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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

Kaleidoscope October 2017


BJPsych October 2017One can identify many landmark points in history: humankind’s taming of fire; the dawn of the nuclear age; the invention of “I can’t believe it’s not butter!”  In academic terms, I believe that day has now come for the British Journal of Psychiatry. Since its founding in 1855, the venerable old girl has been notable and widely criticized for an almost complete lack of mention of 70’s disco. I’m pleased to say this has been rectified, with three references, and song lyrics, from Gloria Gaynor in October’s copy. Now you might suppose I did this to be some form of wit (you’d be half right), but my point was the deeper issue of resilience. This proposes to build up strengths in individuals rather than wait to treat problems when they occur. It sounds right, but has a whiff of the New Age about it, and there were concerns it might just be there to trick the gullible, like fengshui crystals and Brexit. Kaleidoscope appraises the largest systematic review on the effectiveness of resilience interventions in school children: does it work, and will it keep our young people well? The meta-analysis says yes for reducing depressive symptoms, internalising and externalising problems, and general distress, but no for anxiety, hyperactivity and conduct problems. There were additional variations between age groups and duration of intervention, and more methodological consistency is required in the field.

Hard work, intelligence, social connections, and luck: all play a part in success, but how much does each count? What about you-know-who at the other desk – c’mon, how did they get that job? Malcolm Gladwell popularised the so-called “10,000 hour rule” that one can become an expert in any topic with that amount of deliberate practice. A new study from the aptly named Talent Identification Programme at Duke University takes a more scientific approach, and explored the factors that underpinned the successes of almost 12,000 chief executives, politicians, and multi-millionaires. They undermine the maverick rebel theory – exemplified by rather successful college dropouts Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates – as exceptional rarities, but you can read the full piece for advice on where to direct your efforts. Perhaps more importantly, a different work considers what the ‘good life’ means: beyond success and pleasure to ‘eudemonia’ – self-realisation. It also afforded me a chance to finish the Kaleidoscope column with some more Gloria Gaynor: I’d encourage you to read it, but I’m not responsible if you start singing.


October 2017 Kaleidoscope monthly Quiz (True or False)

Q1: Fitting with a broader dose-response relationship to stress, US data show that more challenging interactions with the police are associated with a rise in psychotic experiences for patients.
A1: True.

Q2: Feedback from standardised Student Evaluation of Teaching (SET) forms have been shown to have no correlation with teaching effectiveness of lecturers.
A2: True. They appear to map onto student satisfaction with workload!

Q3: A recent meta-analysis of 57 RCTs on universal resilience-focussed interventions in children has failed to show any benefit to this mental health approach.
A3: False. The work supports universal resilience work, though there were considerable variations between subpopulations, and response by ‘problem type’.


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