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Online test aims to predict best antidepressants for individual patients

Jan 2nd, 2018 by

Researchers hope to improve current trial and error approach by devising algorithm based on a person’s cognitive characteristics

Researchers are developing an internet-based tool they hope will predict the effectiveness of antidepressants for individual patients, ending the current prescription lottery.

Patients with depression often try many different drugs before settling on one that works, but a study aims to help clinicians make an informed choice as to which is likely to work best for a particular person.

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A letter to … my sister, who has conquered her depression

Jan 2nd, 2018 by

The letter you always wanted to write

Family stuff happened and those wounds in you festered and festered. No one knew at the beginning. You hid it well under your sleeves and at the back of your eyes.

Before it all happened, I sometimes looked at you and thought that this would happen to you. It is the way you used to hold your emotion. It is as if you were full to the brim with it, but you forced it down, shoved it into a box  and hid it away. It was strange, but I was too young to understand.

You are radiant and beautiful and clever and sarcastic and so special I couldn’t tell you how much if I tried

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‘Improv saved my life’: the comedy classes helping people with anxiety

Jan 2nd, 2018 by

Once the domain of aspiring performers, improv courses are increasingly being attended by students experiencing mental health problems

“Your heart’s beating faster, you feel all these eyes on you, your body reacts with panic.” No, it’s not the discarded first line of Eminem’s Lose Yourself, but Alex MacLaren’s description of how his students feel in work meetings, job interviews or even the pub. MacLaren teaches improvisational comedy at the Spontaneity Shop in London. At first, its courses attracted performers. Now, he estimates half his students are seeking help with anxiety or confidence.

It’s a trend noted by other improv teachers. In Manchester, Brainne Edge runs workshops as head of ComedySportz UK. In the past five years she’s seen the proportion of non-performers attending her courses rise to around 75%.

It teaches you to have a better link between your brain and your mouth

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‘I slept in a hospital toilet’: the UK’s hidden youth homelessness crisis – video

Jan 2nd, 2018 by

Young people who become homeless often find themselves in a chain of misfortune, forced into unsafe situations with little help from the state. Thomas Korpiela, Ann O’Shea, Kirk Rogers and Brookemorgan Henry-Rennie share their experiences of dealing with mental health issues  and surviving on the streets. They describe how the charities Depaul and Centrepoint helped them get their lives back on track 

• Help us break the chain. Donate to the Guardian’s Christmas charity appeal

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Lady Dynamite to BoJack Horseman: how mental health on TV got real

Jan 2nd, 2018 by

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Lady Dynamite and BoJack Horseman pulled no punches with portrayals of the differing, complex sides of mental health disorders

  • More on the best TV of 2017
  • More on the best culture of 2017
  • ‘It’s like I was out of stories to tell myself that things will be OK.” Episode six of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s third series and Rebecca Bunch is in a psychiatric ward after overdosing on a plane. The animated, wide-eyed Bunch we’ve come to know and love has been hollowed out. She’s empty and ashamed. The only hope is a new diagnosis, which she clings on to as a renewed chance at life.

    The episode was praised for its candid and sensitive portrayal of mental illness, specifically the diagnosis process. Rachel Bloom, who stars as Bunch and co-created the show with Aline Brosh McKenna, told Vanity Fair earlier this year that they consulted with a team of doctors to reach the character’s diagnosis: borderline personality disorder.

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    When I was anxious and depressed, cycling put me on the road to happiness | Charles Graham-Dixon

    Jan 2nd, 2018 by

    I found comfort with CBT and medication – but then I discovered cycling, and it saved me, revealing a mental strength I didn’t know I possessed

    At 25, I suffered my first panic attack. Hungover at a concert, the now all-too-familiar sensations of dread, sweats, cotton-dry mouth and a racing heart enveloped me. Unsure what was happening, I felt fear and an overwhelming need to escape the auditorium – but situated in a long row of people and within a silent audience, I felt trapped. The thought of making a spectacle of myself by leaving mid-performance unsettled me as much as the anxiety attack, so I did nothing. The concert finally ended and I escaped into the blessedly cool air – upset, exhausted but elated to be out of there. This marked the start of a cycle of anxiety, depression and OCD, which has never fully gone away. For a long time, the spectre of further panic attacks meant avoiding enclosed spaces as fear held me in its iron grip. I desperately wanted to wrestle back control of my anxiety.

