Stress is ubiquitous in Western society, and particularly
in Australian society. Stress is a reflection of the individual
being overwhelmed by stimuli which he or she cannot cope with. Most
people in our society have, allostatic load( an enormous degree
of stress which they cannot cope with) This is contributing towards
the high incidence of degenerative disease and depression. (ref
Stress and Early Childhood Experience
It is now known that stress stems from early childhood
experiences. In fact, recent studies suggest that it is lack of
proper child care during the very early years that inadvertently
produces the ever increasing levels of stress in our society.
Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of the United
Nations Children's Fund on the State of the World's Children, in
1999, said, "The greater the care and stimulation a child receives,
the greater the benefit, for the national economy as well as the
child. The world is finally recognising that children's rights to
education, growth and development, physical, cognitive, social,
emotional and moral, cannot be met without a comprehensive approach
to serving their needs from birth."
It has been found that there is a gradient of
proneness to disease, criminal activity and drug and alcohol addiction,
which stems from the quality of child rearing in the first twelve
months of life. This research emphasises the fact that in the first
twelve months of life, the newly born baby undergoes tremendous
rewiring of the cortex. What actually happens is that up to 50%
of the neuronal mass is actually lost, the newly born baby being
born with more than the necessary compliment of neuronal mass to
last until adult life. What is significant is the number of connections
that the baby has then to form. The number of connections that are
formed depend mainly on the infant's social stimulation. (ref 2)
David Hubbal, who did pioneering work on vision
and the brain, concluded that, "Early deprivation of social
interaction such as contacts with the mother may lead to mental
disturbances that have their counterparts in actual structural abnormalities
in the brain."
Things such as whether or not the baby is breast
fed, the way the baby is handled, the way the child is taught, and
whether or not the child is read to and cuddled, all have a tremendous
influence on "wiring" of all perceptual facilities as
the child integrates the five senses and creates a pattern of perception
and cognition for the future.
Studies have shown that if this kind of nurturing
is not available, the child is likely to end up illiterate or delinquent
and may end up suffering from depression by the age of thirty.
It has been said that the health and wealth of a nation is not dependent
on socio-economic factors alone, but it is ultimately dependent
on the way the new generation is being raised. Pre-natal training
for parents is equally as important, as is post-natal care, for
the future well being of the children.
It has been found that educational facilities
tend to be somewhat didactic in their approach. In a recent study
conducted in Canada, headed by Dr Fraser Mustard (ref 3), special
child development and parental care centres were created. In these
centres, it was found that the greatest successes were found when
the children's parents were involved in the process. It was looked
upon, not as being a didactic teaching process, but a process which
cultivated play, and therefore, maximum stimulation of the young
child's growing brain.
Child Care Centres - Centres for Parenting and Child Development
Dr Mustard has said, "One of the best markers
as to how well a society is handling rapid change and globalisation,
is what is happening to its young children. Because if you don't
handle that properly, you are not going to have the quality of population
that will be able to compete in the new economy." Dr Mustard
recommended quality parenting and Early Child Development Centres
that are both parent oriented and child oriented.
It has been said that this century will be the
century of the brain, and that this millennium will be the millennium
of the mind, and indeed, the growing brains of the newly born babies
are the key to a nation's wealth and economic success.
The Carolina Abecedarian Project was designed
to examine the effect of early child education and parental support
on child development in socio-economically disadvantaged families.
It began just weeks after the child's birth, with a full year centre
based intervention, home visits and a teacher ratio of one to three.
At the end of the pre-school, the intervention group significantly
outperformed the non-intervention group in terms of IQ.
The Ypsilanti/High Scope Study demonstrated that
a high quality intervention programme with parent participation
dramatically changed outcomes when the programme started at age
3. The intervention had tremendous positive effects when children
reached young adulthood with respect to participation in labour
force, decreased criminality and improved mental health.
It was found that with a combination of one facilitator
to three to six children, frequent home visits and parental involvement,
the results were extremely successful, particularly in lower social
Parental Care and Propensity to Illness
There is a marked association, from childhood,
between socio-economic groups and the propensity to illness, illiteracy
and delinquency (ref 4). Michael Rutter, the famous child psychologist,
in his review of youth and anti-social behaviour, stated that, "signals
indicating the more serious and persistent forms of anti-social
behaviour can be detected as early as age three in the form of oppositional
and hyperactive behaviour."
