Are Suicide ‘Awareness Days’ a Waste of Time?

Tomorrow, September 10th, is the World Suicide Prevention Day. This day is sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) to raise awareness on suicide.

Despite being held for over a decade now, there are growing concerns that the World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD) initiative has done little to address the scourge of suicide worldwide. Moreover, there are those who feel that the conversation about depression and suicide should not be restricted to a day or a week, but rather, addressed throughout the year.

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Organizations that deal with suicide every day of the year know better than anyone that more and more people are taking their lives. Unfortunately, this problem is not being aired in the media or discussed in communities. There are many families struggling in silence because they have lost someone to suicide and they have no one to talk about this problem with.

Worse still, there are many people contemplating suicide right now and they have no one to turn to.

According to the Samaritans, an organization whose goal is to help people and to reduce incidences of suicide, more than 800,000 people die from suicide worldwide annually. For example, in the UK, more than 6,000 people take their lives every year. In the US, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention reports that more than 40,000 Americans die by suicide yearly. These statistics, however, are only about those who have died and don’t show the number of failed suicide attempts. When all those figures are tabulated, it shows there are a lot of people suffering from mental health issues.

The good thing about setting aside a date in the calendar year to address issues of suicide is that some people will get to hear a message of hope and possibly change their mind about taking their own lives. Secondly, it gives parents, family members, friends and co-workers of people who have committed suicide an avenue through which they can raise awareness and share their personal experiences on the painful loss of their loved ones. These experiences might inspire and inform others on preventing suicide in their families.

Criticisms of ‘Awareness Days’

Even though the concept of WSPD is to highlight the scourge of suicide in our world, these awareness events are lacking in some key areas:

  1. Do the people who are likely to commit suicide attend these events?

Maybe there have been occasions whereby someone at risk for committing suicide attended these events and got some help. But chances are that the people with suicidal thoughts are probably at home, hiding from the world, feeling lonely and isolated. They probably think that they are useless and that no one will miss them when they die. They think that the world would probably be better off without them.

If these awareness days are being held once a year, what chance do they have of reaching all the people who are suffering in silence? These events do have a ripple effect and more people do get to learn about suicide. But how many of those are actually having a word with the people who are contemplating their death?

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  1. The awareness days seem contrived, vain and flawed

One of the criticisms of awareness days is that people merely participate in the activities but the message doesn’t get across. There is no ‘transformation’ of minds.

Imagine a person who was doing some shopping and is now walking out of the store with a lot of coins in their pocket. Outside is a person with a bowl begging for some money. What will likely happen? The person will dig out some of the coins and give it to the beggar. Inasmuch as people like to help, sometimes people do what is convenient. There’s not much thought to it.

That example brings to mind the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge that went viral in 2014. While the challenge was to raise money for an important cause – to treat the neurodegenerative disease called Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) – many people used it for publicity or simply because it was trending worldwide. At times, some of the genuine participants had to take a moment to remind others to actually donate money and not just pour ice water on themselves and call it a day.

There is a suspicion that some people only help so that they can feel good about themselves. For others, it looks like they just want to add a new cause or activity to their CV.

Many people who are suffering from depression, mental health issues and those with suicidal thoughts want to feel the theme of the awareness days; which is to connect, communicate and show care to those who are struggling. Unfortunately, these three key points rarely occur at these one-time events.

  1. There doesn’t seem to be a clear plan or purpose

Do people know what to do during Suicide Prevention awareness days? There are many people who are passionate about helping those who are suffering but they don’t know what to do or where to go. How are you supposed to respond when someone tells you they are not okay?

Isn’t it just sad that there is one ‘special’ day where people get to ask others how they are doing? Where are these people when someone is overwhelmed by life’s circumstances? Where are they when someone is feeling lonely, hiding from the world and is hoping to die? Caring for only one day is simply not enough. It’s like when people donate a lot of toys, food and clothes but only during Christmas. What about the rest of the year?

So, what is needed then?

According to the IASP, “Suicide is complex. It usually occurs gradually, progressing from suicidal thoughts, to planning, to attempting suicide and finally dying by suicide.”

