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Study Proves the ‘Friendship Bench’ Program Improves Mental Health

Study Proves the ‘Friendship Bench’ Program Improves Mental Health

Author: Justin Mckibben

Remember the movie Forrest Gump? If not, I am so very sorry. Spoiler alert: it’s about a southern gentleman (Tom Hanks) who tells the incredible story of his amazing life to total strangers while waiting on a bench. He taught the world that life was like a box of chocolates, and that going for a run once in a while will change your life.

While on that bench, Forrest shares a lot of himself, and it has a pretty deep impact on some of the random folks he sits next to. Not to mention all the people watching the film who were moved by the experiences and emotions he shares.

Well this whole idea of making friends on a bench and soothing the soul by opening up to the strangers you sit with has taken new life in a place very, very far from the little park in Georgia that Forrest found himself in. The ‘Friendship Bench’ program in Zimbabwe is changing lives for those struggling with mental illness. A recent study proves that even just sitting on a bench and talking to a new friend can improve your mental health symptoms.

The Beauty of the ‘Friendship Bench’

The program is carried out by Zimbabwean lay health workers, who give brief but effective psychological treatment to the public. Instead of a big medical office, you find them conducting their problem solving therapy sessions on simple wooden seats. These health workers, or community “Grandmothers” carry out this practice with a personal touch in several major cities in Zimbabwe. The benches themselves are located on the grounds of health clinics.

The lay health workers are trained to listen and support patients living with common mental disorders such as:

The beauty is in the simplicity of the system, and the fact that it is showing to be so influential for countries where access to modern mental health treatment is limited or even nonexistent.

Studying this Solution

The study of the ‘Friendship Bench’ was published in JAMA. As a randomized controlled trial funded by the Government of Canada through Grand Challenges Canada, multiple sources contributed to the trials, including:

  • The University of Zimbabwe
  • The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
  • King’s College London

After a six month period, following six weekly sessions of “problem solving therapy” on a ‘Friendship Bench’ with a health worker, data showed a significant difference. The severity of depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts was noticeably reduced. This is based on locally validated questionnaires:

  • The Shona Symptom Questionnaire (SSQ)
  • Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ)
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder scale (GAD)

The Big Results of the ‘Friendship Bench’

According to the research:

  • 50% of patients who received standard care still had symptoms of depression– Compared to only 14% who participated in the Friendship Bench (based on PHQ)
  • 48% of patients who received standard care still had symptoms of anxiety- Compared to only 12% who received Friendship Bench care(based on the GAD)
  • 12% of patients who received standard care still had suicidal thoughts- Compared to 2% who used the Friendship Bench program(based on SSQ)

The Friendship Bench intervention was also shown to be well suited to improve health outcomes among highly vulnerable individuals. Out of all the ‘Friendship Bench’ program participants:

  • 86% were women
  • Over 40% were HIV positive
  • 70% had experienced domestic violence or physical illness

With CDN being granted $1 million in funding from Grand Challenges Canada earlier this year, the ‘Friendship Bench’ program has since been expanded to 72 clinics in the cities of Harare, Gweru and Chitungwiza (total population 1.8 million). The plan is for this growing movement to keep expanding. In 2017, the team plans to focus on extending the model to other vulnerable populations, including youth and refugees.

The Need for New Methods

Forgive me if my math and comparison is a little off, but I tried to put all this in perspective.

Zimbabwe has a population of 15 million. 25% of the primary care patients suffer from depression, anxiety or other common mental disorders. In a country with 15 million, there are only 10 psychiatrists and 15 clinical psychologists!

In comparison, (hypothetically) if even only 1/4 of the population of Zimbabwe suffers from a mental health disorder… That is still 3,930,000 people. Even if you could split them up between 25 mental health professionals evenly, it’s still 157,200 patients per person!

26.2% of adults over 18 in America suffer from mental health disorders. That’s 57.7 million people out of 318.9 million people (population as of 2014). If the United States had such a cripple mental health care system, it would be catastrophic.

At the end of the day, holistic treatment is all about healing mind, body and spirit through innovative and effective strategies. The value of sitting down with another human being and getting the support and therapeutic connection we need is paramount. Therapy can come in all shapes and sizes, and developing a unique and personalized treatment program can make all the difference. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call now. We want to help.

   CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

Are Creative Individuals More at Risk for Addiction?

