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500,000 Canadians Miss Work Each Week Due To Mental Health Concerns

A new poll finds 40% of Canadians report their mental health has disrupted their lives in some way over the past year. Nearly one in five missed work or school. As Shirlee Engel reports, the costs to the Canadian economy are staggering.

Jillian Coey was your typical overachieving 22-year-old: she had a full-time course load in university, part-time work, and a handful of extra-curricular activities and volunteer work.

But what most people didn’t know that she kept a secret, too: she was battling depression, anxiety and an eating disorder.

“I was definitely feeling overwhelmed by the symptoms I was experiencing, feelings of failure and developing a sense of hopelessness. The lens you’re looking through is altered because of the mental illness – at the time, I felt that things weren’t going to improve no matter what actions I took,” Coey told Global News.

“It got to the point where it became unbearable and I attempted to take my life,” she said.

Coey ended up in hospital. She knew she wouldn’t make her shift at work the next day, or for the following week.

Her family called her employer and explained her situation. Instead of processing her resignation, her manager suggested Coey take the time to focus on her recovery and return to work when she was ready.

“I thought [quitting] was the only option that was available. My manager let us know I didn’t need to quit and they wanted to keep me at the organization and they wanted to support me,” she said.

Coey said her manager’s understanding helped pave the way to her recovery.

Forty per cent of Canadians say their mental health disrupted their lives in the past year, according to new Ipsos findings released exclusively to Global News.

Seventeen per cent of Canadians say they’ve taken time off work and school to deal with a personal mental health issue.

Another eight per cent say they’ve taken time away from their professional lives to help a family member or close friend grappling with mental illness, the pollsters revealed.

“This could be the catalyst for change in the workplace. While it’s alarming to know that this many people are [taking time off work] it also speaks to people recognizing ‘I’m not myself today and I need to take a mental health break,’” Jennifer McLeod Macey, vice-president of the polling firm’s Health Research Institute, told Global News.

“The pressures of work and life, that all takes a toll. These numbers show Canadians are saying they need to stay home, not because they’re contagious but because they need to take care of themselves,” she said.

It’s the third year the polling firm zeroed in on their Mental Health Risk Index and the report’s release marks Mental Health Week.

Based on Canadians’ levels of stress and feelings of hopelessness and depression, the report classifies a whopping 41 per cent of Canadians as being at “high risk” for mental illness. That’s a significant increase from 2016’s 35 per cent.

Aside from missing work, another 19 per cent of Canadians said they missed social gatherings or family events in the past year because of mental health.

Twenty-three per cent said they’re taking medication to help with their mental health, from stress to depression.

The numbers don’t surprise Ed Mantler, vice-president of programs and priorities at the Mental Health Commission of Canada.

40% of Canadians report their mental health has disrupted their lives in some way over the past year

One in five Canadians will experience a mental health problem over the course of their lifetime. Every week, half a million Canadians are missing work because of a mental health issue, he said.

“Most Canadians work and most of us spend more time at work with colleagues than we do at home with our families. It can be impactful in a positive or harmful way,” he told Global News.

Heather Stuart, a Queen’s University professor and mental health research chair, suggests the numbers may be even higher.

“Mental health issues are the leading cause of short-term and long-term disability. Those people may not be captured in the numbers,” Stuart told Global News.
“Workplaces need to take the mental health issue more seriously and do more to create positive work environments. Employees will be less uncomfortable and less fearful when they see the workplace is designed to help them,” she said.

Employees could be stressed because of factors outside of the workspace, such as finances or relationships, for example. In other cases, it could be the workplace that’s causing distress.

The repercussions vary from person to person: some people could be depressed and dragging themselves into the office, while others could be laser-focused at work. Mental health concerns could make some people unproductive or not focused, irritable or unhappy, but in other manifestations, employees could use it as a distraction.

There is absenteeism, which is when employees call in sick, and presenteeism, which is when employees show up to work but aren’t performing at the level they would normally be at.

Overall, this costs the Canadian economy $50 billion a year, Mantler said.

The good news? Mantler said that most employers are “already well on their way” in addressing mental health. Some companies make it mandatory for managers to take mental health training, while others promote their employee assistance programs.

With the help of the MHCC, Canada issued its first national standard on workplace mental health. It’s a tool unique to Canada, although many countries are already looking at its guidance to employers. It helps workplaces consider the psychological factors at play for employees, from work-life balance to civility and respect to having autonomy and influence over your work.

The Ipsos poll revealed that more Canadians than ever are getting help.

Forty-two per cent of Canadians said they talked to someone about their mental health in the past year, up seven percentage points from last year, and 11 points from two years ago.

