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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Cancer Patients With Depression Have Resources

Cancer patients who experience depression can use both therapy and lifestyle tools to help support their mental health, according to a new patient resource from the JAMA Oncology journal.

People with cancer, as well as their doctors, need to remember that mental health is as important as physical health for these patients, the authors note.

“Understandably, cancer treatment is primarily focused on obtaining medical remission,” said Rachel Roos Pokorney, a therapist based in New York City who co-wrote the one-page primer intended for patients.

The page is based on recommendations given by the American Cancer Society and the National Institute of Mental Health.

“There is still an unfortunate lack of awareness about the importance of treating the mental along with the physical, both in general and in regards to cancer patients,” she told Reuters Health.

The patient resource explains that physical changes, limitations from symptoms and treatment and uncertainty about the future all put cancer patients at risk for depression.

But nontherapeutic tools, such as physical activity, a healthy diet, and a strong social network can help the body, improve mood and reduce stress, the authors write.

“There is a basic connection that the mind and body have that is very important to remember,” Pokorney said. “It is of the utmost importance to always take care of your mind by taking care of your body, and vice versa. This is especially important for cancer patients.”

Therapeutic tools, such as medication, support groups and individual therapy, can help as well. In fact, social workers, psychiatrists and psychologists are becoming more involved with cancer-based care in recent years, she said.

“As cancer treatment advances, there are more cancer survivors who are in need of long-term care, which is no longer limited to physical symptoms,” said Gleneara Bates of Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, who co-authored the patient page with Pokorney.

“The emotional burden of cancer has real-life effects on not just patients but their primary caregivers and family members,” she told Reuters Health by email. “Cancer has historically been seen as an ‘old man’s disease,’ and this is no longer the case.”

Bates and Pokorney note that using cognitive behavioural therapy and dialectical behavioural therapy to help patients identify and manage their emotions and thoughts to improve depressive symptoms is gaining support - both as a result of evidence-based studies and the rising mindfulness trend.

“Treatment for cancer-related depression is not one-size-fits-all,” Bates said. “Patients and health care providers should discuss all aspects of mental health to find the best combination.”

Cancer patients may often experience depressive symptoms after treatment has ended, said Dr Lynne Padgett, strategic director of hospital systems for the American Cancer Society in Atlanta, Georgia.

“Patients may experience symptoms when everything should be ‘OK’ because of the long-lasting effects of cancer and the treatments,” Dr Padgett, who was not involved in the patient resource, told Reuters Health. “The symptoms are often not classical and don’t meet the criteria for a depression diagnosis.”

The Commission on Cancer, an accreditation group that is part of the American College of Surgeons and issues guidelines for cancer care, expanded its emphasis on treating psychosocial distress and mental health in a 2015 guideline update. Since then, cancer centres have stepped up their assessments of mental health, she said.

Courtesy: Jama Network via Reuters

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Mentally ill and the unfortunate death penalty

The case of Khizar Hayat is a glaring reminder of the alarming deficiencies in the criminal justice system of Pakistan. Why did the Central Jail Lahore request black warrants for Hayat’s execution and the District and Sessions Judge issue them when his execution was pending before the Lahore High Court are questions that need official scrutiny. This is not the first time that a clear lack of coordination between the lower tier of the criminal justice system, jail authorities and lower courts, and the superior judiciary has been witnessed. In October last year, the Supreme Court ordered the acquittal of two brothers, Ghulam Qadir and Ghulam Sarwar, only to find out that they had already been executed. And while the timely order by the Lahore High Court staying the execution of Hayat has prevented him from meeting a possibly similar fate as the two executed brothers, this whole episode casts serious doubt on whether Pakistani courts possess the organisational coherence required to effectively dispense justice.