Are Creative Individuals More at Risk for Addiction?

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Shernide Delva

The list of talented people who have struggled with addiction is incredibly long. It would take way too much time to list them all. Do creativity and addiction correlate with one another? Are creative individuals more likely to be addicts? That controversial question has been debated for decades.

For the most part, researchers have concluded that people whose abuse substances are not more creative or more successful as a result. Neuroscientist, David Linden of Johns Hopkins University, declared in an interview that there was not a connection between creativity and addiction. He stated that suggesting otherwise confuses coincidence with cause.

Addiction is a disease, not a shortcut to success. When looking at famous writers who were alcoholics, like Fitzgerald or Hemmingway, it is easy to assume that alcohol helped fuel their creative process. However, this is just a perception. Creativity does not stem from substance abuse, nor should substances be the source of your creativity.

Substance Abuse = Source of Creativity?

Dependence on drugs and alcohol should not be the source of your creativity. We should not glorify substance abuse as a means to creativity. In the book, “The Genius in All of Us: New Insights into Genetics, Talent and IQ,”  author, David Shenk states extraordinary talent and achievement come from “the combined consequence of early exposure, exceptional instruction, constant practice, family nurturance, and a child’s intense will to learn.” Essentially, your creativity and intelligence come from your inner will to succeed along with the role models and guidance you have in your life. Behind every successful talent is a teacher, coach or motivator pushing them along.

The problem is highly creative people find their minds are overwhelmed with data streaming in and out of their consciousness. The average person has a cognitive filter that filters this information as a means to survival.  The creative person, however, does not have this filter.  Highly creative people let more of this data in their mind. Therefore, they need to process and organize the increased information flow in untypical ways.

Unfortunately, because creative people think outside of the box and look at the world differently, they look at rules differently.  The term for this trait is cognitive disinhibition which an article describes as “the failure to ignore information that is irrelevant to current goals or to survival.”

The “rules are meant to be broken” mentality both produces creativity and creates destructiveness.  Creativity can result in risky behavior. It is risky because creative people justify their creative behavior when they create while using substances.

“Mind Expanding” Substances

Famous artists were thought to be more brilliant because of their liberal use of “mind expanding substances.”  However, time and time again, it has been proven that creative people are able to maintain their creativity without substances. Those in recovery find that their mind is clearer, making them more able to follow through on their natural creative impulses.

On the contrary, long-term substance abuse can permanently damage creativity. Extended drug use can affect the brain damaging it in ways that may not even be recoverable even after years of sobriety. Scary, isn’t it?
The first time a creative person abuses drugs or alcohol, they may find they can express themselves better. This may cause them to believe they “need” these substances to be creative. However, reactions like this are temporary. Also, creative people may be using substances to self-medicate mental health issues they have not addressed professionally.

Why Are Creativity and Addiction So Prevalent?

Now that we know there is not a direct link between substance abuse and creativity, why do so many creative geniuses deal with addiction? Most of this has to do with the genetics and traits that make someone predisposed to addiction. Those same traits are a prerequisite for creativity.

Studies reveal that 40 percent of addiction is genetically predetermined. While family history is no guarantee that someone will have a problem, there is a strong connection between the two. There are several genes involved in addiction risk. Experts have not identified them all, however, the ones we are currently aware of affect the release of the happy chemical dopamine.

Dopamine Depletion?

Addicts tend to feel pleasure weaker than the average person. Because of this, addicts abuse substances in an attempt to achieve the same level of happiness that others feel natural. There may not be a direct link between drug addiction or mental illness and creativity, but science hints at a connection between substance abuse and traits that are a prerequisite for creativity. A low-functioning dopamine system can make a person more likely to misuse substance and engage in risk-taking, novelty-seeking compulsions.

This same low-functioning dopamine system relates to creativity. Individuals who have struggled with releasing happy chemicals  their whole life may latch on to creative outlets like music, art, and writing to help re-generate that dopamine and process information better.

Overall, your risk for addiction is up to you. You have a choice to use healthier outlets to compensate for genetic factors that may put you at risk for substance abuse. Creativity should not have to be fueled by addiction. You have the ability to be a creative person without the use of drugs and alcohol. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135. 

Could a New Phone App Combat Human Trafficking?

