Tag Archives: depression

Cuddly company – Babyloid robot aids depressed elderly in Japan

16 Feb

Japan has developed a therapeutic robot baby designed to help ease depression among elderly people by keeping them company.

Masayoshi Kanoh, an associate professor at Chukyo University in Aichi prefecture, presented the latest version of ‘Babyloid’ at a robotics conference in November.

Babyloid’s round, silicon face has two black eyes and a small mouth that can produce a smile. LED lights in its cheeks turn red to signify contentment. Blue LED tears indicate that it is unhappy.

Kanoh reports that in experimental studies at a retirement home, users interacted with the robot for an average of seven to eight minutes per sitting and a total of 90 minutes each day.

See the baby robot in action here


Overtime and depression – The New York Times looks at the research

16 Feb

The New York Times reported recently on studies indicating that routinely working overtime is associated with a higher risk of depression.

For example, the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health in Helsinki collected data on British civil servants for five years and found that those who routinely worked 11 hours a day or more had more than twice the risk of developing depression that those who generally worked eight hours or less.

The research will no doubt resonate with Irish workers, who, in addition to working on diminished teams due to redundancies and hiring freezes, will often feel under pressure to go that extra mile for their employer simply to hold onto their jobs.

Read about the research in The New York Times here

Valentine’s Night alone on the Eiffel Tower – support Aware’s lonesome heart

14 Feb

Black fabric with red roses
For the Valentine’s Day that’s in it… Sponsor the brave Íde to be stood up on the most romantic night of the year.

This 14 February, Íde is doing her third and final annual Valentine’s solo challenge. This year, she’s going up the Eiffel tower by herself. The more money she raises for Aware, the more she will subject herself to:

  • over €100: she’ll “wait” alone at the bottom for half an hour
  • over €200: she’ll wear red (including a béret) to stand out
  • over €300: she’ll carry a heart-shaped balloon
  • over €400: she’ll order a glass of pink champagne and wait in the bar at the top
  • over €500: she’ll ask for her photo to be taken at the top
  • over €600: she’ll keep “ringing” someone

Íde’s open to suggestions, so post your ideas and sponsor her on her Facebook page.

The Irish charity Aware aims to create a society in which those with depression and their families are understood and supported, are free from stigma and have access to a range of appropriate therapies to enable them to reach their full potential.

Aware – helping to defeat depression

Nutrition and mental health – feed your brain

13 Feb

Beans growing
Also speaking on Newstalk’s Global Village programme on Saturday night was naturopath and nutritionist Anne D’Arcy, who gave some fascinating insights into the influence of diet on mental health.

Anne made the obvious but often overlooked point that food is the raw material making up brain chemicals. It follows that not consuming the correct food and not being able to digest that food properly can lead to problems with brain chemicals and mental wellness.

Anne talked about the influence of such substances as zinc, vitamins B6 and C, iron and magnesium on serotonin levels and mood.

Caffeine, refined sugar, alcohol and processed foods are generally recognised as being bad for our mood, whereas foodstuffs such as Omega 3 oil-rich fish, some green vegetables, bananas and certain nuts and seeds, including Brazil nuts, which are rich in selenium, can be beneficial for some.

Protein-rich foods can keep our serotonin levels balanced. As our bodies cannot produce the essential amino acid tryptophan, which is converted in our bodies into serotonin, we need to obtain this through food. Protein and tryptophan-rich foods, which include turkey, tuna, beans and seeds, can be effective in this respect when eaten alongside slow-release carbohydrates.

Read more on the website of Food for the Brain, a non-profit educational charity that promotes the link between nutrition and mental health

An article in The Independent on beating depression through diet

Depressed – or just SAD? From guest blogger Aloysius

11 Feb


SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder – is often downplayed. After all, those with normal mental health only experience it for a limited time – usually during the cold, dark days of Northern hemisphere Winters. Hence we give it a label – “the Winter blues”– and dismiss it as a mild form of low mood.

For me, it is more than that and a succession of SAD days can lead to more severe depression. Today typifies an average SAD day for me. Despite it being a bright, ‘early Spring’ morning and the fact that ordinarily I am a ‘morning person’ I could hardly wake up. My body felt as if it had not slept at all. I could not open my eyes. My stomach felt sick and my head nauseous. I was producing saliva and mucous in quantities I would normally associate with having a virus. If I did not know better I would have said I had the flu. All I wanted to do was sleep on, or more accurately to bury my head under the covers despite the news bulletins reminding me every half-hour that the day was passing. The thought of opening my eyes, swinging my legs out of bed, walking towards the bathroom was literally a step too far.