Talking and raising awareness about suicide for one day is simply not enough. Here are some of the things needed to help people who are thinking about taking their lives:

      • better mental health services.
      • connection with others. The feeling that people truly empathize and not just sympathize.
      • easier access to mental health counselors and suicide hotlines/helplines.
      • better campaigns to remind people throughout the year that others are suffering with mental health issues and need love.
      • donations for mental health charities.
      • better educational programs on dealing with depression and suicidal thoughts in our homes and communities.
      • school and college events discussing mental health issues.
      • more funding for research into treatment and medication.

The most important point of all is that people who want to commit suicide simply need a reason for living. They need to get to the point where they choose life.

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In one social media campaign against suicide, the hashtag ‘IKeptLiving’ has been used by people to share how their lives were transformed when they chose to live instead of committing suicide.

In many other instances, it is not simply a matter of deciding to live. There are other mental health problems or the use of medication that can cause people’s suicidal ideation to be acted upon. These are some of the people who need to be identified and helped.

You have an opportunity to go out and spread the message about mental health and suicide. These one day awareness events are not enough to turn the tide against suicide. I challenge you today to start caring conversations with people. As I always say, you never know whose life you might save.

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Do You Have ‘Bounce Back’ Ability?

I was recently surprised by someone’s actions. One day they were sad, not psyched up to do anything – either feeling lazy or just unwilling to get out of bed; then the next day they were buzzing around full of energy.

It might not be a remarkable feat since many people do that and have done that before. What piqued my curiosity is how some people are able to pick themselves up while others wallow in their sadness till it trickles into other areas of their lives. Next thing you know, they are sucking the joy out of an engaging conversation or they are complaining about how life has been unfair to them.

Which person are you: the one that wallows or the one that picks themselves up? Where do these positive people get this bounce back ability and how can you get this trait today?

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Life is full of roses…and thorns!

I have said it before, life can be difficult. You hear all these motivation gurus say that the world is your mirror and if you are being negative then you will attract negative stuff into your life. In truth, life just happens. Even the most positive people get unexpected curveballs in their lives.

For instance, you get a phone call from the office telling you to come and pick up your stuff because you’ve been laid off. Then they insult you by saying it’s not that you were doing a bad job, it’s just the economy is in shambles. How do you respond to that? What if you have a family and they were counting on that pay check? What if you had just taken a loan and now you don’t have the income to pay it back? What if you had a medical condition and being employed helped you tap into the health insurance cover your employer provided. Where do you get the money now?

While all this is hypothetical, there are people who have gone through such problems; probably even worse. It is in stories such as these that you discover whether you have a bounce back ability or not. Some people lie down and complain about the problems they are facing. They go around looking for an audience to hear their sob stories. In time, they refine their stories to the point that deep down they enjoy sharing it. Other people try to get back up as quickly as possible.

Here is how you can bounce back:

  1. Don’t let yourself wallow

I’ve read before that if you are feeling sad you should allow yourself to feel sad and that it will eventually ebb away. Some of us look for every excuse to listen to our favourite sad songs. The musicians just seem to understand exactly what we are going through. But isn’t life too short to spend it being sad? Wouldn’t you rather be smiling?

Recently, I’ve discovered this principle that while feelings cause actions, actions can also cause feelings. For instance, if you are sad (feeling) you are likely to listen to sad music (action). However, if you listen to uplifting music (action) you are going to be happier (feeling). Try it out.

Writers and people in other creative professions understand this concept well. If you don’t feel like writing, you will stare at your Microsoft Word for hours. But if you decide to start writing something anyway, you will start feeling psyched up to write even more than you had originally planned and the words will keep flowing.

  1. Take out the emotion and understand your problem

Simply put, you can’t fight against what you don’t understand. For those who’ve had a big problem such as being fired unexpectedly, it usually comes as a hammer blow. Your emotions are all over the place. What’s worse, fear starts to kick in spinning all types of tales about your imminent demise. It is a bad place to be mentally.

If you can somehow strip away all the emotions you are feeling and confront your problem with solutions in mind, you will be able to come to terms with your situation.

