How to Deal with Loneliness If You’re Self-Isolated During the Coronavirus Outbreak

Whether you’re truly alone in this difficult period—or just feel alone—these tips from therapist Rachel Wright will help you feel more at peace with the situation.

By Rachel Wright

Humans have always been pack mammals. Go back in time, and you’ll see we like being part of groups and communities.

But then a thing called the internet came along, and it really halted a lot of that in-person connection. That’s why, before the coronavirus crisis even happened, we were already in a “loneliness epidemic.” Basically, before we were being forced to self-isolate, we were already feeling lonely and isolated.

It’s not that feeling lonely on its own is necessarily a bad thing—just like feeling jealousy or stress on its own is not necessarily a bad thing. They’re natural human emotions that you can’t entirely avoid; plus, they can trigger beneficial responses (like realizing your relationship is unhealthy or spurring you into action to get a big project done). But when you experience it chronically, which is what’s starting to happen with this loneliness feeling, that’s when it can start to have repercussions. When you feel lonely, it affects the activation of serotonin and dopamine—two feel-good neurotransmitters—in your brain. Their activation slows down, which can make you feel low, possibly depressed or anxious. And so it’s really challenging when you’re by yourself, and you’re also navigating anxiety, stress, or depression separately in addition to being alone. (More here: What Are the Psychological Effects of Social Distancing?)

How to Manage Loneliness During Social Isolation

If you’re living alone or feeling extremely lonely from lack of social interaction, these strategies could drastically help. Even if you’re surrounded by people but this whole situation has you ~in your feelings~, you can take advantage of some of these strategies as well.

1. Decide how often you want to connect through video.

It’s okay if one day is an all-day affair and you’re just going to be on your phone for most of the waking hours. And it’s okay if there’s a day where you want to put your phone down and not look at it at all and just be with yourself. Figure out what the right balance is for you. On average, I would say one to three face-to-face interactions a day is a healthy number. You don’t necessarily need to be interacting with the other person—for example, just watching an Instagram live could count—as long as you feel really connected and fulfilled by it. (If you’re stuck inside with a partner or S.O., these tips fo relationships and dating might help.)

2. Journal.

If you journaled before, great. If you didn’t, now’s the time to start. (Related: 10 Cute Journals You’ll Actually Want to Write In)

It is going to be very interesting to retroactively look back on how you felt throughout this coronavirus pandemic. Take the time to just sit with yourself and ask:

How am I feeling?

What am I thinking?

What am I doing?

If you’re journaling and you’re starting to feel that discomfort of sitting with your own feelings, know that discomfort was probably there before and you’re just now accessing it. Stick with it and process through that—even if you feel your hand getting tired or like you can’t write as fast as your brain is going. You can also use a voice memo on your phone, especially if you’re more of a talker than a writer. There’s no rule that says the journaling has to be a pen and paper in a book with a lock; it can be anything you want. (Related: Journal Apps for “Writing Down” All Your Thoughts)

Another great journaling prompt is to focus on gratitude. It’s so easy for us to get caught up in what we don’t have anymore and what we’re missing—and it’s ok to write that down. But it can also be really helpful to acknowledge the things you’re really grateful for: Do you have food at home? Do you have toilet paper at home? Are you feeling healthy? Is your family healthy? All these things that, honestly most of us probably take for granted.

I like to sit down in the morning and do a brain dump—I write down anything that’s kind of swirling in my head that I just need to get out. Then I wrote down my gratitude and my intention for the day. And you don’t need to journal for a long time—for it to be beneficial you only need to journal for like one minute.

3. Keep a schedule—including time for self-care.

It can help to write out a schedule in the morning because it encourages you to notice the things that you look forward to that bring you joy—including making time to relax, just like you did when you were leaving the house more.

Just because we’re in a new, unprecedented time doesn’t mean that the things that felt relaxing before aren’t going to work now. If you liked to take a bath with a candle, take a bath with a candle. Think about what you did to relax before this pandemic, start there, and then if that’s not working, you can brainstorm some changes. (Related: The Self-Care Items Shape Editors Are Using At Home to Stay Sane During Quarantine)

And for people who are worried about money or looking for a job, you might be thinking ‘what if I don’t have time to relax? I don’t have time to sink into my feelings.’ Still, I’d say if you don’t take the time to relax and focus on yourself, you’re not going to be in a great place to be creative, to figure out finances, or find solutions. You need to take the time for yourself, no matter what socioeconomic or pandemic position you’re in. (Use these self-care ideas as inspiration.)

