Ant McPartlin has no reason to apologise. His addiction is not his fault | Chris Owen

The TV star says he feels he’s let people down. But after spending time in rehab I know how important it is that addiction is seen as an illness, not as self-inflicted

The weekend brought the news that Ant McPartlin, one half of Ant and Dec – PJ of PJ and Duncan fame – has checked into rehab for addiction problems with alcohol and drugs. He’s to spend a couple of months in recovery, where – hopefully – he’ll come out armed with the knowledge of how he became unwell in the first place, and how he can keep himself safe and sober in the long term.

Related: Ant McPartlin speaks out about depression and addiction

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As a psychologist for NHS staff I saw how hospital work takes its toll

I was struck by their terrible experiences – the doctor who kept seeing a dead child and the person with an alcohol problem

When I began working as a psychologist at a large London teaching hospital I was fascinated and – a little overwhelmed – by the challenge of developing a new psychology service. I was employed solely for the 5,000 staff working in the hospital. Absolutely anyone could come and see me for psychological support, from the porters to the medical consultants. And they did. Over a 12-year period I saw many NHS staff.

Sometimes they were sent by managers who were worried about them. About their behaviour or their distress or the impact of a very traumatic event they had witnessed, for example. Others referred themselves in secret and hoped that no one would know they were coming. When they left they were always polite and thanked me but usually said that they hoped they would never see me again.

It sometimes felt like there was hope that staff could disappear for a bit and emerge intact and ready to work

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Number of under-18s on antidepressants in England rises by 12%

Data shows over 166,000 were given such medication between April 2015 and June 2016, including 537 aged six or under

Tens of thousands of young people in England, including children as young as six, are being prescribed antidepressants by their doctors. The figures have prompted concern that medics may be overprescribing strong medication because of stretched and underfunded mental health services.

Data obtained by the Guardian shows that 166,510 under-18s, including 10,595 seven-to-12-year-olds and 537 aged six or younger, were given medication typically used to treat depression and anxiety between April 2015 and June 2016. The figures, released by NHS England under the Freedom of Information Act, show a 12% rise in the numbers taking the drugs over the same time period.

Related: Antidepressants prescribed far more in deprived English coastal towns

Related: Antidepressant prescriptions in England double in a decade

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Ant McPartlin speaks out about his depression and addiction

Presenter has reportedly entered rehab for treatment for anxiety and prescription drug and alcohol abuse

Ant McPartlin has said he feels he has let people down as he reportedly enters rehab following a battle with depression, alcohol and substance abuse.

The TV presenter, one half of the duo Ant and Dec, said he wanted to speak out about his issues in order to help others.

Very brave Ant to go public. This is the first stage of the road to recovery. All the best Ant it, will all be sorted for sure @antanddec https://t.co/lDcg5SjttD

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Exam stress rising? No, pupils are just better at seeking help | Laura McInerney

Of course sitting GCSEs can be a trying experience, but with good support, study pressure can be positive

Across the country at the moment, young people are engaging in a practice that will give them nightmares for decades. Nope, not fidget spinners or Snapchat filters: those give only adults nightmares. The real answer is exams.

It’s almost 20 years since my maths GCSE and yet the bad dreams are still the same. No revision done, the exam hall lost in a labyrinth of corridors, the start already missed. I am not alone. Exam anxiety dreams are among the most common in adults. Is it these painful associations, then, that mean a quarter of British parents report their mental health was negatively affected by having children who are currently taking exams? Or is it, as the parents will more often tell you, because watching your child break under the pressure is enough to make anyone sick?

Related: GCSEs and A-levels: how are young people coping with exam stress?

Among boys, the number experiencing any psychological distress has actually gone down

Related: Six tactics to help your students deal with stress

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The rise of eSports: are addiction and corruption the price of its success?

