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Scientists discover 17 genetic variations that raise risk of depression

Aug 2nd, 2016 by

Research involved 300,000 people of European ancestry and could lead to better understanding of the condition

Scientists have discovered 17 separate genetic variations that increase the risk of a person developing depression.

The findings, which came from analysing DNA data collected from more than 300,000 people, are the first genetics links to the disease found in people of European ancestry.

Related: Antidepressant prescriptions in England double in a decade

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Can doing fun activities cure my depression?

Aug 2nd, 2016 by

If you are feeling down, learning to tap dance or going out with friends can enhance mood, even if you don’t want to do them

Going out for dinner, learning to tap dance or seeing friends are all effective treatments for depression, according to recent research published in the Lancet. These activities even have a therapeutic name – behavioural activation. The research says it works as well as established treatments, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). But how does it work?

Related: Could Pokémon Go improve people’s health?

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I am becoming depressed and agoraphobic

Aug 2nd, 2016 by

Although my daughters visit fortnightly, I feel unwanted and unable to talk to them about my depression

In my 30s, I had major depressive psychosis and was hospitalised for several years. My husband left and my children were put into care. Eventually, I recovered, got a good job and made a home for us all. I am now in my 80s and my children and grandchildren are all doing well, but I am again becoming depressed, introspective and agoraphobic. I go to sleep at night wishing for death. My daughters, who live nearby, visit fortnightly for a chat, but I feel unwanted and am unable to talk to them about my depression as they shut the conversation down if I mention it, perhaps recalling their childhood. I fear increasing old age, and have little money or energy for outside activities. What friends I have left live many miles away and my social life is now on the internet. What should I do?

• When leaving a message on this page, please be sensitive to the fact that you are responding to a real person in the grip of a real-life dilemma, who wrote to Private Lives asking for help, and may well view your comments here. Please consider especially how your words or the tone of your message could be perceived by someone in this situation, and be aware that comments that appear to be disruptive or disrespectful to the individual concerned will be removed.

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The global community is failing to address mental health

Aug 2nd, 2016 by

In some developing countries up to 90% have no access to basic mental health care. The unmet need is greatest among refugees, but here is a low cost solution

When it comes to mental health, the global health community has failed.

Mental, neurological, and substance-use disorders are among the leading causes of the global burden of disease. By 2020, depression will be the second leading cause of disability. Suicide is a leading cause of death among adolescents. People with severe mental disorders die decades earlier than others in their community and face grievous forms of discrimination and abuse.

Most governments spend less than 1% of their health budget on mental health.

Related: The diaspora groups bringing aid to Syria: ‘This isn’t a job, it’s now our life’

Related: Unaccompanied child refugees: ‘These children aren’t seen as children’

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Is JD Salinger’s Franny and Zooey posturing or profound?

Aug 2nd, 2016 by

Stagey and self-indulgent, the book’s prolix dialogue has left many critics far from impressed, but there is a moving human story here as well

Anyone who doubts the transformative power of literature should have a look at the comments Franny and Zooey has inspired here on the Reading group. This book has changed lives.

“I loved this book,” wrote one commenter. “It spoke to me at a certain time in my life when, like Franny, I was a literature student struggling with disillusionment. The narrative inspired me to make the choices I subsequently took. This novel and Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters are seminal works, novels for our troubled times. And the quotation from Sappho still makes the hair rise on the back of my neck.”

I was a devotee of Salinger’s writing in the 1960s/70s and loved Franny and Zooey. Zooey in particular amazed me – dapper, hectoring, some amalgam of Zen and street smarts – as he bore a resemblance to my elder brother, not least in his behaviour around me. (Yes, I was subjected to erudite confessional onslaughts for years.)

I read Franny and Zooey as a teenager, 35 years ago, and it launched an existential crisis that took me a few years to pull myself out of.

Zooey is just too long; there are too many cigarettes, too many god-damns, too much verbal ado about not quite enough

Related: A book for the beach: Franny and Zooey by JD Salinger

Related: Reading group: JD Salinger’s Franny and Zooey is July’s book

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A letter to … my parents, who don’t know their golden child is cracking up

Aug 2nd, 2016 by

The letter you always wanted to write

I have always been something of a surprise to you. I know that. You genuinely never wanted me to be anything but happy and healthy and I am sure that the golden child I became was the last thing either of you expected. When I think back to my childhood, I remember Dad being in an almost perpetual state of shock. “You did what?! How?!” he would ask over and over at the exam results, the music awards, parents’ evening. Congratulations always came second.