4. Get rid of “shoulds” and expectations.

Start from scratch because your expectations for yourself are now different. Collectively, we need to lower the bar for ourselves in a compassionate way. Think: ‘Yeah, I showered today, and that is a win.’ Sometimes our anxiety, our loneliness, or whatever emotion it might be, spikes and it’s hard to change out of sweats; it’s hard to exercise. So when we do these things, we should celebrate and honor the fact that we did it and not in a self-deprecating way. Like, truly, ‘we’re in the middle of a global pandemic, and I took a shower. I’m amazing.’ We need to do that for ourselves and for our friends and family as well.

What to Do When You’re Feeling Especially Anxious, Lonely, or Depressed

First of all, just know that you’re not alone; I don’t know anyone who has not felt some level of anxiety and or depression thus far through this. It’s a normal human emotional response to feel that way right now and period.

When you find yourself spiraling into one of these emotions (and it’s not a chronic issue that you have), imagine that you’re talking to a four-year-old version of yourself. How would you talk to that four-year-old if they said to you, “I’m scared that I’m not going to get to see my friends for two more months.” How would you respond to her? Ideally, you’d meet this little kid with compassion. But when we talk to ourselves, we’re normally like, ‘Ok, you have to push through this. You have shit to get done, you need to do this work.’ And the more that we try to shove it down, the more we try to escape those feelings, they’re just going to come back with even more force and angrier. Sometimes feelings are like that; we just need to acknowledge them with compassion and let ourselves feel them. (Related: Everything You Should Know About Anxiety Disorder)

With what’s going on right now, the fear and anxiety we’re all experiencing makes a lot of sense; there’s so much unknown, and anxiety is based in the unknown. So if you’re thinking, “I don’t like this and I’m feeling anxious,” well, nobody does. Let’s just get that out there—this sucks. It’s the worst feeling.

It can be really helpful to lean into anxiety and use coping tools, even if you’ve never experienced anxiety before. Things like learning about breathwork and practicing grounding breath, limiting your news intake to a certain amount per day (don’t just have CNN on in the background all day; we need to stay informed, but we also can’t take that in all day, every day), and acknowledging the feelings you’re having to someone that you trust and love. So if you’re feeling depressed, if you’re feeling anxious, call a friend, text a friend, and let them know. Say, ‘hey, my anxiety is spiking. I don’t need you to do anything about it. I just, I need to tell somebody.’

Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Internet-Based Socializing?

Everyone will hit a point where they need a break. For me, it was like day two of social distancing. Everyone was reaching out, and, on one hand, it was so wonderful: I would set my phone down for five minutes, and I’d come back to like four missed FaceTime calls and like 82 texts and I thought, “Wow, that’s amazing.”

But then it started creating anxiety: I felt like I had to respond to all of the things coming at me. So there’s a happy medium to find—whether you’re alone or with people. You can still have alone time and find time to socialize just like you would if this wasn’t going on. It’s really easy to think, “Well, I can’t meet up with people in person so I have to be constantly on Zoom or on Instagram with people.” Personally, my screentime shot up from an average of like four hours a day to, yesterday, I was on my phone for nine and a half hours!

That’s not healthy for anybody, even when you’re doing it to connect with other people. It’s really about finding what that “new normal” is for you. I don’t like the term “normal” because we get to times like this and we’re like, ‘I just want to go back to normal,’ and that way of thinking is just going to keep you feeling more frustrated and more stuck.

How to Deal with the Indefinite-ness of It All

Number one is acknowledging it. Say it out loud. If you’re home by yourself, even if you say it to your walls, say it out loud: “I don’t know when this is going to end, and that is scary. I don’t know when this is going to end, and that is horrific.” Whatever word is appropriate for what you’re feeling.

Next, make a list of things you want to do or would like to watch while you’re in quasi-quarantine. Give yourself a bucket list of things—maybe there’s a TV show that you’ve been wanting to watch but haven’t had the time, a project you’ve been meaning to start, or a skill you want to lean. Give yourself things that you can actually accomplish and look forward to within the confines of your home. Maybe Friday you’re working, but Saturday you plan to have a guitar lesson on YouTube—it’s something that you can then still look forward to, even if it’s small.

Lastly, make a post-quarantine bucket list, or a list of things that you want to do once this is all over. This concept is recommended to people when they’re going through things like cancer treatments. It really helps to make a list of what you want to do when you’re feeling healthy and when you can be with your friends again.

