Guardian Mental Health

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

The Guardian view on recovery: an underrated process | Editorial

Recuperation – for the nation as well as the individual – requires attention, care and even grace

Recovery from ill-health and injury is underrated. In the UK, and many other parts of the world, getting back to work as quickly as possible after sickness is what the neoliberal culture tells everyone to do (and workers indeed may have little choice in the matter in the world of the gig economy and zero-hours contracts). There is little societal value placed on convalescence – itself a tellingly old-fashioned word.

Despite the efforts of the medical profession, there are occasions when patients, once their immediate problems have been patched up, feel themselves set loose to recover as best they can on their own. Most of us know how difficult this process can be – even the recovery from trivial complaints can be a trial, let alone that from serious disorders. Sometimes, indeed, a full recovery may not be possible, and the goal may be to regain a measure of dignity and autonomy while living with pain or disease. The large number of people suffering from long Covid is now forcing societies to try to understand, and have compassion for, recoveries that are especially long and fraught, with no clear outcomes.

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23 January 2022, 5:23 pm

Australian children facing ‘generation-defining disruption’ due to pandemic, experts say

Research shows the indirect impacts of public health measures may be more detrimental to wellbeing of children and adolescents than catching Covid

The indirect effects of the pandemic on children and adolescents are as substantial – if not more so – than the impact of being infected with Covid-19, paediatricians say.

A research review from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute led by paediatrician Prof Sharon Goldfeld said interventions needed to be developed now to address growing disparities in child health and wellbeing due to the pandemic.

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23 January 2022, 4:30 pm

If you are an alcoholic and you get amnesia, would you remain an alcoholic?

The long-running series in which readers answer other readers’ questions on subjects ranging from trivial flights of fancy to profound scientific and philosophical concepts

If you are an alcoholic or addict of some kind and you get amnesia, would you remain an alcoholic? Jane Ricard, Autun

Post your answers (and new questions) below or send them to nq@theguardian.com. A selection will be published on Sunday.

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23 January 2022, 2:01 pm

The pandemic has weighed heavily on children – but there are ways to lighten their load | Alexandra Martiniuk, Linda Rosewell and Jennie Hudson

The good news is parents can positively influence their children’s wellbeing. We have some simple, evidence-based suggestions

The debate about potential school closures or delays has initiated discussions about children’s mental health once again. Kids are very resilient, but the impacts of Covid-19 have been big – and continuing. Childhood mental health is important because it lays the foundations for social and emotional wellbeing in later life. The good news is parents and carers can positively influence their children’s wellbeing, and “good enough” parenting can have a meaningful impact.

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22 January 2022, 7:00 pm

I’ve seen everything as a counsellor. But Couples Therapy still has me gripped

Most people want their sessions to remain private, but a new TV show that lifts the lid on the process is compelling – and rewarding

Two weeks ago, as 2021 turned into 2022, my inbox was suddenly full of couples requesting counselling. It wasn’t that surprising because every year after Christmas, many couples have a meltdown. It’s the fatal combination of forced Christmas jollity and endless hours spent together that makes people realise they don’t know if they like or get on with each other any more. Throw in the confinement of Covid and you have perfect conditions for relationship breakdown.

So couples contact me. The journey starts as we delve beneath the veneer of the couple, going to places that most fear to go. Top of the problem agenda is usually sex, followed by money. But, at the heart of all this, is the desire for true intimacy combined with our deep fear of it.

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22 January 2022, 3:00 pm

‘She’s an inspiration to every mum’: the postnatal depression survivor offering new mothers a lifeline

A local support network helped Jo Leach overcome PND – now she’s a key part of it, and thoroughly deserving of a little pampering

Jo Leach didn’t tell anyone about her postnatal depression. It came on after her second child, Hayden, was born on Christmas Day 2011. With two children under two, she sometimes wouldn’t leave the house for days at a time. “I didn’t know what was happening to me,” says Leach, 41, who lives in Stroud, Gloucestershire. “There was this overwhelming feeling of being really anxious and panicky.”

She didn’t tell anyone – not even her partner or her mum. “I was embarrassed,” says Leach. “I felt alone.” Postnatal depression (PND) is common, and affects more than one in 10 women within a year of giving birth, but Leach did not know that at the time. Going to the supermarket or the park was hard work. She avoided crowds. “I was just surviving,” she says. “Getting through each day and keeping the children alive, and making sure they were fed and happy. I struggled to look after myself. I wouldn’t eat properly. It was all about them.” She lost a lot of weight.

