‘I want to talk!’ Waterloo students demonstrate for better mental health support

Months of waiting for counselling and the culture of high productivity has University of Waterloo students demonstrating at arts quad Thursday morning.

“I want to talk!” One student chanted. “We want to listen!” The crowd answered.

WaterlooWalkout for Mental Health was organized after a 22-year-old student in his fourth year of study died by suicide on campus on Monday.

About 200 students showed up. Some held signs. Others shared their struggles with mental health and what they believe is a lack of support on campus from counselling services.

“It seemed like they didn’t care about what I had to say,” said Iman Abbarao, who has been studying at the university for almost four years.

“The other day I told my friends that if I didn’t have family and friends in downtown Toronto, I probably would have taken my own life at some point along this journey,” she said in front of the crowd of students.

Iman Abbarao Waterloo mental health

Iman Abbarao, a student in her fourth year, said the only way she can get support is to leave campus and take a two-hour GO bus ride to downtown Toronto where her family is. (Flora Pan/CBC)

One after another, students recalled times when they went to counselling services but were told the next available appointment is months away. Other students spoke about abuse, sexual assault, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Chelsea MacDonald, a first year student studying theatre performance, said she is angry about the state of support available for students.

“And then something like this happens, the university tells me go to counselling services. I can’t even f–ing get an appointment,” she said.

Mental health report

Matthew Grant, the university’s director of media relations, said at the rally that it was “very brave” for the students to share their experiences with mental health.

He said the mental health report being released on March 14 will have recommendations for improving student mental health on campus. There is also a town hall where the president will talk about the report and address student questions.

Currently, there are 22 full-time equivalent counselling services staff and 2 full-time equivalent psychiatrists serving 31,380 undergraduate students and 5,290 graduate students.

For comparison, at the University of Guelph, there are 16 full-time counsellors, one full-time psychiatrist and one part-time psychiatrist serving about 23,000 students.

A Wilfrid Laurier University spokesperson said for approximately 14,500 full-time equivalent students at the Waterloo campus, there are more than 30 staff, a mix of full-time and part-time physicians, nurses and counsellors, at the Student Wellness Centre who address mental health concerns.

Sundus Salame waterloo mental health walkout

Sundus Salame said the pressure to succeed academically is intense and she frequently feels like despite studying very hard, she isn’t good enough. (Flora Pan/CBC)

‘Very competitive’ culture on campus

Aside from the long wait times for counselling, students mentioned the pressure to succeed academically and getting good co-op job placements makes it very difficult.

“Somehow I have to be superhuman, or I have to have some kind of time-turner to catch up with all of these deadlines and readings,” said Sundus Salame.

“A lot of people here are pushed to just work 24/7 just to get 80 average, just because the courses are designed to just weed out anyone who does less than an excessive amount of work,” she said.

Chelsea MacDonald waterloo mental health

Chelsea MacDonald is in her first year studying theatre and performance. She lives in a one-person suite in residence and says she feels isolated. (Flora Pan/CBC)

In her speech to the crowd, MacDonald said students on campus are so wound up in the “grind for grades, grind for co-op,” that there is very little feeling of community.

Despite having friends, she said she frequently feels lonely.

“I don’t feel safe in my dorm anymore,” she said, “Because I know if I was ever, ever, at that point, how long would it take for someone to find me?”

Sarah Welton Waterloo walkout

Sarah Welton organized the walkout in a matter of days after the 22-year-old student died on campus. (Flora Pan/CBC)

Sarah Welton, who organized Thursday’s walkout, said coming to the university as a second-year student was “very alienating, very isolating.”

“I’ve heard so many people express the same sentiment over and over again,” she said.

“I don’t feel that all these reports they keep sending out are going to do enough, if they aren’t actually trying to take action and make some real concrete changes around the university.”

Reposted from: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/kitchener-waterloo/university-of-waterloo-campus-mental-health-1.4567382

Antidepressant drugs do work, review on almost 120,000 patients concludes.

A vast research study that sought to settle a long-standing debate about whether anti-depressant drugs really work has found they are indeed effective in relieving acute depression in adults.

The international study — a meta-analysis pooling results of 522 trials covering 21 commonly-used antidepressants and almost 120,000 patients — uncovered a range of outcomes, with some drugs proving more effective than others and some having fewer side effects.

But all 21 drugs — including both off-patent generic and newer, patented drugs — were more effective than placebos, or dummy pills, the results showed.

