This blog is to critically introduce, and contextualise, new research findings from developmental research, neuroscience, attachment theory  and other areas of psychology that are topical or are likely to whet the appetite of  anyone interested. The aim is to discuss research which will feel relevant and which might even, if lucky, make a difference to how we approach our work or other areas of our lives.

Joining forces; Telomeres, social, psychological and political challenges

 

In the last few days I came across yet another interesting article [1] showing that prenatal stress is linked with  shorter telomeres. Telomeres are those caps on the end of chromosomes that can fray and shorten with stress and age [3], are a classic biomarker for health. Shorter telomeres are bad news, heralding ill health, and indeed, early death, or in other words early stress might program the body to develop a faster metabolism, which also leads to faster ageing and more physical and mental illness. One recent meta-analysis looking at over 40 papers corroborated how early adversity, such as abuse or neglect, links with shorter telomere length [2].

Continue reading
453 Hits
0 Comments

Death penalty for being abused? The price is too high for society and disadvantaged young people

 

Young people who had been in the care system are far more likely to die in early adulthood than their peers, a report showed last week; indeed they are at least 7 times more likely to die prematurely, before the age of 21. The BBC story about this highlighted poor access to mental health services, the lack of general support available, and the consequent over-use of drugs, alcohol and other forms of unhealthy self-medication and attempts to manage stressors.

I have worked with children in the care system for over 30 years and at least the research is showing what we have always known clinically. Bad early experiences lead young people to use drugs, alcohol, take risks in sexual and other behaviours, but also to struggle academically, socially and in their emotional wellbeing generally. Most of my most worrying cases in the NHS have been in the care system, and major crises often occur at the age when they are supposed to become ‘independent’ at the age when most well-adjusted children from loving families in fact rely on their families more than ever.

 

Continue reading
633 Hits
1 Comment

Obesity, unhappiness, and poverty: the urgent need to avoid simplistic solutions

A version of this blog can also be found on the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust website here, 

An NHS Trust in Yorkshire recently decided to deny non-urgent treatment to obese patients and also to smokers. A recent guardian article called this a form of discrimination similar to racism. It is true that we are facing an epidemic of obesity and linked health issues including diabetes and heart conditions. The solution is not to discriminate against or blame people who in many ways are already victims. There is a danger that our discourses about food and obesity become another way of blaming the poor for their poverty and its effects. People are criticised for being lazy, greedy, lacking control or selfish, yet often what drives eating is far outside consciousness and has sensible explanations.

Continue reading
607 Hits
0 Comments

Brexit, project fear, brains, racism inequality and the other

Many of us are shocked to the core by the referendum result, and even more so by the campaign and the way it was conducted, especially its racist undertones. In many ways this was a protest vote, and whatever his weaknesses Corbyn has understood that inequality, uncertainty and the increasing power of smaller elites has impacted powerfully. What the left seem not to have learnt from its history lessons is how at times of serious crisis people become inward and conservative and indeed, often xenophobic and distrustful of the other. This makes more sense when we understand just what fear, anxiety and anger does to the brain.

Continue reading
1715 Hits
2 Comments

Austerity and neoliberalism are bad for our health and wellbeing

 

Goodness, what a turn-up for the books! The International Monetary Fund has now stated that neoliberalism and its accompanying policies of austerity and rising inequality are a bad thing, even for the economy let alone for people’s mental and physical health and wellbeing. Inequality is recognised as particularly pernicious, and it has increased drastically via a system that has bettered the financial lot of the very very few at the expense of most people, and also at the expense of a thriving economy. The health and mental health effects of this have been shocking, as I show below.

Continue reading
1138 Hits
0 Comments

Touch, physical and emotional. Abuse or neglect?

 

What is the place of touch, physical closeness, and indeed emotional closeness, in professional relationships these days?  In these post Saville days there seems to be a lot of confusion. Quite rightly people and organisations are wary of the risk of inappropriate touching and of child abuse, awareness of which is thankfully much higher.  Much of my clinical work is at the Portman clinic where we see many sex offenders, and we are all too aware of the serious dangers of ignoring these issues, the vital importance of Safeguarding and the need to ensure children are protected. However the counterpoint is an increasingly frightened and rule-bound culture which looks after professionals and institutions and puts their interests above the children in their care.

Continue reading
2085 Hits
1 Comment