 

Slavery - Human Trafficking

Author: Shernide Delva

There are an estimated 21 million people in forced or coerced human trafficking worldwide. That number is just an estimate. Human trafficking can happen anywhere at anytime.  It is going on in our backyards, and most of us are unaware of it. Because we are unaware of it, it becomes an unspoken problem. Now, a newly released app plans to combat this epidemic. All it requires is users take photos of their hotel room.

Just by taking pictures of your next hotel room, you can take a small step in helping victims of sex trafficking around the world. The new app is called TraffickCam and allows those traveling to upload photos of their hotel room around the world.

“You just enter your hotel room and your room number. You take four pictures, and you submit them to the website,” Washington University Researcher and TraffickCam developer Abby Stylianou said at a Human Trafficking Town Hall. “And then those become part of the pipeline that law enforcement can use to track down where the victims are being trafficked.”

The hotel room photos go into a database that over time will help law enforcement locate where human trafficking is occurring. Pictures of Hotel rooms are matched against a police database.

“Right now there are pictures posted every day. Hundreds of pictures, in every city around the United States, posted online, that show victims of trafficking, in hotel rooms posed on beds,” she said.

Stylianou says the idea sparked from the times authorities have asked the public to identify a hotel room where human trafficking took place. Often, someone was able to identify the hotel room from the photo.

Now, this app aims to collect hotel room photos in advance. So the next time you check into a hotel room, take pictures of your room and upload them using the app. After all, it is only one extra thing to do on top of your Snapchats and fancy food Instagram pictures. The app is free and available for both iOS and Android devices.

Human Trafficking and Substance Abuse

Substance abuse and human trafficking, unfortunately, go hand and hand. Estimates indicate that between 40 and 85 percent of all prostitutes are drug users. What the media often does not portray is the fact that many victims are not addicts before being traffic. However, when found, these victims are left with drug addictions and dependencies.

There a few ways that substance abuse and human trafficking intertwine. It can be a product of recruitment, control or coping:

  • Recruitment: Victims will sometimes end up in human trafficking before any drug abuse. This scenario is very common in the sex industry. Men and women turn to prostitution to support their drug dependencies. Traffickers use this as leverage to obtain workers.
  • Control: Traffickers will force drug use on victims as a mean of control, so they get what they want.
    “In some cases, a prostitute will be forced by a pimp or other person to take drugs to ensure that they do as they are told… This is particularly true in the case of young people and children” (DARA).
    Sadly, this method of control is even used on children as well. Children are sometimes forced to take drugs or drink alcohol, so they are more manipulated into having sex or performing sexual acts without consent. Trafficking victims are often forced to take drugs like heroin or meth because they eventually become dependent on these substances. Traffickers gain control of their victims this way because soon the victims will feel they need to fund their addiction. Now, their addiction binds them to their exploitation.
  • Coping: Drugs can be a method of coping for victims. Victims of human trafficking may use drugs as a way to numb their pain. Day after day, abusing substances allow victims to deal with the reality of their life and work. Substance Abuse is used “as a way to be able to continue to do the degrading and often violent work” (DARA). Some victims also use drugs in the aftermath to reduce their post-traumatic emotional distress.

As you can see, human trafficking is a major problem across the board. The fact that an app like this could help law enforcement find the location these horrible acts are taking place is a step in the right direction. If you or someone you know has gone through a similar traumatic experience and is struggling with any form of dependency, the time is now to call for help. Do not try to do this alone.  If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

Five Common Behavioral Addictions You Should Know

Five Common Behavioral Addictions You Should Know

Author: Shernide Delva

When most people think of the word “addict,” they usually think of drugs or alcohol. However, addiction does not just limit itself to substances. In fact, more people than ever suffer from some form of behavioral addiction. Also, many who recover from substance abuse find themselves replacing their drug addiction with addictive compulsive behaviors.

That’s why it is important to recognize the signs of a behavioral addiction. Since most behavioral addictions are activities healthy people engage in, it can be hard to admit that this behavior is becoming a problem. However, if you find a behavior hinders you from going further in your life, you may have a behavioral addiction to address.

Here are five common behavioral addictions:  

  1. Gambling Addiction

Gambling addiction is an addiction that closely resembles drug and alcohol addiction in the brain. Studies show that gambling addictions light up the same areas of the brain as drug addictions. There are many treatment facilities for gambling disorders that utilize the same therapy used for drug and alcohol abuse. While occasional gambling can be fun, in excess, gambling can result in some serious consequences.