How to Deal with a Lack of Physical Touch

This is the hard part. I mean, it’s all hard; let’s just acknowledge that. But this is the one thing that is really hard to replicate and recreate without actually having another human being there with you. The good news is that it’s an opportunity to get into self-love and self-touch. We think of self-touch and most of our minds immediately go to masturbation—but if I’m going to talk about masturbation, I would say masturbation. I’m talking about self-touch as in, literally, take your arm and drag your finger on it. Rub your arm. Then increase the pressure by pressing more deeply. Then go get lotion and rub the lotion into that same part of your arm. Give yourself the physical contact and touch that you are craving from other people. It’s not going to replace it completely—there is no replacement for a human being touching another human being—but it will help in the meantime, and it’s way better than sitting just not touching yourself at all. (Related: The Benefits of Human Touch and How to Get More of It, No Matter Your Relationship Status)

And, yeah, also masturbation. It’s a great time to really take the time to explore your body in all of the ways sexual and non-sexual. Rubbed your feet? See what it feels like to rub your knees. Use this situation as an opportunity to be with yourself with less distraction. (Helloo, mindful masturbation!)

Complete Article HERE!

Depression symptoms increase over last year of life

Dark times.

By Lisa Rapaport

Many people experience worsening depression symptoms over their final year of life, and a U.S. study suggests that women, younger adults and poor people may be especially vulnerable.

For the study, researchers examined data on 3,274 adults who participated in the nationwide Health and Retirement Study and died within one year of the assessment. All of the participants had completed mental health questionnaires and provided information on any medical issues they had as well as demographic factors like income and education levels.

Rates of depressive symptoms increased over the last year of life, particularly within the final months, the study found. By the last month of life, 59% of the participants had enough symptoms to screen positive for a diagnosis of depression, although they were not formally evaluated and diagnosed by clinicians.

“Patients with depression have worse survival outcomes than non-depressed patients, making depression a critical issue to screen for and manage in the context of serious illness,” Elissa Kozlov of the Rutgers University Institute for Health, Health Policy, and Aging Research in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and colleagues write in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

And, “psychological symptoms, such as depression, have a negative impact on patients’ quality of life as they near the end of life,” Kozlov and colleagues write.

Researchers had asked participants whether they experienced eight things over the previous week: depression, sadness, restless sleep, unhappiness, feeling like everything takes effort, lack of motivation and loneliness. People with at least three symptoms might screen positive for depression, the study team writes.

Across the entire Health and Retirement Study population, including people who didn’t die within a year of their most recent assessments, about 23% of participants have at least three of these symptoms, the researchers also note.

In the current analysis, depression scores remained relatively stable from 12 to four months prior to death, then steadily increased. With four months to live, 42% of participants had at least three symptoms of depression, and with one month remaining, 59% did.

One year before death, women had higher depression symptom scores, with almost three symptoms on average compared to about two for men. With one month to live, both men and women had three or more symptoms and there was no longer a meaningful difference between the sexes.

Differences in depression scores based on age and income were also more pronounced one year before death, and became less pronounced closer to death, the study found.

However, the youngest and poorest participants had the highest depression scores at all points in time.

As death approached, nonwhite participants also had increasingly high depression scores.

And, one month before death, people without a high school education had the highest depression scores of all, averaging almost five symptoms.

The study wasn’t designed to prove whether or how terminal illness might impact mental health, or the reverse.

Even so, the results underscore the importance of screening for mental health problems and treating conditions like depression in the final months of life, the researchers conclude.

“Given the range of options to treat depression, unaddressed depressive symptoms in the last year of life must be a focus of both quality measurement and improvement,” the study authors write. “While depressive symptoms at the end of life are common, they are treatable and must be proactively addressed to reduce distress and ensure that everyone has the opportunity to experience a ‘good death,’ free of depressive symptoms.”

Complete Article HERE!

Solace after suicide…

My journey to forgiveness

by The Listener

For Katie Anders*, coping with suicide grief means remembering how her husband lived, not how he died.

Every suicide story that hits the headlines stirs the pain for those of us who have been bereaved by such a loss. The headlines are bigger and somehow more shocking when such high-profile names as Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade join those of our loved ones. But the grief for those left is the same.

I lost the love of my life to suicide. He was middle-aged, very successful in his profession and loved by family and a wonderful group of friends.

Our communities have such a sense of helplessness and hopelessness in the face of suicides. It is in the crisis period leading up to a suicide that there is the chance for effective intervention, and yet there is little effective help.

