Categories
Opinion/Commentary

Let’s broaden discussions on mental health and fix the system

Paper head with heart in the brain

Image: iStock

 

Content Warning: mental health and suicide

Last week had RUOK Day and Suicide Awareness Day. Media personalities and my former high school were encouraging people to check in on loved ones and reach out.

That’s all lovely. I mean it. Everyone has times when they need to talk about issues. Everyone needs a shoulder to cry on.

But what if your issues run deeper? What if you are really at crisis point?

Psychotherapies: a major gap in mental health

When RUOK Day comes around, there’s focus on depression, anxiety and the devastating affects of suicide.

While these discussions are a must, I believe there needs to be more. There are more mental illnesses that need advocacy and treatments. These include (but not limited to):

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Schizoaffective disorder
  • Substance use disorder
  • Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

All these disorders have a higher suicide rate compared to the general population.

The mental health discussion doesn’t go into the need for psychotherapies such as: dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT) and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). These are beyond the scope of Lifeline and Beyond Blue.

Mental health: a gap in Australia’s Medicare system

Australia has Medicare. It was first introduced in 1984. For the most part, Medicare allows Australians to access GPs and public hospitals for treatment without being left thousands of dollars out of pocket.

However, when it comes to mental health, there is a massive gap.

The Better Access Initiative

The Better Access Initiative is a scheme that gives eligible people the access to mental health services they need.

Unfortunately, it has its limits. According to Australia’s Department of Health website, the scheme offers 10 individual and 10 group therapy sessions a year.

For some people, this may be adequate. But if you require weekly or bi-weekly therapy, it’s not. For example, to be affective, a person with BPD needs bi-weekly DBT sessions a year. That’s at least 52 individual and 52 group therapy.

Australian Psychological Society encouraged change

In 2019, the Australian Psychological Society published a media release. They warned that the access to mental health services to Australians who needed it was inadequate.

In the media release, APS made a number of recommendations including:

  • More individual sessions available
  •  Group therapy sessions
  • An increase in therapy sessions for families and carers

Now, I’m guessing the Australian Government has implemented the changes by making the increase from ten to 20 sessions a year.

The APS should fight for more.

Follow UK’s example: make mental health free

Australia should look toward UK’s National Health Service (NHS). I get it has its pitfalls, but it’s philosophy is good. Mental health services should be free, even if a referral from a GP or psychiatrist is required.

Maybe the current Medicare Levy may need to be increased. Boris Johnson recently increased NHS rate another 1.25%. Maybe we should do similar here.

How much is a life worth? How much is mental health worth?

At minimum, the Government should  offer free services to people with serious mental health conditions. It may just save lives.

 

People with serious and chronic mental health issues need more than platitudes. They need more than once – a – year campaigns. They need services that they can access without going out of pocket.

What do you think? What changes can the Australian Government make to improve mental health care? Let me know your thoughts below.

Categories
News Opinion/Commentary

Australian MP pushes for loot box restrictions

Two children under bed covers playing video games
Image: iStock

Australian Independent MP, Andrew Wilkie is pushimg for restrictions on video games that feature loot boxes.

According to Herald Sun, Wilkie condemned loot boxes as “barely disguised gambling”.

 

What are loot boxes?

According to Parent Zone, loot boxes are “virtual treasure chests”. They allow players to change weapns or characters.

Due to the rise of online gaming, the dynamic of gaming has changed. Buying a computer game is no longer a one – time purchase. Computer games, (including iPads, phones, etc) often require players to buy a subscription, rewards or coins to advance in the game. This is why loot boxes are concerning.

 

Gambling and the role of parents and caregivers

Children gambling is a growing concern. Earlier this year, Sydney Morning Herald reported 40 per cent of NSW children aged 12 – 17 were playing games with features that emulate gambling. 

Games featuring loot boxes, coins and rewards proved concerning. 3.7% of children studied were considered problem gamblers or at high risk.

There are a number of risk factors to this worrying trend. Parents who gamble are a risk factor. 58 per cent of children who gambled also had parents who gamble. 20 per cent had grandparents who did.

This makes sense. Addiction often has a genetic component. Also, parental modelling is important. Children often pick up habits and stressors from their families. This is why I think the issue deserves a holistic approach.

 

Problem gambling and mental health

Problem gambling is mental illness. Fourth Edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM IV) listed problem gambling as an impulse control disorder.

