Impact News

Responding to Violence, Suicide, Psychosis and Trauma

‘An Eye For An Eye, And A Tooth For A Tooth’ Brings Neither Success Nor Happiness

Vindictiveness doesn’t pay. This has been demonstrated by a current study at Bonn and Maastricht Universities. According to this study, a person inclined to deal with inequity on a tit-for-tat basis tends to experience more unemployment than other people. Vindictive people also have less friends and are less satisfied with their lives. The study appears in the current edition of the Economic Journal. We tend to live by the motto “tit for tat”. We repay an invitation to dinner with a counter-invitation; when a friend helps us to move house, we help to move his furniture a few months later. On the other hand, we repay meanness in the same coin. Scientists speak here of reciprocity. A person who repays friendly actions in a like manner is said to behave with positive reciprocity, and one who avenges unfairness acts with negative reciprocity. Positive and negative reciprocity are interdependent traits: many people incline to positive reciprocity, others more to negative; others, again, incline to both. The researchers from Bonn and Maastricht wanted to discover what influence these traits of character have on parameters such as “success” or “satisfaction with life”. For this, they resorted to data from the so-called “socio-economic panel”. This contains information gathered by the Deutsche Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung (German Institute for economic Research) in its annual surveys. These involve around 20,000 respondents from all over Germany and cover a diversity of topics. The researchers in Bonn used this instrument to discover something about the attitudes to reciprocity of the participants in the study. They were to state, for example, to what extent they would repay a favour or, on the other hand, an insult on a tit-for-tat basis. “Both positive and negative reciprocity are widespread in Germany”, declares Professor Dr. Armin Falk of Bonn University, summarising the results. Positively reciprocal People perform more Overtime The researchers then related these data to other results of the survey, whereby they stumbled upon a number of interesting correlations: “Thus, positively reciprocal people tend on average to perform more overtime, but only when they find the remuneration fair”, declares Professor Dr. Thomas Dohmen of Maastricht University. “As they are very sensitive to incentives, they also tend to earn more money”. This is in stark contrast to vindictive people. With these people, the equation “more money = more work” does not always apply. Even pay cuts are not an effective means of bringing negatively reciprocal people back into line. Ultimately the danger arises that they will take revenge – for example, by refusing to work, or by sabotage. “On the basis of these theoretical considerations it would be natural to expect that negatively reciprocal people are more likely to lose their jobs”, Falk explains: “A supposition which coincides with our results. Consequently, negatively reciprocal people experience a significantly higher rate of unemployment”. And in other respects, too, vindictiveness is not a maxim to be recommended. Anyone who prefers to act according to the Old Testament motto of “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth” has on average less friends – and is clearly less than satisfied with his or her life. Notes: This release is available in German. Source: Dr. Armin Falk University of Bonn

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Filed under: Other Mental Health, , , ,

Dundee & Edinburgh: Difficult, Disturbing and Dangerous Behaviour

If you you are looking for a DDDB course in Scotland, Blue Skye Consultancy are offering places in Dundee on 30th April and Edinburgh on 1st May. Details and Booking forms can be found at:

http://blueskyeconsultancy.co.uk/dddbcourse.htm

Filed under: Impact Training, Violence, , , , , , , ,

Rise in suicidal children calling ChildLine

By Charlotte Goddard Children & Young People Now 23 March 2009 The number of suicidal children counselled by ChildLine has tripled in the last five years. The NSPCC said today that nearly 60 suicidal children a week call the helpline, with one in 14 in immediate danger or needing urgent medical care. Some made suicide attempts while on the phone to a counsellor. Of those children who gave their age, more than half were 12- to 15-year-olds and one in 16 was 11 or under. Sue Minto, head of ChildLine, said: “Children feel suicidal for complex and different reasons, but often say they have a history of abuse, neglect, family problems or mental health issues. Others have been driven to the brink by bullying, their parents’ divorce, the death of someone close or exam stress.” The charity is calling for parents to be given guidance on how to spot possible signs of suicide, how to listen to their child’s worries and where to find help. It also wants teachers and doctors to be trained to identify suicide distress signs before children reach crisis point.