And, yes, there is a still a stigma around mental health. For us, it meant we had to protect my husband’s reputation for when he returned to work. The professions are not a lot more enlightened than anyone else.

The crash happened one May day. I walked in on him sitting at his desk at work, and was shocked to find him weeping. He said, “I can’t do this any more.”

We visited our GP and at first it seemed like exhaustion; just plain burnout. We had just come back from three weeks’ travelling and he hadn’t slept well; he had returned to a mountain of work. It was a job he loved and in which he had quietly excelled. He was a gentle-natured man who worked in a world of ambitious colleagues and he had forged a different path to the top. He was respected by most, admired by many.

We quickly arranged for his work to be done by others and he took “stress leave”. Within weeks, it was clear the malevolent black dog of depression was stalking him. We did all the right things: exercise and a good diet. He had great support from loved ones. He began using antidepressants and sleeping tablets. We saw an occupational psychologist, who was enormously helpful. Yet still the black dog circled.

Weeks passed. Then one day I found him curled into himself on a chair, his back to me. I tried to engage him, but he wouldn’t look at me. I took his face in my hands, forcing him to meet my eyes. I demanded to know what he was thinking, but in reality I knew.

He had reached a tipping point. We urgently needed more expertise. An acquaintance who was a good psychiatrist agreed to see him immediately (and privately).

I was determinedly optimistic we would get through it. We were a “lucky couple” whose marriage had fulfilled each of us. We laughed a lot and loved a lot. We had lovely children, now grown and forging their own lives. Many saw our marriage as one of the successful ones; we both thought so, too.

His promise to me that he wouldn’t act on his thoughts seemed to be enough to hold him back from the edge – that and the increasingly heavy doses of medication he needed. We began cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) with another psychologist.

A few weeks later, things seemed to be moving in the right direction until some odd things started to happen. The medication had tipped him into a manic state, so he had to withdraw from all the antidepressants. The psychiatrist felt that a prior serious head injury had probably caused the manic response, so mood-stabilising drugs were required.

Some normalcy began to return to our lives. My husband continued his programme of health and fitness and after a few weeks, he seemed well enough to return to work for short periods. We breathed easier.

But then an emotionally stressful event occurred: he was desperately concerned about someone close who was in strife overseas. His sleep was seriously disrupted and he was very worried. The depression was renewing its grip and as the antidepressants were now contraindicated, we were at a loss for effective solutions.

The psychiatrist hoped that since the relapse was in its early stages, we could work to stop its progression by using mindfulness meditation and more CBT and counselling. He was very low, but again, he reiterated his promise to me.

Three days later, he was dead. The black dog’s work was done.

*The writer’s name has been changed.

Questions and guilt

On the night he died, I sat at his bedside, shattered by the horrific development, the crashing grief threatening to crush us all. I was full of confusing questions and guilt. How could he have done this? How could he have walked past me as I slept and not woken me and sought my help?

Sometime in the wee hours, I decided to write him a final letter. And as I began, some things crystallised. I needed to forgive him before we let him go. I read him my letter aloud, then later repeated the words at his funeral. That night, wracked with the deepest pain, I told him, “The man who did this thing was a man in the grip of a fierce depression. It was the depression that broke the promise, not the man that we love. That’s why, distraught as I am, I have to forgive you, because all that I know and have experienced of you through all the years tells me that you never wanted to hurt us, never wanted to leave us.”

Some months later, I heard someone (also bereaved by suicide) on a radio programme put it very succinctly: her husband hadn’t been leaving her or her children, he was leaving himself.

Years before, I had read Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ book On Death and Dying and, later, I trained and worked as a volunteer with terminally ill people, and learnt about bereavement support.

It’s accepted now that work around the stages and processes of grief was too rigid. Each grief experience is unique and people don’t necessarily experience all the stages or go through them in any particular order. For example, while others felt anger at my husband, I never have. Even pathetic attempts to somehow manufacture anger failed. How could I be angry at someone so broken?

In the aftermath, I felt the deepest sadness for him, for his loss, for all that he would never get to experience. I felt devastatingly sad for our kids. But for me, the grieving process was delayed by my upbringing. It held messages of “Don’t you feel sorry for yourself” and “Pick yourself up and get on with it”.

It took a long time to let myself feel the full devastation of my own loss. The numbing effects of shock meant that I walked around in a world that felt surreal, that simply couldn’t be true. This wasn’t how our love story was supposed to end. We were supposed to grow old together, travel, have grandchildren.