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22 January 2022, 11:00 am

Every parent I know is worried about their child’s anxiety. Here’s what 25 years of teaching has shown me | Tegan Bennett Daylight

My years teaching in universities – and my own children – have changed my attitude to the storm of disability our young people face

I’ve been teaching at Australian universities for 25 years now. I began when I was 27 – I’m now 52. This means I’ve been next to university students since 1996, and if you’re curious about these things, you see patterns begin to emerge.

Every parent, every aunt or uncle, every grandparent, and in fact anyone who has anything to do with young people today is anxious about one thing: anxiety. It seems it’s on the rise. It is on the rise. Each semester I have more and more students with depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, some form of autism, borderline personality disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and what I’m going to call Terror About The Future. All of these conditions cause anxiety.

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21 January 2022, 7:00 pm

Hundreds of dementia care homes found to be substandard in England

Exclusive: Guardian analysis finds one in five homes rated ‘inadequate’ or ‘require improvement’ by CQC

Hundreds of care homes in England are providing substandard care to dementia patients, analysis by the Guardian has found.

One in five homes specialising in dementia are rated “inadequate” or “requires improvement” by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), inspection reports show. Some pose such a serious risk to people with dementia – including filthy conditions, poor infection control and untrained staff – that inspectors have ordered them to be placed into special measures.

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18 January 2022, 12:00 pm

I have a wonderful fiance, but my libido has vanished – will it ever come back?

I’m quite a sexual person and am getting married next year. But it’s been a traumatic year, and now I’m worried my partner is unfulfilled

I have a wonderful partner, and we’re getting married next year after three years together. We live together, and both work quite intense jobs. I’ve always been quite a sexual person, but recently my libido has fallen off a cliff. It’s like I don’t even have sex organs any more, which is a bit frightening. My partner has a high sex drive and I worry he is unfulfilled, despite saying he doesn’t mind. I think he takes it personally, but I love him very much. We are often not in the house at the same time and keep quite different hours because of his job. I have had a traumatic year, with a few bereavements and family illness, and wonder if this has affected my sex drive. My question is, how can I get it back?

Bereavement and trauma are two fairly common reasons for lowered libido. This is normally temporary, but you need time to recover and heal. Help your partner to understand your lack of desire is not about him – ask him to be patient. And try not to let your anxiety about your libido escalate, as that could make things worse. Any kind of loss can lead to depression, and it could be worth seeking some therapeutic help if you don’t feel like yourself pretty soon. Like anxiety, depression is another likely culprit when libido drops. Many people have become depressed as a result of the losses of our time – lockdowns, health issues, curbs on our freedoms, financial struggles and job losses – and sexual problems often follow. Mental and sexual health can never be taken for granted. Now more than ever, we must find ways to soothe, nurture and sustain ourselves. This too shall pass.

Pamela Stephenson Connolly is a US-based psychotherapist who specialises in treating sexual disorders.

If you would like advice from Pamela on sexual matters, send us a brief description of your concerns to private.lives@theguardian.com (please don’t send attachments). Each week, Pamela chooses one problem to answer, which will be published online. She regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence. Submissions are subject to our terms and conditions: see gu.com/letters-terms.

Comments on this piece are premoderated to ensure discussion remains on topics raised by the writer. Please be aware there may be a short delay in comments appearing on the site.

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18 January 2022, 8:00 am

Gambling killed my husband. We must stop this predatory industry claiming more lives | Annie Ashton

Luke was targeted by adverts for ‘free bets’ to lure him back to gambling after he had quit. I’m campaigning to have this kind of marketing banned

This time last year, my husband Luke and I had everything we wanted: each other, a lovely house and two wonderful children. Three months later, this life was shattered. On 22 April 2021, Luke took his own life.

About two years before his death, Luke developed a gambling disorder. He started gambling with friends on a Saturday, placing bets at a local bookies while watching Leicester City, his football team. At the time, I didn’t think it was dangerous – I had no idea that gambling kills so many people.

Soon, Luke began to bet online. He opened multiple accounts, taking advantage of “free bets” – aggressive marketing offers used by online bookmakers to lure people into gambling. From there, he was encouraged to bet on sports, like horse racing, that he knew little about. It didn’t take long for him to get into a lot of debt and start chasing his losses.

