Does positive thinking really improve mental health?

Published by:

ABC News

How often have you been told to “look on the bright side” or “focus on the good things” when times are tough?

It can feel as though every self-help book, TV show and family member wants you to stop feeling sad, angry or depressed, and find the silver lining in every difficult situation.

Proponents of positive thinking would have us believe it is one of the best ways to boost self-esteem, find happiness and even prevent some mental illnesses, such as depression.

But just how effective is it?


Associate Professor Anthony Grant from the University of Sydney says the term “positive thinking” has been poorly defined and is often misunderstood.

For many people, it means saying daily affirmations, focusing on the good in every situation and putting on a happy face, even when it is the last thing we feel like doing.

But Associate Professor Grant warns that trying to be permanently optimistic about life is highly unrealistic – and generally makes you worse off in the long run. “It just doesn’t work. When people don’t allow themselves to think about problems or sadness or any other emotion apart from happiness, it’s not helpful at all,” he said.

“In difficult periods in your life, you need to allow yourself to grieve and have a whole range of emotions, because that’s part of the natural healing process.”

One popular aspect of so-called positive thinking is the belief that whatever we think manifests in our lives, but Associate Professor Grant says that is “clearly not the case”. “The notion that we create reality through our thinking is just wrong,” he says.

“The mindset we have and how we use our thinking capacity has a big impact on how we experience the world. But there are lots of things that happen that are completely outside our control.”

Psychologist Suzy Green, from The Positivity Institute, warns that seeing the world only through “rose-coloured glasses” can be dangerous. Dr Green says she is a proponent of “realistic optimism”, which she describes as “optimism with its eyes wide open”.

Anxious people, for example, tend to automatically focus on the negative or threatening aspects of a situation, but Associate Professor Grant says it is possible to change these thought patterns to refocus on things that make you happier.

Dr Green says research has shown optimistic and hopeful people are mentally and physically healthier. “They have higher levels of goal attainment and general wellbeing, because they have a belief that there’s another way, so engage in activities that are helpful,” she says.

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Rural doctor reflects on changes in treating mental health

Published by:

ABC Rural

Queensland rural doctor and academic Tarun Sen Gupta has seen many changes in the treatment of mental health.

Queensland rural doctor and academic Tarun Sen Gupta has seen many changes in the treatment of mental health.

We often talk about the patients in rural communities dealing with mental health issues, but what about the doctors who help them?

Many young medical students are sent to rural and remote communities as a requirement for their studies, preparation not offered to those before them.

Queensland doctor and academic, Tarun Sen Gupta has worked in medicine for more than 30 years. At the age of 24 he was sent to Richmond in north-west Queensland, with very little knowledge of how to appropriately treat mental health issues.

“It was a terrific introduction to rural medicine, but maybe what I wasn’t really prepared for was the stress that things like drought and wool prices were causing,” he said.

“Behind closed doors you would talk about depression and anxiety and I had to find ways to help those people.”

As a young doctor treating people with depression and other mental health issues, Mr Sen Gupta found it difficult to stop that becoming a stress in his life.

Even today many of the cases Mr Sen Gupta treated stay with him, particularly the many farmers he met during his six years at Richmond. He found often patients suffering from depression had turned to substance abuse or violence.

“These were often tough people from the land, really resilient but they were worn away year after year of things going wrong,” Mr Sen Gupta said.

While he did treat his patients successfully, Mr Sen Gupta admitted today’s medical students are much better equipped to deal with mental health.

He trains medical students at James Cook University in Townsville, and said he has seen many changes and developments in student preparation.

James Cook University student, Michael Johnston, has just returned to Townsville after placement in the remote New Zealand town of Ashburton.

When the 20-year-old arrived he was told of the high prevalence of mental health issues within the small community. Many of the patients he spoke with were struggling farmers, and it overwhelmed him in the beginning.

The opportunity to help those patients has now confirmed what Mr Johnston always knew: he wants become a rural doctor. “As a medical student I’ve seen countless cases of people with mental health issues. “It’s really eye-opening and it makes me want to work harder to be able to help people with these issues.”

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Most Australians don’t seek support when feeling stressed or sad

Published by:

ABC News

Only 18 per cent of Australians regularly seek support when stressed or feeling down, according to a new survey.

Research commissioned by Mental Health Australia examined what activities Australians undertook to improve their mental health and wellbeing against 10 key activities. The study examined things such as sleep, exercise, diet, involvement in the community and seeking advice or support.

“Generally, Australians are doing better than expected regarding their participation in activities that assist with improving mental health and wellbeing,” Mental Health Australia chief executive Frank Quinlan said.

