Memory, depression and Psychiatry: Radio 4 comes up trumps again!

All in the Mind

I just listened to a recent episode of Radio 4’s excellent series All in The Mind (Wednesday 5th June 2013; “Memory and depression; Global mental health; Compassion training”). The memory and depression link signalled in the title first caught my eye but I was delighted that actually the whole 28 minute episode linked very nicely to A Level Psychology and could be of interest to AS and A2 student following the AQA A specification.

Could Method of Loci prevent a depressive episode?

method of LociThe first piece in the episode focusses on an interesting application of the Method of Loci memory technique (Unit 1: Memory – “strategies for memory improvement”) to helping people with depression recall happy memories, something that they usually find very difficult. The researcher (Dr Tim Dalgleish) concerned describes the memory technique very clearly and a research participant discusses the positive outcome of the study. It is suggested that the technique may provide a way to manage the cognitive bias that seems to exist in those with depression towards negative memories, by making happy memories easier to bring to mind and preventing the spiral of negative thoughts.  This research is published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science.

A2 students who are studying depression as their chosen disorder in Unit 4, Psychopathology, may also find this piece in the episode interesting in terms applying their learning about the Cognitive Approach to explaining depression.

Should Psychiatry be globally applied?

The second piece in this episode focusses on the idea that the access individuals with mental health problems have to support and intervention is severly limited in low and middle income countries. The piece features an interesting debate between Vikram Patel (Wellcome Trust Senior Fellow with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the Sangath Centre in Goa in India) who presents the argument that Psychiatric intervention is urgently needed and Professor Pat Bracken (Psychiatrist and Clinical Director of the Mental Health Service in West Cork in Ireland) who warns against the potential dangers of applying approaches developed in Western cultures globally.

I think this is worth listening to in order to give students an appreciation of the issues surrounding imposing the ideals from one culture onto another, which can be applied in many areas of the specification. The discussion also highlights the differing views regarding whether Psychiatry and medicalisation is the best approach to understanding mental health.

Compassion training

The final section of this episode focusses on Compassion Training and the idea that thinking about someone you are experiencing conflict with in a compassionate manner might help to increase altruism. Although not part of the specification in any way students tuning into this episode might consider applying this approach themselves as a possible way to increase their compassion and pro-social behaviour and/or critique the methodology of the research described and discussed by the researcher (Helen Weng; University of Wisconsin Madison).

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