Forget football, the world’s fastest-growing sport is live video gaming. But increasingly its impact is proving harmful to those involved

If you had been away from the planet for the past quarter of a century, one of the few things you might find comfortingly familiar on your return is the world of sport. While the digital revolution has transformed the way we shop, chat, date, do politics and consume culture, sport looks largely unchanged. From football to cricket to golf, it’s still the same old staples, hitting a ball into a hole or goal or over a boundary. There hasn’t been a major new sport invented for more than a century. Or has there?

In the East End of London, Sam Mathews is holding court at Fnatic’s HQ, otherwise known as the Bunkr. A pop-up shop that opened last December, it is marketed as the “world’s first eSports concept store” and is as knowingly hip as its Shoreditch surroundings. Here at the Bunkr, you can buy eSports equipment, meet players, view streamed events and even watch matches live.

Related: Hashtag United, Wimbly Womblys and the virtual gamers striking it rich

Related: Sport 2.0: crumbling traditions create a whole new ballgame | Sean Ingle

Related: Sebastian Coe: ‘Athletics needs to be innovative, braver and more creative’

Related: Golf fights old perceptions and drop in players to attract new audience | Ewan Murray

I ask if he will give me the most powerful shock he gives patients. The impact is violent. I still feel it hours later

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Early stress confers lifelong vulnerability causing alterations in a specific brain region

Early life stress encodes lifelong susceptibility to stress through long-lasting transcriptional programming in a brain reward region implicated in mood and depression, according to a study conducted at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and published June 15 in the journal Science.

The Mount Sinai study focuses on epigenetics, the study of changes in the action of genes caused not by changes in DNA code we inherit from our parents, but instead by molecules that regulate when, where, and to what degree our genetic material is activated. Such regulation derives, in part, from the function of transcription factors — specialized proteins that bind to specific DNA sequences in our genes and either encourage or shut down the expression of a given gene.

Previous studies in humans and animals have suggested that early life stress increases the risk for depression and other psychiatric syndromes, but the neurobiology linking the two has remained elusive until now.

“Our work identifies a molecular basis for stress during a sensitive developmental window that programs a mouse’s response to stress in adulthood,” says Catherine Peña, PhD, lead investigator of the study. “We discovered that disrupting maternal care of mice produces changes in levels of hundreds of genes in the VTA that primes this brain region to be in a depression-like state, even before we detect behavioral changes. Essentially, this brain region encodes a lifelong, latent susceptibility to depression that is revealed only after encountering additional stress.”

Specifically, Mount Sinai investigators identified a role for the developmental transcription factor orthodenticle homeobox 2 (Otx2) as a master regulator of these enduring gene changes. The research team showed that baby mice that were stressed in a sensitive period (from postnatal day 10-20) had suppressed Otx2 in the VTA. While Otx2 levels ultimately recovered by adulthood, the suppression had already set in motion gene alterations that lasted into adulthood, indicating that early life stress disrupts age-specific developmental programming orchestrated by Otx2.

Furthermore, the mice stressed during the early-life sensitive time period were more likely to succumb to depression-like behavior in adulthood, but only after additional adult stress. All mice acted normally before additional adult social stress, but a “second hit” of stress was more likely to trigger depression-like behavior for mice stressed during the sensitive time period.

To test the prediction that Otx2 was actually responsible for the stress sensitivity, the research team developed viral tools that were used to either increase or decrease Otx2 levels. They found that suppression of Otx2 early in life was both necessary and sufficient for increased susceptibility to adult stress.

“We anticipated that we would only be able to ameliorate or mimic the effects of early life stress by changing Otx2 levels during the early sensitive period.” says Dr. Peña. “This was true for long-lasting effects on depression-like behavior, but somewhat to our surprise we could also change stress sensitivity for short amounts of time by manipulating Otx2 in adulthood.”

While early-life critical periods have been understood for processes such as language learning, little is known about whether there are sensitive periods in childhood when stress and adversity most impacts brain development and particularly emotion-regulation systems. This study is the first to use genome-wide tools to understand how early life stress alters development of the VTA, providing new evidence for sensitive windows in emotion development.

