Kaleidoscope October 2017
One 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
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
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.
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’.