Guardian Mental Health

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

After 20 years, should I reply to my dad, who was often angry and drunk? | Ask Annalisa Barbieri

The first thing to think about is what you hope to achieve by replying to him, and whether this is achievable

My dad is in his 70s and has contacted me on Facebook. I have not yet replied. I last spoke to him almost 20 years ago, shortly after my mum died. I was 17, and he was angry with me for ignoring him. In my early childhood my dad lived with us only briefly, but was often drunk and angry, and I heard stories of him hitting my mum.

My mum left him when I was four and I saw him again when I was eight, when I was expected to keep him company; if I didn’t he would go to the pub and get very drunk. One time I went to play with my friends, and when I came home he was so drunk he hit my mum and threw my dog against a painting. That day I decided I hated my dad.

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15 October 2021, 2:30 pm

Digested week: it’s good to be back after recent lows with mental health

I’m not sure why the depression was so bad – though lockdown sounds like a plausible explanation

It’s great to be well enough to come back to doing digested week on a fortnightly basis. I’ve suffered with mental health issues throughout my adult life, but the last few months have been among the worst and it is only recently that I have been able to make a gradual return to work. Throughout this time I couldn’t have been looked after better as I have been supported by so many people from family, friends and colleagues at work to mental health professionals – I was lucky enough to be admitted to a psychiatric hospital at my lowest point – yet I am still unable to say exactly why I had such bad depression and anxiety at this particular point. When people ask, I’ve taken to saying that it was the result of being stuck at home and not seeing anyone during lockdown as that sounds a plausible explanation, though I have no idea if it is true. After all, I seemed to survive the first lockdown just fine. All I know for certain is that I had reached a point where I would wake up having a panic attack every morning and on some days be unable to leave the bedroom, except to go to the toilet, for the entire day. Recovery was painfully slow and I knew I was getting better only when I belatedly realised that I had gone several days without horrific nightmares and that my anxiety levels were not as high as they had been. Even then it took a while to trust that the improvement was permanent. I’m sure my mental health problems will return – they always have – but hopefully I will have a prolonged period of respite. All I can do is keep my fingers crossed, keep on taking the meds, doing as my therapist says and say thank you to everyone who helped me. Not least the readers who took the trouble to get in touch.

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15 October 2021, 10:08 am

63% of Black music makers have experienced racism in UK industry – study

Survey of 1,718 performers, creatives and staff reveals microgression, pay disparities and discrimination are rife

Despite increased representation within the British music industry, the UK sector remains hostile to Black creators and professionals, according to a report that highlights the effects of systemic racism on mental health and a racial pay gap that disproportionately affects Black women.

The first Black Lives in Music study found that 63% of Black music creators had experienced direct or indirect racism, including explicit racist language or different treatment because of their race or ethnicity, and 67% had witnessed such behaviour. Racial microaggressions were rife, experienced by 71% of Black music creators and witnessed by 73%.

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13 October 2021, 7:00 am

‘She opens the app and gets bombarded’: parents on Instagram, teens and eating disorders

Mothers describe their daughters’ dangerous experiences after whistleblower Frances Haugen’s testimony

Early in the Covid-19 pandemic, Michelle noticed her teenage daughters were spending substantially more time on Instagram.

The girls were feeling isolated and bored during lockdown, the Arizona mom, who has asked to be identified by her first name to maintain her children’s privacy, recalled. She hoped social media could be a way for them to remain connected with their friends and community.

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12 October 2021, 5:24 pm

’You feel like a child again!’ Would exercising at 5am make you a happier person?

While 99% of us are still fast asleep, members of the Win the Morning, Win the Day movement are throwing themselves into a dawn walk or swim. We join them where it all started, on a beach in Hampshire

A minute’s silence – a chance to listen to the wind and the waves crashing on to shingle, and look across the Solent to the lights of a cruise ship in the distance – and then we charge into the water, although some of us (me) are more tentative. There are shrieks and gasps from the shock of the cold; grimacing, grinning faces lit up by a portable floodlight.