Hayat is a mentally ill person. He suffers from psychosis and schizophrenia, with the diagnosis unanimously concluded by examination at the Punjab Institute of Mental Health. It is surely confounding that in this day and age it is being debated in Pakistan whether schizophrenia classifies as a mental illness severe enough to save its sufferer from execution. And when the Supreme Court ruled in the case of Imdad Ali, a schizophrenic man awaiting execution, that schizophrenia does not qualify as insanity in the legal sense, a great deal of opprobrium was generated over it, both domestically and internationally, which, needless to say, did not present Pakistan in good terms. Even the Supreme Court realised that there was more to schizophrenia than its earlier ruling and decided to review the case. The Lahore High Court was correct to observe that while the decision of Ali’s case is yet to be delivered by the Supreme Court, it would be appropriate to wait for the decision before proceeding on Hayat’s case. However, this opportunity should be used to open the broader debate on the supposed merits of the death penalty in Pakistan.

In the modern justice system, the death penalty finds no justification, since the object of state sanctioned punishment is reform, not revenge. In any case, even if the philosophical debate on the death penalty is set aside, the error-prone criminal justice system of Pakistan militates against enforcement of the death penalty, the irreversible nature of which does not leave for any means to undo a wrongful verdict. Furthermore, when the rich can simply buy impunity for their wrongdoings, it is only the poor that are left to face the gallows. The problem is made worse by the inherent bias within the police against those belonging to low socioeconomic classes. A state prosecution, far from competent, finds easy prey on the poor due to their lack of access to good legal counsel. And as their fate is decided by the courts, little empathy is spared for them as they are callously executed by jail authorities, evidently, without caring to check if their case is pending before a higher court. In such an unfortunate state of affairs, even the otherwise most ardent supporters of the death penalty would not be able mollify their qualms over it. And it would be a great travesty of justice to let this continue. Perhaps, the government should rethink the rationale behind the imposition of the death penalty.

Courtesy: Daily Times

Study Says Indian-Occupied Kashmir Facing Mental Health Crisis

Health experts have highlighted the fact that Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir is facing a mental health crisis.

A study conducted by psychiatrists from the Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences in Kashmir, in collaboration with ActionAid India, said that cases of depression-related illnesses in the region were almost double that of the rate inside India.

"The 11.3 per cent morbidity of severe mental illness in adults is very high, almost double (than in India), much of which is undetected and untreated," the study said.

According to Kashmir Media Service , the situation is compounded by an inaccessible mental health care system.

Experts, in the study, recommended that mental health services be expanded and integrated into the primary healthcare system in order to contain the growing number of people with mental illnesses.

 They said the treatment gap is very high in Indian occupied Kashmir, where depressive and anxiety-related disorders constitute most of the mental illnesses.

"Only 12.6 per cent of the people with mental illness sought help from health services and 6.4 per cent consulted a psychiatrist," added the study.

Courtesy: Daily Times

UK’s first Muslim astronaut aims to put focus on mental health

For most people who go into space it is a dream come true, but for the man set to be the UK’s first Muslim astronaut his priority is making the world a better place.

Hussain Manawer, 25, from Ilford, Essex, is due to blast off in 2018 after seeing off thousands of other entrants from more than 90 countries in a competition.

The poet, charity fundraiser and founder of his own creative agency dedicated his victory to everyone who has suffered mental health problems, and said he had an important mission in life.

“It’s never really been an ambition of mine [to go into space], but I felt I wasn’t contributing enough to the world,” he said. “I got to the point where I thought we are failing the world so much in so many different ways. When I saw the competition I thought: let me go for it, let me see what happens.

“I am using it as a platform to venture into problems, which is how I think it should be. What influenced me is you have to be somebody in order for people to take you seriously, in order to have an impact.”

Manawer’s pitch for the Kruger Cowne rising star competition was centred on mental health, from his entry video to his final speech featuring a poem about depression and self-harm, in which he lamented: “I wasn’t meant for this planet.”

