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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‘I can’t fight anorexia any more. I’ve tried so hard’

Pip McManus died three years after becoming ill with an eating disorder. Her parents explain how medical care failed their daughter

Marie McManus wants to show me the final photograph taken of her daughter Pip. It was 9 December 2015, and the 15-year-old is standing on the platform of a railway station five minutes’ walk from the family home. In the CCTV image, Pip is wearing a red hoodie and looking up the track to see if her train is coming. But she’s not going to get on it.

Related: Mother of anorexic girl killed by train criticises care failings after inquest

I thought, they’ll put a drip in, they’ll give her fluids. They’ll make her better

Related: Mental health services turn away 23% of under-18s referred to them

Related: Anorexia: you don’t just grow out of it | Carrie Arnold

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A letter to … my husband, who copes with my anxiety disorder

The letter you always wanted to write

You have always known that I struggle with anxiety. At some stages of our life together, I have been paralysed by it, living it, breathing it but seeing little else, including you. My anxiety can stifle our time together. In my worst moments I constantly seek reassurance, I display symptoms of OCD and hyperventilate. I often wonder how you have managed to see the person beyond the anxiety, how you have tolerated me and stayed.

When things are on a more even keel we have wonderful times. I cling on to these in the dark moments, storing them like bright snapshots in my mind. How do you cope? There are times when we laugh, live and love but often we simply exist. We go through the motions, or rather you drag me through them. There have been times when I haven’t been able to work. There have been times when I have constantly harangued you – via text, email, phone – crying, convinced I was dying of yet another life-threatening illness. Again I wonder how you cope, why you stay?

At 12 weeks old our little boy had open-heart surgery. The weeks running up to that are a blur of fear, sadness and joy

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Teenagers’ sleep quality and mental health at risk over late-night mobile phone use

Researchers advise ‘physical boundaries’ over devices in bedrooms after study finds poor sleep associated with phone use linked to depressed moods

Teenagers’ late-night mobile phone use is harming their sleep and potentially their mental health, say researchers who advised that “physical boundaries” be set over use of such devices in the bedroom.

A longitudinal study of 1,101 Australian high school students aged between 13 and 16 found poor-quality sleep associated with late-night texting or calling was linked to a decline in mental health, such as depressed moods and declines in self-esteem and coping ability.

Related: Vaguebooking? Subtweeting? Supertweeting? Why can’t we just say what we mean online?

Related: Scientists believe the secret of a good night’s sleep is all in our genes

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Ruby Wax: ‘The kids didn’t know I had depression until they were older. My husband covered for me’

The comedian talks about her mother’s obsessive compulsive disorder, her own depression and marrying her husband for his family

I was born and raised in Evanston, outside Chicago. My dad, Edward Wachs, and my mum, Bertha, fled Austria in 1938. My family were Jewish but they never practised, so it’s not something I really identify with. My dad ran a catering company so we ate a lot of different kinds of hot dogs. We lived on a lake and if you saw it you’d think, “Oh my God, it’s so beautiful!” It was this American Pie happiness but something wasn’t right.

My mother had obsessive compulsive disorder, although I didn’t know it was called that then. Everything had to be incredibly clean and she went around with sponges in both hands, constantly wiping up. I had girlfriends whose mothers would fill their refrigerators full of food but ours only had mayonnaise and my dad’s cigars. My mother would often get hysterical and there was lots of screaming, but rather than deal with it, my father would just turn the opera up on the radio.

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Postnatal depression – ‘I felt disembodied for so long but suddenly I was back in my own body’

Jessica Friedmann talks to Viv Groskop about the terrifying years she experienced after the birth of her son

Jessica Friedmann thought she was managing well after the birth of her son. Then suddenly her thoughts took a dark turn. “I had to come back into hospital two weeks later for a checkup and I realised that all I wanted to do was get out of the moving car. I was feeling as though I couldn’t handle being alive any more and that it would be better for Owen if I wasn’t.”

Friedmann, 30, has written an extraordinary account of extreme postnatal depression as seen from the eye of the storm. She lives in Canberra, Australia, with her husband, Mike, 34, who is in the Australian air force. Their son, Owen, is four. The period of “feeling foggy”, as she calls it, dates it back to Owen’s early weeks. Friedmann’s experience is at the sharp end of things. While the NHS suggests that the “baby blues” usually don’t last more than two weeks after giving birth, Friedmann was ill for, she estimates, two and a half to three years.