Tortuous paths

Suicide grief holds so many “If only …” and “What if …” questions. What if I had heard him get out of bed? What if I had handcuffed him to me to keep him safe? What if he had slept through those darkest hours before dawn and woken to sunshine?

The “what ifs” are where the self-torture lies. I felt so guilty that I struggled to want to live. Sometimes I still feel surprised that I didn’t die of the brokenness I felt.

Logic says there is no useful purpose in following these tortuous paths. But some years on, they still come into my mind and I speak to those thoughts as firmly and logically as I can.

I learnt a lot from my counsellor about self-forgiveness. It is more of a journey than a destination. Someone spoke to me about the idea of practising my husband’s presence rather than his absence. It seemed to break down some of the enormity of it all. If I had to completely and immediately accept his absence from my life, you might as well have asked me to swim the Atlantic. But if I could practise his presence, which permeated my life, while slowly adjusting to his loss, then it felt more like paddling in the waves at the water’s edge and not getting completely out of my depth.

Practising his presence is simply being mindful of his hand in the life I continue to live. It’s being able to access his way of thinking an issue through. His presence is in the millions of memories. It’s practising his habits of observing and appreciating the beauty around. He is visible in his imprinting on our kids … aspects of him in their personalities. It’s in watching rugby with my daughter and shouting the way he shouted. It’s in the kids’ love of language and awful puns. It’s in the thousands of photos taken over the years.

We remember how he lived and not how he died, but the truth is that suicide grief is a unique grief. People aren’t comfortable around it. I accept now that even if my life should suddenly become deliriously happy, the loss of such a precious partner through suicide will forever be a hugely black awfulness on its timeline.

Actress Dawn French said that when her father committed suicide, it was like a bomb went off in their family. It’s an apt description. My life is forever changed, my confidence diminished and my happy moments are often tinged with poignancy. At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, I feel my heart carries a permanent scarring.

Few understand the complexity and longevity of suicide pain. It isn’t easy, as one friend put it, to “move forward” as a simple act of will. If my husband had died of a heart attack or cancer, I know that grief might have been easier to move on from.

Yet I take joy in our amazing children, their partners and now a grandchild. I am fortunate in having some close friends. I try not to let the manner of his dying take more than it should. Above all, he wouldn’t want that and he would hate the pain that his suicide caused. Despite it all, I will be forever grateful that my life was greatly enriched by a truly lovely man.

Complete Article HERE!

Patients in end-of-life care to be treated with magic mushrooms

A spokeswoman for Palliative Care Australia said anxiety is a common and distressing symptom for those entering the final stage of their life.

By Benjamin Ansell

Palliative care patients will be treated with the psychoactive ingredient in magic mushrooms in a bid to reduce their anxiety during end of life care.

The first of 30 patients in Melbourne’s St Vincent’s Hospital trial will be treated with psilocybin in April after a year-long battle to have the study approved by the ethics committee, as well as state and federal authorities.

Patients will be given a single dose of the psychedelic drug, which stimulates feelings of euphoria and is believed to be able to ease anxiety, fear and depression for up to six months.

Applicants will be screened, requiring a state government permit to take the medication, and will be closely monitored by two clinicians on the ‘dose day’ while the initial high wears-off.

“With therapists in the room providing therapy it will allow people to have a heightened awareness of their situation, see the problem and work through it,” Mark Bowie, director of Palliative Medicine at St Vincent Hospital, said.

St Vincent’s clinical psychologist Dr Margaret Ross said patients in the study will be given a single dose of the drug in capsule form.

A similar trial conducted at New York University found 70 per cent of patients later reflected on the psilocybin experience as one of the top five most spiritually significant experiences of their entire lives, while 87 per cent reported increased life satisfaction overall.

Vice President of Australia’s Psychedelic Research In Science and Medicine Association Dr Stephen Bright told 9News that the study “sets a precedent” for more research into the medical application of psychoactive substances.

Patients will be treated with the psychoactive ingredient in magic mushrooms.

“I think it’s fantastic this study has been able to obtain the requisite approval, there have been multiple attempts to use psychedelics which have all been knocked back,” Dr Bright said.

“The fact that this has been able to secure approval is very encouraging.”

Dr Bright, also a senior lecturer at Edith Cowen university, is currently attempting to secure funding and ethics approval for another study on the potential of MDMA to be used in the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

A spokeswoman for Palliative Care Australia told 9News.com.au anxiety is a common and distressing symptom for those entering the final stage of their life.