Twenty-three per cent said they talked to a primary health-care provider, such as their family doctor, while another 16 per cent reached out to a counsellor, psychiatrist, or psychologist.

Another 10 per cent even wrote about or posted about their mental health woes online – millennials led the way with this openness with 24 per cent sharing their mental health difficulties online in the past year.

But stigma is still prevalent: while some may think taking time for treatment is a weakness, Coey said that’s a major misconception.

The last thing most people living with a mental health condition want is to let their managers, co-workers and loved ones down, she said.

“When I was experiencing mental illness, I was still very dedicated to my work and felt a sense of responsibility to my work,” she said.

She said she’s incredibly fortunate that she received support from her workplace.

“The actions of that manager changed my life. Essentially, the actions she took allowed me to continue working with the organization and go on to have progressively senior roles that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible if I had resigned,” Coey said.

Now, she works full time and volunteers as a mental health advocate. She still grapples with anxiety but has learned coping strategies through ongoing treatment.

On Saturday, Coey is one of the organizers leading the March for Mental Health on Saturday at Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square. The goal is to call on the federal and provincial governments to treat mental health no differently than physical health. The march’s organizers include those with lived experience of mental illness or loved ones touched by it.

The Ipsos poll was conducted in mid-April 2017. A random sample of Canadian adults were interviewed online for the survey, which was weighted to bring it in line with Canadian demographics and which has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.

Where to get help

If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 911 for immediate help.

The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, Depression Hurts and Kids Help Phone 
1-800-668-6868  all offer ways of getting help if you, or someone you know, may be suffering from mental health issues.

By Carmen Chai    Senior National Online Journalist, Health  Global News    May 5, 2017
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Canada Needs a Comprehensive Mental Health Strategy

Mental illness is the most common illness found in Canada’s children and teens. We all know a young person who struggles with depression, anxiety, an addiction or a behavioural disorder. Mental illness causes high levels of distress in children and can significantly interfere with their lives.

But mental illnesses can often be prevented from developing, or becoming more severe and difficult to treat.

A new report from the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy found that 14 per cent of all children and teens in the province were diagnosed by a doctor with at least one mental disorder during the four-year study. These are diagnosed cases, so if we included all children who experienced a mental disorder, the percentage would be higher.

Other provinces report similar findings. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Ontario found that 34 per cent of high school students had a moderate-to-serious level of psychological distress and 12 per cent seriously thought about suicide in the past year. A report prepared for the British Columbia government found that 12.6 per cent of four-to-17-year-old children experienced a clinically significant mental disorder at any given time.

What struck us, in completing the Manitoba report, is that mental illness touches children from all corners of the province and across all socio-economic levels.

But children in families with many parenting challenges — like poverty, being a teen mom or being involved with child welfare services — are at greater risk of developing mental illness. Our results also suggest children from rural areas may not have adequate and timely access to mental health services.

Manitoba records over a four-year period show that 74 out of 100,000 teens died by suicide. And these tragic deaths are only a fraction of those with mental illness. For every teen suicide, there are another 200 or more teens who struggle with depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), addictions or schizophrenia.

Suicide most often occurs when mental illness — and the conditions that place children and teens at risk for mental illness — are not addressed. It’s crucial to instil hope in our young people and build awareness of the many solutions to their problems.

mental health

So how can we better support children with mental illness? How do we create hope and better lifelong health and success for this future generation?

It’s essential to develop and invest in a comprehensive child and youth mental health strategy at provincial and national levels. We need strategies to promote positive mental health and provide supports and services early in the illness. Home visiting in early childhood, for example, reduces depression, anxiety and use of substances in children.

Children require a warm, nurturing environment. High levels of stress damage the mental health of children. Prevention programs include positive parenting, home visiting, antibullying initiatives and mental health promotion in schools — all aimed at preventing mental illness from developing.

More than half of mental disorders have their roots in childhood, so increasing resources for children will reduce the burden of mental illness in adulthood.

Our study found that children with mental illnesses are more likely to have lower grades and less likely to graduate. They’re also more likely to be accused of a crime or to be victimized. They’re more likely to be from families living in social housing or receiving income assistance.

Increasing the mental health knowledge and skills of people working with children across education, social services and justice systems would mitigate the untoward effects of mental illness.

Canada spends too little on mental health compared to other developed countries. The Mental Health Commission of Canada recommends that nine per cent of health budgets should go to improving mental health services.

Investments in mental health and wellness for children and teens will go a long way toward creating hope and a brighter future.