For instance, if you’ve lost your job, here are some ideas of what you can do:

  • Figure out what you are good at e.g. perhaps this is your chance to become a freelancer in writing, a consultant, a businessman, a salesman, develop a product from home etc.
  • If your quality of work led to you being fired, come up with ideas on how to tackle that problem so that it doesn’t threaten your next job.
  • Could you go back to school to improve your credentials?
  • Had you been planning to take a break from work to go on a sabbatical or extended holiday?
  • Do you have a connected network that can help you get a new job?

These are all ideas that can take the emotion out and help you focus on solutions.

  1. Go for counselling

There is a stigma around seeking support through counselling sessions no matter what problem you are facing.

Counselling should not always be used as a last resort.

It helps you get out of your head and see your problems from a different perspective. You get to speak to someone who is concerned about your well-being and wants to see you get back on your feet again. Most importantly, you get to share your thoughts and fears in a non-judgemental environment. Going for counselling can help you bounce back sooner than you would have if you did it alone.

Plus, it doesn’t always have to be a professional counsellor. Maybe you have someone who cares for you and always gives you an ear when you need advice. Seek them out and share with them. As I always say, be there for others also. If you see someone who you think is struggling with a problem, reach out to them and offer to help them find solutions.

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  1. Take it on the Chin

Unfortunately, the more you go through negative situations and come out of them ‘alive’, you build character which helps you every time you face adversity. Bounce back ability is a learned trait.

What happened the first time you fell off your bike? You had to get up and try again till you finally got it. That is true of life. You will face different tough situations and each time you will have to decide whether you will shy away or you will take on the problem head on. The more you face your demons, the greater your bounce back ability will become.

  1. Have faith

I am reminded of the story of the origin of the Christian song ‘It is well with my soul’. This man put his family on a ship and was going to meet up with them later but then received word that the ship had capsized. What a devastating moment! But do you know what happened when his ship got to the spot where his family had died? He wept for them and wrote “It is well; it is well with my soul”. You can imagine all the pain he felt at that moment. Yet he spoke from a point of faith that everything will be okay.

It would be a lie if I said that you won’t have scars; that you won’t face overwhelming battles. That is just part of life. The key is to have faith that everything will be okay in the end. As motivational speaker Les Brown says, “It is much easier to have faith when everything is going well.” But it is in those moments when you are afraid, when you are in pain, when you are beaten down that you have to find a way to have faith. Once you lay hold of it and believe in a positive outcome, you are able to cope with whatever you are facing.

All these tips will help you as you develop your bounce back ability. Just remember, even fighters who are champions get hit from time to time. The only difference is they keep coming back over and over again until their problem (the other fighter) is defeated. You can bounce back as well!

 

Happy New Year!!!

Sometimes it feels like a whole year has just flown by. But in truth, a lot happened last year; you experienced more, learned more, and became more.

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With the start of 2016,  I am wishing you a great year filled with blessings, lessons, growth, peace and joy.

If you have a blog, may this be the year that you work out new ways of engaging with your audience and meeting their needs. If you are a reader, may you discover endless ‘mind riches’ through all the blogs you follow and those that you will discover.

To all those focused on mental health, may you learn more about the subject and about yourself. May you gain valuable insights that may help you help those who are experiencing mental health problems. I hope to play a role in that journey.

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Life is going to throw a lot of surprises at you this year; some good, others bad. But all in all, the most important thing will be the state of your mind and how well you take care of it. Please do not forget to also look out for the well-being of others.

All the best to you in your lifelong pursuit of happiness.

World Mental Health Day: Key Points From Social Media

Today is World Mental Health Day!

It is a day to raise awareness on mental health illnesses. For others, it is celebration of triumph over diseases and conditions that strike at the heart of our being.

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Many people probably didn’t notice this day or even know much about it. That sounds eerily similar to the indifference observed when it comes to issues of mental health.

But you know what, that’s okay. Sometimes, unless you have been touched by a situation, a person, a condition, or a disease, it is unlikely that you will care a lot (or at all) about a certain issue. That’s why it is important to speak up and let others know what’s going on. Here is where social media comes in.

Key Points from Social Media about Mental Health

The interesting lesson from today is that a lot of people DO CARE about mental health issues. Just browsing around social media, you realize that you are just one voice among many; hoping that other people will awaken to the reality that mental illnesses are among us and there are those struggling everyday with such issues.

