekly “awe walks” reported increased positive emotions and less distress in their daily lives, according to a study published in the journal Emotion.

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22 September 2020, 12:00 pm

Supernova review – Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci dazzle as a couple facing their fears

The veteran pair are on magnificent form in a drama about love and mortality that is all the more powerful for its restraint

Lovely, heartfelt performances from Stanley Tucci and Colin Firth carry this intimate movie from actor-turned-film-maker Harry Macqueen, whose 2014 debut, Hinterland, was also a two-hander about love. Tucci and Firth play Tusker and Sam, a couple who have been together for decades: Tusker is a respected novelist and Sam a musician. (Firth gives his own perfectly serviceable piano performance of Elgar’s Salut d’Amour, all the more of a lump-in-the-throat moment for its unflashiness.) The careers of both have been put on hold because Tusker has been diagnosed with early-onset dementia.

The couple have decided to take their camper van for a trip north, to drop in on Sam’s sister and her family, to have some alone time together and, perhaps, to come to terms with the fact that this holiday may be their last together while Tusker is still well. He is still working on a new book but is increasingly preoccupied with astronomy, gazing into the night skies, perhaps soothed by the unimaginable vastness of space, in comparison with which his problems are nothing. Is this new hobby therapeutic, or something that is accelerating his slide into enigmatic blankness?

Related: Limbo review – heart-rending portrait of refugees stranded in Scotland

Related: ‘Films must be honest about tragedy’: the director putting dementia on screen

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22 September 2020, 11:30 am

I could lose my child if Covid closes her special needs school again | Beverley Cohen

Parents like me need more help. I couldn’t cope with having my severely disabled daughter back at home full time

Like most parents, I love my child with all my heart. Unlike most parents, if there’s a Covid-19 case at her school and it has to close again, I could lose her.

My daughter Liora Sangeeta is 14, she has complex needs: epilepsy that medication can’t control, a chronic kidney condition and autism. Liora can’t speak and she’s doubly incontinent. She also has a habit of hitting her own head with her fists, as hard as she can, raising big bumps and sometimes blood. She’s under the care of Great Ormond Street hospital and needs medication 15 times per day.

Related: As the parent of a vulnerable child, I’m scared for her, and for myself | Beverley Cohen

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22 September 2020, 7:00 am

Career stress: the average age of burnout is now 32 – and home working is making it worse

One in three respondents to a survey blamed working from home for feelings of exhaustion, with more than half putting in longer hours since the start of coronavirus restrictions

Name: Burnout.

Age: First named in 1974.

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21 September 2020, 1:00 pm

Coronavirus is here to stay. The sooner we accept that, the better | Samuel Earle

Pinning our hopes on a quick-fix, ‘moonshot’ solution serves no useful purpose and will only bring disappointment

Seven or so months ago, at the start of the pandemic, many of us found it easy and natural to imagine a time when all of this would be over: a single, obvious moment when society’s recreational life resumed to normal, when friends and family welcomed us into their homes with hugs and kisses, and we all talked, with excited, wounded relief, about how hard it had been, and how happy we were that the virus was behind us.

In Britain, as elsewhere, such wishful thinking was prescribed. Boris Johnson declared that, if we all did what we were told, we could “turn the tide on the virus within 12 weeks”. Meanwhile the ubiquitous analogies comparing a pandemic to war fuelled the fantasy that we would have our own “liberation day”. Much of the media eagerly encouraged this feeling, at the same time as it stoked implausible hopes of a vaccine arriving by September.

Samuel Earle is a writer based in London

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21 September 2020, 9:00 am

'She was left with no one': how UK mental health deteriorated during Covid

Professionals fear the pandemic has sidelined mental health services, despite a huge surge in demand

When Lily Gardiner’s sister took her own life at the end of July, Gardiner was left feeling as though her sister’s mental health struggles and death had gone unnoticed during the pandemic.

The loss is even harder for Gardiner (not her real name) to bear, given that in February her sister’s life seemed back on track. After she experienced paranoid delusions and was sectioned in 2019, she had been discharged, was on medication and had regular support from mental health services. That disappeared when lockdown set in.

Related: Stress, anxiety and depression levels soar under UK Covid-19 restrictions

Related: Why coronavirus is worse for the mental health of mothers | Torsten Bell

Related: Sign up for Society Weekly: our newsletter for public service professionals

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21 September 2020, 8:28 am

'I picked up a drink and casually set fire to my life': how addiction nearly destroyed me

Find a job, lose the job, go to jail: Guardian reporter Mario Koran found himself in a dangerous cycle. But behind bars, he discovered a new purpose

In July 2016, I stood behind a podium in a San Diego banquet hall and wept in front of a room full of reporters. I’d just been named the city’s journalist of the year for my work on a series that helped unseat a school board president and led to a criminal conviction.

I had reached a peak: I had a meaningful job in a postcard-perfect beach city. A wife I loved, a gorgeous baby girl and another on the way. Most everywhere I went, people told me I had a beautiful family, and I knew it was true.

Addiction is like the criminal justice system – it imprints on you and calls you back, even when you think you’re free

I’ve said dark, mortifying things and made appalling messes, behavior I can’t square with the person I understand myself to be

Pounding on a window in a south Florida psychiatric hospital, where I was being involuntarily committed, to ask the counselor: was he aware the walls of the waiting room were covered with feces and also that it was super cold in there and I needed a blanket?