Additionally, problem gambling often co – occurs with other mental conditions.

According to the Department of Health and Aging, problem gambling has similarities to substance use disorder. People with pre – existing mood disorders, especially depression, are at higher risk for problem gambling.

Chronic isolation can also make problem gambling worse. Due to COVID and restrictions, it wouldn’t be surprising if addictions were exacerbated, including among children and teens.

Politicians need to take mental health seriously if they want to attack this issue. They should seriously consider making all psychotherapies free under Medicare. They also need to ensure there are adequate services.

Additionally, there needs to be adequate guidance counsellors and social workers need to be in schools. 

 

Mother supports Wilkie’s proposal

Faye James, mother of son Pablo, eight, supports the bill.

This kind of bill is fundamental. We need to make parents aware of what they’re getting their kids into. Restrictions and transparency is key.

I don’t disagree that restrictions should be in place. Children should not have free access to gambling – style games.

However, I can’t help but think this is a Band – Aid solution. Focus on mental health and access to appropriate services. Make sure that children get the support they need. And, maybe we’ll see the problem decrease. 

If you are in Australia and you or someone you know is struggling mentally, you can contact:

Lifeline: 13 11 14

Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636 (they also have a web chat)

Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800 (for people under 25 or their parents or caregivers)

As always, for those outside Australia, feel free to offer any contact information to mental health services below. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories
Gender/ sexuality

Mental health and the need for asexuality inclusion in schools

Image: iStock

Trigger warning: This post deals with suicide and may be triggering for some readers.

In September last year, the worst nightmare for any parent came true. 13 – year – old, Lily Dowling had taken her own life.

Before her death, she wrote letters to her best friends and left them in thier lockers. 

Jane Hansen from Herald Sun described her as a “gorgeous 13 – year  – old with a love for Harry Potter books and the world at her feet…”

When speaking about her daughter, Emma Heeley said:

She was the kindest, most caring girl who was always looking out for others. She attracted really beautiful people and had a lot of friends. 

The warning signs

There were clues that Lily wasn’t coping. Lily had written a poem about her own death nine months before the tragedy. She’d posted it on Instagram. Unfortunately, Ms. Heeley only found the poem after Lily’s death. 

By August 2019, Lily had started to withdraw.

“I knew something was really, really wrong, but she would just close up and not talk to me”, Ms. Heeley said. 

Lily refused to go to therapy.

Lily’s death is only one of a string of suicides among young girls that have gotten worse over the last ten years.

Lily came out as asexual

Three months before her death, Lily came out on Instagram as asexual. (Kudos for Jane Hansen for properly defining it in the article). 

Professor Ian Hickie raised concern about young people feeling the need to put a label on themselves in such a sexualised culture.

It’s true that young people shouldn’t be forced to place a label on themselves before their ready. Sexuality can be complex, especially while growing up.

Having said that, young people, should be able to come out if they feel sure about how they feel. 

How many cases like this out there?

How many young asexual people feel lost, depressed and even suicidal? Studies suggest that young LGBT people are at least 2.5 times more likely to take their own lives than heterosexual peers. However, this data excludes asexual and non binary trans people. 

In a paper, Morag Yule, Lori Brotto and Boris Bolzaka guessed that asexual individuals may suffer worse mental health issues due to stigma than other groups.

It wouldn’t surprise me if this was the case. What I found the hardest growing up was the erasure. I was told that asexuality Leither didn’t exist or it was something that people grew out of. 

I’ve said before that I don’t blame the people that told me these myths. This was in the early 2000’s – from 2005 to 2007. But I do hope things are changing.

School counsellors and other mental health workers need to know about asexuality

Everyone should feel free to go to a counsellor. LGBTQ+ people need to have counsellors that are going to accept and validate their identities and experiences. They need to know they won’t be judged.

This is why acceptance of asexual people is so important. School counsellors, social workers and other mental health workers need to know that asexuality is real. 

 

Maybe this can be included in a professional development program. Or make it a part of social work and psychology degree subjects/ modules. You might be scoffing at this, but the time for erasure and ignorance needs to end. 

 

 

If you feel like you need assistance, you can call Lifeline: 13 11 14.

BeyondBlue: 1300 224 636 (you can also chat online. They also have LGBTQ+ resources. They include asexuality).

If you believe that you or someone you know is in crisis, contact 000 or your country’s emergency number. 