Jan 17, 2017        Waterloo Region Record       By Mariette Chartier and Marni Brownell

Mariette J. Chartier, RN, PhD, is a research scientist at the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy and an assistant professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences, University of Manitoba. Chartier has published in the area of population health, mental health and prevention and early intervention programs for children and their parents. Marni Brownell, PhD, is an expert adviser with EvidenceNetwork.ca and professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba. She is also a senior research scientist with the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy, and a research scientist with the Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba. © 2017 Distributed by Troy Media


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Mental Illness And Teens: It Impacts Every One Of Us

It could be any of us. Any of our kids. Any of our nieces or nephews. Our grandkids. The students in our class. Our friends’ kids. Our neighbours’ kids. Our co-workers’ kids. The list goes on…

The fact is, mental illness impacts more of us than we realize.

The reality is, one in five Canadians will experience mental illness in their lifetime.

Did you know that 10 to 20 per cent of Canadian youth are affected by a mental illness or disorder?

Sadly, only one out of five children who need mental health services receives them.

That is heartbreaking and unacceptable.

So many Canadian youth are struggling with depression and anxiety, and far too many aren’t getting help. Too many young lives have been cut short.

Madeline Grace German Coulter was one of them. That is why The Huffington Post Canada is launching Frame Of Mind, a new blog series inspired by The Maddie Project that will focus on teens and mental health.

The series aims to raise awareness and spark a conversation by speaking directly to teens who are going through a tough time, as well as their families, teachers and community leaders. We want to ensure that teens who are struggling with mental illness get the help, support and compassion they need.

youth

 

Kicking off our conversation

The series is running over four weeks and we start with a deeply moving blog from Glen Canning on his message to youth who are struggling and have lost hope. Mental health superhero Alicia Raimundo shares her inspiring story, and professional golfer Andrew Jensen explains why he talks about depression.

Nicole German writes about losing her daughter Maddie and why empathy is so important in mental health. Maddie’s father, Chris Coulter, writes about the real pain of depression. We also have blogs on the heartbreak of teen suicide, the complicated teenage brain and many more important topics.

Why talk about it?

From time to time I hear people flippantly say, “That is sad, I don’t want to read about that” or “That doesn’t impact me.” What many people don’t realize is that avoiding reading about something or talking about it doesn’t make the issue go away. I would argue that it contributes to the problem.

The propensity to avoid sadness and uncomfortable topics in society is akin to putting one’s head in the sand. What good is it going to serve? How will that help people who are struggling? How will services improve? How will that move policies and funding forward?

It is only when we put ourselves in someone else’s shoes and listen and empathize that we better understand their struggles, mindsets and frustrations.

The future is bright

Over the coming weeks, blogs in our series will be addressing symptoms of depression and anxiety, mental health in the classroom, bullying, the link between social media and depression, tips to protect your child’s mental health, suicide prevention and many more topics.

Carol Todd, Kids Help Phone, The Canadian Mental Health Association, The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, former Olympians Silken Laumann and Ian Warner, parenting expert Alyson Shafer, teachers, psychologists, counsellors and dozens more will be sharing their stories, perspectives, words of advice and inspiring messages of hope.

It is blogs at their best. Personal, insightful and inspiring.

We hope you enjoy the series and learn more about how you can help teens who are struggling. Please follow along, comment, share and join the conversation.

It truly has been a passion project for us here at HuffPost Canada. Thanks to all those who have contributed to the series. Talking about youth mental illness and suicide prevention isn’t easy, but our bloggers have done so with so much grace, bravery, honesty and compassion.

They have shown that we can only truly understand one another and better understand youth mental illness when we respect each other’s Frame Of Mind.

If you or someone you know is at risk
please contact your nearest Crisis Centre
or call Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868
to speak to a counsellor.
If you would like to contribute a blog to Frame Of Mind, please email cablogteam@huffingtonpost.com
09/07/2016      Amy Gibson
Managing Editor of Blogs, Huffington Post Canada


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Mental Health Awareness Week: May 6-12, 2013

Quick Facts on Mental Illness

Mental illness affects more than six million – or one in five – Canadians. Of the 10 leading causes of disability worldwide, five are mental disorders. Close to 4,000 Canadians commit suicide each year and it is the most common cause of death for people aged 15 – 24. By 2020 it is estimated that depressive illnesses will become the leading cause of disease burden in developed countries like Canada.

Nearly 6 million, or 1 in 5 Canadians (20% of the population) today are likely to experience a diagnosable mental illness; 3% of Canadians are likely to have to live with a serious mental illness.

About 4,000 Canadians commit suicide each year and it is the most common cause of death for people aged 15–24. Mental illness is a factor in most suicides.

