Tuesday, October 01, 2013


Spirituality and psychiatry - on the face of it, they do not seem to have much in common. But we are becoming increasingly aware of ways in which some aspects of spirituality can offer real benefits for mental health. 

What is spirituality?

There is no one definition, but in general, spirituality:
  • is something everyone can experience
  • helps us to find meaning and purpose in the things we value
  • can bring hope in times of suffering and loss
  • encourages us to seek the best relationship with ourselves, others and what lies beyond.
These experiences are part of being human - they are as clearly present in people with a learning disability and other conditions, such as dementia or head injury, as they are in anybody else.
Spirituality often becomes more important in times of distress, emotional stress, physical and mental illness, loss, bereavement and the approach of death.

All health care tries to relieve pain and to cure - but good health care tries to do more. Spirituality emphasises the healing of the person, not just the disease. It views life as a journey, where good and bad experiences can help you to learn, develop and mature.

How is spirituality different from religion?

Religious traditions certainly include individual spirituality, which is universal. But each religion has its own distinct community-based worship, beliefs, sacred texts and traditions.

Spirituality is not tied to any particular religious belief or tradition. Although culture and beliefs can play a part in spirituality, every person has their own unique experience of spirituality - it can be a personal experience for anyone, with or without a religious belief. It's there for anyone. Spirituality also highlights how connected we are to the world and other people.

What is spiritual health care?

People with mental health problems have said that they want:
  • meaningful activity such as creative art, work or enjoying nature
  • to feel safe and secure
  • to be treated with dignity and respect
  • to feel that they belong, are valued and trusted
  • time to express feelings to members of staff
  • the chance to make sense of their life – including illness and loss
  • permission/support to develop their relationship with God or the Absolute.
Someone with a religious belief may need:
  • a time, a place and privacy in which to pray and worship
  • the chance to explore spiritual concerns
  • to be reassured that the psychiatrist will not try to undermine their faith
  • encouragement to deepen their faith
  • to feel universally connected
  • sometimes – the need for forgiveness.

What difference can spirituality make?

Service users tell us that they have gained:
  • better self-control, self-esteem and confidence
  • faster and easier recovery (often through healthy grieving of losses and through recognising their strengths)
  • better relationships – with self, others and with God/creation/nature
  • a new sense of meaning, hope and peace of mind. This has allowed them to accept and live with continuing problems.

A religious/spiritual assessment

A helpful way to begin can be to ask "Would you say you are spiritual or religious in any way? Please tell me how." Another useful question is, "What sustains you?" or "What keeps you going in difficult times?" The answer to this will usually reveal a person's main spiritual concerns and practices.

The future
What do the next few weeks hold for you? What about the next few months or years? Are you worried about death and dying, or about the possibility of an afterlife? Would you want to discuss this more? What are your main fears about the future? Do you feel the need for forgiveness about anything? What, if anything, gives you hope?

  • Remedies
What kind of support would help you? How could you get it? Have you thought about self-help?

A spiritual assessment should be considered as part of every mental health assessment. Depression and substance misuse, for example, can sometimes reflect a spiritual void in a person’s life. Mental health professionals also need to be able to distinguish between a spiritual crisis and a mental illness, particularly when these overlap.

Spiritual practices

These span a wide range, from the religious to secular – which may not be obviously spiritual. You may:
  • belong to a faith tradition and take part in services or other activities with other people
  • take part in rituals, symbolic practices and other forms of worship
  • go on pilgrimage and retreats
  • spend time enjoying nature
  • give of yourself in acts of compassion (including work, especially teamwork)
  • spend time in meditation, deep reflection or prayer
  • follow traditions of yoga,Tai Chi and similar disciplined practices
  • read scripture
  • listen to singing and/or playing sacred music, including songs, hymns, psalms and devotional chants
  • spend time in contemplative reading (of literature, poetry, philosophy etc.)
  • appreciate the arts
  • be creative - painting, sculpture, cookery, gardening etc.
  • make and keep good family relationships
  • make and keep friendships, especially those with trust and intimacy
  • join in team sports or other activities that involve cooperation and trust.

Spiritually-informed therapies

Over recent years there has been increasing interest in treatments that include the spiritual dimension. In addition to established 12-step programmes for alcohol and substance misuse, new approaches such as mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for the treatment of stress, anxiety and depression (MBCT) and compassion-focussed therapy are now being actively researched and supported.