The survey found only 40 per cent of adults under 29 years of age made a regular effort to eat healthily, with 17 per cent claiming they hardly ever or never made the effort.

But Mr Quinlan said the most concerning result was the small percentage of people who regularly sought advice or support when they were stressed or down. He said only 18 per cent of people surveyed regularly sought help.

Additionally, 50 per cent of retired respondents and 49 per cent of rural respondents said they hardly ever or never sought out help. But research showed strong positive results for other activities on the checklist.

About 65 per cent of Australians regularly keep consumption of alcohol, cigarettes and drugs as low as possible and 58 per cent regularly made an effort to eat healthily.

The survey showed 51 per cent of people regularly made time to socialise with family or friends, with 47 per cent of those surveyed regularly getting a good night’s sleep.

Respondents were asked to rate themselves against how often they felt they did the following:

  • Make an effort to eat healthily
  • Make time to socialise with family or friends
  • Get a good night’s sleep
  • Exercise for at least 10 minutes at one time
  • Keep the consumption of alcohol, cigarettes and other drugs as limited as possible
  • Take the time to carefully plan and prioritise work and personal commitments
  • Listen to music while working or studying
  • Consciously ensure times without electronic devices
  • Participate in a club, society or sporting activity
  • Seek advice or support when feeling down or stressed

“People can make a simple promise to do something to help improve their mental health and wellbeing and then share it, hopefully making it more acceptable to talk about mental health and seek help when they need it.”

View the full article.


Seeing a doctor for sadness: What your GP can do about depression

Published by:

ABC News

Taboos around mental health mean many people are reluctant to ask for help but, as with other illnesses, your GP can help you recover from depression.

Emergency department doctor Casey Parker said that when people overcame their reluctance to talk to their GP about depression, they often felt a sense of relief.

Feeling sad and low at times is part of a normal, healthy life. But Dr Parker said a GP would try to establish if the feelings were more severe and persistent, and if they could be part of the serious illness that is depression.


“Mental illness can present itself in all sorts of different symptoms, and it could be anything from just feeling a bit tired and run-down, disturbed sleep, to sometimes some really physical manifestations, which can be really hard to tease out when someone’s actually got a physical disease,” he said.

Depression is by far and away the most common mental illness that we see in general practice and society as a whole. A history of depression can help diagnosis, but it is an illness that can first strike at any stage of life.

The different ways depression can affect people make it a common disease. “Depression is by far and away the most common mental illness that we see in general practice and society as a whole,” Dr Parker said.

The good news is that what can seem like an unsolvable problem can often be treated by your GP. “Depression is very much like being in a deep hole, in a mental sort of hole, where you can only really see a very narrow tunnel of what’s going on around you,” Dr Parker said.

One of the first steps will be establishing if the patient is making lifestyle choices that are making them more susceptible to depression.

“Often what people feel like doing when they’re depressed may actually be counter-intuitive, and so drinking and taking drugs is a classic example,” Dr Parker said.

Simply looking after yourself with plenty of sleep, good food and exercise can be a big boost in fighting off depression.

A GP will also be interested in your relationships with friends and family, and how they can help recovery from depression. GPs can also treat depression directly with medication and counselling.

“Most people have a transient depression, and with treatment it will go away,” Dr Parker said.

View the full article.

Should workplaces be educating staff about mental illness?

Published by:

The Sydney Morning Herald

 Research shows economic benefits for organisations that promote a healthy workforce.

Research shows economic benefits for organisations that promote a healthy workforce.

Mental illness costs Australian businesses more than $10 billion every year, with about 12 million days lost to reduced productivity annually, begging the question of why workplaces aren’t doing more to educate employees about the issue.

Mental Health Recovery Institute chief executive Pedro Diaz said businesses were still trying to catch up with workplace mental health training.

“In reality, mental health [education] in the workplace is about 20 years behind,” Mr Diaz said.

This is despite research showing economic benefits for organisations which ensure they have a healthy workforce.

“Research shows people who have had a mental illness and recover their health with the help of their workplace are actually more loyal and they produce more once they come back to work.”

It’s estimated up to 45 per cent of Australians will experience mental health problems at some stage.

Kylie Bennet, e-hub development manager at the National Institute for Mental Health Research, said it was developing a mental health education program.

Ms Bennet hoped the program, Mental Health Guru, would be made mandatory.

“What we’re doing is educating the whole workforce on what to do if you have developed a mental health problem, how to decrease stigma.”

Ms Bennet agreed there were huge incentives for organisations to educate staff.