Some communities in rural and remote areas of Canada have rates of suicide and addiction that are among the highest worldwide; many of these are Aboriginal and Inuit communities.

The downsizing of institutional care was not matched with a complementary upsizing of community-based services, resulting in significant gaps of service for those with severe illness and for people with moderate degrees of impairment.

A Canadian study found that two-thirds of homeless people using urban shelters suffered from some form of mental illness.

Of the 10 leading causes of disability worldwide, five are mental disorders: major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, substance abuse disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder.


By 2020 it is estimated that depressive illnesses will become the second leading cause of disease burden worldwide and the leading cause in developed countries like Canada.

Less than 4% of medical research funding goes to mental illness research.

The Business and Economic Roundtable on Mental Health has evaluated the impact of depressive disorders on business productivity. It estimates that economic costs of mental illness are the equivalent of 14% of corporate Canada’s net operating profits.

A report published by Health Canada estimated that mental health problems cost of $14.4 billion in 1998.

Many Canadians do not recognize that they are ill while others don’t seek help because of misconceptions about these diseases. Taking the time to learn about mental illness could make all the difference to you or to someone you care about. It’s important to watch for warning signs of mental illness – and to seek medical advice as soon as possible if any become apparent. Symptoms include:

  • Marked personality change
  • Inability to cope with problems and daily activities
  • Strange ideas or delusions
  • Excessive anxiety
  • Prolonged feelings of sadness
  • Marked changes in eating or sleeping patterns
  • Thinking or talking about suicide
  • Extreme highs and lows
  • Abuse of alcohol or drugs
  • Excessive anger, hostility
  • Violent behaviour
  • Irrational fears

Read more facts about mental illness and addiction in Canada:
http://www.mooddisorderscanada.ca/documents/Media%20Room/Quick%20Facts%203rd%20Edition%20Eng%20Nov%2012%2009.pdf



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Self-Help & Coping Tips to Overcome Depression

Dealing with Depression

Depression drains your energy, hope, and drive, making it difficult to do what you need to feel better. But while overcoming depression isn’t quick or easy, it’s far from impossible. You can’t beat it through sheer willpower, but you do have some control—even if your depression is severe and stubbornly persistent. The key is to start small and build from there. Feeling better takes time, but you can get there if you make positive choices for yourself each day.
   
The road to depression recovery
Recovering from depression requires action, but taking action when you’re depressed is hard. In fact, just thinking about the things you should do to feel better, like going for a walk or spending time with friends, can be exhausting.

It’s the Catch-22 of depression recovery: The things that help the most are the things that are the most difficult to do. There’s a difference, however, between something that’s difficult and something that’s impossible.

Start small and stay focused
The key to depression recovery is to start with a few small goals and slowly build from there. Draw upon whatever resources you have. You may not have much energy, but you probably have enough to take a short walk around the block or pick up the phone to call a loved one.

Take things one day at a time and reward yourself for each accomplishment. The steps may seem small, but they’ll quickly add up. And for all the energy you put into your depression recovery, you’ll get back much more in return.

Depression self-help tip 1: Cultivate supportive relationships
Getting the support you need plays a big role in lifting the fog of depression and keeping it away. On your own, it can be difficult to maintain perspective and sustain the effort required to beat depression, but the very nature of depression makes it difficult to reach out for help. However, isolation and loneliness make depression even worse, so maintaining your close relationships and social activities are important.

The thought of reaching out to even close family members and friends can seem overwhelming. You may feel ashamed, too exhausted to talk, or guilty for neglecting the relationship. Remind yourself that this is the depression talking. You loved ones care about you and want to help.

  • Turn to trusted friends and family members. Share what you’re going through with the people you love and trust. Ask for the help and support you need. You may have retreated from your most treasured relationships, but they can get you through this tough time.
  • Try to keep up with social activities even if you don’t feel like it. Often when you’re depressed, it feels more comfortable to retreat into your shell, but being around other people will make you feel less depressed.
  • Join a support group for depression. Being with others dealing with depression can go a long way in reducing your sense of isolation. You can also encourage each other, give and receive advice on how to cope, and share your experiences.


10 tips for reaching out and building relationships

  • Talk to one person about your feelings.
  • Help someone else by volunteering.
  • Have lunch or coffee with a friend.
  • Ask a loved one to check in with you regularly.
  • Accompany someone to the movies, a concert, or a small get-together.
  • Call or email an old friend.
  • Go for a walk with a workout buddy.
  • Schedule a weekly dinner date.
  • Meet new people by taking a class or joining a club.
  • Confide in a counselor, therapist, or clergy member.