Please leave your thoughts or helpful mental health hotlines in your area in the comments below. 

 

 

Categories
Around the world

K-pop boy band shines a light on mental health

Image: iStock

K- pop boyband, BTS, made waves earlier this month. 

On 3 December, they performed at an online event. The concert was meant to start at midnight. The 4th was lead singer, Jin’s birthday. 

Two hours before midnight (Korean Time), Jin revealed a surprise new song, with a note on social media. 

The song, Abyss,  changed the course of the night, as it discussed mental health. 

Jin revealed that the sudden success of BTS’ English hit, Dynamite sparked burnout and a feeling of imposter syndrome. 

Jin’s anxiety got so bad that  he eventually sought professional help and guidance from his boss, Bang Si-hyuk. Si-hyuk encouraged Jin to put his feelings to music. 

 

Mental health in South Korea

South Korea is a powerhouse when it comes to health. It has one of the lowest obesity rates and one of the longest life expectancies.

However, according to Ozy, South Korea doesn’t fair well when it comes to mental health. In fact, it has one of the worst suicide rates among the OECD countries. Up to forty South Koreans a day die by suicide.

Stress is a massive issue among South Koreans. 95% claim to suffer it. For a third of people, it’s chronic. 

It’s not just young people that are facing a mental health crisis. 28% of older South Koreans are depressed. Unfortunately, few want to admit it and get help in fear of being seen as weak.

Alcohol use disorder is also rampant in South Korea. It has one of the highest alcohol consumption rates in the world at fourteen shots per person per day. 

A number of factors may contribute to this worrying trend. These include pressure to be successful and geopolitical tensions with North Korea. 

 

It’s clear that mental health needs to be discussed. Much work needs to be done to break the stigma. Fortunately, BTS has started the conversation.

 

Musicians/ singers open up about mental health

Over the years, a number of  male singers/ bands have been open about mental health. 

Paranoid – Black Sabbath (1970)

According to Songfacts, Black Sabbath bassist and lyricist, Geezer Butler told Mojo magazine that Paranoid was about depression.

In the song, the protagonist is clearly paranoid. Butler admitted that he didn’t know the difference between depression and paranoia at the time.

If you look at the lyrics, hints of depression are obvious:

Finished with my woman cos she couldn’t help me with my mind

People think I’m insane cos I’m frowning all the time. 

And:

Make a joke and I will sigh 

And you will laugh and I will cry

Happiness I cannot feel 

And love to me is so unreal. 

 

I never cry – Alice Cooper (1976)

Alice Cooper has been very open about his mental health battles over the years. A number of his songs, including I never cry speaks about his battle with alcoholism.

How are you going to see me now deals with the fall out of his addiction on his family. 

In 2017, Cooper joined Canadian mental health campaign Bell: Let’s Talk. He spoke frankly about his battles with alcoholism and depression. 

He addressed his 1991 hit, Hey Stoopid, saying that it was written to discourage youth suicide. 

 

His Definitive Hits album has a number of songs where he addresses mental health struggles.

Alice Cooper Definitive hits CD
A number of Alice Cooper’s hits bring mental health into the spotlight.

 

Runaway train – Soul Asylum (1993)

The clip to the 1993 hit is well – known for raising awareness to missing children. However, lead singer, Dave Pirner has stated that the song is about his battle with depression. 

 

If this post has brought up any issues for you, please seek help. For Australians:

Lifeline: 13 11 14

Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636

If you are in immediate danger, contact 000 or other national emergency number.

 

Categories
News Opinion/Commentary Uncategorized

Australian children face a mental health crisis

Mental health image of brain
Image: iStock

According to Natasha Bita in the Herald Sun, Australian children and teenagers are facing a mental health crisis. (Mental Health 360: Shocking rise in Aussie teens being medicated, 2 December 2020).

1 in 13 teens are taking antidepressants and/or other psychiatric drugs.

Health and youth experts claim COVID-19 is a factor to this worrying trend. 87,781 primary school – aged children and 134,439 teenagers were prescribed medications for various mental disorders over 2018/2019.

What diagnoses children are receiving?

Not surprisingly, anxiety and depression are major issues facing a number of children. What’s worrying is that primary school and preschool – aged children are also being diagnosed.

Yourtown chief executive, Tracey Adams told Herald Sun that domestic violence is exacerbating these rates.