Filed under: Other Mental Health, Suicide

Iain’s Blog has Moved!

Unfortunately I couldn’t edit my blog using my 3G card and laptop which made it pretty much useless. So now I’ve restarted the blog at a newsite:

www.dangeroustrainer.worrdpress.com

Hope  you will visit!

Iain

Filed under: Impact Training, Uncategorized

Depressed People Have Trouble Learning ‘Good Things In Life

ScienceDaily (Mar. 19, 2009) — While depression is often linked to negative thoughts and emotions, a new study suggests the real problem may be a failure to appreciate positive experiences.


Researchers at Ohio State University found that depressed and non-depressed people were about equal in their ability to learn negative information that was presented to them.

But depressed people weren’t nearly as successful at learning positive information as were their non-depressed counterparts.

“Since depression is characterized by negative thinking, it is easy to assume that depressed people learn the negative lessons of life better than non-depressed people – but that’s not true,” said Laren Conklin, co-author of the study and a graduate student in psychology at Ohio State.

The study appears in the March issue of the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry.

Researchers tested 34 college students, 17 of whom met criteria for clinical depression and 17 of whom were not depressed.

This study is one of the first to be able to link clinical levels of depression to how people form attitudes when they encounter new events or information, said Daniel Strunk, co-author of the study and assistant professor of psychology at Ohio State.

Strunk said the key to conducting this study was the use of a computer game paradigm co-developed at Ohio State in 2004 by Russell Fazio, a professor of psychology and co-author of this new study.  Fazio and his collaborators, Natalie Shook, a PhD graduate of Ohio State now at Virginia Commonwealth University and J. Richard Eiser of the University of Sheffield (England) have used the game in many studies examining differences in the development of positive and negative attitudes.

The developers affectionately call the game “BeanFest.”  It involves people encountering images of beans on the computer screen.  The beans could be good or bad, depending on their shape and the number of speckles they had.

Good beans earned the players points, while bad beans took points away.  The goal was to earn as many points as possible.

While the game may seem trivial to a naive audience, Strunk said it offers a unique and powerful way to measure how people learn new attitudes.

“Before, if researchers wanted to investigate how people formed new attitudes, it was very difficult to do,” Strunk said.  If researchers asked about real-life issues, the problem is that prior learning and attitudes may impact how people respond to new information.  But in this game, participants don’t have any prior knowledge or attitudes about the beans so researchers could learn how they formed their attitudes in a novel situation, without interference from past experiences.

In the game phase of this study, participants had to choose whether they would accept a bean when it appeared on the screen.  If they accepted the bean, the points were added or deducted from their total.  If they rejected the bean, they were still told how many points they would have earned or lost if they had accepted it.

Each of the 34 beans was shown three times during the game phase, giving the participants a good opportunity to learn which beans were good and which were bad.

Then, in the test phase, participants had to indicate whether beans they learned about in the game phase were “good” (choosing it would increase points) or “bad” (choosing it would decrease points).  The researchers tallied how well participants did in correctly identifying positive and negative beans.

The non-depressed students correctly identified 61 percent of the negative beans, which was about the same as the depressed students, who correctly identified 66 percent of the “bad” beans.

But while the non-depressed students correctly identified 60 percent of the positive beans, depressed students correctly classified only 49 percent of these good beans.  Non-depressed students identified the good beans better than the depressed students, who failed to identify good beans better than chance.

“The depressed people showed a bias against learning positive information although they had no trouble learning the negative,” Strunk said.

One of measures researchers used in the study classified whether the depressed participants were currently undergoing a mild, moderate or severe episode of depression.  In the study, those undergoing a severe depressive episode did more poorly on correctly choosing positive beans than those with mild depression, further strengthening the results.

While more research is needed, Conklin and Strunk said this study suggests possible ways to improve treatment of depressed people.

“Depressed people may have a tendency to remember the negative experiences in a situation, but not remember the good things that happened,” Conklin said. “Therapists need to be aware of that.”

