Monthly Archives: November 2006

PTSD after July 7 bombings, “The Trickster: medicine’s forgotten character”, and the Tom ap Rhys Pryce Memorial Trust

– The health protection agency has release a report stating that 80% of survivors of the London bombings of July 7th last year have been left with with “emotional upset”. 80% of these were referred to counsellors and specialised post traumatic stress disorder services. Read what Joe Griffin has to say about treatments for post traumatic stress disorder here.

– I would also like to draw your attention to an interesting article I put up on the archive section of our HGI website yesterday from a 1996 edition of The Therapist (renamed the Human Givens Journal) called The Trickster: medicine’s forgotten character:

“In modern psychology ‘Trickster’ is often used to refer to a universal force or pattern within the mind — what Jung called an archetype — that represents the irrational, chaotic, and unpredictable side of human thought and behaviour. This aspect of the mind is contrasted with the logical, analytical, and intellectual side that values order, precision, and control. According to the tenets of depth psychology, a balance between these two vectors of the psyche is required for optimal mental heath. When either the rational or irrational side dominates, self correcting forces come into play to restore some semblance of harmony between the two. The countless Trickster tales describe how this process plays itself out in everyday life…” click to read article


– Further to our post yesterday, I also wanted to add that the Human Givens Institute wholeheartedly supports the Tom ap Rhys Pryce Memorial Trust, which is raising money to help provide disadvantaged individuals with appropriate educational facilities to enable them to lead lives in which the “kicks” of criminal activity will not be required to fulfil emotional needs.

Posted by: Eleanor

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A breeding ground for crime

The crucial question of “how should street crime be tackled?” has risen again after the sentencing of those responsible for killing the young London lawyer Thomas Rhys Pryce.  Donnel Carty (aged 19) and Delano Brown (aged 18) robbed Pryce of his mobile phone before stabbing him in the heart.

It’s very interesting to read on the BBC message boards and Have Your Say page that public opinion seem to support the “hang ’em” solution (implying that these  “scum” are lost causes, naturally doomed to forever commit crimes until the Justice System is well enough equipped to discipline and imprison them effectively) rather than taking the more optimistic view that many young people today are bored and turning to crime only in order to fill a void created by the unhealthy environment around them.

The fact which really needs to be addressed is that everyone is born with innate emotional needs that have to be fulfilled in the world if we are to flourish and be mentally healthy.  (Psychologists call these needs ‘human givens’ because they are programmed into us from our genes.) If families, schools and society generally prevent children from getting their innate needs met in balanced and productive ways, we are, in effect, stopping them maturing well by stunting their mental and emotional life.

The rising levels of violent crime occurs as young people try to meet their innate needs, which nature is driving them to do, by turning to gangs and criminal activity because nothing else more wholesome is on offer.  Delinquent behaviour follows on from a natural effort to fulfil these needs; such as for status, control, being stretched, feeling that life is meaningful and being part of a community. Crime is a destructive path to follow, but it does fulfil many of these emotional needs for these deprived youngsters.

People don’t come into the world as criminals but much of the culture in the UK at the moment provides the perfect conditions for generating mental illness and raising children to be violent and antisocial.  It is our society that is creating young criminals like Carty and Brown.

It will require drastic measures to create a more healthy society and, until there is a deeper understanding of the importance of this backed up by the political will to do something about it, these problems and the tragedies that follow from them will only get worse.

Posted by: Eleanor

Mental Health Bill 2004 still fails to acknowledge or promote the importance of meeting emotional needs

The proposed Mental Health Bill 2004 still has some serious flaws.

The Government needs to go back to the basic principles of primary care: helping people get their innate physical and emotional needs met. These needs, the ‘human givens’, are each individual’s genetic inheritance. (Our biology determines that we cannot avoid needing food, water, attention, status, friends, being stretched in life etc.) How well our needs are met clearly depends on the quality of physical and emotional nourishment provided by the environment.

Human givens are intertwined. That is to say, if we are prevented from getting our physical needs met — by famine, accident, illness or ailments — our emotional life is affected. And when our emotional needs are not met and we suffer emotional distress — such as anxiety, anger, depression or psychosis — it can affect our physical health too.

Primary care with sufficient resources and training to act proactively in the mental health domain is not currently available. Too many people fall through the cracks, and with this Bill, they could be imprisoned and given drug treatments or ineffective psychotherapy against their will.

