Monthly Archives: October 2017

mental health

Mental health check ins help ease struggles

Mental illness can be an isolating, very lonely battle for boys who may struggle to voice their feelings to trusted family or friends.

The recent R U OK? Day and International Mental Health Day last week are key strategies to get conversations started about the state of mental health. Where are we at? Do we need help? Does someone we know need a helping hand? Is something not quite right?

R U OK? says with so many Australians effected by mental health challenges, starting the conversation with boys as soon as possible is key to opening communication channels.

“With many of us effected by mental illness, a stressful event, loss, peer pressure, study stresses, bullying, parental separation – we need to start the conversation as soon as possible,” a spokesperson for R U OK? said.

“We all go through tough times and the younger we are when we learn how to support people by asking them if they’re ok, the easier it makes the pathway to getting support and help,” she said.

R U OK? encourages starting conversations about mental health when someone has a “gut feeling” that something is not quite right with a mate or family member.

“Be kind, be aware and always trust your gut instinct,” the spokesperson said.

She said there were usually signs someone was not acting their “usual self”.

“Maybe their friend is more quiet than usual, perhaps they’re not involving themselves in activities they once enjoyed, they could even be angry or lashing out for what might seem like no reason,” she added.

“When issues like this raise their head, it tends to mean that person is struggling with something significant and they need help – a listening ear, a safe space with a safe person to open up to can be invaluable.”

Be aware the person struggling may not open up the first time they are asked.

“It can be scary to admit you are having a tough time and it can be tricky to know where to start. A lot of times boys in particular feel like they need to be strong or maintain a tough outer shell because in many ways society promotes the view that men should be tough and being vulnerable can be seen as weakness.”

“Not true, and R U OK? and our team of ambassadors are working to dispel this myth.”

R U OK? offers four tips to navigating a difficult conversation;

  1. Are you ok?
  2. Listen without judgement
  3. Encourage them to take action
  4. Check back in

“Friends and family can help by using the four steps anytime someone appears to be struggling.”

“Eventually the steps will become second nature and people find themselves recognising the signs someone’s struggling and check in.”

“It’s a great skill to have that can help people… help people…throughout their life.”

One in five teens drinking at riskier levels

One in five teens is drinking alcohol at risky levels higher than ever previously seen and parents are being urged to cut alcohol supplies to teens in an effort to curb binge drinking.

Overall, levels of teen alcohol consumption have decreased in recent years. However, those who are drinking are doing so at much higher levels than previous generations.

Recent studies from Curtin University and UNSW have found heavy drinking teens are gaining easy access to alcohol supplies from family, friends and bottle shops. Key links between parental supply and later binge drinking and alcohol dependence were results of a six-year study by UNSW’ s National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC).

Curtin University’ s National Drug Research Institute’s Young Australians Alcohol Reporting System (YAARS) study found boys aged 14-19 years who were part of the heaviest drinking cohort were consuming 17 standard drinks per drinking session. Girls in comparison were drinking 14 per session.

Lead author Dr Tina Lam said this group of teens was studied because there were a lot of unknowns about their consumption of alcohol and how it impacts their lives.

” We know from other studies that rates of alcohol-related emergency department presentations in Australian teenagers is twice as high as for other Australians and far too many ambulance call-outs for alcohol-related incidents involve those under the age of 18,” Dr Lam said.

“These heavy drinking sessions are the ones that are associated with the greatest harms – we wanted to know details such as exactly how much they were consuming, where they were drinking, where they obtained the alcohol and the range of harms experienced,” she added.

Nearly half (47 per cent) of the 3500 teens involved in the study said they had been a passenger in a car driven by someone affected by alcohol and 20 per cent had done so three or more times in the past year. More than one in ten teens surveyed had also presented at a hospital Emergency Department as a result of an alcohol-related injury.

Teens admitted they tended to drink at private gatherings and sourced their alcohol from friends, family and bottle shops without too much trouble.

However, parents who thought it was best to supply their teens with alcohol and supervise their drinking were putting their children at risk of binge drinking, according to UNSW Professor Richard Mattick.

Prof. Mattick and a team of researchers at the NDARC followed 2000 NSW teens for six years, tracking alcohol consumption and parental supply.

Prof. Mattick said by age 17 teens who had previously received alcohol from parents in younger years were more likely to participate in binge drinking, show symptoms of dependence and experience alcohol-related injuries.

“These results contrast with the results we obtained when the children were 15-year-olds when parental supply was associated with drinking but not with drinking to excess,” he said.

He said the consumption of alcohol did not continue in moderation as teens aged; in contrast, there was an increase in drinking problems.

“There was no evidence to support the view that in the long term, when teens are on the cusp of adulthood, that parental supply is anyway protective. Rather, to reduce the risks of alcohol-related harms parents should avoid supplying alcohol to children.”




Thriving in life takes some simple steps

Every parent wants their son to thrive in life, to excel and achieve to the best of his abilities. One determined scientist believes he has come up with the answer to the age-old question of how to get there – simply feeling good about yourself and the life you are leading.

From a baby learning to crawl to a teenager studying for exams, thriving is part of life which can make a person feel proud, fulfilled and give life greater meaning.

University of Portsmouth sport and exercise scientist Daniel Brown has collated years of research about thriving across different age groups and cultures to determine key aspects linked to effectively thriving rather than just surviving life in general.

“Thriving is a word most people would be glad to hear themselves described as, but which science hasn’t really managed to consistently classify and describe until now,” Dr Brown said.

“It appears to come down to an individual experiencing a sense of development, of getting better at something and succeeding at mastering something,” he said.

“In the simplest terms, what underpins it is feeling good about life and yourself and being good at something.”

Dr Brown identified key aspects linked to thriving, saying people do not need all of the characteristics listed but rather a combination of some criteria from each list;

A person thriving is:

  • optimistic;
  • spiritual or religious;
  • motivated;
  • proactive;
  • someone who enjoys learning;
  • flexible;
  • adaptable;
  • socially competent;
  • someone who believes in self/has self-esteem;

A person thriving has:

  • opportunity;
  • employer/family/other support;
  • challenges and difficulties which are at manageable levels;
  • a calm environment;
  • been given a high degree of autonomy;
  • been trusted as competent

Dr Brown said there had been a lack of consensus about thriving in past research because of the narrow focus of such studies, examining only certain age or social groups rather than using a broader approach.

“Since the end of the 20th century there has been a quest in science to better understand human fulfilment and thriving, there’s been a shift towards wanting to understand how humans can function as highly as possible… by setting out a clear definition, I hope this helps set a course for future research,” he said.

Dr Brown recommended future research in his findings, aimed at studying what enables thriving to occur and whether thriving has lasting/cumulative effects on individuals.

His research results were published in the European Psychologist Journal this month.