He plans to release a mixtape featuring his poetry about mental health, and in March he will attempt to set a world record for the largest mental health lesson, for 1,000 students from 30 schools from all over the country, at Hackney Empire in London.

Manawer is fully behind a campaign for schoolchildren to be taught about mental health, but believes teachers are under enough pressures and so need outside assistance.

Even before winning the space travel competition, Manawer had raised thousands of pounds for charities and given lessons on cyberbullying in 400 schools. He has a successful YouTube channel, Hussain’s House, featuring interviews with the comedian Kevin Hart, rapper G-Eazy and radio presenter Charlamagne, and was a torchbearer in the buildup to the London Olympics.

He said he saw the competition to travel beyond the 100km mark in XCOR Aerospace’s Lynx spacecraft as a way of taking his campaigning to another level. The contest was run in association with One Young World, a platform for 18- to 30-year-olds, supported by the likes of Kofi Annan.

“Never did I think I’m going to win it,” Manawer said. “I just thought if I can get through a few stages I get to be associated with some good humanitarians and they will take my stuff more seriously. There was Bob Geldof and Fatima Bhutto, who has done humanitarian work in Pakistan. I want to host meetings of global influencers to effect change.”

His public profile has soared since winning the competition. He fronted a launch video for London’s night tube, has rubbed shoulders with political leaders and royals and given talks around the world, all squeezed in between his astronaut training.

Manawer has also become a public face of Muslims at a time of increasing scrutiny of the faith. In his victory speech he declared: “My name is Hussain and I am not a terrorist,” an allusion to the hit 2010 Bollywood film My Name is Khan.

“Something triggered in my head and I thought: the world’s watching a Muslim person get an award, I want to say something meaningful,” said Manawer. “It’s good for people to see the positive side of a religion that gets missed a lot.”

At the same time, he does not want his religion to obscure his overriding message. “To me it’s very clear we are failing the world’s mental health,” said Manawer. “If we can tackle that, it will solve a lot of problems.”

Courtesy: The Guardian

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Disability Services Helpline to be introduced soon in Pakistan

Potohar Mental Health Association is leading the initiative to introduce counselling and disability services for persons with disabilities

ISLAMABAD – A dedicated disability helpline providing counseling services to persons with disabilities and their families, and connecting them with to relevant professionals, will start its operations by February 2017.

The initiative is being worked by Potohar Mental Health Association (PMHA), a non-government organization working on mental health of children, youth and adults including persons with disabilities.

“PMHA’s helpline will be the first of its kind in entire South Asia which will also provide counselling and training services” announced PMHA President Zulqurnain Asghar.

Zulqurnain outlined how people with disabilities have to face what he called “attitudinal barriers” laid down by the people around. Often, people with their acts, such as name callings, end up ostracizing the differently-abled bodies.

The point was further endorsed by Ammar Masood, CEO AAAP Communications, who asked visually impaired students to not be led by negativities; instead, he encouraged them to invest in education, which will help them get good work opportunity, resulting into an attitudinal change among the people toward the people with disabilities. He encouraged them to learning talking computers, which will help them connect with the world.

Zulqurnain touched upon physical barriers people with disabilities face, sharing how they are not catered to in major infrastructure plans all over the country.

“As of now, only two of the Metro bus stations in Islamabad-Rawalpindi have accessibility facilities for people with disabilities,” he highlted.

He called upon all governments to translate promises into action. Every year, officials make promises for providing special amenities and facilities for the people who are differently-abled but every year, these promises are not fulfilled, only to be repeated next year. Even the implementation status of various amenities or jobs offered is questionable.

On this occasion, Maliha Husain Director Mehrgarh shared that people with disabilities are more vulnerable to sexual harassment; there is thus a need to inform more and more people about informing them that sexual harassment is now a crime, which can be reported to the relevant authorities.

Farrah Naz Country Representative Country Office Pakistan CBM International graced the event as Chief Guest along with other valuable guests from different walks of life.

Courtesy: TVI

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