Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Eight Tips for Dealing With Mental Health Stigma in Today's Society

By Stan Popovich 

Do you struggle with your mental health and have a difficult time in getting your friends and family to be understanding? In some cases your friends and relatives might give you a hard time regarding your mental health struggles. Here eight suggestions on how to deal with mental health stigma from your peers.

1. Talk To A Counselor: The most important thing that you need to do is to talk to a counselor about your mental health problems. Seeking professional help will help you to overcome your current issues. In addition, a counselor will be able to give you additional advice on how to deal with your friends and coworkers.

2. Don't Argue With Others: It is important that you do not get into arguments with those who are giving you a hard time. Your number one priority is to overcome your mental health issues. It is not your job to convince people that you are right and they are wrong. Your health is more important than what other people may think.

3. Watch Who You Hang Out With: It is important to surround yourself with positive people. Try to keep your distance from those people who are giving you a difficult time. Remember your goal is to remain positive and hopeful. Do not let the negative people in your life bring you down.

4. You Are Not Alone: It can be very frustrating to deal with your mental health issues when your friends and relatives are on your case. Remember, you are not alone. There are millions of people around the world who struggle with their fears, anxieties, depression, and stresses. The key is to find those people who can relate to you through various support groups in your area.

5. Stand Your Ground: It is important to stand your ground when dealing with family members and coworkers who are giving you a hard time. Explain your situation and your feelings to the people in your life, however don't let them hassle you. Again, your number one priority is to get better and not to please everyone that you hang out with.

6. Join A Support Group: There are many mental health support groups in your area. Many hospitals, churches, and counselors in your area will be able to provide you with a list of groups. These support groups will be supportive of your situation and give you additional advice regarding your problems. Joining a support group is very important in a person's recovery and ability to find people who can relate to you.

7. Learn To Take It One Day At A Time: Instead of worrying about how you will get through the rest of the week or coming month, try to focus on today. Each day can provide us with different opportunities to learn new things and that includes learning how to deal with your problems. When the time comes, hopefully you will have learned the skills to deal with your situation.

8. Don't Give Up: Never give up regardless of your situation. The answers to your problems are out there; however, you must find those answers. You will not get better if you sit on the couch and don't make an effort to get better. You need to know that you will eventually get better. Do not lose hope even during the worse of times. Your problems will not last forever, and things do eventually change for the better.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Natural Beauties: Fine Minerals

Reminder: Bullies

Bullies dominate, blame, and use others. They lack empathy and foresight and have contempt for the weak. They see weaker people as their targets and don't accept the consequences of their actions. They crave power and attention.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Reminder: Worrying

Chase These Blues Away: Alaskan Totem Poles

From yee Wiki:

Totem poles are monumental sculptures carved from large trees, mostly Western Red Cedar, by cultures of the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast of North America. The word totem is derived from the Algonquian (most likely Ojibwe) word odoodem [oˈtuːtɛm], "his kinship group".

Totem poles are typically carved from the trunks of Thuja plicata trees (popularly called "giant cedar" or "western red cedar"), which decay eventually in the rainforest environment of the Northwest Coast. Thus, few examples of poles carved before 1900 exist. Noteworthy examples include those at the Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria and the Museum of Anthropology at UBC in Vancouver, dating as far back as 1880. While 18th-century accounts of European explorers along the coast indicate that poles existed prior to 1800, they were smaller and fewer in number than in subsequent decades.

The Maritime Fur Trade gave rise to a tremendous accumulation of wealth among the coastal peoples, and much of this wealth was spent and distributed in lavish potlatches frequently associated with the construction and erection of totem poles. Poles were commissioned by many wealthy leaders to represent their social status and the importance of their families and clans. By the 19th century, certain Christian missionaries reviled the totem pole as an object of heathen worship; they urged converts to cease production and destroy existing poles.

Totem poles were never objects of worship. Very early European explorers thought they were worshipped, but later explorers such as Jean-François de La Pérouse noted that totem poles were never treated reverently; they seemed only occasionally to generate allusions or illustrate stories, and were usually left to rot in place when people abandoned a village. The association with "idol worship" was an idea from local Christian missionaries of the 19th century, who considered their association with Shamanism as an occult practice.

The meanings of the designs on totem poles are as varied as the cultures that make them. Totem poles may recount familiar legends, clan lineages, or notable events. Some poles celebrate cultural beliefs while others are mostly artistic. Certain types of totem poles are part of mortuary structures, and incorporate grave boxes with carved supporting poles, or recessed backs for grave boxes. Poles illustrate stories that commemorate historic persons, represent shamanic powers, or provide objects of public ridicule.

