As much as there is a difference between a benign growth, and a vicious cancer – there is a difference between a simple grief, and a deep depression. People think of depression as being just sadness. It’s much, too much sadness and much, too much grief at far too slight a cause. Alprazolam, a sedative more commonly referred to as Xanax, is the most commonly prescribed drug in the developed world. It is addictive, unreliable and outrageously over-prescribed. A 2010 study in The Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that anti-depressants relieved symptoms in fewer than 25 percent of all patients, (seeing relapse in more than 70).
The reasons for this aren’t entirely clear, except that anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication is preventative or symptom-suppressive, rather than curative – they aim to rebalance hormones within the brain, rather than specifically “heal” a portion of the body. Mental health treatments also have a greater effectiveness over more severe cases, for reasons relevant within psychiatry. The introduction of Xanax to the US market in 1981 was without fanfare, party-hats and shame. It was a lower-cost alternative to Valium, the then-most popular anxiety drug, holding the title for the past ten years.
It’s distributor, Upjohn (now Pfizer), had chosen to test the drug as a treatment for panic attacks alongside anxiety. Xanax became the first commercial drug to offer treatment for panic attacks, during a period when panic attacks changed in the public eye from an affliction once thought to be rare, to something nervous mothers joked about.
During the 1990s, Prozac did for depression what Valium had done for anxiety: de-stigmatising a mood disorder into a treatable illness that might be dealt with using a single pill. It is alien to think that in 1993, “Listening To Prozac”, a book riding the wave in popularising a fallacy that Prozac could “cure” depressed individuals, spent four months on the New York Times best-sellers list. Fictional novel “Prozac Nation” also succeeded in fetishising the stereotype of a young, damaged individual reliant on prescription anti-depressants as an achievable and healthy aesthetic.
Three decades later, and America is still a Xanax nation – it remains the most popular psychiatric drug, topping more recent contenders like the sleeping pill Ambien, and the anti-depressant Lexapro. Conversation around over-prescription, particularly for ADHD, has been recently popularised; but lacks solid alternatives to disparage the majority from turning to medication before thinking.
Most psyciatrists, including those at the NHS, have a ten-point list for dealing with acute feelings of anxiety or stress. At the most basic and initial level, the two are considered interchangable with feelings of guilt, worry, and symptoms of cyclic depression. In constructing a constellation for those within a social system of diagnosing and addressing mental health, we can better understand the powers and choices that play to effect positive change in the lives of individuals.
What the sets of interviews show are that within social spheres, there can be a great abundance of support in the form of friends and family – but that often, those affected don’t speak out in fear of being misjudged, or to have the situation escalated beyond their physical control. Those seeing problems develop in friends, on the other hand, are often afraid to speak out in-case they upset their friend or are concerned that they’re not equipped to deal with mental health.
Under a stressed health-service, individual users are encouraged to take their healthcare into further extremes of responsibility – and with resources now only used on the most urgent of cases, departments addressing non-physical injuries have felt the largest shortfall. Mental health wards had already had one of the lowest resource funds, behind only learning difficulty departments; even if anxiety and depression are considered the second leading cause of disability worldwide.
It is as Grahame Cumming, strategic Lead for Innovation at NHS Lothian, describes; “our patients have to get far higher up the Triangle of Care before we can justify intervention”. And in removing immediate healthcare for non-emergency situations, basic and preventable illnesses will often snowball into more dangerous and more costly problems for future healthcare professionals. And so in designing a solution to empower those feeling under anxiety, growing stress, and depression, we can in turn reduce stress on key areas of the NHS whilst also raising awareness and legitimising the importance of telling others if they feel they may have a mood disorder.
If we embed technology into an object that can help us regulate our breathing, we can effectively help those that suffer from panic attacks, and calm those suffering from anxiety or stress. I’ve found often that holding onto an object; a chair, an arm, the walls as they meet the floor, is often enough to give stability in the moments when I find myself losing lucidity. It can be reassuring, however, to know that an object can actively help through haptic feedback; and more importantly for the health practise, recommend whether an individual is needing specialist help.
Grasp is a tool for facing adversity, gaining acceptance, and starting recovery. It provides a platform from which you can take power over your anxiety and control your breathing in times of need.
Mental health issues are the single largest cause of burden worldwide. Almost half of all adults within the UK will have a diagnosable mental health illness, and of those undiagnosed, survey has found that almost 40% will turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as alcohol.
The prescription of Xanax, Prozac, and other hormone balancers has been shown to be unreliable with lower-risk patients; and under our current culture of health that emphasises efficiency and diagnosis, almost half of all mental health disorders are left untreated and unnoticed; often leading to a dangerous build-up of higher-risk cases several years into the illness.
Utilising Grasp, you are invited to reach out and have help in guiding yourself back to a place of present mind during difficult times. We might not always have people to reach out to, or feel it necessary to do so; and Grasp offers an object in which you can release anxieties without letting stress compound.
Grasp is designed to monitor heart-rate and breathing and through visual and haptic feedback, guide your senses back to a comfortable space. Sensors will also flag up any potential medical concerns that can be seen by a doctor; such as an irregular pulse and breathing, often caused by stress, or high heart-rates.