Depression self-help tip 2: Challenge negative thinking
Depression puts a negative spin on everything, including the way you see yourself, the situations you encounter, and your expectations for the future.

But you can’t break out of this pessimistic mind frame by “just thinking positive.” Happy thoughts or wishful thinking won’t cut it. Rather, the trick is to replace negative thoughts with more balanced thoughts.

Ways to challenge negative thinking:

  • Think outside yourself. Ask yourself if you’d say what you’re thinking about yourself to someone else. If not, stop being so hard on yourself. Think about less harsh statements that offer more realistic descriptions.
  • Allow yourself to be less than perfect. Many depressed people are perfectionists, holding themselves to impossibly high standards and then beating themselves up when they fail to meet them. Battle this source of self-imposed stress by challenging your negative ways of thinking
  • Socialize with positive people. Notice how people who always look on the bright side deal with challenges, even minor ones, like not being able to find a parking space. Then consider how you would react in the same situation. Even if you have to pretend, try to adopt their optimism and persistence in the face of difficulty.
  • Keep a “negative thought log.” Whenever you experience a negative thought, jot down the thought and what triggered it in a notebook. Review your log when you’re in a good mood. Consider if the negativity was truly warranted. Ask yourself if there’s another way to view the situation. For example, let’s say your boyfriend was short with you and you automatically assumed that the relationship was in trouble. It’s possible, though, he’s just having a bad day.


Types of negative thinking that add to depression

  • All-or-nothing thinking – Looking at things in black-or-white categories, with no middle ground (“If I fall short of perfection, I’m a total failure.”)
  • Overgeneralization – Generalizing from a single negative experience, expecting it to hold true forever (“I can’t do anything right.”)
  • The mental filter – Ignoring positive events and focusing on the negative. Noticing the one thing that went wrong, rather than all the things that went right.
  • Diminishing the positive – Coming up with reasons why positive events don’t count (“She said she had a good time on our date, but I think she was just being nice.”)
  • Jumping to conclusions – Making negative interpretations without actual evidence. You act like a mind reader (“He must think I’m pathetic”) or a fortune teller (“I’ll be stuck in this dead end job forever”)
  • Emotional reasoning – Believing that the way you feel reflects reality (“I feel like such a loser. I really am no good!”)
  • ‘Shoulds’ and ‘should-nots’ – Holding yourself to a strict list of what you should and shouldn’t do, and beating yourself up if you don’t live up to your rules.
  • Labeling – Labeling yourself based on mistakes and perceived shortcomings (“I’m a failure; an idiot; a loser.”)


Depression self-help tip 3: Take care of yourself
In order to overcome depression, you have to take care of yourself. This includes following a healthy lifestyle, learning to manage stress, setting limits on what you’re able to do, adopting healthy habits, and scheduling fun activities into your day.

  • Aim for eight hours of sleep. Depression typically involves sleep problems. Whether you’re sleeping too little or too much, your mood suffers. Get on a better sleep schedule by learning healthy sleep habits.
  • Expose yourself to a little sunlight every day. Lack of sunlight can make depression worse. Make sure you’re getting enough. Take a short walk outdoors, have your coffee outside, enjoy an al fresco meal, people-watch on a park bench, or sit out in the garden. Aim for at least 15 minutes of sunlight a day to boost your mood. If you live somewhere with little winter sunshine, try using a light therapy box.
  • Keep stress in check. Not only does stress prolong and worsen depression, but it can also trigger it.  Figure out all the things in your life that stress you out. Examples include: work overload, unsupportive relationships, taking on too much, or health problems. Once you’ve identified your stressors, you can make a plan to avoid them or minimize their impact.
  • Practice relaxation techniques. A daily relaxation practice can help relieve symptoms of depression, reduce stress, and boost feelings of joy and well-being. Try yoga, deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or meditation.
  • Care for a pet. While nothing can replace the human connection, pets can bring joy and companionship into your life and help you feel less isolated. Caring for a pet can also get you outside of yourself and give you a sense of being needed—both powerful antidotes to depression.


Do things you enjoy (or used to)
While you can’t force yourself to have fun or experience pleasure, you can choose to do things that you used to enjoy. Pick up a former hobby or a sport you used to like. Express yourself creatively through music, art, or writing. Go out with friends. Take a day trip to a museum, the mountains, or the ballpark.

Push yourself to do things, even when you don’t feel like it. You might be surprised at how much better you feel once you’re out in the world. Even if your depression doesn’t lift immediately, you’ll gradually feel more upbeat and energetic as you make time for fun activities.

Develop a wellness toolbox
Come up with a list of things that you can do for a quick mood boost. Include any strategies, activities, or skills that have helped in the past. The more “tools” for coping with depression, the better. Try and implement a few of these ideas each day, even if you’re feeling good.