Here is a list of some of the key points that people shared:

  1. Mental Health is just as important as Physical Health

One of the greatest frustrations for those who know about mental health issues is that people don’t think it matters as much as physical health. Check your blood pressure; check your heart beat. But no one is wondering about the mind.

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The brain can get sick just like any other part of the body.

Just look around the internet and you will see more “work out your body” pieces and few “mental workout programs”. It’s just not as important.

We are here to say “Mental Health is Very Important”.

  1. Mental Illness does not discriminate

It does not matter who you are, what you do, where you are from, who you know or how much you workout, mental illness can affect anyone.

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Knowing this should make people stop all the name calling, shaming and stigmatizing because mental illness can affect you as well as your friends and loved ones.

  1. People should stop trivializing Mental Health

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Have you ever heard a statement that sounds something like this: “I didn’t have anything to do today; I’m sooo [sic] depressed”? This is just one of the things people do. They don’t understand that there is a world of difference between simply being sad (or bored) and being depressed.

There were other comments on social media such as “Bipolar disorder is not being moody”. These are just a few examples of how people trivialize issues that affect many lives. If people had any idea what others go through – how much pain and sadness others feel as they are struggling with mental illnesses – then they would show more compassion.

  1. You are NOT Alone

I’ve said it before but when you are going through a mental health issue, it is easy to feel that you are the only one suffering; That life chose to punish you.

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The reality is that there are many other people from all over the world going through their own version of pain. Like you, they have had to suffer in silence. When they tried to raise their voices, they were shamed. People just don’t understand until they have walked a mile in your shoes.

But fear not; you are not alone. There are many people who have a sense of what you are going through. There are many organizations and groups geared toward raising awareness and helping to find solutions for mental problems.

  1. Take care of your health

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Another point was that people need to take responsibility for their health. Go for check ups, analyze your family’s mental health history, take the medicine prescribed to you for your mental illness and educate yourself on mental health.

  1. There is a lot of support out there

Who do you turn to when your life is in turmoil? As I have said before, it is good to have a support system around you.

The beauty of our interconnected world means that you can join support groups online and you can meet people going through similar mental illnesses and exchange ideas.

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It was also great to see comments from people who have had mental health problems encouraging others and saying things like “You are not alone” and “Things get better eventually”.

Take heart and believe that you will find a way to manage your condition or cope with a loved one’s struggle with illness. It will not be easy, but you can find a way.

Takeaway

It is great to see a lot of people united in spreading the message of love for those with mental health problems. No matter what problem you have, do not be ashamed; it was not your choice to become mentally ill.

We love you and wish you well.

Suicide: The Power of Words

Words – so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them. – Nathaniel Hawthorne

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In recent weeks, the hashtag #JusticeForConrad has been trending. If you are not familiar with its origins, it’s about a girl, Michelle Carter, who is accused of involuntary manslaughter for allegedly convincing her ‘friend/boyfriend’ Conrad Roy III to commit suicide.

Background

According to news reports, Conrad took his own life in July last year. It is said that he had struggled with depression. If you read from numerous news sources, he was a nice young man. The only issue was that he had suicidal thoughts which ultimately led him down the wrong path.

As is the case with suicides, he left a lot of devastated people behind. The toll it has taken on the family has been immense and we always sympathize with those who have gone through such pain.

Unfortunately, the family has been put through more pain due to an ongoing case against Michelle Carter who is accused of allegedly encouraging Conrad to take his own life.

A series of text messages are being used to show that Carter played a role in Conrad’s suicide. According to an article on wtvr.com, New Bedford Assistant District Attorney Katie Rayburn said that the accused’s words were “harmful, offensive and likely to cause an immediate, violent act”.

For now, the case is still ongoing.

The Power of Words

If you were to do a quick check online, you will encounter a lot of comments about what did or did not happen in the Conrad Roy case. It is there that we discover how much power we have with our words.

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Through the ages and in many literary works, many people have acknowledged the power of words. Words can bring healing, peace, and happiness or tear others down and cause great pain.

