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Below you will find a selection of the most recent entries from bloggers in our Family section. To view the entries from individual bloggers, click on the links below:

  • Birgit Suess is a Swiss-American who grew up between the US and Switzerland and speaks English, German and Swiss-German. Because of a worldwide shortage of Speech Therapists, she uses technology to connect special needs students around the world with English speaking Speech Therapists. With almost 20 years of experience as a Speech Therapist and 10 years experience with Teletherapy, she is a pioneer in the Teletherapy world. Her personal specialty is working on social language with high functioning children on the Autism Spectrum. Her passion is finding new and innovative ways to help children with special needs.
  • Dr. Irina Schurov is a Nutritional Neuroscientist with a PhD from Cambridge University (UK) and over 20 years’ experience in science and health-providing services. She created and founded LiveRight, an initiative to help others through nutrition and wellbeing strategies. By building an educational platform around healthy eating habits, by restoring the relationships between people and food, by supporting your individual circumstances and through personalized coaching in nutrition, she wants to help you and your family achieve the optimal balance between help and life.
  • Dr. Penny Fraser
    Dr Penny is a British-trained Emergency Medicine doctor, who lives in Geneva.  She is also the mother of two busy little skiers aged 7 and 8. Along with Dr Michelle Wright and her other colleagues at HealthFirst, she has a passion for delivering health education and First Aid training to the English-speaking community in Switzerland
  • Dr. Michelle Wright
    Dr Michelle Wright is a British-trained General Practitioner and Director of HealthFirst, providing physical First Aid training and Mental Health First Aid training, as well as Health Education, throughout Switzerland (www.healthfirst.ch). She also has a regular radio show about health on World Radio Switzerland. Believing that prevention is better than cure and that we should be treating the root cause of illness, Dr Michelle is also a Lifestyle Medicine enthusiast.

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By Dr Mecky McNeil, HealthFirst

November is probably the most challenging month of the year. The turning back of the clocks, and with it the shorter days, signifies winter is around the corner. This year, the days feel even darker than usual, as we are facing the greatest health crisis of a lifetime. But alongside Covid, we are also experiencing a mental health pandemic. More than 1 billion people globally are suffering with mental illness. This is being further impacted by isolation following quarantine and the need to socially distance and wear masks to reduce the risk of infection.

Every November since 2003, Mo Bros across the world have been growing moustaches and setting themselves challenges to raise awareness of men’s health issues.

This year alongside raising awareness of prostate and testicular cancer, they are addressing men’s mental health and suicide. Their target is to reduce premature death in men by 25% by 2030.

One man dies every minute from suicide across the world. In England 1 in every 8 men suffer from a mental illness including anxiety, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder (1), and men are 3 times more likely than women to have an alcohol use disorder (2). These numbers are the tip of the iceberg as they only represent the cases reported and diagnosed.

Gender stereotypes and society’s expectations mean that many men do not feel able to speak out about how they are feeling, leading them to look for other ways to cope. Self-medicating with alcohol to reduce their distress and withdrawing from others for fear of judgement are sadly common outcomes.

In their moment of need, many men simply do not know who, or where, to turn to. The reduced inhibitions from using alcohol in this moment of crisis, means thoughts of suicide may seem the only option. Sadly, this dangerous cocktail can lead to someone acting on these thoughts and the devastating outcome of a premature and avoidable death.

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By Dr Michelle Wright, HealthFirst

Every year on 10th October, the World Health Organisation observes World Mental Health Day. The aim of the day is to raise awareness globally about issues surrounding mental health, to get people talking, and to mobilise efforts to support mental health.

The latest World Health Organisation statistics reveal:

  • 1 billion people worldwide are living with a mental health disorder
  • 3 million people die every year from the harmful use of alcohol
  • 1 person dies every 40 seconds by suicide
  • And now, billions of people all over the world are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, which is having a further impact on people’s mental health

Never before have conversations about mental health and proactively looking after our mental health been so important. This year’s campaign for World Mental Health Day is calling for an increased investment in mental health – “Move for Mental Health: let’s invest!”

To acknowledge the gravity of the current situation and how it is impacting us all as individuals and as a global society, we are bringing the HealthFirst community together to mark World Mental Health Day 2020.

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By Dr Michelle Wright, HealthFirst

In Europe, around half of us will experience mental distress at some point in our lives, with depression and anxiety the most common diagnoses. But despite being so common, talking about mental health remains taboo and there is still a lot of misunderstanding, uncertainty, fear and stigmatization surrounding it.

Many people are not well informed about how to recognize mental health problems, how to respond to an affected person, or about the treatments available. In addition, because of worries about being perceived as weak, taking the step to open up to others about their own mental health isn’t always easy for someone.

