Mental health, academic life and me

by Matt Flinders

There can be little doubt that mental health is a growing global challenge. And it really is a global challenge. Although rapid rises in relation to depression, anxiety, substance misuse, self-harming and eating disorders have been well-documented in many ‘advanced’ and relatively wealthy countries, it has been estimated that over 80% of those suffering from mental health disorders actually live in the Global South where support is rare.

Seen from this perspective the potential role and impact of the social sciences in terms of helping to understand why the mental health of so many nations seems to be fraying and what might be done has never been greater. I’m not suggesting that it is the role of the social sciences to come up with simple answers to complex problems. But I am suggesting that the complexity of the mental health challenge – with its cultural, economic and political dimensions – demands an inter-disciplinary approach with the social sciences at its core. Continue reading

Taking a stand against bullying: Addressing mental health problems from within

by Louise Arseneault

Many people have childhood memories of being pushed around and being punched by other pupils when we felt you couldn’t retaliate. They may also remember being the topic of nasty rumours or being excluded by others. Unfortunately, being bullied is not an unusual experience, even today.

Similar to maltreatment, bullying involves abusive behaviours where it is more difficult for the victims to defend themselves. But in contrast to maltreatment, these abusive behaviours are perpetrated by others of the same age. The research I have been conducting for the past 15 years – alongside great collaborators – emphasises the importance of moving away from the common perception that bullying is a just an unavoidable part of growing up.

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Epigenetics: How genes and the environment shape children’s mental health

by Charlotte Cecil

Mental illness is one of the leading causes of disability around the world, affecting one in three people every year in Europe alone – at an estimated cost of over €460 billion. It is hugely disruptive to the lives of individuals, their families and to wider communities.

If we are to successfully rise to the challenge of understanding how mental health disorders develop – and therefore how best they may be prevented – we must wind back the clock to children’s early development. More than half of all diagnosable mental health problems start before the age of 14, and often manifest earlier in childhood as emotional and behavioural problems, such as anxiety, depression, aggression or hyperactivity.

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The importance of our social environment in understanding suicidal behaviour

by Duleeka Knipe

Over 800,000 people die by suicide every year – that’s one death every forty seconds. A disproportionate number (76%) of these deaths occur in the world’s poorest countries. Our knowledge of the reasons why people die by suicide in this part of the world is severely limited, but a better understanding is desperately needed given that suicide is a leading cause of death in young people.

A huge barrier to improving our understanding is that we simply did not have good data from low and middle income countries to help us better comprehend this complex behaviour – until now. Continue reading

Life behind bars: can prison be better than this?

Anastasia Chamberlen is Assistant Professor in Sociology at the Department of Sociology, University of Warwick and is researching in the fields of prison sociology, feminist criminology and criminal justice.

English and Welsh prisons are undergoing one of their most challenging periods in decades. As I’m writing this piece, news emerges of yet another outbreak of violence in an English prison. This time, it’s the high security HMP Long Lartin in Worcestershire, a prison described by the Ministry of Justice as ‘well-staffed’, which saw 81 prisoners take over a wing, raising once again concerns about safety and order in English carceral institutions.

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