“This mouse paradigm will be useful for understanding the molecular correlates of increased risk of depression resulting from early life stress and could pave the way to look for such sensitive windows in human studies,” says Eric J. Nestler, MD, PhD, Nash Family Professor of Neuroscience and Director of the Friedman Brain Institute at Mount Sinai and senior investigator of the study. “The ultimate translational goal of this research is to aid treatment discoveries relevant to individuals who experienced childhood stress and trauma.”

Reckless behavior fuels ongoing stress for some with PTSD

Researchers with the National Center for PTSD at the VA Boston Healthcare System found that engaging in risky behavior — itself a symptom of posttraumatic stress disorder — could in turn lead to worse PTSD symptoms. This sets up a pattern of repeated stressful experiences, they say, that could have harmful consequences for those with PTSD.

As Dr. Naomi Sadeh, corresponding author on the article, explains: “For individuals with PTSD, exposure to new stressful events will often prolong their symptoms and can even make them worse. So these findings suggest that treatment providers should ask trauma-exposed veterans about reckless behavior to make sure they are not engaging in harmful behaviors that could make their PTSD symptoms worse.”

The results appeared in a May 2017 issue of the Journal of Traumatic Stress.

Recent research has found evidence of a link between risky behavior and PTSD. Because of this relationship, “reckless and self-destructive behavior” has been added as a symptom of PTSD in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the handbook used to diagnose psychiatric conditions.

The new study assessed more than 200 veterans with PTSD diagnoses for both PTSD severity and reckless behavior at the beginning of the study, starting in 2006, and again four years later. Nearly three-quarters had engaged in reckless or self-destructive behavior at least once in the five years before the study.

The most common behaviors identified in this study were dangerous alcohol or drug use, drunken driving, gambling, and aggression. The researchers found a correlation between risky behavior and higher PTSD severity at both time points. The results lend further evidence that risky behavior is common among trauma-exposed veterans.

“These types of high-risk behaviors appear to be common among veterans who have experienced trauma, and put veterans in harm’s way by making it more likely that they will experience stress and adversity in the future,” says Sadeh.

But the study revealed more about the relationship between PTSD and risky behavior. In the time between the two tests, 82 percent of participants experienced at least one potentially traumatic event. These events included experiencing the sudden death of a friend or loved one; being threatened with or being the victim of a physical assault; being involved in a motor vehicle accident, or witnessing any severe accident; experiencing a life-threatening or disabling event affecting a loved one, or coping with a life-threatening illness.

Not only did the presence of risky behavior at baseline correlate with future PTSD symptoms, but it was also tied to the likelihood of experiencing new traumatic events. This led the researchers to suggest that risky behavior may lead to worse PTSD symptoms in the future by leading to a greater number of stressful life events. The findings suggest that many veterans with PTSD continue to experience stressful events that may prolong or worsen their PTSD symptoms, even years after the initial trauma.

The study authors write, “Driving while intoxicated, for example, increases the likelihood of experiencing a traumatic motor vehicle accident, overt aggression can elicit assaultive behavior from others, and drug use can increase exposure to drug-related crime and physical injury.” In other words, risky and harmful behaviors could lead to more trauma and, in turn, worse PSTD over time.

The results are of particular interest to VA. In addition to having much higher rates of PTSD, veterans are also more likely to engage in risky behavior. Veterans are at around 50 percent higher risk of suicide than civilians. They are also more frequently incarcerated for violent offenses and more likely to drive recklessly. Veterans also have higher rates of binge drinking and pathological gambling than their non-veteran counterparts.

VA and other health care systems need to focus on more assessment and treatment of problematic behavior in trauma-exposed individuals, say the researchers. They write, “Considering the number of veterans who have been diagnosed with PTSD and are reintegrated into society, understanding how reckless behaviors relate to the maintenance of PTSD symptoms is an important area of study.”