"Some of the figures on the poles constitute symbolic reminders of quarrels, murders, debts, and other unpleasant occurrences about which the Native Americans prefer to remain silent... The most widely known tales, like those of the exploits of Raven and of Kats who married the bear woman, are familiar to almost every native of the area. Carvings which symbolize these tales are sufficiently conventionalized to be readily recognizable even by persons whose lineage did not recount them as their own legendary history." (Reed 2003).

Six Things You Didn't Know About Insomnia and How To Treat It

by Amanda MacMillan 

Waking up on the right side of the bed can be tough... if you only fell asleep 30 minutes ago. We all know what it feels like to toss and turn throughout the night, but for nearly 10 percent of Americans, insomnia is a chronic problem -- lasting a month or longer, and characterized by difficulty falling or staying asleep.

Untreated insomnia can be a dangerous issue, too, says Steven Feinsilver, M.D., director of the Center for Sleep Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Even if you're not nodding off behind the wheel, a consistent lack of sleep can still contribute to headaches, back pain, irritability, lowered immunity and other health problems, he says. "People with poor sleep quality have a higher risk of everything from depression to high blood pressure to early death."

That doesn't mean that sleepless sufferers are doomed. Talking to your doctor can help you determine the root cause of your disorder and the best treatment to get you back on schedule. (Hint: It's probably not a pill.) But before you make an appointment, here's what you should know about insomnia.

1. You may be predisposed.

"Some people are simply better at shutting their brains off at night," says Feinsilver. Those who aren't naturally good sleepers could have a biological reason as to why they're not (having to do with unique brain chemicals, perhaps). They could also have grown up with bad "sleep hygiene" -- never having a regular schedule or a consistent bedtime routine, for example.

Even if you are prone to insomnia, though, treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help retrain your brain. "Sleep is a powerful biological drive and if you don't mess it up, it tends to work," says Feinsilver. "And if it does get messed up, it's usually fairly easy to fix once we pinpoint what the patient is doing wrong."

2. Look out for the "two p's."

When a person who has always slept well suddenly has trouble falling or staying asleep, doctors look for two factors, says Feinsilver: The precipitating cause and the perpetuating cause. The former is a stressful event, good or bad, that creates an initial disruption of sleep. The latter is the reason insomnia continues, even after that stressful event has passed.

Precipitating causes can be anything from an upcoming test you're worried about and need to study for to planning a wedding. The biggest perpetuator, says Feinsilver, is behavior -- for instance, not going to bed and getting up at the same time every day.

3. It's linked with depression.

"Depression can cause bad sleep and bad sleep can cause depression; it's often hard to tell which one comes first," says Feinsilver. A recent Australian study found that insomnia was linked to depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and panic disorder in teenagers, and the study authors note that "having insomnia in addition to anxiety or depression can further intensify the problems being experienced with each individual disorder." Likewise, a 2013 Canadian study found that treating the two conditions simultaneously can improve symptoms of both.

4. Popping pills won't get you far.

If you want to kick insomnia for good, medication isn't the answer. (Sleeping pills may help jumpstart your slumber party, but their effects can wear off if they're used long-term.) What's really important is following the rules for good sleep, says Feinsilver. Keep your bedroom dark and cool; avoid caffeine up to 12 hours before bed; go to bed at the same time every night; and don't sleep in more than an hour on the weekends -- even if you broke the previous rule and stayed out late the night before. "You're better off getting up at your regular time and taking a nap midday to make up for some of that lost sleep," he says.

And about those naps: They can be very helpful for people who don't get seven or eight hours of sleep at night. But keep them to an hour or less, and don't take them within six hours of your bedtime. Plus, if your doctor recommends sleep restriction therapy (which means spending only a set number of hours in bed, whether you sleep or not), you'll want to avoid crawling under the covers during the daytime entirely.

5. Kitchen "cures" may or may not help.

A recent Louisiana State University study found that drinking tart cherry juice before bed improved insomnia symptoms in older adults, and previous research has suggested that herbal remedies, like chamomile tea, may help as well.

Feinsilver says these probably won't hurt, but believes that much of their benefit comes from the placebo effect. "That's not to say they won't work or that I'm against them," he adds. "If drinking something seems to help you fall asleep, I'm all in favor of it."

Sometimes, the calming herbs in drinks and teas can help slow your mind and give you that sleepy feeling. (Even just hot tea or milk sometimes works for individuals.) Give it a try and see if it's right for you.

