Mental Health Stigma- does it still exist?

Mental Health Stigma- does it still exist? Perhaps a bold title and question to discuss, but it’s important to openly speak about it, out of fear of otherwise, subconsciously, becoming a silent supporter of this stigma. This is a different style of post, based on lectures that I have received during my BSc in Psychology. Hope you learn something new.

The Frugal Frenchie

Defining a stigma

First of all, do you know what is meant by a stigma? It can mean several things:

“a mark or sign of disgrace or discredit”
“disqualified from full social acceptance”
“negative effects of a label”

 

The Institute of Psychiatry actually described a stigma as having three components: that of ignorance (as a stigma is based on preconceived ideas and assumptions), prejudice and discrimination.

Note: discrimination and stigmas are not the same. Stigma focuses more on prejudice and ill-educated statements (a reason I’m writing this post today), whereas discrimination is more of an act. An act, preventing people from being treated equally or having equal access to opportunities or services. Continue reading “Mental Health Stigma- does it still exist?”

Advice with Annelies: teenagers and social media

This series will answer people’s questions or worries, either that have been asked to me or I wanted to give my opinion on. Of course, these are just suggestions, and if the problem is severe, you should seek professional help or advice. This addition’s topic of Advice with Annelies: teenagers and social media.

Continue reading “Advice with Annelies: teenagers and social media”

Advice with Annelies: girlfriend’s depression

This series will answer people’s questions or worries, either that have been asked to me or I wanted to give my opinion on. Of course, these are just suggestions, and if the problem is severe, you should seek professional help or advice. This addition’s topic of Advice with Annelies: girlfriend’s depression.

Advice with Annelies: girlfriend's depression

This is a long one and there is a lot to approach, but you can read the whole question (from reddit) below.

My girlfriend is depressed because of her parents. from Advice

Oh gosh, where to start? First of all, can I just say how great you’re doing at looking out for your girlfriend and that I’m so glad she can confide in you- especially when she doesn’t seem to have anyone else. It’s often easier to keep such thoughts to yourself, but you’re clearly a massive support for her.

Advice with Annelies: girlfriend's depression

“…she was unable to graduate on time this year because of her depression, which only made her parents angrier. Now she’s being pressured to find a full-time job when she is trying to improve her mental health first.”

It’s such an awful situation when parents don’t understand the severity of a mental health illness and acting in anger or disappointment definitely doesn’t help. As with the job, however, mental health does need to come first, and in the grand scheme of things, taking a year out will not hinder her future in any way, so I think that was the right move.

Regarding the job, is this a “to keep you occupied” reason or a “you need to earn some money reason?” If it’s the former, there are lots of other things she can do to keep her busy, especially as it may mean keeping her cognitively challenged and giving her goals and aims for the day. If it is the latter, then maybe it’d be a good compromise with the parents, to try and ease into part-time first and then full time later on. Alternatively, if there is angst about going into the world of work, perhaps, to help you both, you could research different methods of earning money. Depending on your location, there are many possible ideas such as participating in surveys, mystery shopping or ebay reselling etc.

“Long story short, I feel helpless. I don’t know what to do, if there’s anything I can do, to help her in this situation. I simply want to take her away from them but can’t afford to.”

By what you said, it definitely sounds like she could have depression, but taking medication should also be taken alongside therapy if this is possible. It is unfair for you to take the burden, speaking to a professional may really help her; especially concerning coping methods for being at home etc. In terms of what you should do next, it is difficult because I don’t know how much power you have/your age/your living situation.

If you live at home, is there a way for her to stay if she pays rent (maybe you could go halves?) or could you maybe rent out a very small place together? In the ideal situation, you would perhaps move in with each other so she can get away from the environment that is potentially the cause or trigger of her depression. However, I realise that this may not be possible, and visiting may not be often if you don’t drive etc. I’ve left some ideas on how to help in the next section.

Advice with Annelies: girlfriend's depression

“Are there any suggestions of what I could do to help other than being a shoulder to cry on? Should I confront her parents or just stay out of it?”