It’s not just a ‘have a lie in on Saturday’ feeling. When I did eventually get up it manifested itself in over eating, the craving for a big, high-carb breakfast, and later in the day some junk food – but without the expected energy burst. It turned to boredom, the inability to concentrate on anything or to completing normal tasks, even simple ones like washing up, reading or listening to the radio. I wanted to be left alone, to withdraw from my family, ignore my friends, and even a reluctance to undertake ordinary social activities like shopping. And after a few days of this it leads to pessimistic feelings of hopelessness, a lack of any pleasure and depression with its many side effects: heavy sleeps followed by insomnia, anxiety, irritation, stressed-out feelings.

So, how do I counteract it?

Wake up calls: I set myself deadlines for getting up – setting my alarm at different times each day. And I leave a note by the bed to remind me to not just wake up but get up! Saturday and Sundays the deadline is 9:00 am at latest, Monday is an 8:00 am deadline.

What then? I once heard a mental health expert say: “Eyes open, feet to the floor”. It sounds simple, but it works – not thinking, just doing! Getting on, with getting up.

Following the light: SAD is supposedly affected by natural light, so I track the sunrise and sunset during my SAD period – using a phone app that gives me lighting up, dawn, dusk times, etc. When things are really bad I set my alarm for a few minutes before first light, open the blinds and watch the sun – or even just the light – rise. I have tried ‘bright-light’ therapy but it does not work for me. Some respond to artificial bright light therapy, or simulated dawns – personally I have not found these effective.

Taking my vitamins: Vitamins C and D in the form of orange juice and oily fish help.

SSRIs: If the Autumn weather and light are particular bad I anticipate a bad winter. So if the early feelings of a mood disorder are persistent I consult with my GP and usually take a course of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors – fluoxetine-based drugs – in order to increase my levels of serotonin. This takes forward planning as SSRIs can take 2-4 weeks to become effective. Above all, its about not allowing myself to be SAD.

Don’t worry, be happy!

Men’s Sheds – Men don’t talk face to face: they talk shoulder to shoulder

8 Feb

Did you know that communities across Ireland are setting up Men’s Sheds – places where men can socialise, network, make friends and share skills? Men’s Sheds aim to recreate the atmosphere of “real life” sheds – safe spaces where men can feel confident to discuss and exchange information.

We all know that men are less likely to talk about their problems or feelings than women, which can aggravate problems with mental health.  The Men’s Shed movement, which originated in Australia, wants to help men to reach out to other men and become valued and valuable members of their community.

Shed with two red flowerpots

A Men’s Shed is described as any community-based, non-commercial organisation that is open to all men and provides a safe, friendly and inclusive environment where the men can gather and/or work on meaningful projects at their own pace, in their own time and in the company of other men and where the primary objective is to advance the health and well-being of the participating men. Men’s Sheds are an innovative mix of community education and health promotion projects.

Read about Men’s Sheds in Ireland and find your nearest Shed – or get involved in setting one up: http://www.menssheds.ie/

And check out Australia’s Shed TV, which features regular videos on DIY, cooking and nutrition, health topics and lots more: http://www.theshedonline.org.au/news/index

“I’m just tired of being afraid” – Ferris Bueller revisited

8 Feb

RTE showed the 1986 film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off recently. Watching it as a 30-something adult, I was surprised to realise that in between the chicka-chicka music, Ferrari japes and Dean of Students baiting, there lurks a moving portrayal of teenage angst that had completely passed me by first time around.

Ferris’s best friend, Cameron, has a messed up home life and is pretty depressed. Ferris’s coercing of him to take the day off school is an attempt to take his friend out of himself and to help him take a moment to appreciate life.

Alan Ruck puts in a moving and witty performance as Cameron – probably helped by the fact that he was nearly 30 when John Hughes was directing the film.

“I realised it was ridiculous being afraid, worrying about everything, all that sh*t, I’m tired of it… I’m bullsh*t. I put up with everything. My old man pushes me around – I never say anything. Well, he’s not the problem: I’m the problem. I gotta take a stand. I gotta take a stand against him. I am not going to sit on my *ss as the events that affect me unfold to determine the course of my life. I’m gonna take a stand. I’m gonna defend it. Right or wrong, I’m gonna defend it.”

Unlike me, this guy got the movie first time: http://blog.moviefone.com/2011/06/11/how-ferris-bueller-saved-me-from-depression/

Some resources for young people struggling with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues here: http://www.letsomeoneknow.ie/good_stuff_from_others/