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18 January 2022, 6:00 am

‘I thought: “Everyone knows you’re not a real mum”’ – the pain of parental impostor syndrome

Feeling like a fraud is bad enough at work but even more corrosive when it comes to raising a family. How can parents overcome damaging self-doubt?

As a mother to three boys, there are many days when I question the decisions I make. Sometimes, the weight of that – the idea your child’s wellbeing and happiness rests with you – can feel crippling. At the same time, we are bombarded by parents publicising their own pride in their offspring’s achievements on Instagram and Facebook and in WhatsApp groups, meaning it’s easy to feel as if everyone else knows what they’re doing.

The idea that people sometimes feel like impostors at work is often discussed. Yet the parental impostor syndrome many people have – that they are faking it, and will never cut it as a parent – is seldom acknowledged.

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17 January 2022, 10:00 am

Ruth Davidson speaks of fears over disclosure of mental health history

Former Scottish Tory leader says she almost did not run for post in 2011 because of concerns that medical records would come out

The former Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has said she almost did not run for the position because she feared her history of mental health problems would be exposed.

The life peer was diagnosed with clinical depression in her first year at university and said she was concerned that standing for the role of leader in 2011 would result in her medical history coming out.

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17 January 2022, 12:01 am

Chefs’ isolation in kitchens can trigger violence and abuse, study finds

Study of chefs at world’s top restaurants discovers working conditions create parallel moral universe

The physical isolation of chefs working in Michelin-starred kitchens can lead to violent misbehaviour and a feeling that “the rules don’t apply”, a study based on interviews with dozens of top chefs has found.

Working long hours away from the bill-paying public in often windowless and cramped kitchens creates a parallel moral universe in which abuse and violence is the norm, the study of 47 chefs at restaurants in Europe, Asia, Australia and north America by academics at Cardiff University found.

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16 January 2022, 2:00 pm

Life after lockdown: how do we best recover from the pandemic?

Two years of Covid have wreaked havoc with the nation’s mental health. What can be learned from the survivors of other traumas and is there a way of thinking ourselves to a happier, healthier place?

It was October 2020 when I realised I was going to have to ask for help. I’ve always been anxious, but thanks to the pandemic, I developed debilitating health anxiety. A dire winter was coming and any respite we’d had over the summer felt like it was slipping away. I couldn’t get to sleep and when I finally did, I had nightmares. My stomach churned and my hands shook so badly I had to give up caffeine. I developed a chronic reflux cough and, on more than one occasion, got into such an irrational spiral about it being Covid that I had to book a PCR test just to be able to function.

“One of the most diabolical things about this pandemic is the on and on-ness of it all,” says Amanda Ripley, author of The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes – and Why. “Humans can withstand a lot of turmoil and instability if they can recover.” Prior to Covid, Ripley studied people who survived tornadoes and terror attacks, emergencies for which the mental health consequences are much better understood than the long, slow-burn, seemingly endless one we find ourselves living through.

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16 January 2022, 12:00 pm

Noises off: the battle to save our quiet places

We wouldn’t condone litter in our parks and countryside, so why do we put up with sound pollution? Alex Moshakis meets the people tasked with ‘saving quiet for the benefit of all life’ and hears their stories

Last month, I spent a cold morning wandering around Hampstead Heath, one of London’s largest green spaces, with a sound designer named Nicholas Allan. For many, the Heath is an escape. There are almost 800 acres of it: meadows and woodland, hollows and springs, hills and ponds. It is big and important enough to have its own 12-person constabulary, which upholds the park’s 47 bylaws, including firm restrictions on drone flying and car driving. Locals I know walk dogs in and out of old forests and along curling gravelly pathways. On the few days in summer, when the sun shines on the city, the park becomes so busy it seems to vibrate, festival-like. But for the rest of the year it remains mostly hushed.

In July, Allan awarded the Heath “Urban Quiet Park” status. He was acting on behalf of Quiet Parks International, or QPI, a non-profit based in Los Angeles that is “committed to saving quiet for the benefit of all life”. QPI’s purpose is to identify locations around the world that remain free from human-made noise for at least brief pockets of time. As humanity grows louder, these places are in danger of extinction, the organisation argues, even though they are integral to our wellbeing and to the health of the natural world. Some of the locations already identified, like stretches of the Zabalo River in Ecuador, where quiet might linger for several consecutive hours, are in the wilderness. Remarkably, others are in urban centres. The Heath, which QPI calls “a refuge from the noise of the city” that “has shown it provides the experience of being able to fully immerse oneself within the natural environment”, is one of them.