6. Attention can make it worse.

Doctors sometimes ask their insomnia patients to keep sleep diaries in order to help identify lifestyle factors keeping them awake, but Feinsilver advises against logging and analyzing your slumber for an extended period of time. "The more you think about it, the harder it is to fall asleep," he explains. "The best thing you can do is try to ignore it and take your mind off it."

One way to shut out the worry could be through meditation: In a recent study from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, insomniacs who practiced mindful meditation for eight weeks reported better sleep and higher remission rates than those who didn't.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

What an RAF Pilot Can Teach Us About Being Safe On the Road

RAF fighter pilot“Sorry mate, I didn’t see you”. Is a catchphrase used by drivers up and down the country. Is this a driver being careless and dangerous or did the driver genuinely not see you?
According to a report by John Sullivan of the RAF, the answer may have important repercussions for the way we train drivers and how as cyclists we stay safe on the roads.
John Sullivan is a Royal Air Force pilot with over 4,000 flight hours in his career, and a keen cyclist. He is a crash investigator and has contributed to multiple reports. Fighter pilots have to cope with speeds of over 1000 mph. Any crashes are closely analysed to extract lessons that can be of use.
Note: You can now download the original article by John Sullivan which includes further insights: Dropbox link.

Our eyes were not designed for driving

We are the result of hundreds of thousands of years of evolution. Our eyes, and the way that our brain processes the images that they receive, are very well suited to creeping up on unsuspecting antelopes and spotting threats such as sabre-toothed tigers.
These threats are largely gone and they’ve been replaced by vehicles travelling towards us at high speeds. This, we’ve not yet adapted to deal with.
Light enters our eyes and falls upon the retina. It is then converted into electrical impulses, that the brain perceives as images. Only a small part of your retina, the centre bit called the fovea, can generate a high-resolution image. This is why we need to look directly at something, to see detail.
The rest of the retina lacks detail but it contributes by adding the peripheral vision. However, a mere 20 degrees away from your sightline, your visual acuity is about 1/10th of what it is at the centre.

Try this scary test to see quite how much detail you lose in your peripheral vision

  1. Stand 10 metres away from a car.
  2. Move your eyes and look just one car’s width to the right or left of that car.
  3. Without moving where you eyes are now looking, try and read the number plate of the car.
  4. Try the test again from 5m.
The test shows you quite how little detail you are able to truly capture from the side of your eyes.
That’s not to say that we cannot see something in our peripheral vision – of course we can. As you approach a roundabout, you would be hard pressed not to see a huge lorry bearing down upon you, even out of the corner of your eye – obviously, the bigger the object, the more likely we are to see it. But would you see a motorbike, or a cyclist?
To have a good chance of seeing an object on a collision course, we need to move our eyes, and probably head, to bring the object into the centre of our vision – so that we can use our high-resolution vision of our fovea to resolve the detail.

Here’s when things get really interesting

Your brain fills in the blanks
When you move your head and eyes to scan a scene, your eyes are incapable of moving smoothly across it and seeing everything. Instead, you see in the image in a series of very quick jumps (called saccades) with very short pauses (called fixations) and it is only during the pauses that an image is processed.
Your brain fills in the gaps with a combination of peripheral vision and an assumption that what is in the gaps must be the same as what you see during the pauses.
This might sound crazy, but your brain actually blocks the image that is being received while your eyes are moving. This is why you do not see the sort of blurred image, that you see when you look sideways out of a train window.
The only exception to this, is if you are tracking a moving object.

Another test to try

If you are not convinced, try this test.
  1. Look in a mirror.
  2. Look repeatedly from your right eye to your left eye.
  3. Can you see your eyes moving? You can’t.
  4. Repeat the test with a friend and watch them. You will see their eyes moving quite markedly.
You can’t see your own eyes move because your brain shuts down the image for the instant that your eyes are moving. This is calledSaccadic masking.
In the past, this served us well. It meant we could creep up on antelopes without our brain being overloaded by unnecessary detail and a lot of useless, blurred images.
However, what happens when this system is put to use in a modern day situation, such as a traffic junction?

Why we miss motorbikes and bicycles

At a traffic junction all but the worst of drivers will look in both directions to check for oncoming traffic. However, it is entirely possible for our eyes to “jump over” an oncoming bicycle or motorbike.
The smaller the vehicle, the greater the chance it will fall within a saccade.
motorbike in a saccade
This isn’t really a case of a careless driver, it’s more of a human incapacity to see anything during a saccade. Hence the reason for so many “Sorry mate, I didn’t see you” excuses.
The faster you move your head, the larger the jumps and the shorter the pauses. Therefore, you’ve got more of a chance of missing a vehicle.
We are effectively seeing through solid objects, with our brain filling in the image.
Additionally, we tend to avoid the edges of the windscreen. The door pillars on a car therefore create an even wider blindspot. This is called windscreen zoning.