Here are some quotes on words:

“Words are the keys to the heart.”
Chinese proverb

“Perhaps you will forget tomorrow the kind words you say today, but the recipient may cherish them for a lifetime.”
Dale Carnegie (1888-1955)

“If we could measure the damage to corporations from gossip, it might be more than the GNP of the Third World!”
Harvey Mackay
Author of Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive and Pushing The Envelope

“Speak when you are angry– and you will make the best speech you’ll ever regret.”
Laurence J. Peter (1919 – 1988)
Educator, author of The Peter Principle

“The language we use to communicate with one another is like a knife. In the hands of a careful and skilled surgeon, a knife can work to do great good. But in the hands of a careless or ignorant person, a knife can cause great harm.”
Exactly as it is with our words.”
Source Unknown

Here is one from the Bible:

Proverbs 18:21 (KJV) – Death and life [are] in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.

It can take you a lot of hours to go through all the quotes dealing with the effect words have on us and on others.

Speak Love

If you’ve ever had a problem, you will notice how quick people are to give you their views on what you should do. In a situation where you are actually conscious of the power everything you say can have on another person’s life, you will realize that counselling others is not easy.

When you factor in issues of mental health and depression, you will realize that it is always important to choose your words carefully. I have been in situations where it was important to speak a word of life into a person who had given up on living. It is scary how powerful words can be.

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A good approach is to do everything from a place of Love.

I do not know where you are right now. I do not know where you have been. I do not know how your life has been like up to this moment. I do not know what joys you’ve experienced nor the pain you have suffered. I do not know what your beliefs are.

But what I do know is that you are special and you are important!

The world needs you to be you and to give of yourself in love and service to others. I’ve said this many times, but no matter what you are going through, never give up. Everything always works out!

Try to seek out and spend time with those who speak words from a point of love. May you also show others the same love with your words.

Every individual has a place to fill in the world and is important in some respect whether he chooses to be so or not. – Nathaniel Hawthorne

Ashley Madison Hack: Some Affected Users Contemplating Suicide

We all have secrets. It doesn’t matter whether they are perceived to be good or bad; they are OUR secrets.

For users of the adultery website service, AshleyMadison, those secrets became a real life nightmare when the website was hacked and their details released online.

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Background

AshleyMadison is an online hook-up service based in Canada that targets people in relationships with its slogan “Life is short. Have an affair”. It is a very popular website that is said to have over 30 million users and gets over a hundred million visitors every month.

If you haven’t watched the news recently, you’ve missed an explosive story that is sure to ruin the lives of many. On July 19th, Brian Krebs, a security expert, revealed in his website’s blog post that the AshleyMadison website had been hacked.

A hacking group calling itself The Impact Team compromised AshleyMadison’s parent company, Avid Life Media and stole customer data and some company information. The users who paid for anonymity were left dismayed to discover that the promised feature of having all their details deleted wasn’t fulfilled by Avid Life Media.

This has left anyone who used the website exposed to the criticisms and shaming of the world-at-large. You can only begin to imagine the level of embarrassment the users are feeling right now.

On Friday, 28th of August, Noel Biderman, the founder and CEO of Avid Life Media, decided to step down from his position. According to the BBC, Biderman, also had his private emails leaked. You can read about the reasons for the hack on the Krebs on Security blog post.

Suicide Appeal

It’s been interesting to read the views of people commenting on this hack. One group says the users deserve what they are getting because they were cheating on their partners. A second group says we should never blame the victim of a crime. A third group doesn’t really care and thinks we should all just mind our own business. A fourth group is contemplating the ramifications of these privacy leaks on the rest of our interconnected world.

No matter which group you fall in, the greater issue has been the impact this leak will have on the lives of the users and on the lives of those affected by the users’ actions. Already, as the DailyMail reports, people are gearing up for lawsuits and divorce cases.

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However, the worst part of it all is the impact that fear, shame and depression will have on everyone affected by this hack. According to CBC News Toronto, there were two unconfirmed suicides that were linked to the AshleyMadison hack. People should not be surprised by this news because other people deal with life issues differently.

Such reports signal that people have already given up on life and are unwilling to face up to the problem they created for themselves when they signed up to the site. If two people have already taken their lives, you can be sure that there are many others contemplating suicide.