“It’s really likely that if we as an individual don’t develop a mental health problem, that someone very close to us will,” Ms Bennet said.

“So by understanding more about what to do if you do develop a mental health condition or how to help someone else appropriately it means that as an organisation we can reduce the impact of mental health problems.

“For organisations, there are huge productivity losses associated with mental health problems, so there’s actually a very significant economic argument for businesses to instigate workplace training.”

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Drought assistance extended

Published by:

The Land

DROUGHT assistance has been extended to the communities of Richmond and Barcoo in Queensland and Coonamble in NSW.

They are now eligible to participate in the federal government’s new Drought Communities Programme to assist in building infrastructure.

In a joint statement, Agriculture and Water Minister Barnaby Joyce and Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said the decision to extend the Drought Communities Programme was based on an update and extension of rainfall deficiency records provided by the Bureau of Meteorology up to August 2015.

Mr Truss said the programme had been introduced to generate greater economic stability in regional areas impacted by low rainfalls and that it provided $35 million over four years to fund local infrastructure initiatives in eligible drought-affected communities to “build greater economic resilience for the future”.


“Funding under the programme aims to stimulate local community spending, employment and use of local businesses and suppliers to provide long-lasting benefits to regional communities,” he said.

“A number of regions continue to experience terrible drought,” Mr Joyce said.

“Also announced earlier this year was support for mental health, the Rural Financial Counselling Service, pest management and concessional loans, and each of these initiatives is well underway, providing real relief for those doing it tough.”

Eligible councils yet to submit requests for assistance under the Drought Communities Programme have until December 24, 2015 to lodge applications or their eligibility may lapse.

Mr Joyce said rainfall data will be reviewed again over the coming months to monitor the funding eligibility of other councils in NSW and Queensland.

View the full article here.

It’s time we talked to our kids about suicide

Published by:

Daily Mercury

DON’T let our kids’ calls go unanswered.

The Daily Mercury in conjunction with Grapevine Group has launched a petition to Mackay’s principals urging them to get the suicide prevention program SafeTALK into their schools.

With suicide rates in Mackay higher than the national average, our kids are hurting and it’s time we tackled the issue directly.

Queensland education minister Kate Jones pointed out SafeTALK as a potential way to fight the issue.

“Suicides are devastating tragedies that have lasting impacts on school communities,” Ms Jones said.

“I know principals, teachers and school staff across our state are committed to supporting students at risk of or affected by the impacts of suicide.

“A range of programs, including SafeTALK, are available for schools to raise awareness and reduce stigma.

“We need to continue to talk about this to break down barriers and support young people in need.”


  •  In an emergency call: 000
  •  Mackay Integrated Mental Health: 4968 3893
  •   Lifeline: 13 11 14
  • Men’s Line: 1300 789 978
  • beyondblue: 1300 224 636
  • Headspace: 4898 2200

View the original article here.

Why I became an ice addict – and how I got clean

Published by:

The Age

When I was a little girl, my dream wasn’t to become an ice addict. I didn’t really have dreams.

I didn’t really believe in much. I remember feeling sad, lost, lonely and in pain. I didn’t know how to deal with these emotions.

In my teens, I was scared of drugs. I drank and tried to numb the pain in other ways, but I never thought of turning to drugs. As I got older, I became curious. My friends used recreationally and they didn’t look like those scary pictures the media shows us of the negative effects of using drugs.

I remember when I used a drug for the first time thinking, “it mustn’t be that bad”. I was young and I was hurting.

When I tried it, I thought I had found the answer. I felt relief.

I thought I could hide my drug use forever. It would be my secret and I could finally be a happy participant in a life I had never really lived.

But little did I know the drug would soon destroy me. I didn’t know I was losing weight and that my skin looked horrible.

Sonia Mattei felt isolated as a child. Photo: Paul Jeffers

Sonia Mattei felt isolated as a child. Photo: Paul Jeffers

I didn’t know the lengths I would have to go to get the drugs. I didn’t realise that I would lose my high school girlfriends or my morals and values.

I didn’t really know that my mental health was deteriorating either. I just needed my drugs to numb the shame, guilt and pain. The obsessive thoughts to use more became relentless. I didn’t know I had a choice to stop. It didn’t feel as if I did.

It is so easy to form an opinion when you look at the horrific images plastered all over the TV, internet and newspapers about how treacherous and dangerous ice addicts are.

Yes, unfortunately some are. And yes, I do believe that if they do the crime, they must do the time. But not everyone addicted to ice is a dangerous criminal.

Today, at three years clean, I do have a choice. I asked for help and, thankfully, I got it.

