Home' InDaily : April 22nd 2010 Contents 4|Vol21No3April2010
Carers of people with mental and physical
health conditions are often overlooked
-- not only statistically, but also in terms
of their potential contribution to the
well-being of those they look after.
he Bond We
hare, a new
omprising a book
roduced by the
esearch Unit at
o make health
professionals more aware of the issues
faced by carers and the value of the role
they can play in making treatment
Senior Lecturer Dr Sharon Lawn, who is
herself a carer, said that the demands
carers face are frequently underestimated
and unappreciated by health service
schizophrenia -- and yet most prevention
programs have been found to be largely
ineffective and even harmful," she said.
"Our program, Media Smart, doesn't talk
about food or weight. It deals with the
thinking that goes with disordered
eating, namely, the degree to which a
person equates their weight or shape
with their self-worth."
Media Smart is an eight-lesson
program that focuses on the
manipulation of images in the media,
building self-esteem and teaching
young people how to analyse and
challenge media messages.
It was trialled with 223, Year 8 students
from four Adelaide schools over 30
months. There was a significant
improvement in the way both male and
female students felt about their shape
and weight over the trial.
Dr Wilksch and Professor Wade are about
to commence a trial to see if Media Smart
can also be effective in preventing obesity,
as the program has already shown
benefits on some similar risk factors.
Media Smart can be purchased from
the School of Psychology by phoning
(08) 8201 7996.
Prevention program shifts focus from obesity
Australia's obesity 'crisis' has
overshadowed the danger of eating
disorders such as anorexia nervosa and
bulimia nervosa, the incidence of which
has doubled in South Australia in the
past 10 years, according to a Flinders
Professor Tracey Wade from the School of
Psychology said that while obesity levels
have remained steady over the past
decade, body dissatisfaction has increased
-- and the two may be connected.
"The message about losing weight and
exercising to prevent obesity has been
quite effective," Professor Wade said.
"But that message has also
got out to the teenage
population where the rate of
obesity is only about 7 per cent.
Young people are trying to keep
the weight off by any means,
even it involves dangerous
behaviours that are not good
for health," she said.
"Add to that peer-group pressure and a
media environment saturated with
unrealistic images of thin, airbrushed or
muscular models and stories about
anorexia, and it is easy to understand why
so many young boys and girls are unhappy
with their shape and weight."
Professor Wade and colleague Dr Simon
Wilksch have released a new program
aimed at curbing eating disorders in early
teenagers -- the first in the world that has
proven long-term success.
"Eating disorders have the highest level of
mortality of any psychological disorders
-- more than anxiety, depression or
professionals more aware
Carers do it tough but have the answers
providers, even though it is calculated
that some two million Australians act
as carers to spouses, partners,
children, parents or friends with
physical or mental health conditions.
Dr Lawn said providing care for people
with mental illness, in particular, can be
highly demanding and stressful because
of its lack of predictability and routine.
"There is an idea that people
with mental illness take their
pills and their symptoms
simply go away. Well, they
don't, and the carer feels the
impact of that all the time,"
Dr Lawn said.
"Because the person with illness can
be better sometimes or less well at
other times, the goal posts are
Dr Lawn said people with mental health
conditions have high rates of co-morbid
physical health conditions, due to
medications they take as well as lifestyle
and other reasons.
Carers also tend to suffer from high rates
of poor physical health and depression,
often due to the stressors of their caring
role and because they may put their own
To give mental and primary health
professionals a clearer understanding of
the issues, the researchers conducted a
large survey, interviews and focus groups
with carers. The DVD contains frank
interviews with 10 carers about their
day-to-day experiences, their frustrations
with the health system and their
suggestions to improve support for both
their charges and themselves.
"Service providers frequently don't see or
acknowledge the level of care provided to
their clients", Dr Lawn said.
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