Health Talk

The NUS Health Blog for Undergraduate Articles

Month: July 2018

Dealing with Modern Day Stress and Pressure: Mental Health in Transformation


Modern human societies have been formed upon the premise that there exists no large scale social problem which cannot be overcome through conversation and sharing of ideas and in a way the entire global nation is undergoing an ongoing session of personal and collective counselling. As hospitals open their mysterious doors to the public to invite them into their psychology departments, people also look for possible ways to improve their mental health on their own, seeking their way into private therapist offices like Naya Clinics. Given all the interest and possibility associated with mental health counseling in today’s world, it is seen, felt and understood that people demand such services for a good enough reason: to feel more secure, capable and positive about themselves and the life they live. Being a respectable motivation on its own, such a reality also leads the educated and investigative eye into looking for new and exciting developments in the field to be able to forecast into its possible future.

Matt Goldenberg for the Huffington Post provides a window opening into the world of a psychiatrist and how they deal with issues such as depression to provide excellent insights for his ever-inquisitive and demanding reader. Being a psychiatrist himself, Goldenberg begins his article by stating that contrary to popular belief, mental illnesses are not necessarily too different than physical illnesses and some of the procedures associated with identifying and treating them are literally the same. Goldenberg seeks to eliminate medical causes for mental health concerns because disorders such as “depression, mania, anxiety and thought disorders can all be caused by and may mimic medical problems such as thyroid disease, infections, medication side effects, hormone abnormalities and many other treatable medical conditions.” The author explains his methodology to formulate a treatment plan through a process of elimination and observation to lead him to finalize his comprehension of the patient’s symptoms. Goldenberg then refers to “Psychotherapy” as the most common method of treatment for his patients who have developed depression which enables him to develop a preliminary sense of the patient’s reality while also utilizing real-time additions to such a theoretical approach. The author also utilizes advice for lifestyle change and behavioral activation to his clients to fight off depression. This is due to the fact that in many such cases of depression, the main motivator and reason for depressive thought and behavior is isolation which can be eradicated through change and alteration of the living spaces, social circles or even jobs. Having a neutral stance on the use of “Psychopharmacology”, or simply medication, Goldenberg usually educates his clients about possibilities and leaves the choice to them to continue therapy or switch to medication. However, his personal choice for treatment is therapy not because of its advantages for himself but rather its functional benefits which are revealed in the long run for the patient. Overall, Goldenberg’s notion of progress and improvement for patients with depression relies heavily on communication, sharing and collaborative efforts, which is probably why he became such a successful persona in this field of mental health.

Emily Reynolds for Wired magazine takes a more technology and innovation related approach on the issue to focus on the effectiveness of mental health applications for modern day smartphones. Her initial understanding of the situation is that most of the applications in the market today are “clinically unproven and potentially ineffective” as they lack “an underlying evidence base, a lack of scientific credibility and limited clinical effectiveness”. Leading their users to over-reliance and too much confidence on self-diagnosis, such applications should be developed in a gradual and systematic manner to utilize a scientific basis of information and theory to build up on existent IT structures to bring innovation. Considering how the demand for mental health applications are on the rise in today’s world, it becomes determinant that in order to create the necessary supply, the applications need to provide reliable and constructive services to their users. With several research projects amounting to several hundreds of thousands of pounds and dollars already in existence, the issue of developing the right type of application boils down to the developer’s patience with themselves and the market. As such applications transform mental health problems for the patients and doctors alike, their ease of use should be supplemented by scientific offerings and features as well which actually help patients with their mental conditions. Similarly, as more companies indulge into the market and collect user information, the stored data also becomes a problem in itself raising security risks. Regardless, applications such as “Big White WallMoodscope, a self-tracking and peer support network, Happyhealthy, a mindfulness app, and WorkGuru, an occupational stress-management programme” have proven to be clinically efficient and utile, leading their users to obtain easier access to psychiatric help and to normalize their conditions. Considering that all the mentioned applications are third and fourth generation software, it is understood that the trial and error mentality has begun to produce constructive results, raising eyebrows to further possibilities of success and innovation.