To try to tackle these issues, the Pro Mente Sana Foundation, with support from the Beisheim Foundation, has recently launched the internationally recognized Mental Health First Aid program in Switzerland. Here it’s called ‘ensa Mental Health First Aid’, ‘ensa’ meaning ‘answer’ in one of the Aboriginal languages and being translatable in German, French, Italian and English. HealthFirst is proud to be recognized as an ensa Partner, providing certified ensa Mental Health First Aid courses in English throughout the country.

The program, originally developed in Australia, trains and empowers lay people to provide initial support to others who may be developing mental health problems, experiencing worsening of existing mental health problems, or who may be experiencing a mental health crisis. It’s essentially a First Aid training programme with similar principles to those for physical First Aid but this time for mental health.

Any interested person who wants to learn how they can support family members, friends or colleagues experiencing mental health difficulties can become a Mental Health First Aider. No healthcare background or pre-requisite training is necessary.

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

By Birgit Suess, Virtually ConnectEd

As parents, we want the best for our children. We want them to develop on the same schedule that is hanging up on the doctor’s office wall, we want them to be happy, do well in school and have friends.

All children face some sort of challenge at one point or another. It is not uncommon for children to have difficult with speech and language. If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, here are some things to look for.

Articulation:
Articulation is sounds in speech. The most common errors in English are /l/, /s/ and /r/. These sounds should start emerging around ages 4 and 5, although many children struggle with them until age 8. By age 8 a child should be able to say all the sounds in the English language.

Phonological Delay:
Phonological delays often get confused with articulation delays because the child is saying the wrong sounds, but it’s not that the child can’t say the sounds, it’s that the child doesn’t say them in the correct place. For example, these children often say “tup” for “cup” and “tat” for “cat.” The might also say “gog” for “dog.” For a 2 year-old, this is typical and nothing to worry about, but if your 5 year-old is still mixing up sounds, it’s a good time to bring him or her in to see your doctor or speech therapist.

Stuttering:
Also known as fluency, stuttering is a normal occurrence for everyone once in a while. When repeating sounds, words or having blocks (when there are moments of silence when a child is trying to ‘push’ a word out) become common and/or start to include eye blinking or leg slapping, it’s time to bring your child in for professional help.

Receptive Language:
How well can your child understand language? Does your child not respond to your requests out of defiance, or do they perhaps not understand you? Does your child have difficulties following directions or answering questions? Does your child point to objects instead of ask for them? These are all signs that your child may be having difficulty understanding language.

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Photo by Oliver Hihn on Unsplash

By Dr. Irina Schurov, LiveRight

I am sure you have noticed that our days have been getting shorter and that we now experience far less sun light exposure. At this time of year lots of people start to undergo a form of seasonal blues, lack of energy and emotional slumps. People who are especially sensitive to such changes of environment can sometimes be diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Of course, children who experience troubles with learning, concentration, sensory issues and emotional challenges will be even more susceptible to lack of day light. For example, it was shown that deficiency of sun light can potentially lead Asperger’s children to have low self-esteem, feel disappointment, isolation, mood swings and a lack of motivation. Consequently, while everyone feels the shortage of light exposure, we all tolerate and adapt to it in different ways.

From a biological perspective, as the seasons shift, our bodies experience certain biochemical changes, which are absolutely normal! Although humans aren’t as seasonal as animals and we do not hibernate in the winter, environmental changes have a clear impact on our biology!

Our master clock, located in the hypothalamus, responds to light by secreting certain hormones such as serotonin, which helps the body to feel awake, alert and satisfied. When it is dark, serotonin is converted to melatonin, making the body feel sleepy. It is for this reason that lack of day light causes hormonal imbalance, leading to many troublesome consequences, including sleep disorders, behavioral problems, hormonal imbalances and stress. To summarise; HUMANS’ ARE VERY DEPENDENT ON LIGHT!

Have you noticed that during the winter we try to compensate for our low levels of serotonin by reaching for comfort food and eating lots of carbohydrates and sweets? This gives us instant but fleeting satisfaction, which passes quickly and leaves us with long-term consequences such as elevated levels of blood glucose, extra weight, irritability and insulin imbalance.

Here is a quick check list of typical signs of SAD:
1. Depressed mood, low energy during the day
2. Anxiety or irritation, not handling stress well
3. Feeling lethargic and sleeping more than usual
4. Difficulty to concentrate and focus
5. Preferring to stay alone, less socializing
6. Craving for easy carbohydrates and sweets
7. Feeling a need for a sunlight
So, how can we prepare for this year’s winter? Here is a short list of changes you can implement into your routine, to ensure you experience a pleasant and energetic few months!