So what causes a gambling addiction? It depends. Some people begin gambling out of desperation for money. In the past, they may have won a large sum of money and find themselves seeking that big win over and over again to achieve the same financial gain.  Unfortunately, when it comes to gambling, losing is going to happen eventually. Therefore, they find themselves losing more money than they ever imagined and causing damage to their family and themselves.

Others gamble to achieve a high. Gambling has a major social reputation and the lifestyle Is all about the thrills and the high. It can be difficult for some not to get addicted to the entertaining luring atmosphere of the mainstream gambling scene. However, once addicted, breaking this cycle of gambling becomes a struggle. By the time a gambler wins, they have already lost so much money that it is not enough to cover their losses. Therefore, the cycle just keeps on going.

Signs of Gambling include:

  • Gambling when financially unstable
  • Family and friends concerned about gambling
  • Needing to be secretive to gamble
  • Trouble monitoring and controlling your gambling

If this sounds like you, you may have a gambling addiction to address.

  1. Sex Addiction

In the media, we hear about celebrities going to rehab for sex addiction. Is this addiction really real? Sex addiction is one of the most controversial ones out there. The symptoms of sex addiction vary and include loss of control and disregard for risk and consequences. Hypersexual activity is not limited to just having sex.  The diagnosis of sexual addiction can apply to individuals who use excessive masturbation, pornography or sexual behaviors to escape emotional distress. Shame and embarrassment about their behaviors is another sign of sexual addiction.

For many sex addiction is a real thing and does impact their life in a negative way.  While sex addiction is not formally classified as an addiction by the American Psychological Association (APA), there are treatments for it.  Programs like Sex Addicts Anonymous and therapy can help addicts understand and overcome their problem.

  1. Internet Addiction

The society we live in now is based around the internet. However, it is possible to be too plugged in. Some people escape reality through the excessive use of the online world. It can be a problem for people when it affects their work and home life. Those who spend the majority of their day online even show small changes in their brain from their excessive internet use.  Studies suggest that compulsive Internet use affects 6 to 14 percent of Internet users.

Those who struggle with internet addiction have emotional symptoms like guilt, anxiety and depression. They may find it impossible to keep up with scheduled obligations and eventually find themselves in isolation than out with others.  There are also physical symptoms from using the internet all day such as backaches, weight gain/loss or carpal tunnel syndrome. Internet addiction affects people in a variety of ways, and a combination of treatment including therapy may be helpful.

  1. Exercise Addiction

Too much exercise can be a bad thing. I know most of us do not get enough of it, but some people do take exercise to the next level. People with exercise addiction find they have a compulsive disorder that compels them to exercise excessively. Simply loving to work out is not enough to be an exercise addict.

A person with exercise addiction finds that exercise takes over their life. This disorder is also called anorexia athletica or obligatory exercise. The person feels they must exercise a certain amount of times per day and feels guilty when they are unable to fulfill their commitments.

Often, addicts will turn to exercise as a healthy way of recovering. Exercise releases endorphins which are happy chemicals that help boost the mood. That is where the term “runner’s high” originates. Exercise in moderation can be very healthy but in excess can do more harm than good.

  1. Spending Addiction

Everyone loves to buy nice things occasionally. However, those who struggle with spending addiction can not help themselves. Shopping addiction is more common among women than men. However, men are known to struggle with spending addiction too, usually in different ways. Overspending and overshopping is now being considered for inclusion as a real addiction in the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Symptoms of Spending Addiction are:

  • Spending more than you can afford
  • Shopping as a reaction to feeling angry or depressed
  • Harming relationships due to spending or shopping too much
  • Losing control of the shopping behavior
  • Going out excessively and overspending to gain approval and self-worth
  • Periods of mood alteration such as feeling “high” while engaging in this behavior
  • Continuing behavior despite negative consequences
  • Feeling discomfort when abstaining from behavior followed by binges of the same behavior.

If left untreated, overspending can result in serious financial and emotional consequences. Relationships can be tarnished, and debt will increase. There are support groups that teach better spending habits, and behavioral therapies have shown to be useful in helping people overcome this addiction.