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16 January 2022, 9:30 am

Ten ways to take control of your smartphone

Overwhelmed by messages, notifications and distractions? You can reclaim your focus without a full digital detox

Are you in control of your smartphone or is it in control of you? Sometimes it is difficult to tell. One minute you might be using FaceTime to chat with loved ones or talking about your favourite TV show on Twitter. Next, you’re stuck in a TikTok “scroll hole” or tapping your 29th email notification of the day and no longer able to focus on anything else.

We often feel like we can’t pull ourselves away from our devices. As various psychologists and Silicon Valley whistleblowers have stated, that is by design.

Becca Caddy is the author of Screen Time: How to Make Peace With Your Devices and Find Your Techquilibrium (Blink, £14.99). To support the Guardian and Observer order your copy at guardianbookshop.com. Delivery charges may apply

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15 January 2022, 5:00 pm

Psychiatrists warn of police and crime bill’s impact on young people

Academics and clinicians say bill ‘will have a profound negative impact on young people’s mental health’

Hundreds of clinical psychiatrists and psychologists have warned that the police and crime bill reaching its final stages in parliament “will have a profound negative impact on young people’s mental health”.

“We cannot think of better measures to disempower and socially isolate young people,” they say in an open letter signed by more than 350 academics and clinicians and published online.

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15 January 2022, 10:09 am

Every Brilliant Thing review – ode to life’s joys is candid and compassionate

Abbey theatre, Dublin
With a jazzy soundtrack and heaps of audience participation, this pared-back production manages to find light in the darkness of depression

Of all the brilliant things that make one girl happy, music is the most important, especially her father’s vinyl record collection. In this new Abbey theatre production, a rich soundtrack of jazz and blues animates Andrea Ainsworth’s bare-bones staging of Duncan Macmillan and Jonny Donahoe’s play from 2013. Taking a candid and compassionate approach to the subject of suicidal depression, the writing manages to be both heartfelt and buoyant as it portrays a child’s experience of her mother’s suicide attempts. At the age of seven, the unnamed girl (Amy Conroy) hopes that by making a numbered list of “every brilliant thing” that makes life worth living, she can make her mother feel better.

With no set, minimal props and only Carl Kennedy’s sound design to assist her, all eyes are on the irrepressible Conroy. It soon becomes clear that she will not be the solo performer: audience members have supporting roles throughout. As well as calling out items on her ever-expanding list of life’s joys – “ice cream” and “water fights” are important at the start – audience members are asked to play key characters in the girl’s story as she grows up. Co-creators to an extent, the audience nevertheless relies heavily on the improvisational gifts of Conroy, whose charm, warmth and spontaneity smooth over some of the script’s awkward transitions and tonal shifts.

At the Abbey theatre, Dublin, until 22 January, then touring until 12 February

In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org or jo@samaritans.ie. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. 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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14 January 2022, 11:13 am

A cure for bad days: how I’m living my worst life the best that I can

After my husband died, a silly catchphrase became a lifeline for me. Instead of wishing for a reality I couldn’t have, I embraced the circumstances I was dealt

It’s been gloomy in Atlanta lately, unrelentingly rainy and unseasonably warm. Each day is gray, gray, gray – both weather- and mood-wise.

Recently, I found myself exhausted by the idea of one more day stuck inside with our 14-month-old daughter. Like me – and, presumably, every human being – her mood is greatly improved after spending time outdoors. And on this particular day, I wasn’t going to let the rain stop us.

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14 January 2022, 11:00 am

‘Devastating’ cuts to Medicare telehealth leave rural psychiatric patients in the lurch

Psychiatrists criticise removal of item 288 for video psychiatric consults through GP referrals, saying it effectively ceases bulk-billed consultations for regional patients

When Jane* was told her regular psychiatry appointments would no longer be covered under Medicare’s telehealth provisions, the news was so distressing she ended up being hospitalised.

“I had a crisis, and took an accidental overdose of my antidepressant,” she said. “I was taken by ambulance to casualty and wasted the night and most of Sunday [in hospital].”

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13 January 2022, 9:28 pm