Sunday, March 31, 2013

The power of "breaking bread"

It’s Easter weekend.  I wondered by the extra high volume of “traffic” in the grocery store on Thursday, in advance of Good Friday’s closure, how many meals will be shared.

There are many foods related to Easter.  Ancient Greeks marked cakes with the symbol of a cross, and the hot cross bun (a bread with spices, raisins and currants) has become a traditional Easter treat. Hung in the kitchen, hot cross buns were said to prevent fire and a new bun was hung each spring.  If taken on a shipwreck, hot cross buns were believed to prevent ship wreck. Some believed that sharing these buns gave healing to those who were ill.
Traditions surrounding food continues to be part of our lives as we have “special foods”, but are they only for special occasions?
How timely that a newly published study in the Journal of Adolescent Health reports that teenagers who have family meals (regardless of the actual expense of the meal) are more trusting and generally more emotionally stable compared to those who don't share family meals. The lead author of the study McGill Professor Frank Elgar states that “More frequent family dinners related to fewer emotional and behavioural problems, greater emotional well-being, more trusting and helpful behaviours towards others and higher life satisfaction."  In fact, our children don’t even need to engage in dinner conversation, they just need to be there.
Customs practiced over centuries may have held true wisdom.  In our fast paced technologically developed world, providing our children with the latest and greatest computers, video games or cell phones is not the answer. Easter reminds us that nothing impacts our children greater than spending time with them in the simple act of “breaking bread” as a family. 
Let’s celebrate Easter and this special occasion with special foods, but remember to give thanks for the ability to share the power of our daily bread. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

It's going to be a white....Easter!

Easter is around the corner, as I enjoy a bunch of yellow tulips safely tucked in a vase on my table while the snow continues to fall outside.  A couple of days ago, a Via train full of many passengers was stuck on the tracks for 24 hours outside of Saskatoon, not because of mechanical failure, but because of a blowy snowstorm. This made a lot of news and some people were upset.  Whether we live east or west, all of us seem to be getting a good dose of cold and snow!

About 2 to 3 percent of Canadians experience Seasonal Affective Disorder.  This is a mood disorder where a person’s typically positive outlook becomes clinically depressed.  This is a serious illness, to be taken seriously, and a topic I will write about further another day.
But who hasn’t experienced the “winter blues”?  Soon even true winter lovers will be getting out their snowblowers and clearing snow debris off their front lawns…but for now, there’s still too much snow to even do that.
Going to a warm place in the middle of winter can be a huge mood booster.  Did you know   that hot weather can increase violent behaviour?   This has been proven by psychologists Ellen Cohn and James Rotton of….you guessed it…the Florida State University!
The best temperature for our mood is 72 degrees. So perhaps it’s best to stay inside, save the expense of a trip to Florida, put on a pair of short-shorts and download the Beachboys.  And for an extra mood boost…remember that it’s Easter, a salute to spring and a time of re-birth.  As Christians we believe that Christ died and was resurrected. However, the origin of the word “Easter” or actually “Eostre” dates back to the 8th century celebrating the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring marking re-birth.  Have a bite of a chocolate mood boosting Easter rabbit or Easter eggs, both symbols of life. 
It’s easy to be negative.  We need to feed our mind continuously, constantly keeping it re-freshed so that we can continue to celebrate the beauty of life. I’m going to enjoy Easter, white or not, and I hope you do too. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Criminal Minds

