Alastair Campbell: Depression & Me. Another Great Mental Health Documentary.

This was another great documentary by the BBC for Mental Health Awareness Week; and again, it was great to see a public figure being so open in sharing their struggle with a mental health issue.

Like most words related to mental health issues, depression is wildly misused.  As we saw with Alastair Campbell, depression is not just feeling sad or unhappy for a short while; it is a long term, daily struggle and it can make your mood change in split seconds.

The main question raised by the documentary was the use of medication as a treatment.  It was plain to see that the medication Alastair was taking only helped to reduce the feelings of depression; his family were shocked that he could switch from feeling fine to being in a depressed state in just a matter of seconds whilst being on medication. Read more

Anxiety and the Brain, Part 8: Learning from Experience.

“The amygdala is not logical.”

Trying to alleviate anxiety, panic, worry and avoidance of triggers with reasoned thought and rational arguments is never going to work.  Those close to you will always try to help by offering logical reasons for what is going on with you; unfortunately they have not experienced what you have, so what seems illogical to them is actually terrifying to you.  Who could be scared of a teddy bear, their so cute and fluffy!

In the same way that the amygdala has learnt to fear, EXPERIENCE is the only sure way to retrain it. Read more

Anxiety and the Brain, Part 7: Learning the Language of the Amygdala.

We now know that the amygdala is a big player when it comes to anxiety, but how do you understand something that you have no control over?

If you want to understand someone who is speaking a foreign language, you learn the language or find a way to communicate, otherwise you won’t have a clue what the person is trying to tell you.  The same goes for the amygdala; to understand it we need to learn its language.

To start with, it is important to know that the amygdala has pre-programmed responses from the day we are born and it is ready to work from day one.  From this point it constantly learns and changes based on your day-to-day experiences. Read more

Lift The Weight – The RPA

As part of the work I am doing to campaign for better mental health in the work place, I am always on the look-out for companies and organisations that are truly making a difference.

The first organisation I would like to highlight is The Rugby Players Association (The RPA).

I was fortunate to be able to speak with Caroline Guthrie, the Senior Development Manager so I could gain an insight into the great work The RPA are doing to support its members. Read more

Anxiety and the Brain, Part 6: Circuitry

Circuitry is the connection between neurons, the basic building blocks of the brain, that we explored previously.

“Neurons that fire together wire together” – Carla Shatz

We learnt that neurons FIRE, which is where a positive charge travels from the receiving dendrites of the neuron, through the cell body, all the way to the axon at the other end.  In order for the neurons to build connections between themselves, one neuron must be firing at the same time as another.

When firing together the connection between the neurons is strengthened, and eventually a pattern of circuitry develops in which the activation of one neuron causes the other to activate. Read more