Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Childbirth and Postpartum Psychosis

Having a baby is supposed to be one of the happiest times of your life. But for some women, childbirth can be the trigger that causes them to temporarily 'lose their minds'.
Every year, about 1,000 women in the UK suffer from what is called postpartum psychosis. Most of them will need several weeks in hospital to help them recover but, because of the stigma of mental illness, it is not often talked about.
When I gave birth to my baby daughter Ettie, I was absolutely elated. But this elation soon turned into a form of mania - non-stop talking, an inability to sleep, an exhausting energy - all of which were unnatural and unsustainable.
I became very irritable, suffering from extreme mood swings and hallucinations. I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital for several weeks.
That period in my life was not one I discussed readily with anyone. It was so far from most people's experience of new motherhood and because of the stigma of mental illness that exists in our society, I felt slightly ashamed.
Would people want to associate with a "crazy person"? Might they think I was "a bad mother"?
It took me a few years to get over that feeling and it is only recently that I have had the opportunity to meet other women who have also suffered from postpartum or puerperal psychosis.
Sharing stories was a liberating experience and prompted us to become involved in a Wellcome-funded project to publicise the illness and tackle the stigma that hinders recovery.
The project is called Unravelling Eve. It was conceived by artist Joan Molloy, an artist and mother of two whose work has focused on themes of family, memory and time.
I helped to run a workshop where Joan met a group of women who had all had postpartum psychosis, to hear what the experience had been like for them.
For the first time, these women were able to talk about the terrible impact of the illness.
Tracy spoke of her terrifying hallucinations: "I thought I'd given birth to the anti-Christ and my child, I believed, had little devils living inside his stomach which would come out at night and dance around my kitchen floor."
Some spoke of suicidal thoughts and being convinced that their babies would be better off without them.
For some it also took a long while to get better. "I felt like a zombie for at least a year or two", says Ceri. "I can't remember how long I was on anti-psychotics for - obviously the drugs saved my life, but my goodness they take a while to recover from."
With treatment each of these women recovered, but it was a life-changing experience for them all.
So why does it happen to some new mothers?
Joan and I went to see Dr Ian Jones of Cardiff University, a perinatal psychiatrist and expert on the condition.
He explained: "When we're talking about postpartum psychosis, we're talking about some of the most severe episodes of illness we see in psychiatry."
"These are women who very quickly after childbirth have an episode triggered that may involve lots of different mood symptoms.
"They often have psychotic symptoms, delusions, believing things that aren't true, or hallucinations... seeing things or hearing things when nothing's there."
Tragically, if the symptoms are not recognised in time, in rare cases this can result in suicide or, very rarely, infanticide.
The causes of postpartum psychosis are unclear, though we do know that genetic factors are important. You are more likely to have postpartum psychosis if a close relative has had it.
Changes in hormone levels and disrupted sleep patterns may also be involved.
More research is needed, so we have set up a new charity called Action on Postpartum Psychosis (APP) to raise awareness and support women and their partners who feel isolated.
For many women with postpartum psychosis there is no warning, but if you have bipolar disorder you are at considerably greater risk, so it is wise to find out about postpartum psychosis and prepare yourself just in case.
Due to a shortage of specialist beds, many women will have to be admitted to a general psychiatric hospital, usually without their baby.
But some parts of the country are lucky enough to have specialist mother and baby units where women can keep their newborns with them for the weeks or months it takes to recover.
We visited the oldest of these, the Channi Kumar Unit at the Bethlem Royal Hospital, south London.
They support the mother in developing a relationship with her infant in order to reduce the impact of the illness on the child.
Mothers and babies can stay together or the mothers can stay on their own with a gradual reintroduction to their babies on the ward.
The average length of inpatient treatment is eight to 12 weeks, and staff encourage the involvement of fathers or partners in the treatment process.
Perinatal psychiatrist Dr Trudi Seneviratne says their aim is to prepare mothers for a lasting return to the community.
"One of the joys of working in a unit like this is that women do get better", she says. BBC.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

George Michael shelves UK shows due to pneumonia

Singer George Michael has cancelled the remaining dates of his tour because of ill health, his publicist has confirmed.

The 48-year-old was admitted to hospital in Vienna on Monday and is being treated for "severe" pneumonia.