I know it was never because you doubted me, but because it was so out of the blue. You didn’t bribe me with video games or pocket money, you didn’t tie me to the piano stool for hours, or come up with the merciless revision timetables that I insisted on following. It all came from me. I wasn’t some kind of antisocial child genius. I always had friends and a good social life, but I enjoyed working hard and always picked books over the TV. Neither of you finished school and, understandably, you never knew what to make of me.

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Standup comics are more likely to die young. As a standup comic, I’m not surprised

Aug 2nd, 2016 by

A new global study has found standups are more likely to die early than actors. According to Ben Pobjie, it’s not just the lifestyle that’s a killer

This week, the International Journal of Cardiology published a landmark study that revealed standup comedians are more likely to suffer premature death than actors.

As a standup comedian, my first thought upon reading it was “duh”. I’m sure there are less healthy career choices than comedy, but most of them involve asbestos.

Related: No laughing matter as researchers show that stand-ups die young

Related: Mitch Hedberg: a shy alchemist who turned sentences into comedy gold

Related: Comedy gold: Lenny Bruce’s Performance

Related: Robin Williams, depression and dementia: the clinical picture

Related: Working on Saturday Night Live taught me about the ruthlessness of TV

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Book reviews roundup: Imagine Me Gone, War and Turpentine, and Pimp State

Aug 2nd, 2016 by

What the critics thought of Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett, War and Turpentine by Stefan Hertmans and Pimp State by Kat Banyard

They say that comparisons are odious, but the American novelist Adam Haslett will probably forgive the critics who are reaching for analogies with some of the greats. His new novel Imagine Me Gone recalls the work of JD Salinger, John Cheever, John Updike, Anne Tyler, Jane Smiley and Jonathan Franzen, according to Randy Boyagoda in the Financial Times, in that it tackles the theme of dysfunctional families. The novel connects the lives of a father and son who both have depression. Boyagoda was most beguiled by the voice of the son, Michael, which “transforms what might have otherwise been just-another-accomplished-literary-novel … into something far more affecting … a tour-de-force of manic brilliance, both zealously funny and painfully sad”. Max Liu in the i paper was reminded of Tolstoy, who famously wrote that “each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”. Liu particularly admired “the range and intensity of the siblings’ bonds”, and concluded that “it might be the best American novel about a middle-class family since Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections.” In the Daily Mail, Stephanie Cross found the novel “reminiscent at times of Anne Enright’s The Green Road … raw, tender and … hilarious.”

“Before Stefan Hertmans’s grandfather, Urbain Martien, died in 1981 he gave him a set of notebooks with memories from his life”, explained Fiona Wilson in the Times, reviewing War and Turpentine. “Now Hertmans has turned them into a rich fictionalised memoir”. Wilson argues that “continental fiction is thriving” and this novel is among the recent best. “Death, destruction, obligation, duty – Urbain faces it all and yet he still finds joy in life.” Eithne Farry in the Sunday Express also admired “this brilliant and moving imagined reconstruction”, in which the author’s imagination “beautifully [fills in] the gaps”. The Sunday Times’s David Mills “thought I’d had enough of books about the first world war. I couldn’t have been more wrong.”

Related: Pimp State by Kat Banyard review – the horrors of the sex industry

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Why have antidepressant prescriptions doubled in the last decade?

Aug 2nd, 2016 by

Recent figures show that the number of prescriptions for antidepressants in England has soared in the last 10 years, up to 61m last year. But the reasons for this rise are complex

Related: Antidepressant prescriptions in England double in a decade

Is it true that antidepressant prescriptions are soaring?

Related: Antidepressants get a bad rap – but they saved my life | Anonymous

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Horatio Clare and Penny Thomas win the Branford Boase award

Aug 2nd, 2016 by

Aubrey and the Terrible Yoot wins the award for first-time children’s authors and their editors

Horatio Clare and his editor Penny Thomas at Firefly have won the much coveted Branford Boase award 2016 for their book Aubrey and the Terrible Yoot, illustrated by Jane Matthews.

Related: The Branford Boase children’s book awards shortlist 2016 – in pictures

Related: Top writing tips for new children’s authors from top editors

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