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The way we act influences the way we feel.  Charlie Brown, the unhappy in love character from the cartoon strip Peanuts, has the odd bad day. Of this he says “I’ve developed a new philosophy… I only dread one day at a time.”

In one well known comic-strip Charlie Brown is demonstrating his “depressed stance” to Lucy. He’s standing with his head bent towards the ground and shoulders slumped. He’s explaining to Lucy that when you are depressed, it makes a difference how you stand. “The worst thing you can do is straighten up and hold your head high because then you’ll start to feel better,” he says as he stands erect, shoulders squared and his head held high. The last frame of the cartoon shows Charlie Brown resuming his “depressed stance” while saying, “If you’re going to get any joy out of being depressed, you’ve got to stand like this.”

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The following websites have lots of useful information about mental health and other youth issues.

Depression Helpline is a site where you can talk with a trained counsellor and get Self-Help strategies for Youth Depression.

Orygen is a unique organisation made up of a specialist youth mental health service, a research centre and a range of education, training, advocacy and health promotion activities.

Aware Is an Irish voluntary organisation that aims to assist people who are directly affected by depression.

Reach Out is a comprehensive and interactive internet site for young people. This site has heaps of factsheets with practical advice about issues ranging from self-harm through to leaving home.

Ybblue is a community awareness campaign designed to reduce the stigma associated with depression and assist in young people aged 17 to 25 to get help.

MoodGYM is an Internet-based therapy program designed to prevent depression in young people. It consists of five modules, a workbook and some interactive extras, including a game. It includes assessments of anxiety and depression, information about life-event stress, parental relationships and pleasant event scheduling.

Headroom aims to inform young people, their caregivers and service providers about positive mental health.

Somazone is an interactive Internet site for young people that focuses on general health and wellbeing. It includes personal stories, and a question and answer section.

Itsallright is a site for young people who have a friend or family member affected by mental illness. You can read the diaries of four fictional teenagers touched by mental illness.

Dawn Simulation is a technique used in the treatment of Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as winter depression. Typically, the treatment involves timed lights in the bedroom to come on gradually, over a period of 30 minutes to 2 hours, before awakening.

Dawn simulation was developed in the 1980s at Columbia University following a long line of basic laboratory research that showed animals’ circadian rhythms to be exquisitely sensitive to the dim, gradually rising dawn signal at the end of the night.

Have a look at this method and also bright light therapy at the Center for Environmental Therapeutics.

SAD affects people during the winter months. It is caused by a lack of sunlight and is particularly prevalent in countries where winter days are extremely short and winter nights are long. SAD generally develops in adulthood, is more common in women and relatively uncommon in people aged under 20. However some children and teenagers can be affected.

SAD is currently being popularised on the TV show Men in Trees which features an Alaskan policewoman spending part of each day in front of her light box to help combat SADness.

There have also been particular concerns raised in New Zealand recently, about our children not getting enough sunshine and hence developing vitamin D deficiency as well as signs of SAD. This is being caused by children spending too much time indoors, wearing long sleeved “hoodies” outside, and by some parents being overzealous in protecting their children from the damaging effects of the sun.

A range of physical and emotional problems are attributed to SAD, including trouble sleeping, being depressed and anxious, craving sweets and carbohydrates and mood changes. Some sufferers describe the condition as “an energy crisis”. There also seems to be a family link – many people with SAD have a parent or other close relative with the condition

The main response to SAD is increasing the daily intake of light by going outdoors or using artificial means.

SAD was first noted in Scandinavia. It’s been estimated about 20% of Swedes suffer with the problem due to their long, dark winters.

What can I do to help the winter blues?

  • Exercise regularly – including walking outdoors to increase your sun exposure
  • Bring more light into your home – trim back trees, open curtains, install a skylight
  • Sit by windows during the winter to increase sun exposure
  • Eat a nutritious diet and cut back on caffeine, sugar and refined products
  • If you can afford to, take a winter holiday somewhere bright and warm

Supplement your diet with a good multi-mineral including magnesium and multi-vitamin, including the B vitamins. A natural healer is likely to also suggest other supplements and remedies that will be helpful.

Youth Week 2008 is all about relationships. Young people thrive when there are supportive, encouraging and positive people in their lives.

Get involved in Youth Week. Turn up to an event, wear a hoodie on Hoodie Day, plan an activity, or just be a great example of a young person (or a great adult that cares about young people).

Keep up-to-date with all the latest Youth Week news by subscribing to Youth Week e-news.

Young people around NZ have shared their stories about important relationship in their lives in a Youth Week competition. Here are some exerts from some of the winners.

A BBC health news item about a new study is of interest. It seems that depressed men are less likely to be engaged with their children. Not really a surprise.

The study looked at vocabulary development. The researchers, led by paediatric psychologist James Paulson, surveyed about 5,000 families. When the children were nine months old, 14% of the mothers and 10% of the fathers were clinically depressed. They studied the use of 50 common words and found that children whose fathers were depressed when they were nine months old used an average of 1.5 fewer words than those whose fathers were fine.

This difference might seem small, but is statistically significant.

Men may not be likely to seek help for themselves but when other people who depend on them become affected, that may change the landscape.

James Paulson – Eastern Virginia Medical School

A person who knows of our interest in articles about depression lent us a magazine called MindFood. The May 2008 edition has a very youthful looking Madonna (the musician not the Mother of God) on the cover.

There were a couple of great articles in the latest version. A very good one by Findlay Macdonald telling how he succumbed to depression, which hopefully they will publish on their website later (we’ll link to it if they do).

Another was an interview with “genius” psychologist Dr. Dorothy Rowe who specialises in depression. She believes that depression is “not a physical illness to be treated with medication but a self-made prison you can leave, if you change the way you interpret your life.”

We had a look at the MindFood website and found this self-help article called Beat the Blues, by Donna Duggan. The article starts off:

There are myriad natural ways to beat the blues, lift your mood and improve your outlook, ranging from aroma-psychology to vitamins and minerals.
The section on breathing involves minimal equipment and makes the following suggestion:
No special technique is required – just take a few deep breaths when you need a break or can’t find the solution to a problem. Take a deep breath right into your stomach, hold it for a few moments, and then let the air go with a loud sigh. Deep breathing is one of the most effective mood boosters. In stressful situations many people hold their breath, or their breathing is very shallow, which restricts the flow of oxygen throughout the body and reduces mental function.
May 2008
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