It is barely 6am, and still dark. It’s also the windiest, rainiest weather this group has ventured out in, but an impressively hardy 12 have turned up. On a good day, about 30 meet each Friday at 5.30am in Gosport, Hampshire, for a two-mile walk along Stokes Bay, followed by a dip in the sea. “It has changed my life,” says one man, who has been coming since the group started last year. He says meeting strangers, and the welcoming atmosphere, has allowed him to open up about his mental health and seek some help. Kerry started coming in October last year and says the weekly meet has helped relieve the seasonal affective disorder she usually suffers from at this time of year. “I used to sleep for 10, 11 hours,” she says. “If you had told me last year I’d be getting up at this time each week to do this, I wouldn’t have believed it.”

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11 October 2021, 9:00 am

Louis Wain’s anthropomorphic cats to go on display at Bethlem museum

Eccentric artist was famed for outlandish drawings produced while a patient at ‘Bedlam’ psychiatric hospital

“He has made the cat his own,” HG Wells once said of Louis Wain. “English cats that do not look and live like Louis Wain cats are ashamed of themselves.”

A hundred years ago Wain was a household name, his instantly recognisable drawings of anthropomorphic cats appearing in books, magazines and postcards.

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11 October 2021, 5:00 am

‘I broke down crying’: Queensland slashes mental health support in Covid hotel quarantine

Former occupants tell of not receiving adequate help under system that contrasts starkly with elsewhere in Australia

The Queensland government has stripped back mental health support for people isolating in its hotel quarantine system, prompting accusations of neglect from former occupants.

In March the government stopped its contract with Red Cross Australia to do daily mental health checks, moving the service to a call centre and limiting the number of welfare checks performed over the 14-day period.

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10 October 2021, 4:30 pm

Devon teenagers inspire English schools with mental health resources

Spark UK was formed by four children who have developed lesson plans, newsletters and videos

They are busy studying for GCSEs and A-levels but four teenagers from Devon have also found time to develop lesson plans, newsletters and videos on mental health that are being used by schools across England.

The teenagers, aged 14-16, were unable to find resources that they felt addressed the sort of issues they faced in voices that chimed with them and so decided to design their own.

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10 October 2021, 3:37 pm

A point of difference does not make someone your enemy. But in lockdown it can feel that way | Gill Straker and Jacqui Winship

Uncertainty is anxiety-provoking but simplifying issues into right and wrong diminishes wellbeing. To heal, we need to end the disunited commonwealth of Australia

The pandemic has led to many fractures and breakdowns in the hearts and minds of individuals, reverberating too in our social hearts and minds.

Our collective madness in response to the onset of the pandemic was first made manifest in the irrationality of the toilet paper rush we discussed in a previous article.

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9 October 2021, 7:00 pm

Sindhu Vee and her father go back in time: ‘As a child, I was always copying him’

The comedian and her dad recreate a childhood photo and talk about early days in India, agoraphobia and swapping banking for comedy

Born in New Delhi in 1969, Sindhu Vee spent her childhood in India and the Philippines, before throwing herself into academia, getting degrees from Oxford, Montreal and Chicago universities. In her early 40s, she traded the world of investment banking for standup comedy. Her career quickly ascended, with appearances on QI, Have I Got News for You, Radio 4 and Netflix’s forthcoming adaptation of Matilda. She lives in London with her husband and three children; she is currently touring her new show Alphabet.

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9 October 2021, 11:00 am

Ready, steady … oh. Can a life coach shake me out of my pandemic-induced ennui?

It started in bed one morning when I realised I hadn’t had an original thought for months. I needed someone to make me wake up

For some reason it takes me two and a half hours to email my life coach. I write “email life coach guy” on my to-do list. I have a really long shower. I riffle through a stack of unopened New Yorkers, and pretend I am either going to read them, or leave them in my building’s lobby for my neighbours to claim, and in the end I do neither. I watch a 20-minute YouTube video about Amir Khan’s boxing career (“The legendary speed of Amir Khan!”), then check Wikipedia to see how he fared in the fight the video was trailing (an embarrassing knockout). I send three tweets and scroll Instagram. I stand at the fridge and eat some hummus with a plain cracker for no reason at all. Finally, I sit and write the email. It is 36 words long. Tomas, the life coach, writes back almost immediately. That was the absolute last thing I wanted.