Story Source:

Materials provided by Veterans Affairs Research Communications. Original written by Tristan Horrom. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

 

Clinical trial evaluating potential treatment for postpartum depression

Researchers at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine announced the publication of results from a multi-site phase 2 clinical trial with brexanolone, an investigational medication, in the treatment of severe postpartum depression (PPD).

Currently, there are no drugs specifically indicated to treat postpartum depression, which affects an estimated 10 to 20 percent of all mothers who give birth, according to Samantha Meltzer-Brody, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Perinatal Psychiatry Program at the UNC School of Medicine, and academic principal investigator and senior author of the study published in The Lancet. Steve Kanes, M.D. Ph.D., Chief Medical Officer of Sage Therapeutics, is the lead author of the paper.

Postpartum depression is a mood disorder in women that can be triggered in some women by fluctuations in reproductive hormones. Common symptoms in mothers that experience PPD include low mood, feeling overwhelmed, anxious and ruminating thoughts, potential withdrawal from the baby and her family, and, in the most severe cases, suicidal thoughts.

“The results of this trial are like nothing I’ve seen before in the treatment of postpartum depression,” Meltzer-Brody said. “It’s vital that we develop a promising treatment for postpartum depression, which is so common, yet so stigmatized.”

During the study, which was conducted at multiple sites across the country, including UNC’s Perinatal Psychiatry Unit, physician researchers administered the intravenous agent brexanolone, an allosteric modulator of both synaptic and extra-synaptic GABAA receptors. In postpartum depression, the GABA pathway may play a key role in regulating hormones that researchers believe play a critical role in triggering PPD, Meltzer-Brody said.

In the study of 21 women, 10 women were administered a 60-hour continuous intravenous dose of brexanolone. The other 11 women were given a placebo. To be eligible for the trial, women had to have severe postpartum depression, which was assessed using the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAM-D). A HAM-D score of at least 26 was required for study enrollment.

Women treated with brexanolone had a mean reduction of 21 points in their HAM-D score, compared to an 8.8-point reduction in the placebo group. Brexanolone was generally well tolerated. There were no deaths, serious adverse events, or discontinuations. The most commonly reported adverse events in the brexanolone group were dizziness (two brexanolone-treated subjects; three placebo-treated subjects) and somnolence (two brexanolone-treated subjects; 0 placebo-treated subjects).

“In women with severe postpartum depression in the trial, infusion of brexanolone resulted in a rapid, sustained, statistically significant and clinically meaningful mean reduction in the HAM-D total score,” Meltzer-Brody said. “A 21-point reduction is not only meaningful in a clinical setting; it’s very promising in terms of potential drug development.”

Further, mean HAM-D scores for the women who received brexanolone remained significantly lower for a follow-up period of 30 days compared to the placebo group.

“As long as I’ve been in this field, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen results quite as dramatic as those from this study,” said David Rubinow, MD, chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the UNC School of Medicine, and coauthor of the paper.

Brexanolone is currently being evaluated in a phase 3 clinical program underway at UNC and various other sites across the country.

“To have an approved drug to treat postpartum depression, which affects so many women, their babies and their entire families, would be groundbreaking for our field and absolutely life-changing for the women who are suffering from PPD,” Meltzer-Brody said.

How to take a guilt-free holiday as a freelancer

Working for yourself means taking time off is not as simple as turning an out-of-office response on

I know the exact moment on my recent holiday where I finally relaxed after months of overdoing it. Towards the end of a trip to the US, my friend and I spent an afternoon of trashy pleasure on the Warner Bros studio tour in Los Angeles.

After winding through film sets, our tour cart stopped outside a building that housed props from the Harry Potter movies. I’m not a Potter addict, but I found myself staring into a glass case filled with magic wands. Without realising, I gasped in a moment of unthinking awe. After months of staring at a computer screen, my brain had finally unclenched.

Taking time away means turning down opportunities. Unless you’re being offered a career-defining gig, try to say no

Related: Wanderlust: five ways to keep your job while travelling the world

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Women abused by partners suffer lifelong health problems – study

First long-term Australian study to investigate impacts of intimate partner violence finds those who have survived abuse ‘recorded significantly poorer health’

Women who are abused by their partner suffer significant physical and mental health problems that persist throughout their lifetime, the first long-term Australian study to investigate the health impacts of intimate partner violence has found.

