a blog about mental illness and community

Archive for August, 2013

Down with stigma!

And now for an adorable illustration of society’s double-standards…

mental health v physical illness or injury

Source: flickr

Compared to physical injury or illness, mental health struggles often remain on the down-low. For whatever reason, it’s not cool to brag about surviving your latest panic attack or resisting the urge to self-harm.

Why is it that freaky-looking dislocations and projectile vomiting are badges of honour, while the experience of mental illness is awkward or even unspeakable?

This kind of attitude towards mental health needs to change NOW!

So next time you go late night shopping despite being terrified of crowds, or eat chocolate for the first time in five years, please tell someone about it.

In fact, tell anyone who’ll listen.

It’s one way to get the back-slaps you deserve for your stellar efforts, while also combating stigma.


Now it’s personal!

mental health and you infographic

Ramsay and Medibank Private make peace

Exciting news update, peeps! Drop what you’re doing and read on…

Ramsay Health Care and Medibank Private announced earlier today that they’ve settled their contractual squabble.

The result of the negotiation process (mediated by the Private Health Insurance Ombudsman) is that Medibank has renewed its contract with Ramsay for another three years without any extra charge to clients.

This is fantastic news for all Medibank clients receiving treatment at Ramsay-owned private hospitals around Australia. Ramsay’s facilities include a number of hospitals specialising in mental health care, such as Brisbane’s New Farm Clinic.

Basically, everything will go on as it did before the bickering went public. Consensus is that the issue was – thankfully! – a storm in a teacup.

Here’s an excerpt from the press release published on Ramsay Health Care’s website:

The new three year contract covers the benefits paid by Medibank for hospital accommodation charges for Medibank and ahm members at all of Ramsay Health Care’s hospitals.

Mr George Savvides, Managing Director Medibank and Mr Chris Rex, Managing Director Ramsay Health Care, said that the three year agreement provided certainty for members, patients and doctors.

“This agreement demonstrates that Australia’s biggest health insurance fund and Australia’s biggest private hospital provider are working together to keep quality private health care affordable,” Mr Savvides said.

The new contract between Medibank and Ramsay Health Care commences on 1 September 2013.  Medibank and ahm members continue to be covered as normal when they attend a Ramsay Health Care hospital.

Hurray for happy endings!

You can read my previous article on the Ramsay/Medibank kerfuffle here.

Alta’s story

According to beyondblue up to 3 million Australians are living with anxiety. That’s a whopping chunk of the population!

Alta is one of those people – she experiences severe anxiety attacks. As the first contributor to the Your Stories segment of the blog, it would be great if we could make Alta feel really welcome here by sharing helpful comments and information.

I have anxieties….the really bad kind. Im constantly worrying that Im going to die of a heart attack….I get all the symptoms of a person having a heart attack. Im dizzy, my arms hurt, especially my upper left arm. My heart flutters, I have headaches, constantly having to get up to go to the bathroom, especially at nite, my muscles ache, I have diarreha, I can go on & on about all the symptoms I have. I have been to the ER 5 times this yr alone…thinking I was having a heart attack…but all the test results always comes back normal. I cry myself to sleep at nite becuz I dont know how to cope & manage my anxieties. I was hoping that talking about it with someone might help. Please let me know if you have similiar symptoms….or am I losing my mind.

As we can see from Alta’s description, anxiety can be debilitating and extremely distressing.

Anxiety disorders (such as agoraphobia, generalised anxiety disorder and social anxiety) are characterised by ongoing anxious feelings that may seem to exist without any particular reason. They are serious conditions that makes it tough for sufferers to cope with everyday life.

The beyondblue website is a fantastic resource, with lots of information about anxiety disorders and where to get help.

Is there anything you’d like to say to Alta?

Pathology or personality?

How much scope is there for poor judgement or mood fluctuation before it’s deemed psychopathology?

This timeless and universal debate has reignited over the past few months after the May 2013 publication of the DSM-5. This new version of the “psychiatrist’s bible” was 14 years in the writing.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is an attempt to provide doctors with a definitive list of all recognised mental health conditions, including their symptoms. But attempting to categorise mental illnesses in black and white terms is fraught with danger.

The two main criticisms of the DSM-5 are that the revisions showcase:

  • an unhealthy influence of the pharmaceutical industry
  • an increasing tendency to ‘medicalise’ patterns of behaviour and mood that are not pathological

The first version of the DSM was published in 1952. Since then, the manual has been periodically updated to keep up with society’s evolving understanding of mental health.

The most scathing criticism of the DSM-5 relates to what constitutes major depressive disorder. Previous definitions described MDD as a persistent low mood, loss of enjoyment, and disruption to everyday activity.

These definitions specifically excluded a diagnosis of MDD if the person was recently bereaved – an exception that has now been removed.

A range of individuals and organisations have argued that the DSM-5 is “medicalising grief”. The argument is that grief is a normal (though unpleasant) human process that should not require treatment with antidepressants.

In defence of the DSM updates, a standardised diagnostic guide is invaluable to doctors. While the DSM may be a flawed classification system it’s probably better than anything else currently available.

You can find out all about the DSM-5 here.

What are your thoughts on ‘classifying’ mental illness? Is it useful or futile?

Quote of the day

Go Glenn! The actress who notoriously played a bunny-boiling psychopath in Fatal Attraction is now a leading mental health advocate.

Do you think celebrity has a place in advancing social causes?

Best eating disorder books

Ever combed the library stacks in search of an informative yet readable tome on eating disorders? The pickings are usually pretty slim (*boom tish*).

I’ve read a fair few books about the mental illness in question – some fantastic and others downright triggering or ill-informed.

Here are my top picks of books related to eating disorders:

– Wasted by Marya Hornbacher (1998): Penned when the author was just 23, this memoir chronicles an epic struggle with anorexia and bulimia. Hospitalised five times before she was 18, Marya was never expected to survive. Beware: no holds barred.

– 8 Keys to Recovery from an Eating Disorder by Carolyn Costin and Gwen Schubert Grabb (2012): The authors outline effective strategies for challenging an eating disorder’s vicious grip, drawing on personal and therapeutic experience. A compelling combo of fact, autobiography and journalling prompts for sufferers and carers alike.

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson (2009): Fictional, but incredibly true to fact. This young-adult novel follows Lia’s struggle with anorexia in the aftermath of her best friend’s bulimia-related death. Dark and easily devoured in a single sitting.

Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body by Susan Bordo (1993): An awesome collection of essays by a renowned feminist academic. Bordo analyses a range of issues connected to the body in the context of modern culture – from dieting and media images to hunger as ideology.

Bronte’s Story by Bronte Cullis and Steve Bibb (2004): A Melbourne teenager’s battle with anorexia is laid bare, from tube feeding to a last resort stint at a radical Canadian treatment centre. The combination of diary entries and retrospective reflection is heart-wrenching and immersive.

So head on down to your local library with this list in hand. And if that fails, there’s always the Book Depository.

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