For example, a depressed person who is trying out a new exercise program may mention how it makes him feel sore and tired – but not consider the weight he has lost as a result of the exercise.

“Therapists might focus more on helping their depressed clients recognize and remember the positive aspects of their new experiences,” Strunk said.


Adapted from materials provided by Ohio State University.

Filed under: Other Mental Health, Suicide, , ,

Writing After Terrorist Attack Has Positive Medium Term Effects

ScienceDaily (Mar. 18, 2009) — A new study has analysed the expressive writing of terrorism victims to analyse their psychosocial processes following the terrorist attacks in New York and Madrid. Despite the cultural differences of the people involved, the results show that the feelings and thoughts experienced following this type of traumatic event are universal.


The people who experienced the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York and the March 11 2004 train attacks in Madrid needed to be able to express their feelings, thoughts and emotions. The aim of the study published in the International Journal of Clinical and Health Psychology was to compare how people from both nations reacted to such violent acts through expressive writing.

“After the Madrid attacks we were unfortunate enough to be able to ask people who had lived through this experience, either directly or indirectly, what they thought and how they felt following the terrorist attacks,” Itziar Fernández, the study’s author and a professor at the National University of Distance Education (UNED), told SINC.

“Following the attacks, there was a great fear that people would be affected by post-traumatic stress disorder. In the end, however, although they were in shock, people were able to deal with had happened and adapt to the situation,” says the researcher.

Based on the comments recorded by 325 people living in the United States and 333 in Spain, the researcher and her team looked into how both groups put their feelings and thoughts into words.

A linguistic analysis of the texts, carried out by using the Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC) programme, showed that the victims who benefited most from recording the traumatic events were those who use more cognitive words (introspective and causal ones), use a high number of positive emotional words, and changed the use of pronouns and references to themselves.

The results show that feelings about the events (anger, impotence, fear) were similar between the two countries during a period between the third and eighth weeks after the attacks, both inclusive.

However, the data collected does show a significant difference. “While the Americans had a more individualistic view of events, the Spaniards talked more about social processes.” For example, there were not the same enormous public demonstrations following September 11 as there were following the attacks in Spain.

The study concludes that writing about a traumatic event can have positive effects over the medium term (from two months afterwards). Although the participants’ symptoms worsened over the short term (relating an event makes people relive it, and worsens their negative emotions), they felt better and paid less visits to the doctor over the medium and long term.

The effect was the opposite in the case of excessive consumption of media coverage of such an event, however. Data about news consumption throughout the population following the attacks showed that, over the long term (two months after the Madrid attacks), people who were repetitively viewing images of the attacks felt worse than those who rarely watched the television.

Tackling post-traumatic stress

The benefits of talking about traumatic events forms part of cultural belief systems. Therapists always seek to make people reconstruct a narrative and a testimony about what has happened. They are asked to talk about their lives before the traumatic event, and to reconstruct images and their sensations and feelings in order to give them meaning (why and how the event took place).

The first studies of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were conducted following the Vietnam War (1958-1975). It is a psychological illness classified within the group of anxiety disorders, which arises as a result of exposure to a traumatic event involving physical harm.

PTSD, which is diagnosed two months after a stressful life event, is a severe emotional reaction. It is characterised by symptoms such as loss of appetite, sadness and disturbed sleep, and lasts for more than two months after the event.


Journal reference:

  1. Itziar Fernández, Darío Páez y James W. Pennebaker. Comparison of expressive writing after the terrorist attacks of September 11th and March 11th. International Journal of Clinical and Health Psychology, Vol. 9, Nº 1, pp.89-103, 2009
Adapted from materials provided by Plataforma SINC, via AlphaGalileo.

Filed under: Other Mental Health, trauma, , , , ,

How Brain Remembers Single Events

ScienceDaily (Mar. 18, 2009) — Single events account for many of our most vivid memories – a marriage proposal, a wedding toast, a baby’s birth. Until a recent UC Irvine discovery, however, scientists knew little about what happens inside the brain that allows you to remember such events.