The research, led by the University of Newcastle’s research centre for generational health and ageing, followed 16,761 participants from the Women’s Health Australia study for 16 years from 1996.

Related: Domestic violence: five women tell their stories of leaving – the most dangerous time

Related: When I first wrote about domestic violence, no one talked about it. Now the shame has lifted

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Queen’s speech: what the Tories’ overhauled priorities may look like

Party’s manifesto plans will change in wake of election, with possible shifts in stance on Brexit, grammar schools and social care

The first Queen’s speech of the new parliament will be nothing like as ambitious as Theresa May had hoped, given the Conservative party’s lack of an overall majority and the need to rely on the Democratic Unionist party of Northern Ireland to pass legislation. Only a handful of key policies are likely to survive:

Related: Tom Watson asks May: did Murdoch request Gove’s return to cabinet?

Related: Q&A: how will the UK election result affect Brexit talks?

Related: Can party politics be set aside to save social care? | Paul Burstow

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The article that change my view … of how to cope with anxiety

Mental health nurse Andy Walton explains how a Guardian series transformed his personal and professional life

Andy Walton was flicking through the Guardian one January morning in 2011, when he came across the first article in a series called Start Happy. “It promised to help readers eat well, sleep well, exercise and find inner calm,” he recalls. “As someone who had struggled with anxiety for quite some time, it immediately caught my eye.”

Six years later, Walton is still enjoying the benefits of the series, which he credits with transforming both his professional and personal life. “It took a very positive and progressive look at mental health. On top of that, it covered lots of different themes in an engaging way, and it was the first time I really felt understood,” he explains.

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Crisps, keyboards, pens​ – how do you treat an unusual phobia?

When you are plagued by unusual fears, people’s reactions can be the hardest thing to bear. One writer with a phobia of jewellery explores what can be done

If a friend confided in you they had a fear of door handles or toenail clippings, would you laugh or sympathise? The instinctive reaction might be the former, but we can all get phobias of absolutely anything, and some can be debilitating. I have lived with my own fear of jewellery for as long as I can remember. If you were to place a metallic necklace or earring into my hands, it would send a shiver through my body, I’d feel instantly sick, have to throw the object away and wash my hands. The response from family, friends and colleagues has only ever been amusement or bemusement. I can live a normal life, despite consternation from some for not wearing a wedding ring, and have never got to the root cause.

Phobias are described as an overwhelming and debilitating fear of something. They are more pronounced than just fears alone. A dislike of rats, for example, is pretty common. But if it extends to musophobia (a fear of mice or rats), then it can be life-changing. “One person called our helpline who was so scared of rats they couldn’t even say the word ‘rat’ itself,” explains Trilby Breckman, a development manager at the charity organisation Triumph Over Phobia (TOP UK). “It was stopping her going out for fear of seeing one.”

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Can you write your way to happiness?

A growing number of diarists are using expressive writing or ‘bullet journalling’ to improve their health and productivity. But does keeping a daily log actually work?

”This groundbreaking tool will change your life,” claims MindJournal, a £9.99 collection of quizzes and writing exercises that it claims will “encourage you to be more honest with how you’re feeling”. Aimed at a male audience, it has a testosterone-fuelled tagline: “Become a stronger version of the man you already are.”

It’s not unique; in bookshops, it has quickly evident that the humble notebook is having an overhaul. Prescriptive travel diaries (“Enjoy the lightly guided prompts for agendas, lists and observations”) bump up against journals claiming to focus on inner truth (“Featuring over 70 thought-provoking quotes from fellow self-improvers, this journal is great for both perfectionists and failures!”), while the latest fad for bullet journalling – a convoluted to-do list system – has swept the internet, inundating Instagram with a pages of artfully annotated checklists.

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