It has been found that even within the middle
classes, a high degree of dysfunction in the children still occurs.
They may be dysfunctional in terms of their intelligence or in their
ability to form connections with other children. This is put down
to the fact that in our economic-rationalist society, where mothers
are forced to go out and work to help make ends meet, staying at
home to care for their children is simply not an option, and this
lack of personal parental care and lack of attention contributes
to the dysfunction..
Nutrition and Brain Development
It has been found that as well as parenting and
brain stimulation, nutrition in the early years of life, up to adolescence,
also plays a powerful determinant role in delinquent behaviour due
to its effect on the brain, particularly with respect to polyunsaturated
fatty acids. At a recent workshop of the US National Institute of
Health, evidence of LS-Polyunsaturated fatty acids on infant brain
development continues to accumulate with respect to improvement
in visual acuity and perceptual and motor skills.
Globalisation puts tremendous stresses on the
younger generation as well as the parents, who are often changing
jobs and adapting to new technologies. (ref 5)
The world is finally recognising that children's rights to education,
growth and development,( physical, cognitive, social, emotional
and moral), cannot be met without a comprehensive approach to serving
their needs from birth. (ref 6)
The Knowledge Nation
It is my belief that with the new science of brain
longevity and the understanding of how the brain contributes to
the well-being of the total bio-mind of the human being, we can
achieve a more socially sustainable world.
Our brain and our total sensorium evolves within
and with the environment as our body grows. We are physically attuned
to the environment in an inextricable way which both moulds our
bodies and our perceptive faculties. In this respect, the total
substance of our body contains memory of all trauma and all experiences
just as much as the physical structure of the brain does. Although
the number of neurones do not increase, the interconnections between
them increase at an exponential rate throughout life. There are
more neuronal connections in the brain than the number of stars
in the universe.
Thus we are attuned to our environment and the
moving stimuli in it, particularly the electromagnetic and vibrational
stimuli and patterns that impinge on our total sensorium as we grow
The Development of the Human Brain
The human brain undergoes two rapid bouts of re-mapping,
or reshaping. The one already mentioned is during the neo-natal
period. The other occurs during puberty, around the ages of seventeen
and eighteen, when 20% of the brain is remodelled, and neurons are
lost and replaced, and further connections are made.
It therefore seems that the human brain is a very
powerful determinant and expression of socio-cultural factors. In
fact, it is very clear that once the brain is mapped in a certain
way, it is very difficult to change the mapping. Unless children
are able to obtain a sense of self esteem and self-worth during
the early years of their lives, it is very difficult to achieve
A famous experiment has shown that if a child
is born with a cataract, the child will still not be able to see
with that eye even though the cataract has been removed in the neo-natal
period. This is because the appropriate "brain-wiring"
for sight has not been allowed to occur in the earlier stages of
When the brain models itself, it models the apperceptive
pointers within the total environment. It is the fusion of the individual
and the environment that creates the person. We are not isolated
individuals. We are interconnected with, and are intrinsically a
part of our society. The key to the future is a society which is
positively interconnected with co-operation and compassion. This
is a cultural precedent for a successful nation.
The Threat of Loss
One of the greatest sociological and psychological
factors facing an individual child is the threat of loss. The threat
of loss or separation is one of the greatest emotional traumas that
a human being can face. It may be the threat of separation from
parents, family, peers, teacher, friends, from familiar surroundings,
from society, and ultimately from life itself. This threat of loss,
or feeling of hurt, which is innate in all individuals, is expressed
and determined in certain ways depending on early childhood rearing.
The child who is nurtured, touched and loved is
able to cope with these feelings. But a lot of children are not
able to do this and end up with feelings of hurt, shame, guilt,
aggression and fear, and this is the theory on which the therapies
of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy are based. (ref 7)
A Universal Form of Orientation
What a society in rapid change and renaissance,
or rebirth, needs, is to give everyone the opportunity to connect
with each other at a core level which transcends all differences.