    What began as a way of avoiding panic attacks has become my primary form of transport and my daily dose of therapy

    Related: Why cycling is great for everyone – not just cyclists

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    The 100 best nonfiction books: No 98 – The Anatomy of Melancholy by Robert Burton (1621)

    Jan 2nd, 2018 by

    This compelling and occasionally comic study of melancholy became cult reading in the 17th century and has inspired artists from Keats to Cy Twombly

    From the eccentric compulsion of its full title onwards (The Anatomy of Melancholy, What it is: With all the Kinds, Causes, Symptomes, Prognostickes, and Several Cures of it. In Three Partitions with their severall Sections, Members, and Subsections. Philosophically, Medicinally, Historically, Opened and Cut Up), Burton’s masterpiece is garrulous, repetitive and often exasperating, but strangely addictive. I imagine that some readers of Karl Ove Knausgaard will understand the fascination of this book.

    Ostensibly a medical study of melancholia, a subject first captured in a celebrated engraving by Dürer in 1514, it becomes a sublime literary doorstop (some 1,400 pages in my paperback edition) that exploits every facet of its subject, to explore humanity in all its paradoxical complexity, drawing from the science of the age and mixing it with astrology, meteorology, psychology, theology and rich, old-fashioned kidology. Teasingly, Burton describes himself as “a loose, plain, rude writer… I call a spade a spade”. He may say “all poets are mad”, but he is neither plain nor rude. Parts of The Anatomy are outstandingly comic: no surprise that Laurence Sterne should send up Burton in Tristram Shandy. Indeed, Burton’s voice is never less than inimitable: “I might indeed (had I wisely done) observed that precept of the poet [blank] – nonumque prematur in annum – and have taken more care: or, as Alexander the physician would have done by lapis lazuli, fifty times washed before it be used, I should have revised, corrected and amended this tract, but I had not (as I said) that happy leisure, no amanuenses or assistants.”

    It’s really a benign satire on the fallibility of the human mind. He finds “melancholy” ingrained in the human condition

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    I’ve fallen in love with the friend who saved my life | Dear Mariella

    Jan 2nd, 2018 by

    Mariella Frostrup tells a boy of 16 to bide his time before declaring his love to the girl who helped him through depression

    The dilemma I am a 16-year-old boy and have been struggling with anxiety and depression, for which I have sought counselling and support. In my darkest moments, a friend of mine has been there for me unwaveringly and I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say she has saved my life. My dilemma is that I have fallen in love with her. I would love to tell her, but haven’t been able to because I worry that if she has to tell me she doesn’t feel the same, her help and support will go – and that is something I can’t lose at the moment. She has so far responded with amazing support to everything I have disclosed to her, but I am still very torn as to whether or not to speak to her.

    Mariella replies Thanks for writing. I’m sorry to hear about your struggles but so pleased that you have sought professional help and are on the mend. Aren’t you the lucky one to have a friend who’s been so supportive and kind? Mates like her certainly don’t grow on trees. Yours is an example of how, at their best, platonic relationships between men and women are a beautifully balanced combination of yin and yang. We grow up expecting romance or adversity between the sexes, but in a brave new liberated world we should perhaps be celebrating how friendship is the best bridge for crossing our behavioural divides.

    She’d prefer a boyfriend to a patient. Caring for a friend can be deeply rewarding, but it’s rarely sexy

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    Poetry Pharmacy webchat – William Sieghart’s prescriptions for the time-poor, love-rich, hectic and more

    Jan 2nd, 2018 by

    William Sieghart of the much-loved Poetry Pharmacy handed out stanzas for your struggles, offering you salve whether you’re hopeless, homesick or lonely in love

    1.48pm GMT

    Goodbye everyone, it has been lovely. I hope these poems have helped.

    My book is called The Poetry Pharmacy – if you want to recommend a poem to me or contact me, please email on

    1.46pm GMT

    polkadotfish says:

    It’s my birthday on 15 December and although I love birthdays I’m starting to feel the first pangs of getting older and feeling like I’m on the wrong side of forty. I think a poem to help me reflect on these new feelings would be an appropriate birthday present!

    How about Celia Celia by Adrian Mitchell:

    When I am sad and weary
    When I think all hope has gone
    When I walk along High Holborn
    I think of you with nothing on

    1.45pm GMT

    SassyLiz writes:

    Desperate English teacher running an understaffed department and facing a week of exhausted film and chocolate indulgence followed by a week of marking and planning seeks poetic salve for the soul and reigniting of vision and passion for education in a world of absent CEOs and the O word.

    From My Brilliant Image by Hafez:

    I wish I could show you,
    When you are lonely or in darkness,
    The Astonishing Light
    Of your own Being!

