Player’s Mental Health Supplemental?

Mental Health

Can you remember when the Essendon Supplements Saga was not in the news? It’s been almost 2 years and in that time, the Essendon Football Club has sacked and re-hired a coach and favourite son, finished in the top 8 in the league both years, were disqualified from the finals in 1 of those years and have been in court almost as much as Oscar Pistorius. But what impact has this had on the Essendon players’ mental health?

The Essendon players’ have had to endure the circus of uncertainty surrounding their coaching staff and job status for the past 12 months at least. Even today, the issue over who is coaching them and leading them next season is up in the air. Further, the anti-doping agency investigating Essendon are still investigating Essendon. This environment of uncertainty is prime for developing feelings of anxiety.

Some players have requested trades, citing the club’s handling of the saga as a reason for their departure. Perhaps this will improve their mental health. But what about the players that remain? Or the young men drafted by the club after the supplement years? Or those players choosing a trade to Essendon from other clubs? Performance on field would suggest that the players are doing ok, but is on-field performance a good indicator for mental health?

There are so many questions surrounding the Essendon Football Club that are yet to be answered. It’s not really the best environment to foster wellbeing.

What do you think about how the Essendon Supplements Saga is affecting their players’ mental health?

World Mental Health Day on the ABC

Mental Health

Hey, yesterday was World Mental Health Day! Yes, the 10th of October was World Mental Health Day and is a day for mental health education, advocacy and awareness. The ABC and its connected media channels had a week of mental health related programming, communicating mental health to the public.

The ABC hosted a week themed around mental health called ‘Mental As‘. There were mental health themed television shows, interviews, and specials culminating on Friday night with the ‘Friday Night Crack-Up‘. The ABC’s youth radio station, Triple J, also had mental health themes throughout their regular programming and in particular during their current affairs and news show, Hack.

According to 1010.org.au, there were 3 objectives of World Mental Health Day in Australia:

1. Encourage help seeking behaviour

2. Reduce the stigma associated with mental health

3. Foster connectivity through communities

Did the ABC’s programming strategies this week reflect the objectives of World Mental Health Day?

I would argue that yes, they did.

The 1st objective, to encourage help seeking behaviour, was achieved by including information about who to contact throughout programming and even during shows. Interviews were aired that showed people speaking about the benefits of seeking help and presenters would consistently ask people to contact someone if they felt they needed help.

The 2nd objective, to reduce stigma associated with mental health, was achieved by careful naming of programming and normalising talk about mental illness. The program schedule name ‘Mental As’ and the culmination, the ‘Friday Night Crack-Up‘ are play on words to do with mental illness. By claiming ownership of the names, the ABC allowed viewers to feel comfortable contributing to the conversation during the week without having to worry about being politically correct. Inadvertently, the message was; worry less about political correctness and more about being considerate in your speech. This ‘free pass’ issued by the ABC allowed people to feel comfortable contributing and helped generate conversation. The more people talk about something, the more normal it becomes which will help reduce stigma associated with it. The programs themselves also exposed viewers to mental health and brought it directly into their living rooms, further normalising it and reducing associated stigma.

The 3rd objective, foster connectivity through communities was best seen through the use of social media. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram were used to generate conversations around Australia and connect communities around mental health awareness. The final show, the ‘Friday Night Crack-Up’ was a live show that featured pre-filmed bits showing hosts speaking to people on the street about mental health issues. This is another way connectivity was fostered in the community.

Overall, I feel the ABC’s Mental As week was successful in addressing the 3 objectives of World Mental Health Day. If you missed it, or would like to re-watch any programs, there is a dedicated page on the ABC’s catch-up website, iView, where you can watch or re-watch programs.

Bethlem Sanatorium, The Ride?

Mental Health

The Perth Royal Show is facing community backlash after proposing to host a ride based on London’s infamous mental health institution, Bethlem Sanatorium, commonly referred to as Bedlam.