We would be thus connecting with the basic life giving attributes
of the self, which Freud called the Eros.(ref 8) This is a universal
form of orientation and devotion based on true value within the
community at large.
Currently there is a change occurring in the way
people view themselves and society. There is a sense in which there
is an urgent need for love and truth. This is not necessarily a
religious process, but it is certainly based on the deepest recesses
of the bio-mind matrix and its connection with the universe itself.
This is in fact one of the main research projects that the proposed
Centre for Change wishes to investigate.
Vaclave Havel, President of Czechoslovakia has
said, "Without a global revolution of human consciousness,
nothing will change for the better in the sphere of being as humans
and the catastrophe towards which this world is headed, be it ecological,
demographic, social or the general breakdown of civilisation, will
Faith and the Placebo Effect
In some indigenous communities, which still use
natural forms of medicine, the ill person is seen as expressing
guilt, and there is a need for atonement, or at-one-ment, in order
to resolve the illness. This atonement is based on the libation
paid to the ancestors, so the entire community can assuage the feeling
of guilt. It is with the consensus of the tribe that the individual
is then forgiven, the guilt resolved, and the illness cured. The
individual is not treated as an isolated entity, but part of the
community, because his illness also affects the community.
The basic healing process occurring in the above
example is faith. The success of many non-traditional approaches
is dependent upon the recipients of the treatment believing that
it will work.
A more wholistic approach to the treatment of
human disease, understanding the power which thought processes and
expectations can have on the course of the disease combined with
traditional medical approaches will yield increasing dividends to
medical research and be very cost-efficient.
Prof. Hans Eysenck, Professor of Psychology at
the University of London, and Professor Herbert Benson, the Harvard
Physician, have said that the placebo effect plays an enormous part
in the cure of illness, accounting for up to 50% of cures. The patient's
belief that the placebo will cure them is another form of faith.
Herbert Benson has said that the brain is "hard-wired"
for faith, and that if people have a belief in something, they have
passion for themselves and for others. This creates a tremendous
generative force within the context of their own minds and bodies,
as well as in the context of the hearts and minds of others.
Dr Candice Pert, one of the pioneers of psycho-neuro-immunology
has done innovative research into the mind-body connection. Her
research has shown that there are numerous lines of communication
between the brain and the body in addition to synaptic nerve connections.
Peptides, including hormones, neuro-transmitters, neuro-modulators,
growth factors, gut peptides, cytokines and chemokines, are informational
substances distributing information throughout the organism. They
are found in the body organs and systems as well as in the brain,
and are also the basis of emotions, behaviours and memory.
Mastery and Control of One's Life
The other facility for enabling people to lead
secure and fulfilling lives is the matter of control. Professor
Michael Marmot did the famous Whitehall study, in which he looked
for the reasons for illness in a relatively stable population of
civil servants. He found that there was a definite gradient of morbidity
based on the position of the individual civil servant within the
hierarchy. This gradient was associated with stress indicators such
as serum fibrinogen, serum cholesterol, hypertrophy of the heart,
obesity and diabetes. It was also related to factors such as lifestyle,
and support of family and friends. However, beyond all of this was
an extra factor, making up around 60% of the morbidity, which could
not be identified. The statistical information was complete when
the missing X factor was found to be the degree of control the employees
felt they had in their work situation. In fact, the civil servants
on level 2 hierarchy were twice as likely to suffer from a life
threatening disease than those on level 1; level 1 being the top
level. Marmot therefore has defined a new factor in the incidence
of stress in adults as being control of destiny.
What this means is that if people have a sense
of mastery in their lives, and the commitment to their job, without
feeling imposed upon, enforced or restricted by their superiors,
they are much more likely to be successful and healthy.
Repressive institutions and bureaucracies that label people as numbers,
rather than as human beings, and force people into moulds and do
not allow them to express their individuality, destroy the creative
ability of a workforce and the economic success of a nation.
Social Determinants of Health
Professor Marmot produced ten social determinants
of health for the World Health Organisation, which are:
Social and economic circumstances strongly effect health throughout
Stress harms health.
