Is Ireland heading for a depression epidemic?

Ray D’Arcy, presenter of “Ireland’s Depression Epidemic”

Is Ireland heading for a depression epidemic?

That’s the provocative question which a new three-part series on depression, posed to us on Tuesday night.

Presented by popular radio persona (and psychology graduate) Ray D’Arcy, the first part of  this series on TV3 focussed on the personal stories of those living with depression, interspersed with contributions by experts in the field of mental health.

Throughout the show we were made aware of the Irish people’s traditional reluctance to acknowledge their own or their loved ones’ depression, let alone seek treatment.  Agnes (59), who’s been battling depression since she was 21,recalls her mother’s bouts of depression, when she refused to leave the bedroom for weeks on end, yet it was never openly discussed. “If we don’t talk about it, it doesn’t exist.”

With the suicide rate in Ireland  running at 500 a year, this investigation into the rise of depression in Ireland is to be commended for tackling the issue in such a measured, thoughtful and sensitive way.

I hope that those who are dealing with depression right now can draw hope from the stories of those who have been there, sought treatment, and come out the other side. Far from being an affliction, depression and how we handle it is an essential part of being human.  The Tv3 documentary showed that depression is no respecter of age, gender or social circumstance, but it can be successfully treated. Newer treatments for depression now involve a combination of different therapies such as medication, psychological therapies, social support, and self-help techniques. This combined approach treats the person as a whole, and marks the beginning of the journey back to wellness and a normal life.

If you missed the show you can catch up on the Tv3 player. Click here to view.

Related Post:

Is Depression and Anxiety Best Treated With Medication or Psychotherapy?

Mapping the Brain

Mapping the Brain, is an exhibition of pictorial stories created by people with an acquired brain injury at the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin.

The objective is to create a series of visual stories using pictures to create the narrative. One of the symptoms of acquired brain injury is that it affects the part of the brain that controls language. This can affect anything from speech, to difficulty with reading and interpreting verbal language.

Their finished work is on show in the Mill Theatre, Dundrum, Dublin 14, from Thursday26 May to June 30th.

Set Your Brain to Meditate

Ursula Bates, Billy O'Connor

Ms Ursula Bates, keynote speaker, UL Research Forum and Professor Billy O'Connor

I was delighted to host the  Fourth Annual  University of Limerick Medical School Research Forum last Wednesday, 19 January, where over twenty researchers from the University of Limerick and local teaching hospitals made presentations on topics ranging from pharmaceuticals, biomedical devices, medical technology, community health, gastrointestinal and vascular surgery, psychiatry and communications.

A leading clinical psychologist and Director of Psychosocial and Bereavement Services at Blackrock Hospice, Dublin, Ms Ursula Bates, delivered the keynote address  Mindfulness Based Interventions in Oncology and Palliative Care and Bereavement-Research Advances”.

Ursula’s talk has prompted me to explore in more detail the nature of mindfulness and how its practice can lead to improved brain function and  mental health.

Let’s start by taking a look at the latest scientific research which has shown that  the practice of meditation  actually changes the shape of the brain, allowing specific areas in the brain to grow or change.  This finding has established a new field of contemplative neuroscience – the brain science of meditation – and helps to explain how meditation acts to improve brain function and mental health.

Mindfulness and mindlessness

Have you ever written a cheque in January with the previous years date? …for most of us the answer is probably yes. Scientists now know that these small mistakes are actually the tip of a mindlessness iceberg!  Mindfulness harnesses one of the great themes in all self help literature – the need to be free of unconsciously accepted habits and norms.

Five qualities of a mindful person

  1. Ability to create new categories
  2. Openness to new information
  3. Awareness of more than one perspective
  4. Attention to process (i.e. ‘doing’) rather than outcome or results.
  5. Trusting in one’s own intuition

Over the coming week we will explore these points in more detail and look at ways in which we can learn to break free from the trap of mindlessness.

What can neuroscience teach us about teaching?

This Friday 3rd December, I am heading to an International Conference on Engaging Pedagogy (ICEP) in NUI Maynooth. This is an annual event that brings together researchers and practitioners in the field of third-level teaching in order to discuss means and methods of improving student engagement.

I am looking forward to presenting recent findings on how recent findings from neuroscience – the scientific study of the brain – impacts on education. You can view my abstract and those of the other presenters here.