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Psychobiotics: Microbes, Mood and the Gut-Brain Connection

Scott Anderson

Scott Anderson (@Psychobiotic) is a veteran science journalist with specialization in medical research and computer programming. He is the author of a number of books covering topics as diverse as Human Embryonic Stem Cells and Video Production skills, and he was also one of the creators behind the computer game Lego Island, which was one of the biggest selling computer games of the 90’s.

Scott runs a laboratory called Freedom Health that studies bacterial health in racehorses and has developed prebiotics for animals and humans, and his newest book “The Psychobiotic Revolution“, along with John Cryan and Ted Dinan from the APC Microbiome Institute, explores how and why your brain health and state of mind are intimately connected to your gut microbiome.

In today’s episode we discuss the history of the gut-brain research, how the gut and the brain communicate with one another, why the bacteria living in your digestive system may contribute to mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety, how western dietary habits lead to the destruction of a healthy gut ecology, and we also discuss some of the pre and probiotic foods that you can start consuming to bring your brain and body back into balance.

 

Related Links

Feed Your Microbes, Nurture Your Mind – John Cryan, TEDx Talk

Food for thought: How gut microbes change your mind – John Cryan TEDMED Talk

Book Recommendations

Images (modified) courtesy: Hey Paul Studios (Brain, Gut

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How to Bankrupt Your Business, Destroy Your Family, and Lose Your Mind

Well, it had to happen sooner or later, I suppose.

In today’s episode I share my own story of my decent into madness. Beginning with my early childhood flirtations with hypochondria, I take you all the way through my battles with depression, anxiety, agoraphobia, and depersonalization, right the way through to hitting rock bottom in early 2015 when I experienced a brief period of suicidal ideation.

If that doesn’t sound morbid enough, on the way we’ll encounter adoption, drugs, prostitution, strip clubs, brothels, lies, infidelity, gangland violence, ambition, failure, bankruptcy, nudists, modern art, tongue piercings, and my illustrious career as a dog shit picker-upper.

Enjoy!

I’ve included some photos and links below to add a few visuals to the narrative, or just in case anyone thinks I might be telling porkies pies.

 

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Related Links

Hit me up on Twitter: @dannydwhittaker

Calls for investigation after brothel charges – Manchester Evening News

Clubland shooting victim named – BBC

Teen’s key-fob death is still a mystery  – Manchester Evening News

Skinbook: Facebook for 21st Century Nudists – TIME

Book Recommendations

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Postnatal Depression: A Darker Shade of Blue

Elaine Hanzak

Elaine Hanzak (@elainehanzak) is an author and speaker who uses her experience with postnatal depression and bereavement to deliver keynote presentations on overcoming loss and perinatal mental health.

She is the author of two books, “Eyes Without Sparkle: A Journey Through Postnatal Illness“, which today’s discussion is based on, and the follow-up “Another Twinkle in the Eye: Contemplating Another Pregnancy After Perinatal Mental Illness“.

In 2016 Elaine was nominated for the “Cheshire Woman of the Year” Award for her contribution to community services, and in 2017 she was a finalist at the British Journal of Midwifery Awards in the category of contribution of a non-midwife to mid-wifery practices.

In today’s episode Elaine shares her experience of postnatal depression. How despite dreaming of motherhood her entire life, a traumatic labour, months of sleep deprivation, and the pressures of aspiring to be the perfect mum, eventually caused her to spiral into a period of depression, self-harm, psychosis, and eventually being admitted to a psychiatric hospital.

Having since made a full recovery, Elaine tells us what the experience has taught her about motherhood and life, and she also offers some simple self-care practices to help future mums avoid a similar fate.

 

Related Links

Hanzak.com – Elaine’s website

Elaine Hanzak Facebook Page

Maternal Mental Health Alliance – a UK coalition improving the mental health of women and their children during the perinatal period

Book Recommendations

     

Image courtesy: Jake Guild

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Why Stress Destroys Us

Prof. Carmine Pariante

Carmine Pariante (@ParianteSPILab) is Professor of Biological Psychiatry at Kings College London, where he also leads the Stress, Psychiatry and Immunology (SPI) Lab, investigating the relationship between stress, mental health and the immune system.

Carmine is the editor of a number of books including “Understanding Depression: A Translational Approach“, and “Behavioral Neurobiology of Stress-related Disorders“, and he also writes a blog for the Huffington Post.

He has received a number of awards for his research including the 2012 “Academic Psychiatrist of the Year” Award from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the 2015 Anna-Monika Prize for Research on Depression, and the Norman Cousins Award for outstanding contributions to research in psychoneuroimmunology.

In today’s episode we discuss the biology of stress, everything from the anatomy of the brain, to the endocrine system, and how it’s all functions together. We explore the evolutionary advantages of the stress response, how the pressures of modern life can cause stress to become chronic, and how the physiological damage of long-term stress can lead to conditions such as anxiety and depression.