Children are also being diagnosed with other conditions, including ADD/ ADHD, psychosis and conduct disorder.

The increase in conduct disorder diagnoses has surprised and alarmed me. How can more children be diagnosed? Is it over diagnosis; an accusation commonly aimed at ADD/ADHD?

Or is it something else? As I wrote before, alarms surrounding domestic violence have been raised. According to Better Health Channel, parental aggression (particularly from the father) and domestic violence are risk factors that can trigger the disorder.

Government response

To be honest, I think that the Federal and State governments have failed in this area. It’s too little, too late.

Only now has the Government offered Kids Helpline extra funding for fifty more counsellors. Why wasn’t enough support put in before the pandemic hit?

I think this exposes the great flaws in the Australian mental health system as a whole. There isn’t enough support for those who need it, but haven’t reached breaking point.

Parents play vital role

Psychologist and founder of Parentshop, Michael Hawton told Herald Sun that most anxiety in children is “learned”.

If kids are surrounded by parents who are highly rushed and speaking and behaving anxiously, it’s hard for them to not pick up on that.

He also suggested that parents teach children about facing problems head on rather than avoiding them. Emotional reactivity should also be minimised.

Blaming social media and anxious parents doesn’t solve the problem

Many commenters on the Herald Sun article have blamed social media (surprised?). But to me, the issue is much bigger.

There are obviously children and teenagers that need ongoing help. Some may need different therapies, like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). There may be children that need to be removed from violent or abusive homes. Victims of bullies need support to have their self – esteem built back up.

Psychologists and/ or Masters qualified Social Workers need to be employed in all schools.

Also, I really do think the Australian mental health system needs an overhaul. Medicare is grossly inadequate in funding mental health.

The Australian mental health system seems to help two types of people: those who don’t need ongoing professional help. Or, the other extreme: those who are at high risk of harm or suicide.

Both State and Federal Governments have failed in dealing with psychological costs of lockdown and COVID-19. Counselling services should have been properly funded in the first place. It isn’t good enough.

Lastly, all mental health costs should be covered by the Government. If not through Medicare, through other means.

 

What are you thoughts? How can people with mental or behavioural conditions be helped?

 

 

 

Categories
Opinion/Commentary

Gym owners raise concerns about mental health amid coronavirus crackdown

treadmills in front of white acreen
Image: iStock

According to SBS, gym owners have lobbied for the Australian government to reverse the forced closure of gyms.

A number of gym owners and Fitness Australia have argued that gyms are an essential service, thus should remain open.

Sydney gym owner, Billy Kokkinis  has slammed the decision, calling it a “disaster” for mental health. He has also criticised the mixed messaging from Prime Minister, Scott Morrison for allowing exercise bootcamps, in which  ten people can participate, yet gyms are forced to close.

 

I wasn’t going to write about the coronavirus because the media has done it to death. However, when I read this story, it spurred me to write something. I go to a local gym and have been regularly for about two years. It closed about a fortnight ago due to Covid19. The Zumba class I attend was also cancelled.

I can understand the argument for keeping gyms open. Exercise makes you healthy all over.

However, can gyms guarantee compliance of the 1.5 m (4 ft, 11.055 in) regulation? I’m guessing a number of exercise machines and weights may have to be removed.

 

Protection of the vulnerable

How would those with pre – existing conditions be protected in gyms? Asthmatics, for example?

Before the announcements of forced closure of gyms, New South Wales/ Australian Capital Territory gym franchise, Club Lime, put out a video on Facebook outlining cleaning routines expected from clients and staff to combat the virus.

Cleaning gym equipment after use is routine in the gym I go to. It’s expected that you wipe down any equipment you use with disinfectant wipes. Can these rules be stricter? How can they be further enforced?

Are frontline admin staff and trainers supposed to detect people who potentially have the virus? What if they don’t have any symptoms?

You can see why keeping gyms open could potentailly be problematic for gym owners, instructors and clients. I don’t think all gyms can ensure with 100% certainty that their gym would be safe. And for those with pre – existing conditions, this could spell disaster.

Exercises that can be done at home

Gyms are convenient way to exercise. Personally, I find that when I’m at the gym, I push myself harder than I normally would.

However, there are exercises you can do at home. You can use various household items as weights. I’ve rearranged furniture in my lounge room, so I could do a bit of dancing.