His publicist added that the singer is "responding to treatment and slowly improving".

Discussions are under way about rescheduling the remaining 14 dates that have been put off.

The star's spokeswoman said in a statement: "George Michael is ill with pneumonia and any other speculation regarding his illness is unfounded and untrue.

"He is receiving excellent medical care, he is responding to treatment and slowly improving.

"To ensure his complete well-being, George Michael's doctors have advised that he cannot perform the rest of his Symphonica tour and that he instead takes a full and complete rest."

The former Wham! singer kicked off his European tour in Prague in August.

It was originally meant to include 47 concerts. He was due to bring the tour to the UK on Saturday, with dates continuing until 19 December.

Professor Dr Christoph Zielinski and Professor Dr Thomas Staudinger of the Vienna hospital where the musician is being treated said: "George Michael has severe community acquired pneumonia and is being treated as an inpatient.

"His condition has stabilised and he is responding to treatment.

"From the current point of view, the time until recovery cannot be estimated, but he will not be able to perform the rest of the tour. Besides medical treatment, complete rest and peace and quiet are mandatory."

In October, a viral infection caused Michael to pull out of a show at the Royal Albert Hall in London, following advice from doctors. BBC.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Taylor Swift wins big at American Music Awards

Country sensation Taylor Swift came up the big winner at the American Music Awards yesterday, claiming three trophies including the top honour, artist of the year.

She tied for most wins with British singer Adele, who also earned three trophies for female pop artist, best album with smash hit “21” and top adult contemporary performer.

But Adele, who came into the awards show as the most-nominated singer with four nods, lost artist of the year to Swift, who seemed genuinely surprised by the upset victory.

“This is one of the craziest things that has ever happened to me,” Swift said. “I have no idea what I’m supposed to say. I did not think this was going to happen.”

Along with year’s top artist, Swift claimed AMA trophies for favourite female country artist for the second straight year, and she nabbed best country album with her “Speak Now”.

Adele, who is recovering from vocal cord surgery, was not on hand to accept her awards.

Rapper Nicki Minaj was the night’s other big winner with two AMAs in the rap or hip-hop category: favourite artist and best album for her “Pink Friday.”

Minaj opened the show singing her smash hit single “Super Bass” in a metallic outfit that had two large speakers on her bottom, and after winning best hip-hop album for “Pink Friday” was overcome with emotion.

“This one could actually make me cry,” Minaj said onstage before wiping away tears. “I can’t believe this is happening.”

Elsewhere, the AMA awards were split among numerous acts.

Rounding out the country awards with Swift were Blake Shelton for best male artist and Lady Antebellum best group.

Maroon 5 picked up the honour for best pop or rock group behind current hit “Moves Like Jagger,” and Bruno Mars rounded out the pop category with an AMA trophy for best male artist.

Among R&B acts, Rihanna grabbed best album with “Loud,” winning over ex-boyfriend Chris Brown and his “F.A.M.E.” Usher was named favourite R&B male artist and Beyonce best female.

Finally, the Foo Fighters earned top alternative rock band, Jennifer Lopez was the top Latin artist, and Casting Crowns won for best contemporary inspirational act.

While awards are the major focus, the show brings out top acts to perform. Lopez put on two crowd-pleasing acts, one solo and the other with Black Eyed Peas frontman will.i.am.

Justin Bieber with his holiday song “Under the Mistletoe,” had fans singing in the audience, and Enrique Iglesias with his anthem “I Like How it Feels” had them hopping to the beat.

Marc Anthony and Pitbull also rocked the crowd, and the show ended with LMFAO singing from their “Party Rock” album, dancing with Bieber, and stripping to their underwear.

The AMA awards is among the most widely watched of the annual US musical honours at the end of each year. Next up on the list of key honours are Grammy nominations, which will be announced on November 30. — Reuters

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

AOL + Huffington Post = disaster?

Arianna Huffington is selling Huffington Post to AOL. Photograph: AP/Mark Lennihan

by Emily Bell, guardian.co.uk
If a company is to enjoy success in the world of media in general, and content creation in particular, then two ingredients have to be present. One is a strong culture and the other is scale. It explains the success of any number of brands – News Corporation, the Daily Mail, the BBC, the Financial Times – in the recent difficult past.