“This can be triggered by concerns and fears about how they will die, how their families and loved ones will cope as well as existential or spiritual concerns,” the spokeswoman said.

Complete Article HERE!

‘I was widowed at 23, young people need to talk about death’

Amy Molloy and husband, Eoghan

By Amy Molloy

‘They say you’ve got three months to live.” These were the words I spoke to my then-fiancé when I was 23 years old after learning that his cancer – malignant melanoma that spread to his liver, lungs, pancreas and brain – was likely to be fatal.

At the time, my only experience of “the end” was watching my parents disappear into a room where my grandparents were lying, and of seeing an empty rabbit hut at the end of our garden after the loss of a pet.

When I was 17 years old my father was paralysed from Hodgkins Lymphoma but, after a stem cell transplant, he defeated the odds and made a miraculous recovery. So, I had faith in the power of modern medicine over mortality.

However, not this time.

I was practically still a child when a doctor ushered me into a private room, whilst my soon-to-be husband, Eoghan, was in a chemotherapy session, and revealed his prognosis. I asked if I could be the one to tell him, and they readily agreed.

Perhaps, even doctors will do anything to avoid saying the T-word. Terminal.

In the next three months, I had a crash course in end-of-life conversation: the jargon, the euphemisms and the social awkwardness.

I froze with fear when I walked into the chemo ward and heard another patient ask my partner, “Have you ever thought about euthanasia?” But, in a way, that was better than the wall of silence.

After my husband died three weeks after our wedding day, even my closest friends evaporated or became stiff in my company. In the next few months, as I rebelled against my grief – drinking too much and becoming promiscuous – nobody dared challenge me or raise the topics I ached to discuss.

What on earth are you doing?

Do you really think this is helping you?

How does it feel to marry a man who is dying?

…Do you want to die too?

Do you know what to say when a friend’s loved one dies? Have you thought about the day your own parent, partner or best friend may no longer be visible? How would you discuss it, in a way that would be supportive, constructive, and even light-hearted?

If you don’t know the answer, you’re not alone.

A new study from the Royal College of Physicians in the UK has urged medical professionals to improve their bedside manner when it comes to discussing death, after identifying that “timely, honest conversations” about patients’ futures are not happening. However it’s not only doctors who need to become more comfortable with these conversations.

It’s been suggested that millennials are the generation most fearful of death, unlike our grandparents, raised through world wars, who learnt that life can be short. As medicine advances and life expectancy increases, we prefer to think of death as our “future self’s problem”.

But is postponing the inevitable increasing our terror of it?

As psychologists report a rise in young people presenting with anxiety linked to death, it’s time for honest, open, educational conversations about loss of life, and how it can look. Its not enough to be aware of Facebook’s ‘death policy’, warn experts.

“Death is still a certainty even if people are living longer,” says clinical psychologist Renee Mill from Sydney’s Anxiety Solutions CBT.

“When treating anxiety, exposure is what works and avoidance increases the problem. Talking about death or visiting a dying person will decrease your fear of death and make it easier to accept that it is a part of life. Every funeral we attend, no matter how hard, actually helps to reduce anxiety in this way too.”

And, it’s never too early to think about the end. Planning in life is important,” says Mill. “We plan our careers, we save, we want to buy property – end-of-life is another part we need to plan. It means we get our wishes fulfilled and gives guidance to our loved ones who otherwise have to pick up the pieces.”

In a good way, change is happening. Since 2017, the multimedia project We’re All Going to Die has encouraged people to embrace their immortality and use it to empower their lives, through educational films and festivals.

The award-winning podcast, GriefCast, hosted by comedian Cariad Lloyd whose father died when she was a teenager, sees entertainers speak with startling honesty – and surprising humour – about death, from the logistics of palliative care and funeral plans to the long-term effects of bereavement.

When we can talk openly about death, we may also increase our chances of reducing suicides. To help people to help each other, Lifeline offer an online course in QPR – the equivalent of CPR for people experiencing a suicidal crisis.

As part of the training – which only takes an hour and costs $10 – people are urged not to tiptoe around the conversations. Instead, be direct: “Do you feel like you want to die?”

In our social circles, we need to discuss worst-case-scenarios. Do you have a will? Do you have death insurance? Are you an organ donor? As an Australian immigrant living 16,000 kilometres from my parents, I always have enough money in my bank account for an emergency flight home. Because, nobody lives forever.