Spiritual values and skills

Spiritual practices can help us to develop the better parts of ourselves. They can help us to become more creative, patient, persistent, honest, kind, compassionate, wise, calm, hopeful and joyful. These are all part of the best health care.

Spiritual skills include:
  • being honest – and able to see yourself as others see you
  • being able to stay focused in the present, to be alert, unhurried and attentive
  • being able to rest, relax and create a still, peaceful state of mind
  • developing a deeper sense of empathy for others
  • being able to be with someone who is suffering, while still being hopeful
  • learning better judgement, for example about when to speak or act, and  when to remain silent or do nothing
  • learning how to give without feeling drained
  • being able to grieve and let go.
Spirituality emphasises our connections to other people and the world, which creates the idea of ‘reciprocity’. This means that the giver and receiver both get something from what happens, that if you help another person, you help yourself. Many carers naturally develop spiritual skills and values over time as a result of their commitment to those for whom they care. Those being cared for, in turn, can often give help to others in distress.


In the study, married people with cancer were about 20 percent less likely to die over a three-year period compared to unmarried people with cancer, regardless of the stage of their cancer..
What's more, married people with cancer were 17 percent less likely have metastatic cancer (cancer that has spread beyond the original site) a finding that suggests their cancer is being caught at an earlier stage and they were more likely to receive appropriate treatment for the disease.
It could be that the reason married people live longer is because they have more social support they have someone to share the burden of their diagnosis, which may reduce depression and anxiety as well as someone to take them to their appointments and ensure they adhere to their treatments, the researchers said.
The findings are not an affirmation of the health benefits of marriage, but instead, suggest that providing increased social support to unmarried people with cancer could benefit their health, the researchers said.
"If you have a friend or a loved one or someone you care about with cancer, you can potentially make a big difference in their outcome by going with them to their doctors visit, and helping them understand their diagnosis,"
However, research on whether social support improves outcomes for patients with cancer has been mixed. More studies are needed to understand what kinds of social support interventions such as group versus individual counseling are the most helpful.
Benefits of marriage
The researchers analyzed information from more than 734,800 people in the United States who were diagnosed with cancer between 2004 and 2008. The study participants had one of 10 cancers: lung, colorectal, breast, pancreatic, prostate, liver/bile duct, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, head and neck, ovarian and esophageal cancer.
After taking into account factors that could affect patient survival, such as age, household income and cancer stage, the researchers found that people who were married were between 12 and 33 percent less likely to die from cancer than those who were not married. The biggest survival benefit was seen for head and neck cancers, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Interestingly, the benefit of marriage on cancer outcomes was greater for men than women. More research is needed to understand the reasons for this finding, but it could be that unmarried women receive greater social support from friends, relatives and the community than unmarried men, the researchers said. A 2011 study from Norway found that unmarried men with cancer were more likely to die than married men with cancer, and that the disparity between the two groups had increased over the years.
Comparable to chemotherapy?
For about half the cancers studied (prostate, breast, colorectal, esophageal, and head/neck cancers), the survival benefit linked with marriage was greater than that linked with chemotherapy in previous studies, a result that surprised even the researchers.
While no one would argue that chemotherapy is an important treatment that should be given when needed, the new findings suggest the strength of the potential benefits of social support,
And although social support therapies would come with a cost, "it could actually be that we end up saving money in the long run,"  because the cancer is caught earlier, in stages where it is more likely to be curable.

"There's a connection [between marriage and cancer survival], but the connection is not necessarily marriage itself, it's all the things that go with marriage, Unmarried people may be more likely to engage in unhealthy lifestyle behaviors, which could contribute to their increased risk of mortality.
Future studies are needed that follow people forward in time (instead of looking back, as the current study did) to understand why marriage is linked with better cancer outcomes.