Walking and jogging on the spot is really good. I do it for five minutes, with each jogging and walking session lasting 20 seconds each. Of course, it’s imperative that we do more than that a day (an hour most days), but that’s a  start.

Here is more exercise ideas you can do. (For more ideas, just google ‘exercises when you can’t get to the gym and you’ll get exercise ideas that best suit you).

If you really want to keep up with your classes, find out if virtual classes of your exercise are available.

 

 

 

The closing down of gyms is unfortunate. However, it is better to be safe than sorry. There is just too much risk of infection for gyms to remain open right now. And, you can work out at home. You just need motivation.

What have you done to keep active during isolation? Let me know in the comments below.

Categories
News Opinion/Commentary

Drag Queen Story Hour protester dies

Content warning: bullying and suicide

Last week, University of Queensland’s Liberal National Club member, Wilson Gavin was found dead.

His death has been reported as a suicide.

Drag Queen Story Hour protests

On Sunday, 12 June, University of Queensland’s the Liberal National Club protested Drag QueenStory Hour at the Brisbane SquareLibrary.

The confrontation between drag queen, Diamond Goodrim  and Wilson Gavin, among others got heated. Children who were at the library reportedly got scared and distressed. The Liberal National Club protesters faced backlash over their conduct and timing of the protest. Some of the criticisms were from members of the Liberal/ National Party,

Footage of the protest was taken and posted on social media. The footage featured Gavin at the front of the protest having a heated confrontation with drag queen Diamond Good Rim.

 

I feel for Gavin’s family and friends. I can only imagine what they are going through. Suicide is tragic for everyone who knew the person.Things will never be the same for those left behind.

For a person to take their own lives, it’s highly likely that they were suffering terribly. Mental illness is listed as one of the biggest risk factors for suicide.

At only twenty – one, Gavin was also in the most vulnerable age bracket. While suicide can happen at any age, the age group with one of the highest suicide rate is 15 – 29.

Same – sex marriage campaign

Gavin was a vocal opponent of same – sex marriage in 2017.

LGBTQ+ opponents of same – sex marriage were unfairly accused of ‘betraying’ their own. Some were accused of having ‘internal homophobia’.

The public spat between Liberal staffer, Josh Manuatu and Mamamia founder, Mia Freedman was about just that. Freedman wrote a tweet about Manuatu’s relationship with MP, Eric Abetz and his public opposition to same – sex marriage. She ended the tweet with the rhetorical question if Manuatu had ‘internalised homophobia”.

I was critical of Freedman for that. LGBTQ+ people are bound to have a variety of social and political opinions.

The debate leading up to the postal vote was hard on LGBTQ+ people. Counselling services saw a spike in calls for help. I wonder how many LGBTQ+ people who opposed same – sex marriage also found the debate hard.

 

Conservatives respond

News of Gavin’s death has spread to the U.S. Many people have showed shock and dismay at the news like many Australians have.

Conservative Christian public speaker and author Elizabeth Johnson, a.k.a ‘The Activist Mommy’ wrote a post on her website lamenting Gavin’s death. I find it a bit hypocritical, considering she advocates ex – gay conversion, which has proven to contribute to LGBTQ+ youth suicide.

 

Whatever you think of Gavin’s actions that day, most can agree that what happened afterwards was tragic. It should send a warning to anyone thinking about bullying another person, including online.

 

 

If you are struggling with your mental health, you can contact:

Lifeline: 13 11 14

Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636

For LGBTQ+ people, you can  contact Q Life: 1800 184 157 or via their webchat.

If you or anyone you know is in immediate danger, call 000 (or your national emergency number).

Categories
News Opinion/Commentary

Leave Greta Thunberg alone!

On the 1976 album, Alice Goes to Hell, Alice Cooper made a plea: Give the kid a break.

Alice Cooper: Alice goes to hell CD
The title of the sixth song summarises the Greta Thunberg quite well: Give the kid a break!

This summarises how I feel about the treatment of sixteen – year – old Swedish climate change activist, Greta Thunberg.

She gained global attention last year when she did a protest outside her school.

This year, Thunberg initiated the Climate Strike, which saw students from around the world leaving school in order to protest and pressure governments to take action.

Since then, Thunberg has been has been deemed a prophet for some and a ‘brat’ by others.

I have had so many issues surrounding how Thunberg has been treated. Here are a few issues.