  • Spend some time in nature
  • List what you like about yourself
  • Read a good book
  • Watch a funny movie or TV show
  • Take a long, hot bath
  • Take care of a few small tasks
  • Play with a pet
  • Write in your journal
  • Listen to music
  • Do something spontaneous


Depression self-help tip 4: Get regular exercise
When you’re depressed, exercising may be the last thing you feel like doing. But exercise is a powerful tool for dealing with depression. In fact, studies show that regular exercise can be as effective as antidepressant medication at increasing energy levels and decreasing feelings of fatigue.

Scientists haven’t figured out exactly why exercise is such a potent antidepressant, but evidence suggests that physical activity triggers new cell growth in the brain, increases mood-enhancing neurotransmitters and endorphins, reduces stress, and relieves muscle tension—all things that can have a positive effect on depression.

To gain the most benefits, aim for 30 minutes of exercise per day. You can start small, though, as short 10-minute bursts of activity can have a positive effect on your mood. Here are a few easy ways to get moving:

  • Take the stairs rather than the elevator
  • Park your car in the farthest spot in the lot
  • Take your dog for a walk
  • Pair up with an exercise partner
  • Walk while you’re talking on the phone

As a next step, try incorporating walks or some other enjoyable, easy form of exercise into your daily routine. The key is to pick an activity you enjoy, so you’re more likely to keep up with it.

Exercise as an Antidepressant
The following exercise tips offer a powerful prescription for boosting mood:

  • Exercise now…and again.  A 10-minute walk can improve your mood for two hours. The key to sustaining mood benefits is to exercise regularly.
  • Choose activities that are moderately intense. Aerobic exercise undoubtedly has mental health benefits, but you don’t need to sweat strenuously to see results.
  • Find exercises that are continuous and rhythmic (rather than intermittent). Walking, swimming, dancing, stationery biking, and yoga are good choices.
  • Add a mind-body element. Activities such as yoga and tai chi rest your mind and increase your energy. You can also add a meditative element to walking or swimming by repeating a mantra (a word or phrase) as you move.
  • Start slowly, and don’t overdo it. More isn’t better. Athletes who over train find their moods drop rather than lift.
Adapted from Johns Hopkins Health Alerts


Depression self-help tip 5: Eat a healthy, mood-boosting diet
What you eat has a direct impact on the way you feel. Aim for a balanced diet of protein, complex carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables.

  • Don’t skip meals. Going too long between meals can make you feel irritable and tired, so aim to eat something at least every three to four hours.
  • Minimize sugar and refined carbs. You may crave sugary snacks, baked goods, or comfort foods such as pasta or french fries, but these “feel-good” foods quickly lead to a crash in mood and energy.
  • Focus on complex carbohydrates. Foods such as baked potatoes, whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, oatmeal, whole grain breads, and bananas can boost serotonin levels without a crash.
  • Boost your B vitamins. Deficiencies in B vitamins such as folic acid and B-12 can trigger depression. To get more, take a B-complex vitamin supplement or eat more citrus fruit, leafy greens, beans, chicken, and eggs.
  • Consider taking a chromium supplement. Some depression studies show that chromium picolinate reduces carbohydrate cravings, eases mood swings, and boosts energy. Supplementing with chromium picolinate is especially effective for people who tend to overeat and oversleep when depressed.

Omega-3 fatty acids play an essential role in stabilizing mood.

  • Foods rich in certain omega-3 fats called EPA and DHA can give your mood a big boost. The best sources are fatty fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, and some cold-water fish oil supplements. Canned albacore tuna and lake trout can also be good sources, depending on how the fish were raised and processed.
  • You may hear a lot about getting your omega-3s from foods rich in ALA fatty acids, such as vegetable oils and nuts (especially walnuts), flax, soybeans, and tofu. Be aware that our bodies generally convert very little ALA into EPA and DHA, so you may not see as big of a benefit.
  • Some people avoid seafood because they worry about mercury or other possible toxins, but most experts agree that the benefits of eating two servings a week of cold-water fatty fish outweigh the risks.


Depression self-help tip 6: Know when to get additional help
If you find your depression getting worse and worse, seek professional help. Needing additional help doesn’t mean you’re weak. Sometimes the negative thinking in depression can make you feel like you’re a lost cause, but depression can be treated and you can feel better!