Related: Postnatal depression is not a new phenomenon, only a chronically ignored one

Mental illness is such a bear trap because in any other crisis you can articulate what is going on. But I couldn’t

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Postpartum psychosis: ‘I’m a thing possessed, an animal. I am nearly sectioned twice’

It’s a condition that comes out of nowhere and affects one in 1,000 new mothers. Here, one woman recalls her experience of this terrifying illness and how writing about it saved her

My name is Jessica. I have postpartum psychosis. It is not my fault. Since my son was born, I have slept nine hours in 11 days. I have heard of the baby blues, but this is something else altogether; this feels like the baby black and blues. This feels like oblivion.

I can’t stop writing. Every thought, every idea, the name of every person I meet needs to be recorded. I mustn’t lose this thought. It must be noted; kept; remembered. The world needs to hear my words. If they are lost, all will be lost. Record it. Record what I’m saying. Make sure it’s recording. This will go viral. It will make me a millionaire. You will never have to work another day in your life.

Related: Postpartum psychosis: research reveals full recovery possible within weeks

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Therapy ‘has long-term benefits for mothers with depression’

CBT has positive effects on mental health, financial empowerment and parenting skills, long-term study shows

Cognitive behavioural therapy has significant positive effects on a mother’s mental health, income, employment and parenting skills even seven years after the birth of the child, according to the first study of its kind.

The international research project into the impact of depression on pregnant mothers and their babies, led by Professor Sonia Bhalotra from the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex, could have major implications for public policy.

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How bad parenting can knock 20 years off your life

Heart disease, depression, life expectancy. New research claims that stress exerts a far heavier physical toll than previously understood. The film-maker James Redford talks about how childhood stress can be a killer

There is a scene in James Redford’s new film, Resilience, in which a paediatrician cites a parental misdeed so outmoded as to seem bizarre. “Parents used to smoke in the car with kids in the back and the windows rolled up,” she says, incredulous. How long ago those days now seem; how wise today’s parents are to the dangers of those toxins. Yet every week in her clinic in the Bayview-Hunters Point area of San Francisco, children present with symptoms of a new pollutant – one that is just as damaging. But unlike the smoke-filled car, this new pollutant is invisible, curling undetected around children’s lives and causing lasting damage to their lungs, their hearts, their immune systems.

“Stress,” Redford says. “It is a neurotoxin like lead or mercury poisoning.” He mentions the city of Flint in Michigan, where residents were exposed to lead in drinking water. “And that’s literally what’s going on” with children who are “coming from really stressful environments. We know what environmental toxins are. Well, this is an environmental toxin.” The proliferation of so-called “toxic stress” among children, Redford says, “is a public health crisis”.

This continual exposure to stress wears the body down, and makes you more prone to cardiovascular disease

Related: Is stress bad for your health?

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Postpartum psychosis: research reveals full recovery possible within weeks

For new mothers who experience this rare and little-understood mental health condition, the consequences can be fatal. But early identification and treatment can have rapid benefits

Sarah West says in the days after the birth of her son in 2012, she felt the emotions many new mothers describe – a mixture of joy combined with anxiety about breastfeeding and whether she was doing everything right.

But around one week after the birth, West’s new-mum anxiety went into overdrive. Despite the exhaustion that comes with being a new parent, she was unable to sleep when her baby slept. Her thoughts raced.

Related: I had postpartum psychosis. More must be done to help mothers like me | Vonny Moyes

Related: Pregnancy and mental health: the hidden pain of giving birth

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Postnatal depression is not a new phenomenon, only a chronically ignored one

One in seven women experiences postnatal mental illness every year in Australia, approximately 100,000 new parents

I take three pink pills every morning, small ones, kept on my bedside table in a bright yellow box. Because they look so enticing and so sugary-sweet, I swallow them in full view of my son, part of our morning ritual before I drop him off at care. He knows that they are “Mummy medicine”, pills I need to keep me healthy, and that without them I feel very tired, and sometimes sad. At four years old, he has watched me swallow pills for half of his short life.

We’ve talked about the fact this medicine is just for adults; he knows to keep his distance from anything in sealed-up foil. I am grateful that he accepts my need for medication as part of normal life; I am grateful for a chance to feel “normal”, insofar as antidepressants keep me on an even keel. Mostly I am grateful that his memories stretch back for so short a time, and that he’s never seen me deep in the grips of depression.

Related: Ariel Levy, Krissy Kneen, Cat Marnell – literary highlights for Australia in March

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