 

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Related Links

Stress, Psychiatry and Immunology (SPI) Lab – Facebook Page

Book Recommendations

          

Image courtesy: Amy McTigue

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Dads in a Dark Place

Mark Williams

Mark Williams (@MarkWilliamsFMH) is the founder of Father’s Reaching Out and co-founder of International Father’s Mental Health Day (19th June).

After experiencing a traumatic labour during the birth of their son Ethan in 2004, both Mark and his wife Michelle struggled with crippling anxiety and post-natal depression.

While Michelle recovered, Mark continued on a downward spiral which eventually culminated in suicidal ideation and a complete nervous breakdown.

After finally seeking help, Mark has since made a full recovery, and now makes it his life’s mission to raise awareness of perinatal mental health issues in fathers.

Mark has spoken around the World at over 150 conferences and events, and has written about fathers’ mental health in several publications.

He has appeared on numerous TV news outlets and has also appeared in television documentaries concerning mental health including Channel 5’s “My Secret Past” discussing post-natal depression.

In 2012 he was awarded “Local Hero” at the Pride of Britain Awards and Inspirational Father of the Year.

 

Recommended Links

Father’s Reaching Out

Dads Cymru

Dads Matter UK

Fathers Mental Health Network

Maternal Mental Health Alliance

Postnatal depression and perinatal mental health (Partners Page) – Mind

Books Mentioned in This Episode

               

 

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Image courtesy: Andrés Nieto Porras

The Gift of Listening

Jenni McCartney

Jenni McCartney (@SamaritansJenni) has been a volunteer at Samaritans for more than 30 years, and in 2015 was elected Chair of Trustees, representing the charity’s 21,000 volunteers.

As part of her role she writes a blog for Samaritans’ internal website, delivers speeches at the Council of Samaritans and at branch AGMs, and spends time travelling round the 201 branches dotted throughout the UK and Ireland to meet with volunteers and help spread the word.

In recognition of these efforts, Jenni has been awarded the CharityComms Inspiring Communicator Award for her work engaging with volunteers, and for representing Samaritans in the media.

In today’s episode we learn about the history and formation of Samaritans, how and why Jenni first became a volunteer and, more importantly, why she decided to stick with it for more than thirty years.

We explore the most common reasons people turn to Samaritans, how it evolved from a suicide prevention line into an emotional support service that anybody could call for any reason, why Samaritans policy is primarily to listen without giving advice, and how this approach can often be more effective in helping callers find the answers they’re looking for.

We also explore what it’s like to be a volunteer answering calls, what’s involved in the training process, what you actually say and do when a call comes in, how you learn to help other people deal with their negative life experiences without letting it affect your own emotional well being, but ultimately, how listening to other people’s problems is, more often than not, a rewarding experience for both parties.

 

CRISIS HELPLINES

SAMARITANS (UK & ROI): 116 123 – Available 24 hours a day, every day of the year. This number is FREE to call and won’t appear on your bill. You do not have to be suicidal to call.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (US): 1 800 273 8255 – Available 24 hours a day, every day of the year. This number is FREE to call, but may appear on your bill (please check with carrier). You do not have to be suicidal to call.

Live outside the UK or US? For a comprehensive list of international helplines, or to find a crisis centre in your area please click here!

Recommended Links

Samaritans – Home Page

Samaritans Volunteer Sign-up Page

Books Mentioned in This Episode

Image courtesy: Alon

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Why Do People Kill Themselves?

Prof. Rory O’Connor

Rory O’Connor (@suicideresearch) is Chair in Health Psychology, Head of Mental Health and Wellbeing at Glasgow University where he also leads the Suicidal Behaviour Research Laboratory, the leading suicide and self-harm research group in Scotland.

He is co-editor of “The International Handbook of Suicide Prevention“, Deputy Chief Editor of Archives of Suicide Research, and Associate Editor of Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior.

As well as serving on the Scientific Review Board of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, he also sits on the Scottish Government’s national suicide and self-harm implementation and monitoring group.

In today’s conversation we explore some common myths about suicide, why men are three times more likely than women to die by suicide and the role and responsibility of the media when it comes to reporting on this particular issue.

We discuss the development of Rory’s theory of suicidal behaviour and his mission to discover what separates the few people who die by suicide from the vast majority who don’t, the effectiveness of suicide awareness campaigns, why suicide should never be seen as a cop out and suicide attempts never dismissed as attention seeking.

We also spend a good deal of time exploring some practical advice for people, and the friends and relatives of those people, who are themselves feeling suicidal.

 

 

Integrated Motivational Volitional (IMV) Model of Suicidal Behaviour

 

CRISIS HELPLINES

SAMARITANS (UK & ROI): 116 123 – Available 24 hours a day, every day of the year. This number is FREE to call and won’t appear on your bill. You do not have to be suicidal to call.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (US): 1 800 273 8255 – Available 24 hours a day, every day of the year. This number is FREE to call, but may appear on your bill (please check with carrier). You do not have to be suicidal to call.

Live outside the UK or US? For a comprehensive list of international helplines, or to find a crisis centre in your area please click here!