Bethlem was founded in the 13th Century, not initially as a hospital, but as a Christian centre for the collection of alms for the Crusader Church. Over the years it became a hospital specialising in the treatment of people with mental illnesses.

At this year’s Perth Royal Show, the Bethlem Sanatorium ride will debut featuring a ward with actors pretending to be mental health patients. Patrons will be invited to poke the patients with sticks.

This ride promotes the stereotype of ‘scary mental health patients’ and stigmatises those seeking help for a mental illness. Backlash has come across the mental health sector and the community at large. Bethlem Sanatorium, currently a working hospital, has also contributed to the conversation calling for the ride to be changed.

A decision has been made to rename the ride ‘Mayhem Manor’ and change the theme of the ride to the outbreak of a deadly contagion. Historical references to mental health or the Sanatorium have been removed.

The Royal Agricultural Society responded to criticisms and public backlash saying they did not wish to cause offence.

The idea that this ride may have existed just down the road from Graylands Hospital, a place synonymous with the poor history of treating mental health patients is astounding.

In the end this has been a win for the mental health sector and for those suffering mental illness. The issue was brought to the fore in the media and public attitudes were made. Until the stigma associated with mental illness and seeking help and treatment disappears, we must continue reinforcing the positive message of treatment whenever possible.

“The Big Bang Theory” TV Review

Show Review

A show about four ‘geeky’ guys and their attractive neighbour has captured audiences around the world. Yet the story about this socially improbable group has impacted issues concerning science communication and mental health.

Sheldon, Leonard, Raj and Howard are four scientists (well, Howard is an Engineer) that work at the California Institute of Technology (CalTech). Their lives, consisting of Star Trek marathons, XBOX parties and outings to the comic book store, are thrown into disarray when Leonard befriends their new neighbour Penny, an aspiring actor who believes that Steven Hawking is, “the wheelchair dude who invented time”. Over the seasons, Penny becomes part of the guys’ social circle and begins a relationship with Leonard.

Criticisms come from those who believe that The Big Bang Theory perpetuates stereotypes of scientists (Sandpaw, 2010). Debate over whether the show has been good for science and science communication stems from the way the characters are positioned. The four scientists are ‘geeks’ and are socially awkward, suggesting a discontinuity between science and the rest of society (Sandpaw, 2010). However, the characters do have normal human experiences bridging the gap between the scientists and the audience. Every character is relatable and

Writers and editors of The Big Bang Theory have maintained a commitment to factual accuracy when communicating scientific fact (Riesch, 2014). The character Penny is often used as a device for explaining complex concepts to the general public and this is where The Big Bang Theory excels as a science communication program.

The show also employs a scientific advisor, Dr David Saltzberg, to review any science in the show. His role is particularly important when the characters are discussing scientific topics, pronouncing complicated words or when the whiteboard is in use (Saltzberg, 2010). Mayim Bialik, who plays the character Amy, Sheldon’s love interest on the show, has a PhD in Neuroscience and is also used to check the accuracy of scientific concepts (Russo, 2012).

From a mental health perspective, The Big Bang Theory is a prime example of social inclusion being important for good mental health. Although it is never stated, the character Sheldon has an autism spectrum disorder. He doesn’t understand sarcasm and struggles to recognize body language and facial expressions, yet he belongs to a strong social circle of friends. At times, the other characters become frustrated with Sheldon’s behaviour and let him know that it is not appropriate to behave the way he is. However, there is sincerity in their interactions and they treat him as a person who has autism, rather than an autistic person.

The Big Bang Theory is light entertainment; a half hour television show that can be enjoyed by most members of the family. The show has never expressed a mandate for promoting science, science communication or social inclusion. That being said, commitment to factual accuracy and relatable characters give the show a credibility it might not otherwise exhibit. The Big Bang Theory is enjoyable, and that is what the creators set out to do (Riesch, 2014). The laughs are set to continue with season seven premiering this week and I will be tuning in to see just what the gang has been getting up to.