Other recovering addicts helped me stay off drugs. They showed me a new way to live. There is hope, recovery is possible.

View the full article here.

Feeling anxious? It’s good to cry.

Published by:

The Guardian

One in five 18-34-year-olds admit to having cried in the past week because of anxiety, according to a poll for the mental health charity Mind, while four in five say they put on a brave face when anxious.

The charity has launched a free guide for people of all ages on how to cope with stress and anxiety, and says crying is a common and useful response to the problem.

Women are three times more likely than men to have cried because of anxiety in the past week, and twice as likely to say they felt better for having cried, according to the poll of 2,063 adults.

Women are twice as likely to hide in the toilets at work if they feel anxious, and half of women turn to comfort eating to cope, compared with two-fifths of men.


The poll also found that one in four 18 to 34-year-olds feel that showing their emotions is a sign of weakness, compared with one in 10 people over the age of 55. Older adults are generally more resilient, with two-fifths of those in the over-55 category saying it has been longer than a year since they cried because of anxiety, or that they have never cried due to anxiety.

Mind said: “Anxiety has now become level with depression as one of the most common reasons for calls to Mind’s Infoline. In 2014/15 alone there were 6,087 calls about anxiety and panic attacks, which accounted for nearly one in six of all calls.

“Perhaps most worryingly, only half of people polled agreed that anxiety could be a mental health problem. In fact, nearly one in twenty people currently experiences anxiety on its own and one in 10 has mixed anxiety and depression.”

Paul Farmer, Mind’s chief executive, said: “Many of us lead busy, stressful lives and sometimes it can feel like things are spiralling out of control. Although it may seem tempting to put on a brave face, it really is OK to cry. It’s time for us all to stop holding back the tears and reach out for support.”

Read the original article here.

No, I Can’t ‘Just Relax’: How I Learned To Manage My Anxiety Disorder

Published by:

Lifehacker Australia

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety disorders fall along an entire spectrum. One of the most common is Generalized Anxiety Disorder, which is the closest to what I deal with, but you can also suffer from panic disorders that cause sudden and repeated panic attacks, or social anxiety disorders that tend to crop up when dealing with other people.

Mental health problems don’t come in neat, self-contained packages like other illnesses. When you get a cold, you know what the symptoms are and how to treat it. While anxiety disorders can sometimes occur on their own, they can also develop as part of a broader health problem. As the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) points out, anxiety disorders can tag along with a number of physical or mental health problems, including eating disorders, sleep disorders, ADHD, chronic pain, and yes — even prolonged stress.

If you suffer from an anxiety disorder, your least favourite words are probably some variation of “calm down.” You can’t just calm down — that’s the whole point. If I could just make the bad feelings go away by thinking about it, I wouldn’t have an anxiety disorder. Sound familiar?

I’d heard this so many times that the words started to make me angry on principle. Back when I was just starting out as a professional writer, I encountered the worst thing that could ever happen to a person: someone left me a mean comment on the internet. It’s normal to take these things a little personally, but I let it eat away at me so much that I walked into the kitchen, passed my roommate without saying hi, and started crying over the edge of the sink.


He asked if I needed to go somewhere to calm down, and my response was exactly as measured and reasonable as you’d expect. I yelled about how I can’t calm down. I told him that he can’t possibly know how painful it is to be so stressed all the time (which is obviously crap, but I felt it at the time). I bemoaned how awful I was as a writer, and I should just give up now. I screamed about how everything is terrible and nothing will ever get better. Eventually, I broke down into a sobbing mess on the floor. My friend, again to his credit, stayed with me until I could breathe normally again.

In my own experience, I found that even though “calm down” isn’t something I can make myself do on command, it was still a good cue that I was having an attack and needed to do something. Anxiety has a nasty habit of sneaking up on you when you least expect it. When I got to a point where I was starting to overreact or panic, if someone tells me to calm down (or some variant), that’s a good sign that I need to take my own action. Sure, counting to ten doesn’t help me, but walking away from the situation until the anxiety fades might help me come at it again later from a place of strength. I also found that the more I practiced relaxing in my free time, the easier it was to recognise the difference when I had an anxiety flare up.

If you’re struggling with an anxiety disorder, don’t hesitate to seek help. There are tons of hotlines and groups you can call if you’re not sure where to turn. Your health insurance plan may have some guidance for covered mental health programs If you can’t afford therapy, there are low- or no-cost options also available. No matter how you choose to get help, the most important thing is that you take action. If you have someone in your life that can support you, try to reach out. It’s a long, difficult process to get better, but it is possible.

If depression is affecting you or someone you know, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

View the full article here.