Compulsion within a resource-constrained mental health service will focus attention on minimising treatment and put pressure upon clinicians to prescribe drug treatments rather than focus on human needs and individualised therapy.

We believe that if society imposes an obligation of treatment on an individual, it should impose a moral obligation on itself to ensure that treatment is appropriate and available.

Posted by: Eleanor

The UK needs more than ‘Supernannies’

A few weeks ago it emerged that the Youth Justice system in the UK has reached a crisis point – with literally only a few beds available.

In response, the Government is targeting parents with their £4 million “super nannies” scheme – which will install 80 child psychologists in high crime areas to teach parents good parenting skills.

I was speaking this week to an array of psychiatrists, psychologists, GPs and other health workers at a MindFields workshop and they were all in agreement that, whilst the intentions of the Government may appear to be good, changing the way children are brought up cannot be done as a short-term, ‘sticking plaster’ task of the kind politicians love so much. No one in the room felt able to trust politicians’ ability to do much to change things for the better. The feeling expressed was that they are floundering on the major issues of parenting, mental health and anti-social and criminal behaviour in just the same way they are over the war in Iraq.

To really make a difference requires long-term – a project lasting decades. That requires a bigger, more ‘true’ organising idea about what makes for a good life if it were to carry the population with it. The work would involve changing the very nature of our culture and its priorities. Just sending in 80 child psychologists to deprived areas to give ‘parenting classes’ only scratches the surface and, ultimately, will fail unless the fundamental needs of people can be met in the environment in much better ways than they are at present.

And it really must be seen as long-term endeavour. The brains of some children are already so damaged by their upbringing that they will remain a burden on the rest of us until they die. To stop this sad state of affairs getting worse will require an almost superhuman effort driven from a clear vision that guides the work over decades.

Until all agencies, education, health, government, media, work in tune with nature – the ‘human givens’ – and start to create a healthier culture by pushing for the kind of changes needed, there will be no meaningful improvements made.

The group I was talking to were unanimous that current government policies, by encouraging the infantilising of the population instead of helping it mature, are incapable of working because the laws and systems are too complex and hopelessly unrealistic. If this is a true reflection of the world we are now living in it’s not surprising then that many children are not growing up to fulfil in healthy ways what they might otherwise be capable of.

However hard parents try, many can’t help the fact that they are bringing up their children in a deeply uninspiring, criminally inclined environment that is culturally shallow. They live in a world where greedy, selfish behaviour is encouraged by strong exhortations to emotional expression that are constantly demonstrated and encouraged through the media (strong emotions, happy or sad, keep us ‘stupid’ and easy to condition) and families are collapsing.

When can we trust politicians?

We talk to a large number of people in the caring professions and education, thousands every year, and it is clear that there is a breakdown of trust between these people and politicians. No one expects politicians to do what is needed any more, yet they all expect politicians to interfere and make things worse. Despite this, changing our corrupting environment does require political leadership of intelligence and perspicacity. Even if only some of the taxpayer’s money that is wasted each year by government (£83 billion pounds according to the European Central Bank) was spent more wisely, much could be done to achieve what is actually needed, as required by the reality of the situation, instead of political ideology.

But on the present showing there seem to be no politicians interested in creating a healthier culture, or, if they do exist, they are so bogged down in power struggles and autistic bureaucratic political and civil service systems that they can’t operate. Whatever the reason, until politicians start to sincerely seek help from people who know how to facilitate making it easier for the innate needs of children and adults to be met more healthily in this country, and back them with money, the situation will deteriorate further. Children will continue to get their innate needs met but do so in ways that diminish them and society at large, as when a child’s need to connect up to larger groups and have status is satisfied by becoming part of the local delinquent criminal gang because they have no alternative.

Working with the givens of human nature should be the touchstone of any Government policy.

Posted by: Ivan

The Times: Parents demand prozac for high achieving children/anxiety “masks” depression?

Two articles about depression in The Times today came to my attention.

Firstly, Lucy Bannerman reports on research which shows that 36% of medical professionals feel “bullied” by parents into prescribing dangerous anti-depressant drugs as a “quick-fix cure” for children who are under pressure to do well in exams. What is even more alarming is that six out of ten GP’s feel obliged to prescribe prozac because they rated local, more “holistic” treatment health services as “poor” or “very poor”.

