Tag Archives: Mental health

Wellness Monday: Bee Style Healthcare

Honey Bee (Apis mellifera)

In a TED talk, Vikram Patel reveals a drastically different approach to healthcare than the current status quo. Patel outlines how common mental health illnesses like depression are among the leading causes of disability that contribute to larger health needs on a global scale. He suggests a human-centered approach using ordinary people.

Patel’s approach is to enable average community members to effect positive changes in their community, rather than the current model where limited mental health care providers are available, particularly in developing nations. While the approach is powerful where there are few mental healthcare providers among large populations, Patel envisions the possibilities in any nation.

I compare this behavior, of equipping larger groups of everyday people within the community to treat the most common types of mental illness, to the integrated functions of a honey bee population where bees assist and point to larger resources in the environment.

Honey bees are known for their complex social behaviors.  Not one or a few, but the majority of honey bees act in a distinct way that benefits the larger bee community. What do they do?They take action.

Like many other insects, honey bees use odors and chemical releases to communicate, but they are distinct because they also use visible actions. Antennae movements and dancing convey information on the type of resources available in the environment and their quality to other bees. Similarly, many people may be taught to treat the most common mental illnesses, a task shift to enable many willing people for good, while allowing health care providers to act as mentors.

Following Patel’s approach, it is beneficial to train groups of community members to help treat the most common mental health issues. Places with limited healthcare professionals could shift their priorities to reach the maximum amount of people by mentoring and training others to replicate the psychotherapy and behavioral therapies to treat the most common mental health challenges such as depression. This creates greater access to resources in the environment for positive mental health.

Patel and others have implemented this approach and the results are significant. Watch this compelling video for more.

Lastly, Patel defines this approach using the acronym SUNDAR, which mean “attractive” in Hindi. The acronym stands for:

Simplify the message of medicine

UNpack the treatment

Deliver healthcare to where the people are, using whoever is available

Affordable and available resources

Reallocation of specialists to train and supervise

This approach is attractive, to be sure. Following the honey bee model, any willing honey bee can point to resources, and this ability isn’t limited. So too, are ordinary people able to treat common illnesses to promote positive mental health changes. If the bees can do it, so can we humans.

Patel’s healthcare proposal is different from the current model, yet it seems replicable. In other words, this approach could be a sustainable model in any society, no matter the scarcity of mental healthcare professionals.

Join me, to explore this healthcare task shift proposal further as I follow Patel’s journey via his online presence.


Wellness Monday: Tend and Befriend

Bee and thistle.

A post shared by Elya Simukka (@elya365) on

This past weekend I vacationed with an all female group to celebrate a dear friend for her bachelorette weekend before her wedding. The retreat lasted a few days, yet I returned home feeling incredibly refreshed and happy. I don’t think I was alone. After the adventures, laughter, and special memories we enjoyed together I was emotionally elated and knew I had been engaging in something the field of Psychology has termed tend and befriend.

It is with this experience fresh in mind, the ladies’ time spent withdrawn from our normal environment, that I plan to introduce the phenomenon referred to as “tend and befriend”. While there is much more to explain beyond this post, this is supposedly a behavior that is more common in women when they reach out and use social connections with other women as a way to manage life’s stressors. It is a form of coping, and I argue a form of thriving as well.

This past weekend is a perfect example of tend and befriend, as an all women getaway was meant to celebrate a bride-to-be while also encouraging a sense of calm in everyone involved in this dramatic and positive life change. So, tend and befriend is a sort of coping that provides a calming effect as women engage fully in social connections with other women. Some studies have recognized the habit of sticking with female groups during duress to be true of human females and female rodents, while male rodents and male humans often prefer to be alone. Why is this so?

The answer to the sex differences is not be entirely certain, but there are a number of suggestions offered by researchers. As this behavior is noticed in both humans and other animals, it is likely to be related to an evolutionary need. One story, found here, suggests that mothers throughout time have needed to care for their young in order for the offspring to survive. In other words, staying put was a choice most likely to promote the survival of the young, while fleeing or fighting were less likely selections because of the low survival rate of the kids after abandonment or physical conflict.

Related to this question of sex difference, some research found here points to the chemical reaction that occurs in women physically as women tend and befriend. There is an additional release of the hormone oxytocin, that has an overall relaxing and stress reducing effect in individual women. It is possible that the same hormone may release in males, although the higher levels of androgens in the male body would counteract the hormone and thus have little to no effect. Men, also, may be socially conditioned (or trained by society’s norms) to choose solitude during times of stress.

All in all, tend and befriend is a behavior that is noticed most often in women as they gather in groups. Doing so has a calming effect related to chemical releases in the body. Read more about tend and befriend in the Wikipedia post on the subject by clicking here, but read with healthy skepticism as not all of it is cited properly.

Have you noticed the benefits of tend and befriend behavior? Do you notice others engaging in this way?

Wellness Monday: Resilience Defined (1 of 3)


As promised last week, this is the first week in a mini series on psychological resilience. In this post I’ll address: what it is, who has it, and why it matters. Let’s get going!

What is resilience? In the past I introduced resiliency as the coping strategy and management of adversity. Let’s define it further.

Resilience has to do with all human’s capacity to essentially “bounce back” and deal well with stress in the face of tough times, tragedy, and traumatic events. You have it. I have it. We all do. Isn’t that nice?

Who is resilient? Luckily it is not a personality trait, something that you either have or don’t. Rather, it is an ability that people possess on a ranging scale. You may imagine your own place on a continuum of resilience, from very little to very much. Wherever you envision yourself, be gracious about your placement because it is not permanent. You are able to encourage more resilience.

A little history. Resilience was first noticed and discussed in psychological research beginning in the 1970s. Garmezy mentioned it initially as he was researching the reasons why some people fall ill while others do not (epidemiology). Soon after, Werner used resiliency at greater length when a portion of at risk children in Kauai flourished despite poor conditions.

I often think of resilience as the more positive outcome of post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Both resilience and PTSD are defined essentially by the statement that, “trauma is not defined by what occurs as much as how we experience what has occurred”(Moving Beyond Trauma, Hering, 10). Different experiences of traumatic experiences are largely hinged upon the individual’s interpretation of that experience.

For example, highly resilient people demonstrate (Wikipedia):

  1. Good outcomes despite high-risk status
  2. Constant competence under stress
  3. Recovery from trauma
  4. Use of challenges for growth that makes future hardships more tolerable

Why does it matter? Well, resiliency and fostering more resilience is a way to fortify against the inevitable ups and downs of life.

According to the APA (American Psychological Association), there are ways to strengthen your innate resilience. They are as follows: make connections, avoid seeing crises as insurmountable problems, accept the things you cannot change, move toward your goals, take decisive actions, find positive ways to reduce stress and negative feelings, look for opportunities for self-discovery, nurture a positive self-view, maintain a hopeful outlook, and other helpful tools you find in your personal journey to recovery. Read more here.

Stay tuned for week 2 when I share amazing stories of resilience next week and an entertaining video that will give you practical and interactive ways to grow your resilience!