Stepping Out Blog

Stepping Out Enters 2015 With Progress On All Fronts

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Following the innovative steps taken to bring Gamification to the world of social care and semi independent living, along with our brand new website, Stepping Out has continued to progress throughout the first few weeks of 2015.

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Brain Scans Can Locate Suicidal Behaviours in Young Adults


A report presented at the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology annual meeting in Phoenix, Arizona has stated that abnormalities in the prefrontal cortex and related brain areas are observed in adolescents who have attempted suicide.

The study suggests that deficits in frontal systems may be associated with risk for suicide attempts in youths with mood disorders.

Most suicide attempts occur in the context of mood disorders, including bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder.

The report suggests that 25-50% of those affected attempt suicide; 15-20 % of individuals with the disorder die as a result, based on evidence provided at the US meeting.

Early intervention is needed as suicidal behaviour often first presents in adolescence. The development of new interventions, however, requires a better characterization of how features of brain structure and function are linked to the development of suicidal behaviours.

This Work Presents an Important First Step in Understanding Suicidal Thoughts

Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), Hilary Blumberg and colleagues at the Yale School of Medicine examined brain structure and function in adolescents and young adults, 14 – 25 years of age.

68 participants with bipolar disorder, of whom 26 attempted suicide, were compared with 45 healthy volunteers matched for age and gender.

The investigators found that, compared with bipolar patients who did not attempt suicide and healthy control subjects, the participants who attempted suicide showed less integrity of white matter in key frontal brain systems, including the uncinate fasciculus, a fiber tract that connects the frontal lobe with key brain areas that control emotion, memory and motivation.

Further, there were links between the circuitry deficits and suicidal ideation, the number of suicide attempts and the relative lethality of those prior suicide attempts.

This work presents an important first step in understanding the neurobiology of how suicidal thoughts and behaviours are generated and may facilitate earlier identification of individuals at risk and development of targeted interventions to stop suicide.

Is the surface of a major problem just being scratched with this research and what more can we expect to find out from other experiments like this in the future?

Please let us know your opinions in the comments below.

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Can Permanent Stress Cause Mental Disorders?


This could be an uncomfortable topic for many people, but it’s a topic best discussed.

Research conducted by Prof Dr Georg Juckel at the LWL university clinic at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB) has found that immune cells that are activated through permanent stress will have a damaging effect on and cause changes to the brain.

The effects of permanent stress on the immune system may lead to mental disorders in the future, his research shows.

The search for causes of mental disorders has been keeping researchers busy for a long time. Various hypotheses have been postulated over the years.

“Originally, the brain and the immune system were considered two separate systems,” explains Prof Dr Georg Juckel, Medical Director at the RUB’s LWL university clinic for psychiatry, psychotherapy and preventive medicine.

“It was assumed that the brain operates independently from the immune system and has hardly anything to do with it. This, however, is not true.”

The studies carried out in Bochum have shown that the more frequently the brain gets triggered due to stress, the more likely it seems that a person will have some form of a mental disease such as schizophrenia

Cases Vary from Individual to Individual

Susceptibility for stress effects varies from individual to individual and it should be noted that not every individual who is under permanent stress will develop a mental disorder.

Prof Juckel’s team suspects the cause to go back to the embryonic stage. US researchers demonstrated as far back as the 1950s that children born of mothers who contracted true viral influenza during pregnancy were seven times as likely to suffer schizophrenia later in life.

The researchers from Bochum confirmed this hypothesis in animal models. Now, they a striving to research into the mechanism that makes people susceptible to this disease.

“The embryo undergoes some kind of immune response which has far-reaching consequences and presumably shapes the future immune system.” says Dr Astrid Friebe from the LWL clinic.

The link between the body and the mind is certainly a fascinating one. For years the medical world have used placebo type drugs in order for a patients mind to tell them they are being healed, if this can be said for curing illnesses then surely the brain could also play a part in causing illnesses as well.

How important do you feel Prof Juckel’s research will prove in his field and what other links could there be between our brain and our body that we are yet to fully understand?

Please let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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Why Training Is So Important In The Social Care Sector

Father and son using digital tablet on sofa

Care work, although a valuable and honourable career path, is not always given the credit and status it deserves.

Social care training is variable at best, and care workers are not always given clear goals to focus on, unlike workers at Stepping Out.

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Young Offenders With Psychiatric Disorders: Is Enough Being Done?

semi independent living enfield

A recent report conducted by JAMA Psychiatry indicates that juvenile offenders appear to have higher risks of developing psychiatric disorders after being released from their detention centres.

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