    1.41pm GMT

    misskappus says:

    Tucked up in bed with the wind raging outside, and Ted Hughes’ poem Wind which has been crashing around my head for the last few days. And feeling the roots of my house, my life, the world about us, moving. And the balls of my eyes denting.

    Everything is Going to be All Right by Derek Mahon:

    How should I not be glad to contemplate
    the clouds clearing beyond the dormer window
    and a high tide reflected on the ceiling?
    There will be dying, there will be dying,
    but there is no need to go into that.
    The poems flow from the hand unbidden
    and the hidden source is the watchful heart.
    The sun rises in spite of everything
    and the far cities are beautiful and bright.
    I lie here in a riot of sunlight
    watching the day break and the clouds flying.
    Everything is going to be all right.

    1.37pm GMT

    rebbre asks:

    A poem on being trapped in a place that is not mine, not being able to spread my wings and fly further and continue a life of discovery. I am forever confined to the country of my son’s birth, far from my own, and far from the promises of my son’s father, my love of 10 years.

    I’d recommend Imtiaz Dharker’s Front Door – it isn’t online, but should be in a collection at your local bookstore.

    I often prescribe this poem for people who feel a clash of cultures in their psyche, because it can turn consternation into celebration, and discordance into hope.

    1.33pm GMT

    MavieB says:

    My dear mum died on 23 December 2016 and the first anniversary will be next Saturday. I would be delighted if you could recommend a shortish poem that I could learn by heart to remind me of the loving, warm and funny person who was my mum. A counterbalance for when I’m feeling sad at her loss.

    Elisabeth Fry’s Do not stand at my grave and weep:

    Do not stand at my grave and weep
    I am not there. I do not sleep.
    I am a thousand winds that blow.
    I am the diamond glints on snow.
    I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
    I am the gentle autumn rain.
    When you awaken in the morning’s hush
    I am the swift uplifting rush
    Of quiet birds in circled flight.
    I am the soft stars that shine at night.
    Do not stand at my grave and cry;
    I am not there. I did not die.

    1.31pm GMT

    AMcQuaid says:

    I have been married for over 30 years, lonely for much of it and am now facing a ‘milestone’ birthday. Much of the time I am ambivalent about the relationship, but as my birthday approaches I find myself increasingly dissatisfied. I would love a poem to tick in my heart to keep me company.

    I’d recommend Sometimes by Sheila Pugh, which has been mentioned by commenters here already.

    But also UA Fanthorpe’s Atlas:

    There is a kind of love called maintenance
    Which stores the WD40 and knows when to use it;

    Which checks the insurance, and doesn’t forget
    The milkman; which remembers to plant bulbs;

    1.28pm GMT

    Observatoire says:

    Living in exile. Miss friends, country pubs, Indian restaurants, British irony, marmite, John Motson … In brief, occasionally homesick.

    You might try Claire Pollard’s Thinking of England, written just after 9/11. Here is a video of it being read.

    One of my favourite poems about the complex and difficult business of dealing with multiple identities.

    1.26pm GMT

    msbellows says:

    My adult daughters, whom I’ve always described as “one of each” (whatever the question) and who’ve abraded each other emotionally for years, have finally decided they can’t be in the same room together. Neither one’s entirely wrong – it’s more a necessary passage that I trust will pass – but for the first time in 20+ years I don’t get to watch It’s A Wonderful Life with them as they laughingly bet on exactly when I’ll start crying this time at George Bailey’s frustrated and oh-so-relatable efforts to build a perfect life. A poem to help me patiently process, please?

    Perhaps Nettles by Vernon Scannell:

    My son aged three fell in the nettle bed.
    ‘Bed’ seemed a curious name for those green spears,
    That regiment of spite behind the shed:
    It was no place for rest. With sobs and tears
    The boy came seeking comfort and I saw
    White blisters beaded on his tender skin.
    We soothed him till his pain was not so raw.
    At last he offered us a watery grin,
    And then I took my billhook, honed the blade
    And went outside and slashed in fury with it
    Till not a nettle in that fierce parade
    Stood upright any more. And then I lit
    A funeral pyre to burn the fallen dead,
    But in two weeks the busy sun and rain
    Had called up tall recruits behind the shed:
    My son would often feel sharp wounds again.

    1.19pm GMT

    Dennis89 says:

    Unrequited love. I’ve fallen for a work colleague but the feelings do not appear to be reciprocated. The usual remedies to console this feeling don’t seem to work as I’m continually in contact with her and my mind cannot escape. It’s a slow form of torture.