Don’t forget about these self-help tips, though. Even if you’re receiving professional help, these tips can be part of your treatment plan, speeding your recovery and preventing depression from returning.

source: helpguide.org


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15 Natural Options for Depression

Michelle Schoffro Cook         May 10, 2012

Everyone feels down at some point, usually as a reaction to difficult circumstances, but clinical depression goes far beyond that. In such cases a person experiences a prolonged sadness that is out of proportion with the apparent cause. The physical and psychological symptoms affect a person’s capacity to function normally in the world.

Depression is often accompanied by sleep disruption, fatigue, anxiety, mood swings, prolonged lapses of concentration, pain, apathy, decreased sex drive and suicidal thoughts.  Because these symptoms can be attributed to other diseases or conditions and are serious, it is always important to consult a medical doctor for a diagnosis.

Diet: Poor nutrition, in my opinion, is one of the greatest causes of depression, and one of the easiest and most overlooked solutions. My two decades of clinical experience tell me that depression cannot be managed for the long-term without addressing the diet.

Poor diet is frequently linked to depression because food additives, chemicals, alcohol, sugar, and sugar substitutes can have severely negative effects on our mental and physical health.

Eating a healthful diet (not a low carb diet, in this case) helps the body balance hormone levels, including important brain hormones that help us feel good.  For example, complex carbohydrates from vegetables, legumes and whole grains help the brain manufacture serotonin, a “feel good” neurotransmitter that is needed to prevent and treat depression.

Food Sensitivities: It’s also important to address possible food allergens or sensitivities, which can sometimes be tough to pinpoint. The most common ones include: dairy, wheat, gluten, MSG, sugars, artificial sweeteners, and food colors. Removing these foods from the diet in favor of wholesome, nutrient-dense food choices frequently improves mood. Assistance from a qualified natural health practitioner can be helpful.

Blood Sugar Fluctuations: Many of my depressive clients confirm that they are in the habit of skipping meals (like breakfast) or waiting long periods of time between eating. This confirms a suspicion that blood sugar imbalances are a factor in depression. Keep blood sugar levels balanced by eating a healthy snack or meal every two to three hours.

Essential Fats: Essential fatty acids are necessary to treat depression, as they are required to create healthy brain cells and are involved in regulating neurotransmitters—the brain hormones that balance mood including serotonin and oxytocin. Take 3000 mg daily of either fish or flax oils, or 500 mg of DHA or EPA, or a blend of both. Flaxseed oil is also a good source of essential fatty acids. Two tablespoons daily of flax oil can be helpful. You can pour flax oil over baked sweet potatoes or vegetables, or blend some into smoothies.

Digestion: Improving the body’s ability to extract nutrients from food can be helpful in treating depression naturally. Supplementing your diet with a high-quality full-spectrum digestive enzyme formula that includes the amylase, invertase, lactase, maltose, lipase, and protease, enzymes can be beneficial. One to three enzyme capsules or tablets with every meal help your body break down the carbohydrates, fats, and proteins in your food into natural sugars, essential fatty acids, and amino acids needed for optimal healing.

Nutrient Deficiencies: Because so many vitamins and minerals are involved with mood balancing, it is important that you address any possible deficiencies by taking a high-quality multivitamin and mineral supplement with meals.

Mood-Boosting B Vitamins: Additionally, because the B-complex vitamins are so vital for restoring balanced moods, an extra 100 mg B-complex supplement daily is often necessary in people suffering from depression.

Balancing Serotonin: As a precursor to serotonin, 5-HTP helps to restore healthy levels of this much needed brain chemical.  I usually use 50 to 100 mg of 5-HTP at bedtime for two months for people with depression.

Herbal Support: Despite one well-publicized study that demonstrated the ineffectiveness of St. John’s wort against severe depression, many research studies show that it is effective against mild and moderate depression, and it also helps raise serotonin levels in the brain. I recommend 900 to 1200 mg daily.  However, avoid taking St. John’s wort if you are taking pharmaceutical antidepressants, and do not take it within two to three hours of sunlight exposure.

Boosting Oxygen in the Brain: The herb gingko biloba helps bring more oxygen to the brain via the blood stream. Your brain needs oxygen to work properly. A beneficial dose for depression is 60 mg three times daily.

Regulating Brain Biochemistry:  S-Adenosylmethionine (SAMe) occurs naturally in the body and helps regulate certain biochemical reactions, including those linked to mood regulation; however it can be low in people suffering from depression. Four hundred to 1600 mg daily of SAMe to ensure your brain can make important mood elevating hormones.

Balancing Hormones: Supplementing with 2 to 4 grams of vitamin D daily can help with depression, because it helps the body make serotonin.

Sunlight: We all know that getting moderate amounts of sunshine helps boost mood. It’s no different with depression.