References

Riesch H (2014) Why did the proton cross the road? Humour and science communication. In: Public Understanding of Science. Available at: http://intl-pus.sagepub.com/content/early/2014/08/14/0963662514546299.full.pdf+html

Russo G (2012) Turning point: Mayim Bialik. Nature 485: 669

Saltzberg D (2010) Physics and the making of ‘The Big Bang’ TV Comedy Series. In: APS March Meeting Abstracts (Vol. 1, p. 7001P). Available at: http://meetings.aps.org/link/BAPS.2010.MAR.P7.1

Sandpaw (2010) The Big Bang Theory: A science in fiction backflip? Available at: http://sandpaw.weblogs.anu.edu.au/2010/10/07/the-big-bang-theory-a-science-in-fiction-backflip/

Image From: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/42/The-Big-Bang-Theory.jpg

Robin Williams Passes at Age 63

Depression

Robin Williams, beloved actor and comic genius, has passed away at age 63. Authorities confirmed that Williams took his own life and was found on the morning of 11 August 2014 by his personal assistant. Williams had a history of depression and substance addiction which he spoke about many times in his comedy routines as well as in interviews. 

Williams was known for bringing a maniacal hilarity to set and being a welcoming happy person. His neighbours spoke of his openness to discuss his mental health and addiction struggles. Williams once called Australians, ‘British Rednecks’ to which the Prime Minister of the time, Kevin Rudd, took offence. Williams later cleared up his comments on the radio show of Australian Comedy duo, Hamish & Andy.

Despite this happy nature and open persona, Williams suffered from depression and addictions. This devastating incident may bring to light the real nature of depression and mental illness and the fact that it can be present in people who appear happy, cheerful and ‘together’. William’s death can also serve as a reminder to keep asking those around us, “How are you going?”

If you or someone you know may be suffering from depression, please visit out Need To Talk? page for details of people you can talk to.

The featured image has been taken from: robinwilliamsvietnam-750×400.jpg

Perth Science Festival

What's On

One of the simplest things you can do to improve your mental health and overall well-being is getting out and involved in activities in your community. Being socially-isolated is as dangerous as smoking to your overall health (Holt-Lunstad, J et al. 2010). Need more of an excuse to get out there? What about the Perth Science Festival!

This Saturday, the Perth Science Festival is taking over the Perth Cultural Centre as part of National Science Week. There will be lots of hands-on activities and explosive demonstrations for you to investigate and enjoy and for the more cultured of you, there will also be sessions on Science Poetry and Culinary Science to “cater” to your “tastes”. There will be representatives from SciTech, various Universities as well as Gardening Australia giving talks and explaining the science they are demonstrating.

So come along to this free, wheelchair accessible, event and experience everything they have to offer. It may just be a fun day or evening out, but will have a positive impact on your mental health and well-being.

WA Mental Health Museum

What's On

Did you know there is a museum specifically about the history of mental health services in Western Australia?

This free service is located in Shaw House of the working Graylands Hospital in Mt Claremont, the museum is kept by former Mental Health Service employees and other interested parties and contains items from Graylands as well as the now de-commissioned Claremont and Swanbourne Hospitals.

The collection is still growing as more documents and items are sourced. Recently they acquired a 1919 artwork from Hal Warwick, a Fremantle cartoonist, that thanks a William Carter for preaching to quarantined staff and inmates of Claremont during the Spanish Flu outbreak. More information can be found in this article in the Australian http://www.theaustralian.com.au/arts/review/a-matter-of-closure/story-fn9n8gph-1227008986907?nk=cc545b9ba60435fbf73587bbf68fb674

The Museum opens every third Wednesday of the month from 10am-noon when the collection can be viewed by appointment. Group bookings can also be made to view the collection. For more information you can call 08 9347 6600 or go to http://www.collectionsaustralia.net/org/1910/about/.