In a study with rats, neuroscientist John Guzowski and colleagues found that a single brief experience was as effective at activating neurons and genes associated with memory as more repetitive activities.

Knowing how the brain remembers one-time events can help scientists design better therapies for diseases such as Alzheimer’s in which the ability to form such memories is impaired.

“Most experiences in life are encounters defined by places, people, things and times. They are specific, and they happen once,” says Guzowski, UCI neurobiology and behavior assistant professor. “This type of memory is what makes each person unique.”

It is well known that a brain structure called the hippocampus is critical to memory and learning, but many questions exist about how brief experiences trigger the physical changes necessary for memory. In his study, Guzowski set out to learn how neurons in the hippocampus react to single events – particularly in the CA3 region, which is thought to be most critical for single-event memory.

Guzowski and postdoctoral researcher Teiko Miyashita put groups of rats on a rectangular track. Some rats took one lap; others did multiple laps. Inspecting the brains of rats that took one lap, they found that 10-15 percent of neurons in the CA3 region activated. The same percentage of CA3 neurons fired in the brains of rats that walked multiple laps.

Though previous computer simulations predicted that brief and repetitive experiences would activate CA3 neurons similarly, this is the first study to actually show that is the case.

Miyashita and Guzowski arrived at the percentages by examining the activation of a gene called “Arc” within hippocampal neurons. Past studies have shown that turning on Arc is required to convert experience into long-term memory.

“Together with our past findings, this study provides key insight into how fleeting experiences can be captured by the brain to form lasting memories,” Guzowski says.

Arc activation is disrupted in mouse models of mental retardation and Alzheimer’s disease.

“Our findings on Arc regulation in CA3 neurons should prove useful to researchers testing new therapies for Alzheimer’s disease,” Guzowski says. “If you understand how the hippocampus works, it is much easier to understand and potentially treat diseases that affect memory.”

UCI researchers Stepan Kubik, Nahideh Haghighi and Oswald Steward also worked on this study, published in The Journal of Neuroscience. The National Institutes of Health supported this research.


Adapted from materials provided by University of California – Irvine.

Filed under: Other Mental Health, trauma, , ,

Regular Exercise Reduces Depressive Symptoms, Improves Self-esteem In Overweight Children

ScienceDaily (Mar. 18, 2009) — Less than an hour of daily exercise reduces depressive symptoms and improves self esteem in overweight children, Medical College of Georgia researchers say.


The study included 207 overweight, typically sedentary children ages 7-11 randomly assigned to either continue their sedentary lifestyle or exercise for 20 or 40 minutes every day after school for an average of 13 weeks. The 40-minute group sustained the most psychological benefit, according to research published online in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology.

The MCG researchers were the first to demonstrate this dose response benefit of exercise – meaning the more the better – on depressive symptoms and self worth in these children. Benefits came despite the fact that the children’s weight did not change much over the three months.

“Just by getting up and doing something aerobic, they were changing how they felt about themselves,” says the study’s first author, Dr. Karen Petty, postdoctoral fellow in psychology at MCG’s Georgia Prevention Institute. “Hopefully these children are taking home the idea: Hey, when we do this stuff, we feel better.”

The study focused on fun activities that increase heart rate, such as running games, jumping rope, basketball and soccer and typically included short bursts of intense activity interspersed with lower-activity recovery periods.

Participants in these activities reported feeling better about themselves. “If you feel better about yourself, maybe you are going to do better in school, maybe you are going to pay more attention,” Dr. Petty says. MCG is compiling a mound of evidence that supports the case that these go hand-in-hand.

Dr. Petty works with Dr. Catherine Davis, clinical health psychologist at the Georgia Prevention Institute, who has shown that regular physical activity not only improves fitness and reduces fatness but also reduces insulin resistance (diabetes risk), improves cognition and reduces anger expression. “This adds to the evidence that exercise is great for people of all ages, physically and mentally,” Dr. Davis says of the latest finding. “Our physical and mental well being are intimately interwoven.”