Exercise: People suffering from depression should also supplement their daily routines through more fresh air and physical activity. Exercise is a natural anti-depressant, and engaging in regular cardiovascular exercise like brisk walking or jogging is good for your body and mind.

Dehydration: And as always, drink lots of pure water to avoid dehydration, which is frequently a factor in depression.

source: Care2.com


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Are ‘Cat Ladies’ More Likely to Attempt Suicide?

By Alexandra Sifferlin       

Women who are infected with the common cat parasite Toxoplasma gondii may be more vulnerable to suicide, a new study finds, adding to the evidence that T. gondii or Toxo, as the bug is known, may cause subtle changes in the human brain that lead to personality changes and even mental illness.
The parasite is excreted in cat feces — which is why pregnant women are advised not to change the litter box — but it also spreads through undercooked meat and unwashed vegetables. Pregnant women who become infected with T. gondii can pass it onto their fetus, possibly causing brain damage or stillbirth. Now the new study finds that expectant mothers who have the infection, called toxoplasmosis, may themselves be at higher risk of suicide.
The finding comes from a study of 45,788 Danish women who gave birth between May 15, 1992, and January 15, 1995. University of Maryland School of Medicine researchers tested the women’s babies for T. gondii antibodies, which the infants could only have acquired from their mothers, and compared infection rates to the women’s suicide rates logged in the Danish health registry. The team also cross-checked the mental health registry to find out if any of the women had been previously diagnosed with mental illness.

They found that women who were infected with T. gondii were one-and-a-half times more likely to attempt suicide than uninfected women. The higher the levels of T. gondii antibodies found, the higher the suicide risk. They were also more likely to try to commit suicide violently, with a gun, sharp object or by jumping. When the researchers took into account women’s previous mental illness, they found that those who had toxoplasmosis were more likely to attempt suicide than those who had been mentally ill.

“We can’t say with certainty that T. gondii caused the women to try to kill themselves, but we did find a predictive association between the infection and suicide attempts later in life that warrants additional studies,” lead study author Dr. Teodor T. Postolache, an associate professor of psychiatry and director of the Mood and Anxiety Program at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, said in a statement.

The findings fall in line with previous studies on T. gondii infection in humans. (In animals also, the parasite has been shown to subvert brain chemistry and manipulate behavior, sometimes dangerously.) A Czech scientist, Jaroslav Flegr, has studied T. gondii‘s effect on human personality and mental illness for decades, as detailed in a lengthy article in The Atlantic in March. The bug resides in about one-third of the world’s population (in the U.S., 10% to 20% are infected), but it usually doesn’t cause any noticeable effects — healthy people fight off the flu-like symptoms of an initial infection, after which the parasite lies dormant in the brain. “[O]r at least that’s the standard medical wisdom,” wrote Kathleen McAuliffe in The Atlantic:

If Flegr is right, the “latent” parasite may be quietly tweaking the connections between our neurons, changing our response to frightening situations, our trust in others, how outgoing we are, and even our preference for certain scents. And that’s not all. He also believes that the organism contributes to car crashes, suicides, and mental disorders such as schizophrenia. When you add up all the different ways it can harm us, says Flegr, “Toxoplasma might even kill as many people as malaria, or at least a million people a year.”

Still, Flegr acknowledged that the effects of the parasite on personality were “very subtle” and that the “vast majority” of people wouldn’t even know they were infected. As for whether T. gondii infection could be used to predict self-harm or the odds of a car crash, Stanford neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky told McAuliffe: “[I]’m not too worried, in that the effects on humans are not gigantic. If you want to reduce serious car accidents, and you had to choose between curing people of Toxo infections versus getting people not to drive drunk or while texting, go for the latter in terms of impact.”

In the new study, researchers couldn’t establish that T. gondii infection caused increased risk of suicide, only that it was associated. And they’re not sure exactly why the link exists. “Is the suicide attempt a direct effect of the parasite on the function of the brain or an exaggerated immune response induced by the parasite affecting the brain? We do not know. In fact, we have not excluded reverse causality as there might be risk factors for suicidal behavior that also make people more susceptible to infection with T. gondii,” said Postolache in the statement.

The authors call for further studies focusing on the biological mechanisms of the parasite and how it may affect people’s suicide risk and other personality factors. If the findings hold up, perhaps T. gondii infection could be used to help prevent some of the 10 million suicide attempts that occur each year. “If we can identify a causal relationship, we may be able to predict those at increased risk for attempting suicide and find ways to intervene and offer treatment,” Postolache said.
In the meantime, people should cook their meat through, wash their vegetables and give their kitchen knives a good scrubbing to avoid spreading or contracting the parasite.
The study was published online in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

source: Time