It’s confronting but it’s necessary

During my book tour, I cried on stage for the first time whilst discussing my journey from a 23-year-old widow to a 34-year-old wife and mother of two. Because, for the first time in a decade, I have reached a place where I can talk about my experience of death – and really be heard.

I shared the reason I light a candle in my bedroom every evening and say a prayer: help me to act from a place of love, not fear.

“If my dad’s cancer comes back, on that day I will light that candle,” I said, “If my husband, who is here with my newborn, dies and I am widowed again then I will light that candle to remind myself to act from a place of love.”

We need to talk about death to be active participants in the full spectrum of life: so we can decide who to be when a doctor pulls us into a private room, when we answer the phone to bad news, when we say goodbye for the last time.

We are so scared of death, we don’t discuss what an honour it is to watch someone die; to be present – really present – when someone takes their last breath, to lean in and breathe them in, to put your head on their chest as their heart stops beating and kiss their skin as it transforms.

I hope you all have that experience one day.

We are not meant to say that, but we should.

Complete Article HERE!

What if psychedelics could revolutionize the way you die?

By

My story begins eight years ago, when I was approached by my first client requesting that I supervise her in a therapeutic session with a psychedelic medicine.

She had debilitating depression and anxiety brought on by a breast cancer diagnosis. Although she had survived her cancer, she couldn’t shake her terrible emotional distress. She had tried therapists, pills and a residential program. Nothing had worked.

Then she came across stories in the media about research at UCLA using psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms) with cancer patients suffering from what was called “end-of-life distress” and how this new treatment was showing really promising results.

She was desperate to try it for herself.

Well, as a licensed therapist and academic, could I help this woman? Reading the research literature, I learned that psychedelic research was becoming well-developed as a treatment for the psycho-spiritual depression and “existential anxiety” that often accompany the diagnosis of a life-threatening illness.

I also found myself in a bind: The science was telling me that psilocybin is the treatment most likely to benefit patients with existential anxiety when other treatments have failed; my ethical code from the B.C. Association of Clinical Counsellors tells me to act to my client’s benefit; federal law forbids me to use this treatment.

This is why, together with colleagues in the Therapeutic Psilocybin for Canadians project, I filed an application with Health Canada in January 2017, seeking a so-called “Section 56 exemption” — to permit us to provide psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy to patients with terminal cancer.

Immediate decrease in death anxiety

Dinah Bazer found relief from cancer anxiety by being treated with a dose of psilocybin administered by a New York University study.

Recent research at Johns Hopkins Medical Centre and New York University indicates that treatment of this end-of-life distress with psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy is safe and effective.

The research indicated it led to immediate, substantial and sustained decreases in depression, death anxiety, cancer-related demoralization and hopelessness.

It resulted in increased quality of life, life meaning and optimism. And these changes had persisted at a six-month follow-up.

Patients attributed improved attitudes about life and death, self, relationships and spirituality to the psilocybin experience, along with better well-being, life satisfaction and mood.

It is heartening to see research moving into Phase 3 clinical trials that will involve many more research participants. However, the foreseeable future for Canadians who need this game-changing therapy is not especially rosy.

At our current rate of progress, it may well still be years before psilocybin successfully completes Phase 3 trials and becomes available as an orthodox medicine.

Therapists risk criminal penalties

In the meantime, many Canadians with terminal cancer are also suffering from end-of-life distress, and are in dire need of relief — now.

They face serious and life-threatening illness. Their condition is terminal, so concerns about long-term effects of psilocybin are not relevant. They suffer from serious end-of-life psychological distress (anxiety and depression) to the point that it interferes with their other medical treatments. And this distress has not successfully responded to other treatments.

Psilocybin is currently a restricted drug, meaning that therapists risk criminal penalties if they aid or abet its possession. That means that we cannot recommend or encourage its use.

My professional Code of Ethics, however, states that our ethical duty is to act in a way that serves our clients’ “best interests.” The service we provide has to be “for the client’s benefit.” We must “take care to maximize benefits and minimize potential harm.”

A compassionate, humanitarian death

I agree with the Canadian medical establishment that, in ordinary circumstances, new medicines should be made available to Canadians only when they have successfully completed Phase 3 clinical trials.

In the New York University study a pill, containing either a placebo or psilocybin, was presented to the subjects in a chalice.

But I contend that the patients described here are not in ordinary circumstances. They have terminal cancer. All other treatments have failed them; they have nothing left to lose. They have the right to die; surely they have the right to try!