One exception was that even a longer daily exercise regimen did not impact the general self esteem of black adolescents although it did improve their depressive symptoms and how they felt about how their appearance. The researchers noted previous evidence that the black culture is more accepting of obesity. Their study, one of a few to test race as a moderator of psychological risk in overweight children, appears to support that. However a better way to measure self esteem in blacks also may be needed, say the researchers who call for more study on race’s influence on the psychosocial consequences of obesity and exercise.

For this study, children filled out the Self-Perception Profile for Children and the Reynolds Child Depression Scale reports before and after the13-week period.  “We asked them about feelings of sadness, how they sleep – most don’t sleep well when depressed – and their appetite – some eat more, others less when depressed,” Dr. Petty says. As with most children, most of the study participants had some symptoms associated with clinical depression but few would be given a diagnosis of clinical depression.

There’s some irony in that depression and low self esteem may decrease the chance you’ll feel like moving yet moving decreases depressive symptoms. Dr. Petty, a runner, experiences that herself. “Even if it’s hard and I don’t want to go, 15 or 20 minutes after I do, I feel so good I could go for another run.”

Acknowledging running isn’t for everyone, she suggests a more festive family affair that could include a walk in a park or around the neighborhood, a game of pickup basketball or tennis. Peer group activities may work better for some children, she says, such as study participants who could routinely be found in the Georgia Prevention Institute, laughing and joking as they exercise.

“There’s a message here for all of us that taking some time out of our day to do something physical helps make us better mentally,” says Dr. Petty, whose postdoctoral fellowship is supported by a National Institutes of Health training grant to MCG’s Vascular Biology Center.

The researchers already are following another group of children for eight months to determine the longer term impact of exercise. They also are bringing the control subjects to the Georgia Prevention Institute each day to ensure that it’s exercise, not just the extra attention from participating in an after-school program, that’s making the difference.

About 37 percent of children in the U.S. are overweight and about 16.3 percent of children age 2-19 are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Animal studies have shown exercise may help regulate genes that increase levels of brain chemicals that combat depression.


Adapted from materials provided by Medical College of Georgia.

Filed under: Other Mental Health, , , ,

New Strategy To Weaken Traumatic Memories

ScienceDaily (Mar. 17, 2009) — Imagine that you have been in combat and that you have watched your closest friend die in front of you.  The memory of that event may stay with you, troubling you for the rest of your life.  Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is among the most common and disabling psychiatric casualties of combat and other extremely stressful situations. People suffering from PTSD often suffer from vivid intrusive memories of their traumas.

Current medications are often ineffective in controlling these symptoms and so novel treatments are needed urgently.  In the February 1st issue of Biological Psychiatry, published by Elsevier, a group of basic scientists shed new light on the biology of stress effects upon memory formation.  In so doing, they suggest new approaches to the treatment of the distress related to traumatic memories.  Their work is based on the study of a drug, RU38486, that blocks the effects of the stress hormone cortisol.

Using an animal model of traumatic memory, investigators at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine show that treatment with RU38486 selectively reduces stress-related memories, leaving other memories unchanged.  They also found that the effectiveness of the treatment is a function of the intensity of the initial “trauma.”  Although this particular study was performed in rats, their findings help to set the stage for trials in humans.

Cristina Alberini, Ph.D., corresponding author on this article, explains how their findings will translate into developing clinical parameters: “First, the drug should be administered shortly before or after recalling the memory of the traumatic event. Second, one or two treatments are sufficient to maximally disrupt the memory. Third, the effect is long lasting and selective for the recalled memory. Finally, the time elapsing between the traumatic experience and the treatment seems to be an important parameter for obtaining the most efficacious treatment.”

Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry and affiliated with both Yale University School of Medicine and the VA Connecticut Healthcare System, discusses the significance of the findings: “When treating PTSD, clinicians often attempt to reduce the negative distortions of traumatic memories so that people can better cope with their traumas.  The new study by Taubenfeld and colleagues suggests that blocking the effects of cortisol may be one strategy to promote the ‘normalization’ of traumatic memories.”  Dr. Alberini agrees, noting that “these results suggest that carefully designed combinations of behavioral and pharmacological therapies may represent novel, effective treatments for PTSD or other anxiety disorders.”


