Life from an outsider's perspective…

“Dance to the tension of a world on edge”

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The mental health crisis in the 21st century linked to excercise? 

I personally think the majority of Personality Disorders and Mental Illnesses are what Alvin Toffler was refferring to in his legendary book “Future Shock”, written in 1970. In a nutshell:  when you have a period of rapid social change (in our highly technological post industrial society), with an insufficent adaptation time, this creates overstimulation. Think of it as a type of  “information overload”. For example going shopping, have you ever just been startled by the number of cereals to choose from, or been completely overwhelmed by the current global internet communication network? This in turn leads to increased stress levels (despite our best coping mechanisms such as avoidance, disassociation, idealisation, rationalisation, regression, repression, supression, denial, fantasy, etc).

This is speculation on my part, but when your anxiety level is increased beyond normal levels, the resulting stress can lead to a whole host of terrible consequences -violence, illness, depression and other mental diseases. In fact there is a already strong link between anxiety and depression. Violence & depression are perhaps the two worst “coping mechanisms” of all. Suprise suprise, stress is also a major factor in heart disease and strokes. I don’t have to remind you that homicides, suicides and heart attacks are the top 3 killers in most developed nations… and possibly all three are due to too much tension in our lives. Stress is now seen as a risk factor in both cancer and diabetes as well!

I think reducing anxiety is the key to better physical and mental health. In today’s world, we don’t rely on exercise as much as we should. The study at the bottom of this page proves that excerise can reduce the effects of some mental illnesses. But could the reverse also be true; could decreasing our level of excerise in an increasingly stressful world actually be causing our mental health crisis? Instead of teaching our children outmoded concepts, perhaps we should be teaching them how to relax. Heres a short Stress Management Article.

Dr. Leslie Brown.

(Science not medicine!)


I have quoted the following directly from other sources:

In Developed Countries, 8 of the 10 Leading Causes of Disability Are Mental Illnesses

The massive Global Burden Of Disease study conducted by the World Health Organization, the World Bank, and Harvard University measured the leading causes of disability (counting lost years of healthy life). In developed countries, the ten leading causes of lost years of healthy life at ages 15-44 were: (1) Major Depressive Disorder, (2) Alcohol Use, (3) Road Traffic Accidents, (4) Schizophrenia, (5) Self-Inflicted Injuries, (6) Bipolar Disorder, (7) Drug Use, (8) Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders, (9) Osteoarthritis, (10) Violence. “The Global Burden Of Disease” by C.J.L. Murray and A.D. Lopez, World Health Organization, 1996, Table 5.4 page 270


Mental Health Policy in the 21st Century
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Remarks of Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy
University of Texas Southwestern, Department of Psychiatry
Jan. 28, 2002

When a disease strikes young people right as they enter the prime of life – when it’s a chronic disease that saps one’s motivation and self-esteem — when it sabotages a person’s ability to hold a job or maintain relationships – don’t tell me that’s not a real burden. Don’t tell me that disease isn’t costing lives.

When you think about burden in these terms, disability as well as mortality, mental illnesses account for 10.9% of the worldwide burden of all disease according to the World Health Organization and World Bank. In other words, more than one in every ten lost days of healthy life is due to mental illness. That’s second only to heart disease, and is predicted to surpass heart disease by 2020. When you add in addictive disorders to mental illness, it’s already the most burdensome family of diseases worldwide.

The human cost is staggering. I hardly need to tell you the price is paid not only by those with mental illnesses, but by their families and loved ones. We see the costs in our children, parents, grandparents, siblings, and friends. And, of course, for many of us, in the mirror.

We see the costs in suicide statistics that should horrify people. For every two homicides in this nation, there are three suicides. I don’t think most people know that. Suicide is the eighth leading cause of death nationwide, and among kids is second or third, depending on the age group. It’s a huge problem among the elderly as well.

And even if you’re a cold, mean, heartless person, you should care. Untreated mental illness costs the U.S. $300 billion dollars – that’s billion with a ‘B’ – each year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. The Wall Street Journal has estimated that depression alone costs American companies $70 billion annually in lost productivity and direct costs. We’re not talking about Pravda here – this is the Wall Street Journal.

We feel the costs of mental illness throughout society. We have a prison system bursting at the seams, two million people in American prisons. Reports show that 20 percent of inmates nationwide suffer from severe mental illnesses. It’s estimated that four in five prisoners are alcohol or drug abusers. Instead of treating the minds, we imprison the bodies. 


Schizophrenia improved by mental and physical exercise:

Scientists at Melbourne’s Howard Florey Institute have shown that mental and physical exercise can improve behavioural deficits in schizophrenia and repair damaged chemical transmitter pathways in the brain.

Dr Anthony Hannan, along with Dr Caitlin McOmish, Emma Burrows and colleagues, characterised a genetically altered mouse and discovered that it had schizophrenia-like behaviours, including learning and memory problems, the inability to process complex information, and abnormal responses to particular sensory stimuli.

The scientists found the mouse’s condition significantly improved by simply giving them enhanced mental and physical exercise – putting running wheels in their cages, plus interesting items to smell, see and touch.

Not only did the mouse’s schizophrenia-like symptoms ease through this environmental enrichment, but a specific chemical transmitter pathway found to be abnormal in the cerebral cortex of the mice was selectively rescued.

An anti-psychotic drug used by humans also improved the mouse’s condition, indicating that this mouse is a valid model for schizophrenia in humans. Dr Hannan said this discovery could pave the way for the development of better treatments for schizophrenia.

“Through our research, and that of others, we hope a new class of therapeutic drugs will be developed that mimic the effects of environmental enrichment in the brain to treat various brain disorders, possibly including schizophrenia,” Dr Hannan said.

“Pharmaceutical approaches may not be the sole answer for a given brain disease. People may still need optimal levels of physical and mental activity, as well as a healthy diet, plus the right drugs.

“We have already identified specific molecules that could be targets for what I call ‘enviromimetics’ and these may have relevance for other brain diseases. “However, there are obviously major differences between mice and men, and large-scale clinical trials are needed to identify the most beneficial drugs,“ he said. Schizophrenia is a brain disorder that is brought on through a complex and largely unknown interaction of genes and environment.

There is a nature-nurture aspect to schizophrenia because in human identical twins, if one twin develops schizophrenia, there is only a 50% chance the other twin, who has identical genes, will develop the illness.

Dr Anthony Hannan’s ground-breaking environmental enrichment studies have previously shown that a combination of mental and physical exercise could delay the onset and progression of Huntington’s disease. As well as movement problems (e.g. chorea) and cognitive deficits (culminating in dementia) this disease has psychiatric symptoms, which can include depression and psychosis.


Physical Activity and Common Mental Disorder: Results from the Caerphilly Study: http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/165/8/946

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