How are you supposed to react when you find yourself in this situation that AshleyMadison users are finding themselves in? How do you talk to all the people who will feel betrayed by your actions? How do you reconcile your self-image of being a “good person” despite the public criticism of your actions? How do you deal with the embarrassment and shame of having your naked images online or your personal messages leaked to the world? [note: the hackers have not leaked any images yet]. How do you continue working at your job when you know your co-workers know details about you that they shouldn’t?

Thoughts

This is a very complicated position to be in. It would not be surprising if the affected users are feeling alone right now. In the darkest nights it is just you and your demons. And in the brightest day, it is you, your demons and your persecutors.

There are those who may wish for the ground below to open up and swallow them. In the same vein, the options some affected users are contemplating are permanent. You will not come back from a suicide, but if you can get through this nightmare, you can come out on the other side with your life intact.

No one can imagine how you feel and what you are thinking. You have found yourself in an uncomfortable situation that you could not have dreamed of. Some users weren’t even having an affair but rather looking for companionship. Yet, they have been lumped together with those who willingly went to the AshleyMadison site to cheat on their spouses.

No matter what you will go through in the coming weeks, suicide should not be an option that you consider. In time, perhaps everything will work out and you will be able to get some semblance of normality in your life.

Choosing to end your life, however, will mean that you are remembered for the two things you did wrong. Instead, consider going to see a therapist and a counsellor to help you get through this trying time.

By staying alive, you get the opportunity to make amends to those you hurt and to heal yourself. So choose life and fight through your circumstances.

Depression Treatment: Can Seaweeds Really Cure Depression?

How much do you know about seaweeds? You’ve probably had the experience of some of them clinging to you as you were jumping around in the ocean. You have also probably encountered them when eating sushi. But have you ever stopped to wonder about them?

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For many of us, the answers to those questions are “Not much” and “Not really” respectively. The topic of seaweeds is not one that will arise in any of our conversations. Yet, they are touted as one of the most beneficial plant matter in our world today.

Seaweeds are marine algae that are found in our oceans and seabeds. There are several types: kelp, wakame, arame, hijiki, dulse, agar, nori and kombu.

Benefits of Seaweeds

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Before today, you probably didn’t know seaweeds are good for you. The following are some of their benefits:

  • They are rich in nutrients as a food source e.g. iodine, potassium, magnesium and even protein.
  • Can be used as a toothpaste
  • Helps in weight loss
  • Promotes health by providing essential vitamins and minerals
  • Seaweed baths are said to cure diseases such as arthritis. They cleanse the body of toxins and they are also known to deal with fatigue and tension. Seaweed baths also re-hydrate your skin.
  • Source of alternative energy
  • Increases libido
  • Increases metabolism
What about the link to Depression?

Issues relating to depression are not only about emotional health and well-being but also about nutritional well-being. Some authors from the past understood the relationship between what we ate and how it affected us.

Ludwig Feurebach wrote in his 1860s essay, Concerning Spiritualism and Materialism, that “You are what you eat.” [translation]. Even the famous writer Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.”

You see, the quality of our health is intrinsically linked with the quality (and availability) of vitamins and minerals in our system. What is scurvy other than a vitamin C deficiency? What is hypothyroidism and goitre if not problems caused by iodine deficiencies?

The same concept is true of depression. While there are other factors that might lead to depression, there are nutritional causes as well. Here are some of the nutritional deficiencies that lead to depression:

  • Iodine
  • Vitamins B, C and D
  • Zinc
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids
  • Magnesium
  • Iron
  • Calcium

With these deficiencies in mind, this is where seaweed comes in.

As already mentioned, seaweeds have great nutritional value. They provide all the minerals mentioned above as the deficiencies that lead to depression. Plus, they are high in fiber, which is useful for digestive health.

Therefore, it is expected that incorporating seaweeds into your dietary plans – as well as fixing other issues in your life – will help ward off depression.

I was tempted to write in my introduction that this is the “strangest news you have heard recently”. I realize now, that everything that deals with mental health issues is outside what many consider the ‘norm’. Despite having the term ‘weed’ in its name, seaweeds offer more favourable outcomes to our health and to our lives if used in the proper manner.

If you’ve been looking for an alternative way to treat your depression, then perhaps seaweeds are the solution for you.