Analysis on Thunberg’s mental health

Greta Thunberg’s mental health has been a discussion in the media by both her admirers and critics.

Thunberg has been open about her struggles with depression, obsessive compulsive disorder and mutism. Her mother, former opera singer, Malena Ernman wrote autobiography, Scenes from the Heart where she wrote about Greta’s mental health struggles, including an eating disorder. This was allegedly caused by worry about the state of climate change.

Now, if Greta herself wants to be open about this then, fine. But this has repeatedly been used against Greta ever since.

Being used as a martyr

I get why people are concerned about Thunberg being used as a ‘prophetess’ to the world. She has really been thrown out to the sharks, so to speak.

Some people think this has been quite a deliberate and cynical move by the United Nations and climate change activists. Who would pick on a sixteen- year- old and challenge what she’s saying?

The fact that Thunberg is a child and her mental health hasn’t stop her critics. Or bullies.

Abuse

This is where things get sickening. On the one hand, Thunberg has been infantalised by her critics. On the other hand, she has been repeatedly abused by others.

Much of this has not been called out or condemned. That is despicable, especially from those who repeatedly call for her protection.

Sixteen can be a vulnerable age for anybody. You are still working out who you are, who your friends are, etc.

I am outraged at the abuse Thunberg has received by those in the media. If people are that concerned about Thunberg’s well – being, more of them would be willing t9 condemn her high profile bullies. Where s Andrew Bolt’s outrage over Fox News’ Michael Knowles’ comments. Where is the outrage for former football player, Sam Newman who called her a “brat” and “sh*t” on Twitter? Or outrage at people saying she needs to be slapped? That would be terrifying to someone with a history of severe anxiety and depression, don’t you think?

 

Everyone needs to get off Greta Thunberg’s back. She is a passionate teenager. And she is entitled to those passions. However, she shouldn’t be a martyr by climate change activists, nor be infantalised by critics.  Just leave her alone!

Categories
Opinion/Commentary

Study suggests teachers suffer poor mental health

Mental health image of brain
Image: iStock

In March, I wrote about high rates of bullying, harassment and violence principals face. In the post, I speculated that teachers were being treated badly at a similar rate.

That’s  not the only issue that many teachers face.

According to the SBS, a study conducted by Associate Professor of Psychology of Bond University, Peta Stapleton suggests that teachers suffer higher rates of anxiety and depression than the general population.

166 teachers took part in the study.

Of those studied, 18% of respondents met the criteria for a moderate or major depression diagnosis. Over half (62%), met the criteria for moderate anxiety. 19.75% fitted the criteria for severe anxiety.

 

What is causing this?

The causes of mental illness can be complicated. Genetics, brain chemistry, personality traits and trauma can all increase one’s vulnerability to mental disorders.

Major stress, conflict with staff and lack of work  – reward balance were major contributors to mental decline of participants.

The Feed did a segment exposing struggles teachers have dealing with students with learning and behavioural problems. Not only were they frequently exposed to aggressive outbursts, time was taken from other students. This showed a lack of professional support in dealing with children with learning or behavioural disorders.

Importance of specialised support staff

This is why teacher’s aides and specialised staff are so important. Schools need staff that know how to calm down children with ADHD or severe Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Teacher’s aides can often offer one – on – one support for children who need extra help.

Attitudes need to change

I expressed in the post linked above that I think the way teachers are snowed under by bureaucratic red tape and are vilified by the media is appalling.

I can’t believe the number of times I’ve heard teachers being accused of ‘indoctrinating’, or worse  ‘grooming’ students in the media. Frankly, I find it disgusting. Even if you don’t 100% agree with  the information children have been given, I think that sort of inflammatory language is uncalled for.

Teachers don’t ‘groom’ children, (most don’t anyway). They inform, challenge and inspire students. They equip them with knowledge and skills to enter and hopefully thrive in the world.

Teachers need to be able to assist all students achieve their full potential.

Most importantly, teachers, along with all professionals, should be able to work in a physically and mentally healthy environment. No one should have to endure physical and verbal abuse, nor should they have to feel under valued or bullied bt other staff.

 

Let an education revolution begin. No, not more theories, frameworks or paperwork. Not more tests that just stress everyone out. Let’s start an education revolution of nurture; for both students and staff.

Let’s start an expectation that teachers, principals and other staff will not have to put up with threats, intimidation and violence from anybody.