This lack of knowledge about how depression occurs and how to effectively treat it must be fought. There is a dramatic need to improve access to health services that treat depression quickly without drugs.

Secondly, an article by Thomas Stuttaford, the Times resident Doctor, discusses anxiety with relation to the cricketeer Marcus Trescothicks recent withdrawal from the Ashes cricket team and begins:

“Those who suffer from depressive illness, such as Marcus Trescothick, often also exhibit symptoms of stress, which can mask the true problem.”

Stuttaford then stumbles through the relationship between anxiety, stress and depression (sometimes implying that they are same ‘disorder’) and describes in depth the symptoms of each – without reaching any firm conclusion.He correctly identifies that anxiety and depression go hand in hand, but what he is missing is that anxiety eventually causes depression

“There is a close interrelationship between depression and anxiety. When I was a junior hospital doctor in a psychiatric team, one of my chief’s oft-repeated observations was that depressed patients also showed signs of anxiety, and in all anxious patients there was evidence of depression. It was therefore easy to miss the true diagnosis.”

The need for increased REM sleep (to dearouse unresolved anxiety) leads to waking up feeling exhausted with lowered motivation. Stuttaford touches on the connection between depression and poor sleep..

“The sleep pattern is altered — often the small hours are spent restlessly as despondent thoughts go round and round. All energy seeps away, as the patient complains of being tired and suffering an unnatural fatigue.”

..but the idea that worrying increases REM sleep and causes depression is not mentioned.

This connection is a fundamental development in our understanding of depression that needs to be far more widely recognised by the NHS and health professionals so that it can be treated more effectively.

See here for more information on the importance of dreaming and its relationship with depression.

Posted by: Eleanor

Ministers disguise conviction-based policies as evidence-based

“At best, ministers and shadow spokesmen cannot distinguish between anecdote and science. At worst, they can be dodgy operators who use research selectively to “prop up” policies, or even fraudsters who think nothing of scientific malpractice.”

Roger Highfield at the Daily Telegraph yesterday does not let slip by a report by the Commons Science and Technology committee that describes exactly how the government improperly uses scientific research to back up new policies to extents that go beyond “fuzzy thinking” and “ignorance”.

“… many politicians still seem unable to comprehend that science is a never-ending dialogue between theory and experiment, not the recruitment of convenient facts.

When the Health Secretary, Patricia Hewitt, told one newspaper this year that more women should have babies at home, she signalled her determination by saying that she had even commissioned research to support her case.

What is even more ironic is that Tony Blair has affirmed “what matters is what works”. Evidently not.

Posted by: Eleanor

What makes a good Therapist or Counsellor?

When clinical trials compare the effectiveness of different therapeutic schools and approaches, the results are very interesting.

Many studies have concluded that the difference in effectiveness between psychological therapies is minimal, however, when you examine the data* it’s clear that this result is produced by the mean and that there are clear differences in effectiveness between different therapists, regardless of which therapy they practice.  The way an individual therapist practices is more important than the approach to therapy they were trained in so, if you are seeking an effective therapist, it’s crucial to understand what to look out for.

This checklist, drawn up by ETSI, will help you and people you know protect yourselves from potentially harmful types of therapy and counselling.

An effective counsellor or therapist

— knows how to build rapport quickly with distressed people

— understands depression and how to lift it

— helps immediately with anxiety problems including trauma or fear related symptoms

— is prepared to give advice if needed or asked for

— will not use jargon or ‘psychobabble’ or tell you that counselling or psychotherapy has to be ‘painful’

— will not dwell unduly on the past

— will be supportive when difficult feelings emerge, but will not encourage people to get emotional beyond the normal need to ‘let go’ of any bottled up feelings

— may assist you to develop your social skills so that your needs for affection, friendship, pleasure, intimacy, connection to the wider community etc. can be better fulfilled

— will help you to draw and build on your own resources (which may prove greater than you thought)

— will be considerate of the effects of counselling on the people close to you

— may teach you to relax deeply

— may help you think about your problems in new and more empowering ways

— uses a wide range of techniques as appropriate

— may ask you to do things between sessions

— will take as few sessions as possible

— will increase your self confidence and independence and make sure you feel better after every consultation.

(* see Okiishi, J. Lambert, M. Neilsen, S. and Ogles, B (2003) Waiting for Supershrink: an empirical analysis of therapist effects. Journal of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy. 10 361-373. for abstract click here)

Posted by – Eleanor