The danger of playing music

Our ears help us build up a picture of our surroundings. However, inside our cars or with music playing, our brain is denied another useful cue. Additionally, bicycles are almost completely silent, so won’t be heard by car drivers.

How accidents happen

Let’s say you are driving along. You approach a junction and you notice a lack of traffic. You look left and right and proceed forward. Suddenly you hear the blast of a horn, as a motorbike flashes in front of you, narrowly avoiding an accident.
What just happened?
On your approach, you couldn’t see there was another vehicle on a perfect collision course. With a lack of relative movement for your peripheral vision to detect and the vehicle being potentially hidden by being near the door pillar, you miss it entirely.
Lulled into a false sense of security you looked quickly right and left, to avoid holding up the traffic behind you, and your eyes jumped cleanly over the approaching vehicle, especially as it was still close to the door pillar in the windscreen. The rest of the road was empty, and this was the scene that your brain used to fill in the gaps! Scary, huh?
You were not being inattentive – but you were being ineffective.
Additionally, if you didn’t expect there to be a cyclist your brain is more likely to automatically jump to the conclusion that the road is empty.

Now that you’ve been warned. What can you do?

motorbike can't be seen
Forewarned is forearmed, so here’s what we can do.
  • Slow down on the approach of a roundabout or junction. Even if the road seems empty. Changing speed will allow you to see vehicles that would otherwise be invisible to you.
  • A glance is never enough. You need to be as methodical and deliberate as a fighter pilot would be. Focus on at least 3 different spots along the road to the right and left. Search close, middle-distance and far. With practise, this can be accomplished quickly, and each pause is only for a fraction of a second. Fighter pilots call this a “lookout scan” and it is vital to their survival.
  • Always look right and left at least twice. This doubles your chance of seeing a vehicle.
  • Make a point of looking next to the windscreen pillars. Better still, lean forward slightly as you look right and left so that you are looking around the door pillars. Be aware that the pillar nearest to you blocks more of your vision. Fighter pilots say ‘Move your head – or you’re dead’.
  • Clear your flight path! When changing lanes, check your mirrors and as a last check, look directly at the spot which are going to manoeuvre.
  • Drive with your lights on. Bright vehicles or clothing is always easier to spot than dark colours that don’t contrast with a scene.
  • It is especially difficult to spot bicycles, motorbikes and pedestrians during low sun conditions as contrast is reduced.
  • Keep your windscreen clean – seeing other vehicles is enough of a challenge without a dirty windscreen. You never see a fighter jet with a dirty canopy.
  • Finally, don’t be a clown – if you are looking at your mobile telephone then you are incapable of seeing much else. Not only are you probably looking down into your lap, but your eyes are focused at less then one metre and every object at distance will be out of focus. Even when you look up and out, it takes a fraction of a second for your eyes to adjust – this is time you may not have.
Cyclists and motorcyclists:
  • Recognise the risk of being in a saccade. High contrast clothing and lights help. In particular, flashing LED’s (front and rear) are especially effective for cyclists as they create contrast and the on-off flashing attracts the peripheral vision in the same manner that movement does. There’s nothing wrong with leaving these on during the day. (Especially if they are rechargeable)
  • The relatively slower speed of bicycles means that they will be closer to a point of collision if a vehicle begins to pull into their path. Turn this to advantage – when passing junctions, look at the head of the driver that is approaching or has stopped. The head of the driver will naturally stop and centre upon you if you have been seen. If the driver’s head sweeps through you without pausing, then the chances are that you are in a saccade – you must assume that you have not been seen and expect the driver to pull out!
  • Recognise that with a low sun, a dirty windscreen or one with rain beating against it drivers are likely to have less of a chance of seeing you.
  • Take a cycle training course – this will teach you where you need to be positioned on the road, how to use your eyesight to make sure drivers pay you attention and other useful techniques that can minimise dangers. See: How to make your next bike ride safer than the last.

What should we do with our human weakness?

John Sullivan’s findings and suggestions are excellent. However, they rely on drivers changing well embedded habits. Personally I believe that, unlike RAF pilots, a driver is very unlikely to change their behaviour. Therefore, I’d suggest that this is another reason we should be looking at building safety in to our roads, with Dutch style cycling infrastructure.
Two important takeaways for cyclists: Increasing your contrast helps you be seen. Think flashing bike lights. Also, remember the importance of good road positioning.