As a starting point let’s take the fact that sexual activeness isn’t a warranty for caring health as a large
amount of women live long and meaningful life without being sexually active, so-called sexual women. On the other hand, sexual activeness is a major premise for reproduction, and there are a lot of women and specially men who pay primary attention to sexual intercourses, although being sexually active doesn’t mean that they are satisfied with their sexual life.
And so being sexually active for women can be “beneficial” from a few viewpoints. First of all, childbirth is, of course, a gift. It’s, of course, obvious reality. Besides reproduction, sexual intercourse can give a woman other types of “desirable fruits”. They are: feeling an emotional deep intimacy with a loved person (who is unable to give any other physical activeness), sense of being desirable and an opportunity to satisfy the loved person. Such kind of women are involved in sexual relations with love but emotional feeling isn’t accompanied by arousal, and they don’t live sexual-erotic pleasure and orgasm which, however, doesn’t interest them at all, so from sexological viewpoint they aren’t ill and aren’t subject to treatment. But it’s possible that their sexual feeling is a major problem for their partner (husband).
Other types of women pay much attention to the sexual arousal, sexual pleasure and orgasm. They usually get upset when they don’t achieve orgasm. These women certainly consider emotional intimacy, opportunities of being desirable and giving pleasure to a partner useful but they don’t live full psycho-emotional satisfaction, suffer from being semi-satisfied and have serious physical consequences as complexity of their sexual dysfunction. Disorders of arousal and orgasm make women look for help and restore their erotic feeling which is quite real due to achievements of nowadays sexology.

Sunday, September 29, 2013


The management of nuclear waste disposal is frightening for many people. People are concerned because of the scale of problems that would result from human error. Errors that have occurred in the past frighten individuals into thinking that nuclear energy and nuclear products should be avoided. Also, because nuclear power can be harnessed into weapons of mass destruction, this has made nuclear a feared word.
Nuclear waste can be dangerous.  Radioactive products, nuclear byproducts resulting from use in modern medicine, and products such as uranium, and plutonium are a concern.  Responsible management of these products is crucial to environmental safety and the safety of residents.
As many nuclear power plants are coming to the end of their lifecycle, citizens are concerned with how they will be managed.  Nuclear waste is stored and the concern of a leak or accident is very troubling. The fact is that organizations responsible for the management of nuclear waste disposal are accountable and run under very detailed and careful processes and regulations with inspections and detailed safety measures.
Nuclear energy is clean and safe. Stories about situations like Chernobyl in the Soviet Union frighten people. In that situation, the lid from a Nuclear reactor blew and the resulting fire and radioactive contamination that spread resulted in many deaths. To this day, 3,000 square miles around that power plant remain quarantined due to the contamination.  Accidents do happen but overall the management of nuclear waste is handled responsibly. Unfortunately, what happened at Chernobyl taught lessons to power authorities on how handle such situations and has helped to prevent such things from occurring on a larger scale.
Nuclear Energy has reduced the world’s dependency on coal and oil. Using coal to create electricity results in many more environmental concerns. The byproducts of coal are excessively worse to the environment than the byproducts of nuclear energy and nuclear waste is more easily contained and disposed of than that of coal. Nuclear waste’s toxicity has a shelf life and an expiration date. Coal power byproducts do not.

In managing nuclear waste, some products are buried in sealed containers for either long term or short-term storage. Other products go through a process of transmutation.  Transmutation takes the nuclear waste and transforms it into a less harmful product or to a product with a shorter shelf life. All in all, most countries through careful processes are very responsible about nuclear waste disposal.

Bacteria are all around us and most people only consider these prokaryotic organisms to be disease causing parasites. While it is true that bacteria are responsible for a large number of human diseases, they also make it possible for certain elements such as carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen to be returned to the atmosphere.

Life as we know it would not exist without bacteria to decompose waste and dead organisms. These bacteria ensure that the cycle of chemical exchange between organisms and their environment is continuous.

The decision as to whether bacteria are friend or foe becomes more difficult when both the positive and negative aspects of the relationship between humans and bacteria are considered. Let's discuss three types of symbiotic relationships: commensalism, mutualism, and parasitism.

Commensalism is a relationship that is beneficial to the bacteria which live off of the host, but does not help or harm the host. Most of the bacteria that reside within the bodies of humans are commensalistic.

In a mutualistic relationship, both the bacteria and the host benefit. For example, there are several kinds of bacteria which live inside the mouth, nose, throat, and intestines of humans and animals. These bacteria receive a place to live and feed while keeping other harmful microbes from taking up residence.

A parasitic relationship is one in which the bacteria benefit while the host is harmed. Pathogenic parasites, which cause disease, do so by resisting the host's defenses and growing at the expense of the host. These bacteria produce poisonous substances called endotoxins and exotoxins which are responsible for the symptoms that occur with an illness.

When all of the facts are considered, bacteria are more helpful than harmful. Humans have exploited bacteria for a wide variety of uses, such as: making cheese and butter, decomposing waste in sewage plants, and developing antibiotics. Bacteria have been able to survive without us, but we could never live without them.