Waking up in a drunk tank in Madison, Wisconsin, and asking the counselor why the back of my head hurt so badly. The night before, he said, I’d been standing, talking to him, when mid-sentence I lost consciousness, rocked back on my heels and landed squarely on the crown of my head. “It sounded wet, like a watermelon hitting the pavement,” he told me. “Honestly, the sound made me want to vomit. I thought you were dead.”

Night-time hours spent foraging on the carpet, stash depleted, searching in a bug-eyed frenzy for a piece of crack I thought I dropped, then stuffing it into a pipe and lighting it. I’ve smoked various items that turned out not to be crack. Common mistakes include drywall, spackle, flecks of dried cheese, and, in one unfortunate instance, a flake of human skin. I recommend smoking none of them.

So much happened so fast that some nights I lie awake and wonder how much of it had actually happened and how much I dreamed. Why I’m still alive, and what I’m supposed to do now, are questions I’ve learned to leave until morning.

Related: Co-living in a pandemic: how I’m surviving life with 48 roommates

I’m coming to terms with the idea of happiness – which I no longer believe comes down to the sum total of joy over tragedy

In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741. In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org or jo@samaritans.ie. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org

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21 September 2020, 5:00 am

Support for mental health is vital | Letters

The effect of lockdown on disabled people and the need for suitable housing is highlighted by Celia Thomas, while Barbara Davey points to the help available for students from university chaplains

Your article (Stress, anxiety and depression levels soar under UK Covid-19 restrictions, 16 September) is right to highlight the impact of lockdown measures on people’s mental health. The effect on disabled people’s wellbeing must also be recognised.

A YouGov poll commissioned last week by the housing association Habinteg revealed that, of those disabled people surveyed, their wellbeing during lockdown was three times more likely to have been damaged by living in unsuitable homes. Also, disabled people were 17 times more likely than non-disabled people to be unable to carry out all daily tasks, such as using the kitchen and bathroom, without assistance.

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20 September 2020, 4:16 pm

Instagram at 10: how sharing photos has entertained us, upset us – and changed our sense of self

From its early days as a whimsical, arthouse space through more recent waves of influencers and pool inflatables, the world’s favourite photo-sharing app has rewired society for good and bad

The most-downloaded app of 2010 made the photographs you took on your phone look way cooler. Vintage-effect filters, artful vignettes and a square-frame layout gave your ordinary snaps a pleasingly nostalgic Polaroid appeal. But 10 years later, barely anyone remembers Hipstamatic. It was a different photo-sharing app, which launched snapping at Hipstamatic’s heels on 6 October 2010, that went on to change the world. Last month more than 1 billion people posted photos on Instagram.

You probably wouldn’t have predicted, from the co-founder of Instagram Mike Krieger’s first post, that you were witnessing the birth of a cultural and economic phenomenon. It was a shot of San Francisco’s South Beach harbour viewed through the industrial-chic steel-framed windows of Pier 38. Only the composition, tilted so that the boat masts angled at 45 degrees, hinted at ambition beyond the pedestrian. But a decade later, Instagram has rewired society. It has changed how we look, what we eat, our relationships, how we vote, where we go on holiday and what we spend our money on. From the Kardashians to avocados to mental health, many stories of the past decade are part of the story of Instagram.

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20 September 2020, 1:00 pm

'Don't think you're going to see parties in the street': country Victoria warily reopens

Between fires and Covid, it’s been a diabolical year in the town of Beechworth. Locals are hoping the latest lockdown easing is not another false dawn

The phones started ringing on Tuesday before Daniel Andrews had finished speaking. After six weeks in lockdown, the premier announced, the restrictions in regional Victoria had been relaxed. From midnight on Wednesday, people would be allowed to travel to other regional areas and dine at restaurants. Many chose to head to Beechworth, three hours north of Melbourne near the New South Wales border.

Hoteliers accepted bookings with a combination of relief and wariness. The historic town has been shut down three times this year, and had two false starts. Would this be a third?

Related: Melbourne life during coronavirus: share your photos of the highs and lows of 2020

Related: Will social bubbles break the loneliness of living alone in Melbourne during lockdown?

Lifeline 13 11 14

Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467

Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800

MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78

Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636

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18 September 2020, 8:00 pm

Right now, children need a champion. But they are losing one | Polly Toynbee

Young people have been hardest hit by austerity, and infant mortality is rising. The new children’s commissioner must not be another Tory crony

At midday today applications close for the next children’s commissioner for England. There was never greater need for a fearless defender of children to take over from the admirable Anne Longfield, whose six-year term ends in February. After a decade of destruction there is a crisis in every children’s service.

Taking on this job will be a dauntingly dispiriting task, as report after report from every quarter chronicles rising numbers of children falling into deprivation with dwindling help. The post carries a Cassandra curse: to see all that’s happening, to keep waving red flags of irrefutable evidence but with no power to act.

Related: Closing children’s centres is the very opposite of ‘levelling up’ | Polly Toynbee

Related: England’s vulnerable teenagers at risk of ‘falling off the radar’

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18 September 2020, 6:00 am