The pandemic was broadly fine for me. I worked at home anyway, so I didn’t have any shock adjustment to make. I didn’t (and still don’t) have any children to look after, so there wasn’t any particular agony with my many lives layering on top of each other in a confined space. My girlfriend, Hannah, and I did the usual things to stay sane when confronted with seemingly endless periods of time and no real social life: jigsaws, taking too long to cook dinner, a Sopranos rewatch.

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9 October 2021, 9:17 am

‘These salt marshes saved my life’: how nature is helping mental health

Green social prescribing, where people are referred to nature projects, on the rise across UK

“It sounds dramatic, but this place saved my life,” says Wendy Turner, looking out over the Steart salt marshes in Somerset. “I am really loving the colours of all the marsh grasses at the moment, and the flocks of dunlin and plover. The light is just so beautiful.”

Turner was once a high-flying international project manager. “But the Covid pandemic resulted in me losing everything – my business and my home – and I had years of abuse in a marriage.” In July 2020, she attempted suicide and woke up in A&E.

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9 October 2021, 8:00 am

Study finds Covid-19 pandemic worsened mental health around the world

Estimated 76m extra cases of anxiety and 53m extra cases of depression during pandemic, say researchers

Cases of anxiety and depression around the world increased dramatically in 2020, researchers have found, with an estimated 76m extra cases of anxiety and 53m extra cases of major depressive disorder than would have been expected had Covid not struck.

The study is the latest to suggest the pandemic has taken a serious toll on mental health, and that women and young people are more likely to be affected than men or older people.

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8 October 2021, 10:30 pm

‘I might delete it’: Facebook’s problem with younger users

According to leaked research, the firm has found engagement among a key demographic is in decline

Oliver Coghlan embodies Facebook’s problems with teen and young adult audiences – a growing number of them do not like it. The 23-year-old says he stopped using Facebook regularly three years ago and he is considering deleting the app. His sole use for it now is to check people’s birthdays.

“I haven’t deleted it yet but I might do soon – I really don’t like the company’s monopolistic behaviour,” said Coghlan, a British student based in the Netherlands. He added that the EU referendum and the 2016 US presidential election, and the online anger that accompanied those polls, convinced him that he wanted to spend less time on Facebook’s main platform.

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8 October 2021, 1:56 pm

Ballerina Georgina Pazcoguin: ‘We owe it to younger dancers not to stay silent’

In her new memoir, New York City Ballet’s first Asian-American soloist speaks out about racism and sexual bullying in ballet. Now she wants to overhaul the industry from within

When Georgina Pazcoguin was 19 years old, she went to see a doctor about her thighs. A dancer at the New York City Ballet, Pazcoguin had previously had what was known among dancers as “the fat talk” with the company’s then leader, Peter Martins. During their meeting Martins had told her she didn’t “fit in”, silently indicating the area between her backside and her knees. And so, following a recommendation from a friend, she visited the office of one Dr Wilcox, who told her she should consume no more than 720 calories a day – the recommended number for the average woman is closer to 2,000 – and gave her some sealed packets of powder. For the next four months, she subsisted on the powder, plus a single chicken breast and two pounds of spinach or lettuce, which would make up her evening meal.

“No one wants to be told their body is insufficient,” says Pazcoguin, now 36. “I mean, line is essential in my business; there is a certain aesthetic [that is expected]. But I am not an ectomorph. As a dancer you are staring at your body all day long in a mirror. But to try to intimidate me to make me look like this stick figure? Some women are just born a particular way. And there [should be] flexibility within the ballet world for more body types than just this waif-thin idea.”

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8 October 2021, 1:00 pm

The whistleblower who plunged Facebook into crisis

After a set of leaks last month that represented the most damaging insight into Facebook’s inner workings in the company’s history, the former employee behind them has come forward. Now Frances Haugen has given evidence to the US Congress – and been praised by senators as a ‘21st century American hero’. Will her testimony accelerate efforts to bring the social media giant to heel?

On Monday, Facebook and its subsidiaries Instagram and WhatsApp went dark after a router failure. There were thousands of negative headlines, millions of complaints, and more than 3 billion users were forced offline. On Tuesday, the company’s week got significantly worse.