Personally, I would try and encourage her to seek professional help. If she has difficulty trusting adults as a result of her parents’ opinions and reactions to her mental health, try and reassure her that not everyone is like this and that they could genuinely help her. Another thing that could help, is with her mental and physical wellbeing. Especially if she can spend days in bed, try and encourage her to maybe take a walk occasionally and make sure she is eating correctly etc. Not only is it important for her to maintain her physical health, but exercise can also help give her a goal for the day and keep her busy, especially if she is not working.

I would not confront her parents about it, especially if they realise that she is in bed due to depression etc. but doesn’t take it seriously. She is still at home, and if unless you’re sure of how they’d react, you don’t know if it could potentially make the home environment even more awkward or tense for her.

I really hope this has helped and I wish you all the best! Hopefully, their understanding betters soon and that circumstances change for you both for the better!

The Frugal Frenchie

Advice with Annelies: loneliness

This series will answer people’s questions or worries, either that have been asked to me or I wanted to give my opinion on. Of course, these are just suggestion, and if the problem is severe, you should seek professional help or advice. Here’s the first Advice with Annelies: loneliness.

“I am 28 years old. I feel very alone and lonely most of the time. What should I do to overcome this? I don’t have friends or close relatives and am home 24/7.”

Of course, everyone’s situation is different, but to some extent, I understand how you feel. Last year, I studied a year abroad, away from family, and although I spoke to people at uni, I didn’t have anybody that I would see outside of it. I stayed at home whenever I wasn’t at uni, and only leave the house for grocery shopping.

In retrospect (because isn’t that a joyous thing) I think there are a few things I would change, which hopefully could help you.

Advice with Annelies: loneliness

“Am home 24/7.”

I really went wrong here. When in a situation of loneliness, you have to go out. It’s what keeps you sane. I realise when not at university, sometimes it can be harder to meet people and have an incentive to go out but have a look at what’s around you.

It’s important to get out of the house, even when there’s no particular motive to do so. A change in routine and scenery, is, to be blunt, good for your sanity. Having fresh air, taking a walk… it all helps relax your mind, put things into perspective, for some, it even acts as a form of meditation!

“I don’t have friends”

If you have a particular interest, look up on Facebook, or through the local library, whether there’s an association or club for it: if you like reading, see if there’s a Book Club… that kind of thing! Surrounding yourself with like-minded people is a great way to make connections as you’re guaranteed to have a common interest and a conversation starter!

Furthermore, if you work or are in education, make sure to attend as many events or trips as you can. If there’s a work do, make sure you attend, and you could use the excuse to speak to new people by asking if they’re going etc.

Advice with Annelies: loneliness

“I don’t have… close relatives”

Thankfully, we live in a world where it’s possible to keep in contact with people across long distances. If they have access to a phone or computer, you can skype them or just ring them and hear their voices.

If worst comes to the worst, you’ll just have to wait impatiently for the next letter to arrive, but it can make them feel all that more precious!

I wish you all the best!

The Frugal Frenchie

 

 

Why young children can’t lie

As many of you may know, I study a BSc at Bournemouth University. Lately, we have been learning about developmental psychology- which I have to say has been one of my favourite topics so far! I learnt something interesting the other day, which I thought I would share with you all: why young children can’t lie? And why can they learn to do so later on?

The Frugal Frenchie

The answer can be found in a child’s theory of mind. The theory of mind is essentially the ability to realise that not everybody believes, desires and feels the same way you do (Premack & Woodruff, 1978). It’s also useful for predicting and explaining other people’s behaviours and allowing us to be empathic.

Theory of mind develops gradually throughout childhood, which means that some children may be at higher or more developed levels of theory of mind than others.

Why young children can't lie

Here are some examples to show you what I mean:

  • 3-4 months: social perception
    • You may be surprised, but here, children can already start showing signs of theory of mind.
    • They are capable of following another person’s gaze, which shows that they are aware of what other’s are looking at and that it’s not the same as them
  • 12 months: social referencing
    • For those of you with children, let me know in the comments if you’ve noticed this around this age!
    • An experiment called the visual cliff, shows this clearly
      • A child will make a judgement or a decision, based on the reactions of others
  • 12-18 months: intentions
    • In experiments, children around this age started to understand peoples’ intentions
      • E.g. When an experimenter was trying but failing to put a key on a hook, the child would do it correctly, rather than imitating the experimenter, as they instead their intention (Meltzhoff, 1995)

As you can see, the development is slow at first, but when children they get older, they’ll start to show obvious signs for the consideration of others, such as pretend play with toys, or showing empathy.