For companies that have scale but lack a culture, or vice versa, the obvious yet so often disastrous solution is to merge. Nothing creates greater comedic value or destroys actual monetary value quicker than trying to acquire a culture in pursuit of scale and getting the whole thing wrong.

This is why AOL's purchase of the Huffington Post is causing such intense media interest. It is not the $315m price tag, or the query over whether content businesses have a future, it is really the thought of Arianna Huffington, the Madonna of new media, striding into the AOL boardroom, where many unfairly imagine there are still shovels in the corner. AOL is not only a competitor for the world's uncoolest media brand, but is also to corporate mergers what George W Bush is to US foreign policy.

Tim Armstrong, who joined AOL as chief executive from Google in 2009, wants both the culture and the growth. He has to try to destroy the memory of AOL's two most infamous mergers – first with Time Warner in 2000 and then with social networking platform Bebo in 2008. If there were a competition for worst media mergers in history, these could happily expect to place one and two without any serious competition. Armstrong has been on a content-expanding rampage of late, first investing tens of millions of dollars in Patch.com, a hyperlocal network of low-cost sites, which now has 800 centres, and then a foray into buying high-profile blogs including TechCrunch last September and now the Huffington Post.

A terrifying leaked document entitled The AOL Way pinged round the US media business last week containing the company's "secret sauce" for success in creating journalism for the internet. Quintessentially that seemed to be increasing the number of pieces writers produced, for less money. "Scaled content production" is the rather sobering term for this. It does not look like a set of numbers that Arianna Huffington would feel very at home delivering, although the strategy of Huffington Post, which is all Big Politics on the left hand side of the site and Kim Kardashian on the right, is much closer to AOL's own strategy than one might immediately think. Indeed, Huffington achieved a miracle for web publishing in 2005, by getting high-profile contributors to write for nothing, through a mixture of charm and brand association. One can imagine now, with the money for their labours residing with AOL, that bargain will abruptly come to an end.

Part of Huffington Post's success was its vibrance and its position outside the establishment. It has now not only joined an establishment, but joined one where most people feel about as close to the brand as they do to Walmart.

One has to wonder in this context what is in it for Arianna Huffington (apart of course from a substantial part of the $300m)? What Huffington Post delivered her was a perfect platform for high-profile politicking and talking about her interests, which are wide ranging. The daily grind of editorial wrangling within a large corporate entity is a million miles from the start-up loft of Huffington Post's early days and the next phase of development carries none of the fun and much more of the risk than the early days.

A rather troubling aspect of the whole episode has been the baffling message, repeated by Huffington in an editorial on the site today, that this merger is "1 + 1 = 11". One hopes that this does not mean, for the sake of the HuffPo staff and the AOL shareholders, that the deal is quite literally nonsense.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

> Airport scanners may violate laws, says British rights commission

The use of full-body scanners at British airports may breach human rights laws, the country’s equality commission said today, potentially undermining the latest weapon against terrorism.

The new technology has been hurriedly introduced at London’s Heathrow airport and Manchester airport in northern England after a botched attempt to bomb a US-bound passenger aircraft from Amsterdam on Christmas Day.

Nigerian suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is alleged to have boarded a US aircraft on Dec 25 with explosives hidden undetected in his underwear.

The full-body scanners, which see through clothes to produce an image of the whole body, might have detected the explosives, experts have said.

Rights campaigners have said they fear an invasion of privacy and disproportionate scrutiny of Muslim travellers.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said the scanners might be breaking discrimination and privacy laws, and it had “serious doubts that the decision to roll this (body scanning) out in all UK airports complies with the law.”

The commission said one of the chief concerns was over how people would be selected for the scans.

In a letter to Transport Secretary Andrew Adonis, the EHRC expressed concern “about the apparent absence of safeguards to ensure the body scanners are operated in a lawful, fair and non-discriminatory manner.”

The Transport Department said it was committed to ensuring that all security measures are used legally, proportionately and in a non-discriminatory way.

It said it was “absolutely clear that those passengers who are randomly selected for screening will not be chosen because of any personal characteristics,” and that it had published an interim code of practice which addressed privacy concerns. — Reuters.
From Malaysian Insider.