Tag Archives: mental fitness

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

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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

“A spring in their step” – John Evoy of Irish Men’s Sheds on Newstalk

12 Feb

We spoke recently about Men’s Sheds in Ireland. The movement got some welcome coverage on Newstalk’s Global Village with Dil Wickremasinghe last night.

John Evoy, CEO and founder of the Irish Men’s Sheds Association, described Sheds as spaces in communities where “fellas who may have time on their hands can come together to use their skills and talents and energy and ideas to enrich their lives and also to contribute to the communities that they’re part of.”

The first Irish Men’s Shed was set up in Tipperary town in August 2009. There are now 40 in operation, with a further 40 in planning.  John’s organisation receives three or four queries a week.

John explained that inside a Shed, you might see men working on a woodwork project or renovating a chair, fixing an old bike, drinking tea or playing darts. Sheds aim to create a positive and healthy atmosphere for men and to encourage sharing of feelings and looking after each other. John explained that men are more open to sharing when working together on a project, as the focus is taken off them and instead put on the job at hand.

There are over 700 Sheds in Australia, where the concept of Men’s Sheds originated.

The Irish Men’s Sheds Association was a 2011 recipient of an Arthur Guinness Fund award.

Listen to John talk about Men’s Sheds here

Find your nearest Shed – or get involved in setting one up

Brent Pope – “A sensitive old soul”

9 Feb

The rugby world not exactly being renowned for getting in touch with its emotional side, it was refreshing to hear rugby commentator Brent Pope talk to Ryan Tubridy on RTE radio last week. The interview veered unexpectedly from talk about the rugby team to Brent’s anxiety and commitment problems.

As a child, teenager and rugby player, Brent was an extremely anxious person – about everything. Brent said he is drawn to art, books and other creative things. Being a deep thinker can be both positive and negative, as you can talk yourself into things.

He had, and still suffers, panic attacks for no particular reason and described how these can immobilise you.

Though he has met ‘wonderful women’ in his life, he is anxious about committing. Confidence is a problem: he worries when in a relationship about why they would want to be with him.

Brent said he works hard to overcome these problems in small steps and describes this as a long journey.

As ever when these issues are broached, particularly by men, there has been much positive comment about Brent’s courage in talking so openly. Hopefully, others experiencing similar problems will be inspired by Brent’s candidness to seek help or to use Brent’s interview as a reason for raising this topic with loved ones or friends.

Listen to Brent open up on RTE 2fm here (about 49 minutes in)

Read about Brent’s opening of an art gallery in Dublin’s docklands to encourage people with mental health issues to display their work

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

Are we finally opening up about mental health issues?

7 Feb

It seems that every time the topic of depression, anxiety and suicide has been raised on the airwaves recently, the floodgates have opened: people are desperate to talk about their mental health problems and extremely grateful that the issue is being broached in the first place.

Gary Speed’s suicide, Andy O’Brien’s depression, Kate Fitzgerald’s letter to the Irish Times and RTE’s The Frontline programme on mental health are just some of the triggers that have prompted people to take to the airwaves and letters pages in recent months to address the issue of our mental health and to share their experiences, often with devastating and moving honesty.

Continuing this national conversation, a listener rang into the Tom Dunne show on Newstalk today in response to an interview with Caroline McGuigan of Suicide or Survive. You can listen to Neil’s searingly honest account of his suicide attempt of 14 years ago and his ongoing battle with anxiety here: http://www.newstalk.ie/2012/featured-5-slideshow-homepage/suicide-or-survive-caller-opens-up-to-tom/

Neil made the crucial point that we need to talk more about this stuff as a country. More people commit suicide in Ireland each year than die on the roads, yet we lack a co-ordinated, high-profile, well-resourced campaign that addresses our nation’s mental health and seeks to remove the stigma attached to depression and mental health problems.

Could it be that the high-profile media attention devoted to this subject over the past months marks a welcome sea change in attitudes? If so, what can we do to exploit that momentum and make this an ongoing and nation-wide conversation?

Shane Mullins and male blues – “Big depressed heads on them”

7 Feb

Today’s Irish Times features a brilliant, no-nonsense summing up of the need for men to talk about their mental health. The article profiles Shane Mullins, who has been touring the country talking about the approach he used to get his life back in shape after a serious car crash in 2005.

Shane calls his programme D’mess – for determination, motivation, emotional support and social life – and he uses it to try to help young people tackle their own problems. On the topic of men and depression, he says:

“Lads go round with big depressed heads on them because they think they can sort things out themselves. They cannot. There’s no way any human in this room can do anything on their own; I’ve learned that. I can manage my physical health on my own, but no way can I manage mental health; that’s what I try to get across. Learn to talk to people. It doesn’t make you a wimp.”