Recommended Links

Suicidal Behaviour Research Lab

Media Guidelines for Reporting Suicide – Samaritans

How to Help Someone who is Suicidal and Save a Life – HelpGuide

How to make a suicide safety plan – SuicideLine

Books Mentioned in This Episode

     

Image courtesy: Colin Knowles

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Insomnia and the Art and Science of Sleep

Prof. Jason Ellis

Jason Ellis (@JasonGEllis101) is Professor in Psychology at Northumbria University, and Director of the Northumbria Centre for Sleep Research, a purpose-built facility designed to study and treat disorders of sleep and wakefulness.

He’s the author of “The One-week Insomnia Cure: Learn to Solve Your Sleep Problems“, and in 2013 served as resident sleep expert on BBC One’s two-part series Goodnight Britain.

In 2015 he led the first ever study to attempt to treat insomnia in the acute phase – before it becomes chronic – and found that almost three-quarters of participants saw improvements in the quality of their sleep following a single one-hour therapy session.

Jason has presented his research at numerous conferences around the world, and is also actively involved in both public and professional engagement activities, speaking at the British Science Festival, TEDx Conference, and the National Science Learning Centre.

In today’s episode we discuss insomnia and how it relates directly to mood and mental health. So, what is sleep and why does it matter? How do a couple of sleepless nights turns into chronic insomnia for some people, and nothing more than a few groggy shifts at work for others?

We discover how the quality of our sleep can predict your likelihood of developing depression, why seasonal affective disorder is more of a sleep problem than a mood disorder, how daytime napping could be a sign of underlying health concerns, and the limits of medication.

We also discuss some of the more curious aspects of sleep, such as why we sometimes start body popping just as we’re about to nod off, why couples shouldn’t share a duvet, why none of us should be shy when trying out a mattress in the bed shop, why playing Candy Crush at bedtime could be messing up your circadian rhythms, and also how having sex in the kitchen could potentially help you sleep more soundly.

 

Jason’s Recommended Links

Northumbria Sleep Research Laboratory on Facebook

Books Mentioned in This Episode

          

 

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Image courtesy: Jacob Stewart

Bipolar Disorder: Seeking Peace Between Darkness and Chaos

Prof. Steven Jones

Professor Steven Jones (@lancsspectrum) is Professor of Clinical Psychology at Lancaster University, and Director of the Spectrum Centre for Mental Health Research (@SpectrumCentre) conducting translational research into the understanding and psychological treatment of bipolar disorder and other related conditions.

He’s the editor and author of a number of books including “Coping with Schizophrenia: A Guide for Patients, Families and Caregivers“, and “Coping with Bipolar Disorder: A CBT-Informed Guide to Living with Manic Depression“.

So what is bipolar disorder, and how does it differ from plain old depression?

In this episode we untangle the various manifestations of bipolar including bipolar types 1 and 2, and cyclothymia. We discuss the nature and duration of mood swings and what triggers them, and we examine the concept of mania and manic episodes and how these affect people’s thoughts and behaviours.

We also explore mixed affective states, where the person experiences depression and mania simultaneously, and why this can increase the risk of suicide in people with bipolar.

We discover why both adolescence and middle age are times when people are particularly susceptible to the onset of bipolar, the causal link between sleep deprivation and mania, the controversial topic of bipolar in children and whether or not it actually exists, treatment options, personality variables, issues of cultural context, and loads more in between.

 

Steve’s Recommended Links

The Spectrum Centre for Mental Health Research

Bipolar disorder: assessment and management – NICE

Understanding Bipolar Disorder – BPS

Books Mentioned in This Episode

 

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Image courtesy: Al King

Why Procrastination Makes You Depressed (and Depression Makes You Procrastinate)

Dr. Tim Pychyl

Dr. Tim Pychyl (@procrastwitate) is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology, and the Director of the Centre for Initiatives in Education at Carleton University, in Ottowa, Canada. His psychological research is focused on the breakdown in volitional action commonly known as procrastination, and how it relates to personal health and wellbeing.

He is the recipient of numerous teaching awards including the 3M National Teaching Fellowship, a Graduate Mentoring Award and the inaugural recipient of the University Medal for Distinguished Teaching.

He is the author of “Solving the Procrastination Puzzle: A Concise Guide to Strategies for Change“, the host of the iProcrastinate Podcast, writer of the brilliant Don’t Delay blog at Psychology Today, and founder of the Procrastination Research Group.

In today’s episode we explore how procrastination relates to things like depression and anxiety, we discuss the emotional factors that initiate and drive procrastination, and how it can affect not only your mental, but your physical health and wellbeing, by increasing your chances of things like coronary heart disease.

We discover why we’re terrible at forecasting our future moods and why you’ll never “feel like doing it tomorrow”, how to grease the wheels of productivity and boost your willpower, and why Homer Simpson might have something very profound to teach us about how we treat our future selves.

 

Tim’s Recommended Links

Procrastination.ca – Home of the Procrastination Research Group

iProcrastinate Podcast

Don’t Delay – Tim’s blog at Psychology Today

Books Mentioned in This Episode

                                   

 

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Image courtesy: MattysFlicks