    Dennis, I think you might need Wendy Cope’s Two Cures for Love:

    1. Don’t see him. Don’t phone or write a letter.
    2. The easy way: get to know him better.

    1.16pm GMT

    KimthePim asks:

    Have you anything to slow down time? It’s charging forward, already Christmas, it will be here and gone and onto spring before I can catch my breath!

    I think you need Leisure by WH Davies:

    What is this life if, full of care,
    We have no time to stand and stare.
    No time to stand beneath the boughs
    And stare as long as sheep or cows.
    No time to see, when woods we pass,
    Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
    No time to see, in broad daylight,
    Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
    No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
    And watch her feet, how they can dance.
    No time to wait till her mouth can
    Enrich that smile her eyes began.
    A poor life this if, full of care,
    We have no time to stand and stare.

    1.14pm GMT

    RCraven says:

    Anything that might help a frazzled mother of a one-year-old find herself (and self-confidence) again before returning to work in the new year would be much appreciated.

    Christopher Logue’s Come to the Edge:

    Come to the edge.
    We might fall.
    Come to the edge.
    It’s too high!
    And they came,
    and he pushed,
    And they flew.

    1.08pm GMT

    ID0783190 asks:

    How can I just ‘be’, especially at a time of year when all the focus is on ‘having’?

    I recommend Feelings of Unreality by John Burnside, from Of Gravity and Light – it begins:

    What we need most, we learn from the menial tasks:
    the novice raking sand in Buddhist texts,
    or sweeping leaves, his hands chilled to the bone,
    while understanding hovers out of reach;
    the changeling in a folk tale, chopping logs,
    poised at the dizzy edge of transformation;

    Related: John Burnside: ‘Writing is what I steal from the usual flow of things’

    1.03pm GMT

    quickspace says:

    I sometimes find that essentially I am a pointless sack of bones desperate for some sort of meaningful reason for getting up each day and that a brief illusion of happiness might help me forget that I will painfully return to the same nothingness that was there before I was born, and that the bit in between will be made up of moments of absolute humiliation and I will somehow let down the people I love by fucking up in some way and I have no real power other than to hurt myself and others.

    I recommend Everybody Sang by Siegfried Sassoon:

    Everyone suddenly burst out singing;
    And I was filled with such delight
    As prisoned birds must find in freedom,
    Winging wildly across the white
    Orchards and dark-green fields; on – on – and out of sight.

    1.09pm GMT

    One day as he was crossing a street, National Poetry Day founder William Sieghart saw a man be hit by a car. After getting his heart beating again, William was left with blood on his hands – and a poem in his head: Ambulances by Philip Larkin. It did not comfort him, but it offered complicity, William says: “Poetry is not a lullaby. Poems help you feel you are not mad, that what you are going through has been experienced by others.”

    Motivated by his wish to “get people to drop their fear of the P-word”, William began setting up a tent at literary festivals with two armchairs and a prescription pad and allocated visitors 10-minute slots. Hours later, people would still be queuing to get their poem – and have their stories and feelings heard. After collecting poems to help people with everything from feeling overwhelmed by news to sexual repression, from loneliness to romantic boredom, William published The Poetry Pharmacy: Tried-and-True Prescriptions for the Heart, Mind and Soul.

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    A moment that changed me: when overwhelming sadness drove me to seek counselling | Sachin Nakrani

    Jan 2nd, 2018 by

    I still don’t know whether I had – or have – depression. But it was only by coming to terms with my feelings that I avoided sliding into an even darker place

    I’d never said goodbye to a man before. Not a man like David, anyway. A man I had been so close to, a man with whom I had shared so much of myself. But now it was time to say goodbye. So I stood up, leaned forward and shook his hand. I smiled, he smiled, and I walked out of the door, almost certainly never to see him again.

    A total of 20 times, stretching from spring to autumn, each for precisely 50 minutes: those occasions David and I spent together will live with me forever. Part of me wonders how I will cope without him, but I know there’s nothing else he can do for me now. And there are no regrets, because seeking help was exactly the right thing to do. David was kind and attentive from the start, and while he knows an awful lot more about me than I do about him, I don’t feel used in the slightest.

    Related: It’s OK not to be OK: why we need to embrace sadness | Johanna Leggatt

    This was rock bottom, and for the sake of my family and friends and my wife and daughter in particular, I had to rise up

    Related: The science of Sad: understanding the causes of ‘winter depression’

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