Many people say that knitting or crochet helped ease their anxiety during the Covid-19 lockdowns - but what is it about these repetitive, absorbing and creative hobbies which soothe the mind? Claire Anketell set up free Yarn for Mental Health courses in Northern Ireland a year ago and Gemma was one of the first to attend. She says crochet has helped to reduce her stress levels and she's graduated onto making blankets.
Esther Rutter's book This Golden Fleece: A Journey through Britain's Knitted History aims to unpick what textiles mean to us - including how they became part of the treatment for mental health problems. Learning a skill by following a pattern, connecting with other people and being distracted from everyday worries tick some of the boxes which we associate with wellbeing. But it's hard to pin down exactly which elements can boost our mood. Dr Sarah McKay author of The Woman's Brain Book: the Neuroscience of Health, Hormones and Happiness assesses whether we need hard evidence to carry on casting on.
The charity Fine Cell Work has been teaching prisoners embroidery, needlepoint and quilting for 25 years. CEO Victoria Gillies says the idea is to rehabilitate prisoners and ex-prisoners as they sew high-quality elaborate cushions and footstools. We hear about the difference it's made to stitchers like Ben and how crafting can cut the reoffending rates of ex-prisoners who work in their Hub in London.
Fergal Keane and PTSD
Fergal Keane describes living with PTSD. For thirty years, Fergal covered some of the most brutal wars for the BBC, including Rwanda, Iraq and Ukraine.
Despite having PTSD, he kept going, taking more and more risks until witnessing a massacre in Sudan, he realised he couldn't do it anymore, that for him going to war had become an addiction. He talks to Claudia about his ongoing work, recovering from PTSD.
Professor Daryl O'Connor's new research finds that people who got Covid-19 early in the pandemic were twice as likely to experience depressive symptoms than those who didn't.
And Dr Gillian Sandstrom on why men ask 2.4 more questions than women at conferences.
The sudden rise in teenagers developing tics during the pandemic
A new study highlights the increase in the number of teenagers - especially girls - developing involuntary physical and vocal tics during the pandemic. Neurologist Professor Jon Stone from the University of Edinburgh explains how they differ from those seen in patients with Tourette's - which come on very gradually are most often seen in eight to ten year old boys. One of his patients Beth first had tics four years ago, starting with spasms in her abdomen which pulled her upper body forwards. Prof Stone says that functional tics are caused by the brain not working properly and that it's an oversimplification to say they are the result of young people watching too many Tiktok videos.
Professor Tamara Pringsheim is a neurologist in Calgary, Canada, who's just published a study showing how widespread they are across the world. She says that almost overnight her clinic was filled with teenage girls - after years of only seeing younger boys with Tourette's. She says the outlook for teenagers with tics is good - they usually get better, often within 6 months. Treatment can include cognitive behavioural therapy and it's also useful to involve the whole family - relatives should be discouraged from using humour to diffuse tension when a teenager tics, as it can make them last longer. Beth has just started university and is learning to live with her tics - and finds important social support from online communities of others who have tics.
Professor of health psychology at the University of Leeds, Daryl O'Connor shares Professor Stone's scepticism about the role of Tiktok in rise in the number of tics. He also explains how a study where girls were encouraged to pretend they were scientists resulted in them playing a science game for longer.
Dr Carolin Schuster from Leuphana University in Germany has published a study showing that encouraging messages to HR professionals can help to cut the gender pay gap - but it's yet to be seen if the intervention would work in real-life not just the lab.
Can Mental Health Awareness have unintended consequences?
Mental health awareness campaigns have reduced stigma and changed attitudes to mental illness, but has the messaging also led to unintended consequences?
With the help of a panel consisting of mental health campaigner James Downs, the former director of Time to Change England Sue Baker, psychologist and author Lucy Foulkes and Katja Pavlovna of the Lives not Labels (sorry my mental illness isn't sexy enough for you) website, bring their own experiences of mental health problems and expertise in their fields to debate with Claudia the nuanced implications around increasing awareness and what they would like to see in the future.
Devices to aid our memories and safe music for driving
With busy lifestyles many turn to devices for aide memoires. Claudia discusses new findings with Dr Sam Gilbert who studies so called ‘offloading’ and gives tips on how best to remember the important things. And a visit to Manchester’s Turn it Up exhibition reveals what psychological research can tell us about the safest music to drive to; while guest Professor Catherine Loveday unpicks this year's trend, 'Dopamine Gifting'.