Adapted from materials provided by Elsevier, via AlphaGalileo

Filed under: Other Mental Health, trauma, , ,

When A Violent Marriage Ends, Is Co-parenting Possible?

ScienceDaily (Mar. 17, 2009) — When a marriage that has included violence ends, is co-parenting possible? It depends on whether intimate terrorism or situational violence was involved, says a new University of Illinois study published in Family Relations

“There’s a tendency to treat all violence as if it’s the same, but different types of violence require different interventions,” said Jennifer Hardesty, a U of I assistant professor of human and community development.

“In intimate terrorism, the goal is to control the other person, and the abuser may use not only physical violence but also psychological and financial abuse to dominate his spouse. This calls for rigid, formal post-divorce safety measures, including supervised visitation of children and treatment approaches, such as a batterer’s intervention group or alcohol or substance abuse treatment,” she said.

“Situational violence is more likely a result of poor conflict management rather than a desire to control a partner. There may have been a heated argument about finances that ended with a shove. These fathers can probably learn new ways to manage their anger, and they do have the potential to safely co-parent their children,” she said.

Hardesty’s study used in-depth interviews with 25 women to explore differences in their co-parenting relationships with their abusive ex-husbands.

Role differentiation was a big problem for fathers who had engaged in intimate terrorism, said the researcher. “These men had difficulty separating their role as a father from their desire to hold onto their relationship with the mother. And because they weren’t able to differentiate those roles very well, control issues and abuse of the women tended to continue after the separation.”

According to Hardesty, renegotiating boundaries after divorce poses unique challenges and risks for abused women. “Separating from an abusive partner does not necessarily end the violence. Instead, separation may threaten an abuser’s sense of control and instigate more violence,” she said.

Risk may continue if former partners co-parent after divorce because abusers still have access to their former wives, she said. “Women in the study who had been victims of intimate terrorism all continued to be afraid that their ex-husbands would hurt them or their children,” she said.

In contrast, women who had experienced situational violence in their marriages often described safe co-parenting relationships characterized by respect for each other’s boundaries.

Currently the legal system assumes it’s in a child’s best interests to maintain relationships with both parents after a divorce, Hardesty said. “As a result, women’s attempts to protect their own and their children’s safety are often undermined or overlooked,” she noted.

Parent education classes that help participants redefine boundaries around their parental and spousal roles and teach conflict resolution and anger management skills may help persons who have engaged in situational couple violence, she said.

Different approaches for mothers and fathers work best when intimate terrorism has occurred, she said. For mothers, the course should contain information on coercive control, safety planning, risk assessment, and the legal and social benefits available to them and their children. For fathers, the classes should reinforce a rigid and enforced separation between them and their children and their access to mothers.

“In cases of intimate terrorism, parent education would ideally be part of a set of programs aimed at prioritizing safety and assessing risk over time if children’s relationships with fathers are to continue,” she said.

“Eventually we hope the courts will be able to screen for different types of violence and target interventions, but we’re not yet able to put this into practice. More research is needed to tease out these difficulties. Until we can, I think we have to err on the side of safety,” she added.

Co-authors of the study are Lyndal Khaw of the University of Illinois, Grace H. Chung of Montclair State University, and Jennifer M. Martin of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Family Center, Brooklyn Bureau of Community Services, in Brooklyn, New York. Funding was provided by the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture.


Journal reference:

  1. Jennifer L. Hardesty, Lyndal Khaw, Grace H. Chung, Jennifer M. Martin. Coparenting Relationships After Divorce: Variations by Type of Marital Violence and Fathers’ Role Differentiation*. Family Relations, 2008; 57 (4): 479 DOI: 10.1111/j.1741-3729.2008.00516.x
Adapted from materials provided by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

Filed under: Violence, , ,