A Roundup


Here are five things I encountered that I cannot write about extensively now, but that still may (or may not) interest you.

1. HealthTap: Ask It a Real Doctor

HealthTapHealthTap, founded in 2010, is a site where over 90,000 American doctors work together to give you a free online answer to whatever personal health questions may have.

    The basic idea behind the site is (a) that online health information usually is too general, not specific enough to answer your own questions; and (b) that the huge variety of online health information is often contradictory and confusing. I myself would like to add here that many health websites are not even trustworthy, because their main aim is not to advise you, but to sell you some product.

    At this HealthTap site, real licensed physicians take turns trying to adequately answer whatever health question you may have. The doctors themselves also read and rate or comment each other’s answers.

    I think this may be one of the best sites where you can go for some quick online advice on specific health (yes, also mental health) matters. As long as you realize that no online answer can ever replace a proper diagnosis or doctor’s advice, if only for the simple reason that those online doctors don’t know you personally.

Happy HospitalHere is a link to the HealthTap home page. And here is a link to the HealthTap depression topic page which has, for example, 38 doctors weighing in on the question how to diagnose depression.

    HealthTap also offers its own apps for iPhone, iPad and Android, which means you can ask your questions to a qualified doctor anytime, wherever you are.

2. Back When Bayer Sold Heroin

Bayer HeroinA funny short overview at the io9 blog site, written by Esther Inglis-Arkell: When Opium Was For Newborns And Bayer Sold Heroin.

    About how people in the past used several things as medicine that we today would consider dangerous and addictive drugs: heroin, opium, cocaine, absinthe. The story of heroin (invented by Bayer, originally sold as a harmless medicine) is so fascinating that maybe some day I’ll want to tell it in more detail myself.

3. What Kind of Psychotherapy, Does It Matter?

A research article in the peer-reviewed PLOSMedicine journal got quite some attention. At first sight, it indicates that it doesn’t matter much what specific kind of psychotherapy you try: they all seem to help to about the same extent. So we can just pick the one that’s down our street?

    At second sight, I myself cannot help wondering how reliable (and how comparable) the used data were here.

Seven Freuds?The researchers compared the results of 198 different field studies measuring the results of 7 different kinds of psychotherapeutic interventions for depression. They compared the results for (1) “Interpersonal psychotherapy”, (2) “Behavioral activation”, (3) “Cognitive behavioral therapy”, (4) “Problem solving therapy”, (5) “Psychodynamic therapy”, (6) “Social skills therapy” and (7) general “Supportive counseling”.

    The study concluded that for each of these different therapeutic methods, field research did report a reasonable degree of success; in fact there was not much difference between the results of the different therapeutic approaches. So one might ask if it really matters to what kind of therapist you are talking: maybe it doesn’t matter? Maybe the main thing is just that some professional is giving you the attention that you need?

PLOSMedicine    Here is a link to the original PLOSMedicine article by Swiss researcher Jürgen Barth and others: Comparative Efficacy of Seven Psychotherapeutic Interventions for Patients with Depression: A Network Meta-Analysis.

    As the title already indicates, this is a highly technical-scientific study that is not easy to read. But it got many more readable comments that will tell you the gist. For example this one at the ScienceDaily research news site: Different Types of Psychotherapy Have Similar Benefits for Depression.

4. An Insane American in Bedlam…

William Norris was an American seaman who due to “insanity” landed in the London Bedlam mental asylum in 1800, and lived there until his death 14 years later, while all the time chained to the wall in a kind of metal harness that restricted his movements.

    During his stay in Bedlam, Norris was visited a few times by observers who were appalled at the conditions in which this patient had to live. One of the visitors made a drawing of the situation. In 1815, after Norris died, the artist George Cruikshank used that drawing to make an etching. It was printed as a pamphlet appealing for better conditions in mental hospitals:

William Norris in Bedlam

For more info about poor crazy William (actually his name was not William but James) see An Insane American by Julie L. Mellby in the Graphic Arts blog of Princeton University Library.

5. A Sonnet by Christina Rossetti

Here is the sonnet Remember by Victorian English poet Christina Rossetti (1830–1894). I intend to write more about her some day. This is the poem that she used last week, all of a sudden, out of the blue, to hit me with. Ouch!

        Remember me when I am gone away,
        gone far away into the silent land;
        when you can no more hold me by the hand,
        nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
        Remember me when no more day by day
        you tell me of our future that you plann’d:
        only remember me; you understand
        it will be late to counsel then or pray.
        Yet if you should forget me for a while
        and afterwards remember, do not grieve:
        for if the darkness and corruption leave
        a vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
        better by far you should forget and smile
        than that you should remember and be sad.

There are several portraits and even a few photos of Christina, but people usually show only that boring too-well-polished color portrait made by her brother, painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

I prefer this very casual self-portrait she left in a book for a friend:

Christina Rossetti (self-portrait)

 bonus tip: The horizon is always far away. Therefore, keep moving but also do have some patience with yourself.

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