Being away for “March Break” this week,  I sat down to watch some t.v.  Being with family, I found myself watching the program Criminal Minds which is definitely not my viewing “style”.  This episode, The Good Earth, had me particularly disturbed.
The criminal subject in question, a young woman, captures and force feeds men in her barn.  She later  kills them and grinds their dismembered bodies in farm machinery  and spreads the remains in order to create good earth.  She also attacks a pregnant woman, but the gruesome details here are even more mind boggling.
Is this really entertainment?  What do these t.v. programs say about our viewing appetites?  I can say that I will never look at a tomato quite the same anymore as the human fertilizer grew bumper tomato crops.
The other extremely disturbing aspect was the woman’s rationale for killing. The earth was intended to heal both herself and her daughter from illness:  an illness that was not real but was clearly a loss of contact with reality and distressing.  Although the actual terminology was not used in this episode, in the medical world, this woman was definitely experiencing psychosis which made her violent. So while the fertilizer in this episode might have been good for the tomatoes, it did nothing for the perception of psychosis.
I could write statistic after statistic arguing the fact that people with psychosis are no more dangerous than the general public.  But will this change your mind?  
Do you know that you can loose touch with reality and have psychosis if  you have brain damage or a tumour?  What about too much alcohol?  Most of us also know that it can be caused by drugs such as cocaine.  Did you know that psychosis can also be caused by illnesses such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimers or Aids or certain forms of epliepsy?  And then there’s an extreme lack of sleep, or in some cases too much caffeine can also cause psychosis….
Psychosis is an illness, it needs treatment and it needs understanding. It can happen to anyone, it could happen to you.  If it did, would you be a criminal?

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Calcium: it may just be that simple!

Supported by the National Institute of Mental Health (in the USA), the largest genetic study concludes that autism, ADHD, bipolar disorder, major depression and schizophrenia are connected.

The connection:  two genes that regulate the flow of calcium into cells.  This research began in 2007, and may lead to more effective treatment.  Early findings with calcium channel blocking drugs, presently used to treat high blood pressure indicate that these drugs may be effective in treating bipolar disorder.

So what is a calcium channel?  I really don’t know, and quite frankly, even with additional research I probably wouldn’t understand.  I do know that I need to drink my milk and eat my broccoli and cheese in order for my bones to be healthy and to get my calcium.  Is it as simple as avoiding mental illness by not drinking milk or eating broccoli?  Obviously not.

But my quandary is this:  given there is more and more research pointing to the fact that mental illness may have a physical biological cause much like diabetes….can we not be more open to discussion about mental illness?

Did you hear this ground breaking story in this week’s news?  Chances are that if this was a step towards a cure for cancer (and no disrespect to cancer patients or cancer survivors and their families) there would be lots of discussion going on.  The burden of mental illness and addictions is more than 1.5 times that of all cancers states a recent Ontario study:

So even if we don’t understand the genetic studies behind all of this, let’s raise our glass of milk and congratulate the researchers and offer hope to those who suffer with mental illness on a daily basis!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Enjoying your hobby can....

Espresso machines, fishing, dogs and blogs…..there are many sites on the internet that prominently display the famous saying by Pulitzer Prize winner Dave Barry: “there is a very fine line between hobby and mental illness”
Being away for vacation last week, I came across this saying in the Ontario daytripper in an article about the 10 most important things I have learned in life.  It never ceases to amaze me how clear the stigma of mental illness is proclaimed.  
Even pinterest proudly proclaims sewing to be the fine line between sanity and insanity.  The website sponsored by Jeep, Suzuki and Toyota uses this quote and a cartoon as their primary means of advertising their product.
Many of these sites proudly include cartoons of crazed looking “persons” to ensure the “crazy” aspect of the obsessed hobbyist is clearly pointed out…..and you can purchase many a tee shirt  of “crazy” people “sporting’ their passion.
Contrary to the saying, many people with mental illness do lose their sense of themselves and do not have interests or hobbies.  While treating mental illness may still not be a prominent focus in caring for people, in treating the “body” prominent researcher Viktor Franki created a technique called logotherapy.  Briefly, patients with long term illnesses are encouraged to create a focus on interests or hobbies they may have forgotten about or never accomplished.  This encourages positive thinking and a long term focus on living and healing.
So positive thoughts expressed through creative interests and hobbies can actually promote the healing of both body and mind.  Do we really need the “crazy” images that go with it?  Enjoy your hobby and be well!