Looking after loved ones with mental illness puts carers at risk themselves. They need more support

The Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System - the first of its kind in Australia - is looking into ‘[accelerating] improvements in access to mental health services, service navigation and models of care.’ One element of the mental health care system, which is often overlooked, is help for informal carers that support those who have mental illness.

In this article originally published in The Conversation, the University of Newcastle’s Jaelea Skehan and Sally Fitzpatrick explain the emotional labour involved in caring, the case for preventing their psychological distress, and the policy setting that government needs to enhance carers’ wellbeing and prevent the onset of mental health issues of their own.

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Can Animal Assisted Therapies Help to Tackle Issues of Wellbeing and Mental Health?

The role of animals in supporting mental health and emotional wellbeing is probably not a modern phenomenon. Myers (1998) draws our attention to the book ‘De Canibus Britannicus’, written in the sixteenth century by Dr Cairs in which he advocated the therapeutic use of dogs and recommended that a person afflicted by illness should carry a small dog on their bosom to soak up the disease. In 1699 John Locke prescribed giving children small animals, including dogs, birds or even squirrels, to look after, in order to foster the development of ‘tender feelings and responsibility for others’ (Garforth, 1964, p.154).  The assumption was that this would help children to control their innately ‘beast like’ characteristics (Myers, 1998). In the first of her two guest posts this week on Power to Persuade, Dr Alison Broad the Director of Primary Initial Teacher Education examines the question – can animal assisted therapies help to tackle the issues of wellbeing and mental health?

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Meditation, Mindfulness and Mental Wellbeing

Building knowledge and capacity for policy change is the vision of Power to Persuade. But policy work is difficult, time consuming, on-going, hidden and often with limited success. Burn out in this space is quite common and therefore it is necessary to remind ourselves that self-care and mental wellbeing can also be considered par for course of policy change! This week’s blog posts will begin with reflections from a social policy researcher, Isabella Saunders, based at the Centre for Social Impact, UNSW. Using her experience of an extended road trip around Australia, she provides life hacks to ‘break free from the metaphorical prison that is “routine”.’ Isabella’s has expertise in qualitative and mixed-methods research experience in the fields of employment, young people and disability, both in Australia and overseas. This piece was originally published on the Croakey website on 30th April 2019.

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Loneliness and living with mental health problems

December being a difficult month for many people who feel under pressure to socialise and be merry whilst feeling lonely, was an apt time to launch UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) cross-disciplinary Loneliness and Social Isolation Mental Health Network, of which the University of Birmingham is a part. Dr Sarah Carr explores the theme of loneliness and living with mental health problems in a re-posted blog originally hosted on the Institute for Mental Health website.

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Self-harm and social media: a knee-jerk ban on content could actually harm young people

Instagram is to ban graphic self-harm images following the suicide of UK teen Molly Russell. In this piece re-published from the Conversation, and picked up by UK news company The Sun, Dr Anna Lavis and Dr Rachel Winter discuss the complex relationship between self-harm and social media, and how a knee-jerk ban on content could actually harm young people.

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You don’t have to be stick thin to have an eating disorder

Imagine getting turned away for not having a broken-enough leg. There would be complete outrage, but yet for people with eating disorders this is happening on a day to day basis. People are turned away for not being “sick” enough. We know a healthy BMI is 18.5 or above but yet some places in the UK are turning people away if their BMI is about 14! In this post, Hope Virgo (the Author of Stand Tall Little Girl and Mental Health Campaigner) shares her experience and talks about her #DumpTheScales campaign.

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What can employers do to address social wellbeing?

There has been a growing focus on mental health and wellbeing in the workplace in the UK. The role of employers in relation to mental health and wellbeing is becoming increasingly pronounced and the business sector is responding to shifts in both policy and public opinion. As 2019 gets underway, employers may be deciding to scale up their business model, or be making plans to remain agile in difficult and unpredictable markets. In this re-post from employee benefits, Dr Sarah-Jane Fenton and Professor Fiona Carmichael suggest that central to those strategic objectives, and not as an afterthought, needs to be a serious consideration about how to support employees’ mental health and social wellbeing.

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