These patients deserve access to a still-experimental but promising medicine on compassionate and humanitarian grounds. Because of their extraordinary medical straits, psilocybin now for them represents a reasonable medical choice; it is necessary to them for a medical purpose.

Our application to Health Canada seeking a “Section 56 exemption” will be ruled on very shortly.

We fully expect that it will be denied — for political, not scientific reasons. Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government is likely in no mood to loosen up on psychedelics before the dust from the legalization of cannabis has fully settled. I think the government would like it if someone else made that decision.

Violation of our rights and freedoms

If our application is denied, we intend to file for a judicial review, and if necessary, a lawsuit in Federal Court challenging that denial.

We believe that prohibition of access to psilocybin for a legitimate medical purpose violates a citizen’s Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms Section 7 right to “life, liberty and security of person.”

This clause has already been interpreted by the Supreme Court to imply that a citizen has the right to autonomy in making health-care decisions. Charter-based arguments have already led to success in three recent landmark medical cannabis cases.

We argue that what applies to cannabis also applies to psilocybin:

The prohibition of … cannabis “limits the liberty of medical users by foreclosing reasonable medical choices through the threat of criminal prosecution. Similarly, by forcing a person to choose between a legal but inadequate treatment and an illegal but more effective one, the law also infringes on security of person.” Supreme Court of Canada, R. v. Smith, 2015

One thing that unites all of us human beings is that we will die. Imagine if, when our time comes, we could all have the option to die peacefully, with acceptance, without anxiety.

Complete Article HERE!

Giving up on life can lead to actual death in less than a month

Dark times.

By Chase Purdy

It’s a dark area of psychology, exploring death’s grip on a person who feels totally defeated by life. But as scientists learn more about the phenomenon, they’re finding it impacts people in five distinct stages.

The clinical name for this is psychogenic death. And if left untreated, a new study in the journal Medical Hypothesis shows, the five stages can run their course in as little as three weeks.

“Psychogenic death is real,” says University of Portsmouth researcher John Leach in a related statement. “It isn’t suicide, it isn’t linked to depression, but the act of giving up on life and dying usually within days, is a very real condition often linked to severe trauma.”

The condition may have everything to do with the inner workings of the brain, particularly changes that occur within a person’s anterior cingulate circuit, which is the area that controls motivation. When a person struggles to feel motivation, coping with life becomes more difficult and apathy can set in. If a person experiences severe trauma, it’s entirely possible that the event could trigger a malfunction in that circuit.

Once the malfunction occurs, Leach explains, five distinct stages typically precede death:

  1. Social withdrawal. When someone experiences severe trauma, one of the first signs is that they show a lack of emotion, and a listlessness that indicates an indifference toward life. This is actually a coping mechanism, an attempt to pull back from outward emotional engagement as a means to realign emotion stability. But if left unchecked, it can morph into full-on withdrawal. This has been seen in prisoners of war, who have described this state as feeling vegetative and passive.
  2. Apathy. In some ways, apathy is symbolic death. It’s a deep sense of melancholy that can indicate a person no longer strives for self-preservation. For people in this stage, Leach says, the smallest tasks can feel like the mightiest of efforts.
  3. Aboulia. This is the stage where physical activity starts to drop off. A person might stop cleaning themselves or even speaking to others. They withdraw even deeper into themselves. People who have recovered from this stage have described feeling as though their mind was made of mush. Essentially, the brain switches to standby mode and a person loses any motivation whatsoever.
  4. Psychic akinesia. Even extreme pain is difficult to feel in this stage, which is marked by further loss of motivation. In some cases, a person won’t flinch if they are threatened physically. As Leach describes it, one woman in this stage went to the beach and walked away with second degree burns. She was so apathetic toward the pain that she didn’t bother removing herself from the heat.
  5. Psychogenic death. This final stage is marked by the disintegration of a person. As described by Leach, “It’s when someone then gives up. They might be lying in their own excreta and nothing—no warning, no beating, no pleading can make them want to live.” In some cases the time between stage four and five can be as little as three or four days.

Of course, when someone is experiencing these stages, it is possible to revive them. Death isn’t inevitable. Common interventions include physical activity or introducing a person to a situation that they recognize as one they can truly control. That experience can release critically important dopamine into the brain, which brings them back to a state of life they previously experienced.

Reversing the slide toward death, Leach notes, “tends to come when a survivor finds or recovers a sense of choice, of having some control, and tends to be accompanied by that person licking their wounds and taking a renewed interest in life.”

Complete Article HERE!