Let’s start treating teachers like human beings, They need care, rest and recognition, just like the rest of us. They deserve a much better work – reward balance than what they are getting.

And lastly, get off their backs. Most are trying to do the right thing by their students, regardless of how many students get Band Sixes in NAPLAN (National Assessment  Program for Literacy and Numeracy) and other tests/ exams.

 

 

Anyone who is suffering from any mental health issues/ concerns can call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.

 

Categories
Opinion/Commentary

Kurt Cobain and the importance of bipolar disorder awareness

 

Trigger warning: mental illness and suicide.

Last Wednesday would have been Kurt Cobain’s 52nd birthday. Cobain was considered the voice of a generation in the early 1990’s.

People claim that Cobain hated fame and that was to blame for his death.  At their height, Nirvana’s 1991 album, Nevermind became iconic. The following year, it skyrocketed the Billboard charts, beating Michael Jackson’s Dangerous to Number 1.

 

Kurt Cobain’s death

On the 8 April 1994, Kurt Cobain was found dead in his Seattle home. The death was ruled a suicide.

In the aftermath, it was feared that there would be copycat behaviour. According to research conducted by NCBI, this did not occur, however, there was an increase in calls to counselling and suicide prevention hotlines.

 

 

Risk factors

Suicide is often complex, with more than one causation. According to Beyond Blue, there are a number of risk factors that increase a likelihood of someone taking their own lives. These include: mental illness, previous suicide attempts, substance abuse and suicide in the family.

 

According to former psychiatric nurse and Kurt Cobain’s cousin Beverly Cobain, a number of these factors were present in his life, some starting in childhood. She told Health Day that a number of men in the family had either taken their own lives or had died due to falls while intoxicated.

Cobain had a battle with mental illness for most of his life. His substance abuse and depression were well known. But that may not have been the whole story. Ms. Cobain claimed that Kurt had been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder as a child and depression and bipolar disorder as an adult. Whether he was officially diagnosed with BD is debated, but Ms. Cobain insisted that he had signs, including extreme anger.

Facts about bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder is characterised by extreme mood swings from mania or hypomania (more on that later) and severe depression.

There are a number types of bipolar: bipolar I, bipolar II, mixed, rapid cycle and cyclothymic.

Bipolar I: bipolar I is categorised by manic and depressive episodes. Manic episodes can include an uncontrollable euphoria, restlessness, wreckless spending, an inability to sleep, not feeling tired, a sense of grandiosity and inflated self – esteem.

One of the dangers of mania is that people can become psychotic. When this happens, immediate hospitalisation is crucial.

Bipolar II: bipolar II is characterised by hypomanic episodes and depression. Hypomania is defined as a ‘less extreme’ form of mania. Signs can include: ‘flight of ideas’, rapid speech (also known as pressured speech), grandiosity, increased energy and a lack of need for sleep.

Mixed: this isn’t a ‘type’ of bipolar per se but rather something that can happen in either bipolar I or II. Mixed episodes are when a person experiences manic or hypomanic and depressive symptoms at the same time. For example, a sufferer may have a depressed mood, but be restless or productive.

Rapid cycle: rapid cycle is when someone has at least four mood episodes within a year. This is double the number of episodes of other bipolar types. Some experience a mixture of mania, hypomania and depression.

 

Why is this important when talking about Kurt Cobain and other people?

I never knew Kurt Cobain (obviously), so I do want to be careful. I’m also not an expert on bipolar, so please access other resources for nore (and most likely better) information.

One thing needs to be made clear. Bipolar is NOT depression. Both illnesses require different treatments. So, I believe that when we talk about public figures and mental illness, I think it’s important that the media and society as a whole offers accurate terms for the illnesses. This is what troubled me about a Facebook post that commemorated Kurt Cobain for his birthday.

 

If anyone is in need of help, please  get it. If you suspect you have bipolar disorder, there are resources from Beyond Blue and Black Dog Institute that can offer information. Black Dog Institute also has a checklist for bipolar disorder that can indicate if you have the condition. However, only a doctor can diagnose you and offer a course of treatment.

Final note: while this post has been researched, this does not necessarily mean my analysis or  descriptions of bipolar are entirely correct or represent experiences of all people with the condition. If you have bipolar disorder or are a health professional with knowledge or expertise in the condition, please leave your knowledge, experiences and any corrections that you think should be made in the comments below.