David Dobbs for the Atlantic continues in Reynolds’ footsteps to report on Tom Insel’s aspirations to transform mental health care procedures into a digital platform to help patients through their smartphones. After spending 13 precious years as the General Director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) in America, Insel came to the conclusion that traditional methods and approaches were simply not helping patients anymore, which led him to quietly quit his position to pursue a different career path in the same field. Blaming anything and everything ranging from “the pharmaceutical industry’s failure to develop effective new drugs” to “academic psychiatry’s overly cozy relationship with Big Pharma,” Insel could not convince anyone around him regarding his dispositions and conclusions. After meeting Google’s Andy Conrad in 2015, he began his career as the general director of Google’s “Verily” program to gain access to actual individuals with health records and accessible smartphones. The Silicon Valley’s rich connections brought him further data and bright young minds to develop ideas about how to create mental health related applications and market them to interested users with ease and precision. With an initial assertion that it will never be possible to reach 7.5 billion people with minor and major mental health issues through educated psychiatrists, Insel and his team concluded that smartphones should be utilized as devices for diagnosis to capture health-related data to be used to develop health-related applications. With a professional history and record of technical, biological and chemical innovation in numerous labs and institutions, Insel seeks to utilize Information Technologies in conjunction with advanced programming to create machine-learning applications that will quickly diagnose patients with the right disorder and divert them to the necessary professionals within seconds. If and when he accomplishes this, his quest to help the maximum numbers of mental health patients in the world will come closer to an end because he will create a virtual network of patients, institutions, pharmacies and other related players in the game for easy access. After this point, all it will take to maximize efficiency in the paradigm is intelligent and dedicated mental health professionals, working alongside with computer scientists and data analysts to reach out to individuals and give them the cure for their disorder in a quick, reliable and secure fashion.

Sleeping Conditions and Their Effects

Everyone sleeps differently in different places, situations, moods, times, and so on. For some, reviews of mattresses won’t help because they spend a large amount of time traveling by plane, some struggle with sleep issues no matter the bed, and some live in climates where sleeping in the freezer is preferred. Here are three of those issues and ways to help sleep through them.

1.    Sleeping on a plane

Falling asleep during an airplane trip is one of the most common ways to pass the time. Air Astana, out of Kazakhastan, has created a way for sleepers to sleep enough but not too much. Their new sleep mask for passengers says, “wake me up for meal” on one side to ensure that those sleeping travelers do not miss their in-flight meal. The other side of the mask says “do not disturb” for those who truly just need some rest.

2.    Sleeping as a teenager

Studies in the journal “Pediatrics” shows that insufficient sleep amongst young people is related to cardiac risk factors that include high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol, and obesity. Fewer than 3% of young people get the recommended nine hours of sleep each night.

“Regularity is a key. Going to bed at the same time, waking up at the same time no matter what. But I think also it’s not just about quantity – that’s what we’ve been discovering. It’s also about quality. For example, even if you’re getting eight hours but are waking up many more times throughout the night or you’re not getting that deep sleep, what we’ve discovered recently is that deep sleep provides the very best form of natural blood pressure medication that you could ever wish for,” said Matthew Walker, director of the Center for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley on “CBS This Morning”.

3.    Sleeping during a heatwave

Sleeping during a heatwave can be almost impossible at times. Trying to keep the bed cool while also comfortable can make drifting off to sleep take longer and it can make interruptions more frequent. Dr. Hilary Jones suggested to Express sprinkling water on the bed and yourself before going to sleep. Leaving out caffeine and alcohol and replacing them with water will also keep your metabolism from quickening, which can keep people awake. Eating foods rich in melatonin, the “sleep hormone”, can also produce higher quality sleep and a quicker way to get there. Spending 15 minutes on breathing exercises can also lower the heart rate, which in turn promotes relaxation.

Anandi of, also referred to as “The Sleep Guru”, says doing the yoga pose called “Viparita Karani” can also be effective.

“I recommend legs up the wall to nearly everyone as it has such a heavenly rejuvenating power and will bring you back to earth after all that running and rushing. Everything will calm down including the mind and the nervous system. Stay there for 10 minutes as your bedtime prep.It is a marvelous preparation to quiet everything down, that includes your mind, your nervous and circulatory system.”

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