Overall, not all addictions meet the classically known definition of addiction, but they all share similar psychological and social consequences. Therefore, these addictions do respond well to most traditional forms of addiction treatment. If your addiction falls outside the box, do not fear seeking help. We can help you overcome whatever is holding you back.  If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

3 Factors of Emotional and Mental Health for Men

3 Factors of Emotional and Mental Health for Men

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Justin Mckibben

Mental health impacts everyone. Men and women are equal parts of the great whole that is humanity, but there are always going to be differences for reasons of nature and nurture- women of course being the superior sex (in my opinion) as mothers of this world.

Our culture has created archetypes that we are often benumbed to as we try to fit in, without noticing how they may hinder our self-expression or personal development as individuals. We are given preconceptions and misconceptions that steer our thoughts and feelings, or our responses to them, and sometimes they do us an injustice.

Emotional and mental health for men is important, no matter how many men would like to believe their emotions don’t dictate their behavior or would even deny they need them to function, those feeling make all the difference in the world. Here are 3 factors to remember for emotional and mental health for men.

  1. Emotional Male Role Models

Male emotionality, vulnerability, and sensitivity is different than a woman’s, and one of the greatest injustices to men is that often times these qualities have been socialized out of him. He has been trained with the stigma of not needing to be vulnerable or sensitive.

A lack of emotional male role models makes it difficult for a man to recapture these assets of who they are, because in society men far too frequently hear encouragement to be vulnerable, sensitive, or emotional in ways that mimic or are associated with a female version, which can make the experience seem uncomfortable.

Having a strong male role model who is also emotionally mature and in tune with their feelings can give men an outline of vulnerability and sensitivity they can internalize without feeling like they are crossing a line into the female psychological territory… because guys have feelings too. Mental health for men may not be the first thing they think of when they find a male role model, but they might not even realize that is what stands out the most about that person. Set yourself up with some men in your life who not only excel in careers or hobbies, but also who navigate the tides of the heart with perseverance and compassion.

  1. We Really Want to be Useful

A lot of us men get a sense of identity in feeling like we are useful, especially in a variety of aspects of life such as:

  • Making a spouse happy
  • Providing for family/household
  • Helping others
  • Making others feel safe

A lot of men instinctively want to be given a purpose and responsibility, especially when it comes to providing for the family or being strong for others. A lot of us men seem to expect of ourselves to want to provide financially for a family with infinite needs without facing feelings of struggle, indecision, or anxiety- but this misconception just sets us up to disappoint ourselves for not living up to unrealistic goals, harboring feelings of inadequacy.

We have to remember being strong is about a lot more than fist-fighting wolves in the woods or beating up Russian mobsters to save our kidnapped daughter (eh-hem… thanks, Liam Nesson). Being strong emotionally and mentally as a man is also a huge deal, and serving a purpose for others in that aspect can make a man feel uniquely useful.

In a relationship men are often willing to rise to the challenge of carrying an emotional burden, because in a way it makes us feel useful again. To be respected is likened to being loved for many men, and sometimes we feel a strong need for respect than love.

To help your emotional and mental health, find a purpose and put some ambition into it. The experience can only add wisdom and emotional growth; win or lose.

  1. “Being a Man” is Truly Being Yourself

One statement is repeatedly said to pretty much every man throughout their life that stunts emotional growth and stigmatizes the mind. It is seemingly so simple and innocent, yet can be so corrupting to mental health for men – “act like a man”… or “man up.”

So what exactly is that supposed to mean?

The truth is, acting like a man is nothing more and nothing less than having the courage to be who you are in your heart. “Being a man” is truly being yourself and having the bravery to be vulnerable and be authentic in spite of the skewed view of society or those who would judge you for it.

The real test for most men in this modern age of surface/material values, aggressive comparison and competition, and disinformation is to understand the truth of who he is at his essence and then to conquer whatever fears would prevent him from taking actions in his life that are aligned with that intention for his life.

A man disconnected from the universe of emotions and thoughts inside him is a man who has forgotten who he is. Emotional and mental health are not something men should shrug off, and they are not only for the ladies. Far too many men overlook the most basic aspects of their life that obstruct their emotional and mental health- which ultimately undermines their progress. This is as true as it is in any regular life, as it is for a man in recovery.

Put the MEN back in MENTAL HEALTH, be who you are and let yourself feel whatever is in your heart.

Mental health and addiction typically offer up plenty of emotional issues. Thankfully dual diagnosis treatment is out there, and Palm Partners takes pride in an outstanding dual diagnosis program. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

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