“Antidepressants are routinely used worldwide, yet there remains considerable debate about their effectiveness and tolerability,” said John Ioannidis of Stanford University in California, who worked on a team of researchers led by Andrea Cipriani of Britain’s Oxford University.

 Cipriani said these findings now offered “the best available evidence to inform and guide doctors and patients” and should reassure people with depression that drugs can help.

“Antidepressants can be an effective tool to treat major depression, but this does not necessarily mean antidepressants should always be the first line of treatment,” he told a briefing in London.

‘Depression causes misery to countless thousands every year and this study adds to the existing evidence that effective treatments are available.’– Dr. James Warner

According to the World Health Organization, some 300 million people worldwide have depression. While both pharmacological and psychological treatments are available, only one in six people with depression in rich countries gets effective treatment. That drops to one in 27 patients in poor and middle-income countries.

The study, published in The Lancet medical journal, found some differences in the effectiveness of the 21 drugs.

In general, newer antidepressants tended to be better tolerated due to fewer side effects, while the most effective drug in terms of reducing depressive symptoms was amitriptyline, discovered in the 1960s.

Some well-known medicines — such as the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) fluoxetine, sold under the Prozac brand — were slightly less effective but better tolerated.

The scientists noted that their study could only look at average effects, so should not be interpreted as showing that antidepressants work in every patient. Only around 60 per cent of people prescribed depression medication improve, Cipriani said.

“Unfortunately, we know that about one-third of patients with depression will not respond to them,” he said. “It’s clear there is still a need to improve treatments further.”

Several experts not directly involved in the study said its results gave a clear message.

“This meta-analysis finally puts to bed the controversy on antidepressants,” said Carmine Pariante, a professor at Britain’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience.

James Warner, a psychiatrist at Imperial College London, added: “Depression causes misery to countless thousands every year and this study adds to the existing evidence that effective treatments are available.”

Resposted from: http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/antidepressants-meta-analysis-1.4546709

Empathy Bad For Moral Decision Making?

Paul Bloom says empathy is a capricious feeling that plays on our prejudices.

By empathy, the Yale psychology professor does not mean kindness or generosity, but the process of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes as a moral guide.

In his book Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion, Bloom argues empathy, as an emotion, often leads to bad moral decisions.

“It feels great, but given the nature of our minds, [empathy] leads us to bias decisions, to enumerate decisions, and often, cruel decisions,” Bloom told The Current’s host Anna Maria Tremonti.

Bloom says empathy speaks to our unconscious biases, which should have no role in guiding moral decisions.

“The temptation of empathy is to make the problem go away for the person immediately — and who this person is depends on what they look like and what they seem like.”

‘Racist biases show up tremendously in who we feel empathy for.’– Paul Bloom

Bloom says empathy cannot be felt for more than one person — meaning we tend to prioritize the particular over the many when making empathetic decisions.

“It’s because of empathy that people care more about a little girl stuck in a well, than they do about climate change.”

In some circumstances, empathy motivates people to do things that actually make the world worse.

Alan Kurdi
Empathy for Alan Kurdi, the Syrian boy whose drowning made international headlines in 2015, mobilized many to call for military interventions in Syria – which was arguably a poor moral decision, says Bloom. (Tima Kurdi/Facebook)

As an example, Bloom refers to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, in which 20 children were killed. In an empathetic gesture,  people from all over sent teddy bears and toys to the grieving community, but eventually this became a burden as residents had nowhere to put the offerings.

The parents asked for the donations to stop, but the public refused.

“It’s a simple example of the difference between wanting to make the world a better place, and really helping people, vs. feeling empathy and wanting to scratch that itch.”

But all is not lost.

According to Bloom, compassion is an all together positive strategy for making a difference.

“There’s a lot of experiments looking at empathy and compassion, finding that not only do they activate different parts of the brain, but that when you feel compassion you’re actually better able to help. You enjoy helping, because you’re not suffering along with people.”

And with less of an emotional toll, Bloom says compassion allows for more consistent giving.

‘A lot of people in helping professions, doctors, nurses or first responders, burn out — they have to drop out.  The best people care about others, but they don’t feel their pain.’– Paul Bloom

Reposted from: http://www.cbc.ca/radio/thecurrent/the-current-for-january-4-2017-1.3919635/against-empathy-yale-psychology-professor-says-too-much-emotion-leads-to-bad-moral-decisions-1.3919638