Frances Haugen, a former product manager with Facebook, testified before US senators about what she had seen in her two years there – and set out why she had decided to leak a trove of internal documents to the Wall Street Journal. Haugen had revealed herself as the source of the leak a few days earlier. And while the content of the leak – from internal warnings of the harm being done to teenagers by Instagram to the deal Facebook gives celebrities to leave their content unmoderated – had already led to debate about whether the company needed to reform, Haugen’s decision to come forward escalated the pressure on Mark Zuckerberg.

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8 October 2021, 2:00 am

Asos offers staff flexible work and paid leave during menopause

Fertility treatment, pregnancy loss and other health and life challenges covered in retailer’s support policy

Staff at the online fashion store Asos will be allowed to work flexibly, as well as take time off at short notice, while going through the menopause.

It is one of several new policies being introduced by the clothing retailer aimed at supporting its employees who are “going through health-related life events”.

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7 October 2021, 6:00 am

Tom Daley on love, grief and health: ‘It was hammered into me that I needed to lose weight’

Fresh from winning gold in Tokyo, the diver answers readers’ questions on everything from gay role models to his passion for knitting and the secrets of his success

Tom Daley, Britain’s most decorated diver, grew up in the spotlight. He was 14 when he made a splash at his first Olympics, in 2008, and at 15 he became a world champion. This year in Tokyo, at his fourth Games, he finally won a longed-for gold, with his synchronised diving partner, Matty Lee. In 2013, Daley came out – a rarity among professional sportspeople – and he has become a campaigner for LGBTQ+ rights. Now 27, he is married to the screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, with whom he has a three-year-old son.

In a new autobiography, he describes struggles with injury, debilitating anxiety and coping with the death of his father, his biggest champion. Here, one of Britain’s best-loved athletes gamely answers questions from our writer and Guardian readers on all of the above, as well as his other great passion: knitting.

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7 October 2021, 5:00 am

Players’ stand over Ashes shows shift in attitudes since Marcus Trescothick’s day | Andy Bull

Trescothick threw light on to the mental health problems in cricket, and we need better understanding more than ever

Time flies. It’s been 15 years since Marcus Trescothick last played for England, in a warmup match against New South Wales in November 2006. He broke down in the dressing room on the last day of the game – “All the same feelings of irrational fear, despair and panic came back in wave after bloody great wave” – and flew back to England that same evening. The team management described it as a “recurrence of a stress-related illness”. There were a lot of accusations, jokes and innuendoes, which were only put straight when Trescothick published his autobiography in 2008, and people at last began to understand how badly he was suffering.

It was a turning point for the sport. Right now Ben Stokes is on an indefinite break while he treats his mental health, and an entire Ashes tour has been in the balance – it is all set to go ahead, according to the latest reports – while his teammates have been trying to decide whether their employers could guarantee proper care and protection for their mental health. After Trescothick, after Mike Yardy, after Jonathan Trott, after Sarah Taylor, and so many others, you would think we’d all understand their argument by now. But the game has changed so much, so fast, not everyone does.

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6 October 2021, 9:00 pm

We’re ready for the awesome weather | Brief letters

Weather | The Archers | Conservative politicians | Lorry drivers | Lasting shoes and glasses

I think several thousand of us have already factored in a dose of awe each day as prescribed by Prof Dacher Keltner (The wonder stuff: what I learned about happiness from a month of ‘awe walks’, 4 October). Some of the 270,000 of us who have joined the BBC Weather Watchers scheme and who go out every day looking for that picture which encapsulates today’s weather already feel it. Better still to get that top-up of joy (well, at least smugness) when the photo is chosen for the weather forecast.
Margaret Squires
St Andrews, Fife

• Thank you, Charlotte Higgins, for your monthly Archers update (A month in Ambridge, 5 October). I was an avid listener to The Archers from its inception in the 1950s, but stopped a few years ago when I got fed up with all the sensational stories, more akin to the TV soaps. When I get an indication from Charlotte that the series has got back to tales of everyday country folk, maybe I’ll listen again.
Penny Boydell
Painswick, Gloucestershire

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6 October 2021, 4:58 pm