Why young children can't lie

Before this point, however, children are unable to understand that others know different facts or think different things. If a child knows that they stole the biscuits or drew crayon on the wall, they will assume that the parent will know this too, so they cannot lie.

Those tricksy puppets…. in an experiment by Peskin (1992), they asked 3-5 year olds, with a friendly puppet, what their favourite sticker was. Of course, with no motive to lie, they told the truth. The children were then told that a naughty puppet would come along and steal their favourite sticker. Sadly, when the naughty puppet asked the 3 (and 50% of the 4) year olds, their lack of theory of mind showed, as they told the naughty puppet their favourite sticker and it got stolen.

So there we have it! After the ages of around 3 years old, children can start to lie as their theory of mind becomes more developed, and they realise that you don’t know everything they do!

What do you think? Is this surprising? Let me know your thoughts!

Is anxiety and stress “all in your head?”

A lot of things can cause stress in everyday life: work, uni, family, lack of sleep… I feel like there’s a constant comparison of stress in society nowadays.  “I’m so stressed,” “yes but at least you don’t have… going on” etc. Isn’t that just the worst? Or when people think current stress and problems are nothing compared to what they experienced in their day? Some of those amongst us who may even suffer from mental health illnesses may have heard “it’s all in your head!” Because of this, I thought I’d look at what actually happens in the brain to produce stress and anxiety and prove that being stressed and anxious, is just as physically as a more visible illness.

I hope you find this informative and feel free to rub this in the faces of somebody next time they doubt you!

The Frugal Frenchie

Firstly, it might be useful to talk about certain areas for clarification.

Is anxiety and stress "all in your head?"

  • Hypothalamus: this area, despite being small compared to other brain parts, is actually responsible for a lot of functions and processes. For example, it has a role in hormone release, expression of aggression, control of food intake and of course, stress.
  • Pituitary gland: it’s linked to the nervous system by the hypothalamus

Is anxiety and stress "all in your head?"

  • Hippocampus: like the amygdala and the hypothalamus, it is part of the limbic system. Like all brain areas, it is involved in many processes in the body, but especially long-term memory, spatial navigation and a “mediator” in stress responses
  • Amygdala: the amygdala is another part of the limbic system, traditionally known for its role in the fear response (flight/fight/freeze) and negative emotions

Stress, in general, leads to the release of corticotrophin-release hormone (CRH) in the hypothalamus. As the pituitary gland is linked to the hypothalamus, it releases adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACCH). Being very brief, this leads to the adrenal gland releasing cortical (the hormone that gets all the praise for stress).

This, after all that jargon, is the important part. Cortisol leads to increased sympathetic activation which is basically the activation of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) that is responsible for all these physiological bodily responses like fight/flight/freeze, increased heart rate, sweating and so on.

The amount of cortisol that gets released is what affects how much/or little we react to feelings of stress. Why some people may just sweat a little, or others may have a panic attack or freeze. The amount of cortisol produced depends on the activity of the amygdala and the hippocampus.

Is anxiety and stress "all in your head?"

The amygdala is critical for fear response. Sensory information from the thalamus and cortex are processed in the basolateral nucleus of the amygdala and is passed onto the central nucleus. This activates the HPA-axis (which is a more formal term for stress response and its effects, including cortisol release).

The role of the hippocampus in this HPA-axis is actually that it measures cortisol levels. It’s the glucocorticoid receptors in the hippocampus that do this. When the cortisol levels are too high, the hippocampus inhibits the CRH release in the hypothalamus (if you remember from the first step) and this in turn stops the HPA-axis activation. It may not seem important, but without this, our body would not behave differently to whether we were being chased by a dangerous animal or if somebody made us jump by shouting “boo.”

Now why is this all important to know? Well, not only is it good head knowledge, but it’s to prove that our behaviour and feelings aren’t a part of our thoughts, but several processes and chemical releases in the brain. It’s important to know that this is normal, and we shouldn’t be made to feel guilty about it.

In those who have diagnosed anxiety or phobias, this happens as there is an overacitvation of the amygala, which means that their fear responses are a lot more powerful.

I hope you found this post interesting and if you learnt something new today, or enjoyed this post, please leave a comment below.