The effects of early development in the neo-natal period and infancy
last a lifetime.
Social exclusion creates suffering and morbidity.
Stress in the workplace increases the risk of disease
Job security increases health, well-being and job satisfaction.
Unemployment is deleterious to health.
Social support, friendship, good social relations and strong supportive
networks improve health at home, work and in the community.
Addiction to drugs and alcohol is influenced by social determinants.
Nutrition is a key determinant of health.
Transport through the use of walking and exercise in a sustainable
The Problem of Stress
The incidence of stress in our society is rising,
and scientists in general, and doctors in particular, do not understand
the effect the mind can have on reducing and controlling stress.
They do not understand the significance of early childhood rearing,
and the fact that the pointers to a person's destiny are found within
the way they are reared in the first twelve months of life. These
pointers are not only to educational attainment, but also to delinquency,
criminality and morbidity.
The problem of stress is further compromised by
the stresses that occur within the context of society, as previously
discussed, particularly in the work situation. If people are forced
to work in situations which are controlling and restrictive, and
in which they are not allowed to contribute to decisions and management,
they will get sick!
A Substantially New Manner of Thinking- The Software
of Genes and Creativity
The future of our planet lies not so much in hardware,
but in software, particularly in genius and creativity, and that
requires new kinds of individuals who are open and cosmopolitan
in nature. Albert Einstein said, "If humankind is to survive,
there has to be a substantially new manner of thinking." A
more rounded culture seeks to unlock the powers of the mind and
the brain in order for people to speak from their hearts.
Unfortunately, the figures at the moment do not show that this is
occurring in Australia. 63% of people attending general practice
have some evidence of mental disorder. 25% are disabling. Young
people with mental disorder are particularly poorly served by our
current general medical practice system. (ref 9) This is a remarkable
finding as 80% of the Australian population attend general medical
The major killers in our society, which are cardiovascular
disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis and arthritis are
all related to stress, and this often has its origins in the very
early developmental years of our patients. A quarter of Australian
men do not reach the age of 65. The majority of these die of heart
attacks and cancer. The average Australian male aged between 25
and 45 has a one in ten chance of having a heart attack, or getting
cancer and a four in ten chance of being disabled by an accident
or illness by the age of 65. (ref 10)
The cost of our health service is enormous and
it cannot continue to rely on band-aid approaches, particularly
as the mass of the populace is becoming more aware of the importance
and significance of wholistic medicine and the way that rapport
and understanding from a genuine health professional can help them
heal. It is predicted that by the year 2015, one in three people
will be suffering from a form of depression which will be severe
enough to require medication. It has been said quite simply by Professor
Montgomery at Bond University in Queensland, that depression can
also be treated by psycho-social means, without the use of drugs
whatsoever. Surely this would be a better option.
Medicine is tremendous in its ability to cater
for the acute emergency or illness, but when we see that the majority
of our population is suffering from degenerative diseases, and will,
as they age suffer from more chronic problems, such as dementia,
we realise that there must be other ways of healing.
Healing and the Centre for Change for Humanity
This healing must come from a basic change in
the Western psyche. The aim of the Centre For Change is to deal
with these questions and look at ways in which we can solve this
There are certain fundamental factors that need
to be understood in healing. These are:
- The control of stress
- Mastery of life,
and control of destiny
- Support of the community
These four factors are essential for the health
and well being of the individual in society.
Mastery of life also includes: challenge, participation,
commitment and control. It has been found particularly that when
people are challenged, whether they are small children or adults,
they rise to the occasion much more effectively if they are not
A sense of involvement and participation in the
community is another form of healing as it empowers the individual.
This is one of the ideologies underlying the creation of development
and parental centres for children, in which children and parents
work together in a process which enables them to create unified
families and a productive and positive future.
The New Economics
The dominance of the market system has meant that
the GNP does not include environmental costs and benefits, or social
indicators. A new economics of sustainability should include such
social indicators as literacy, education, women's rights, crime,
suicide health and illness. The GNP does not reflect the way people
feel about themselves, or society. In this respect, we need a new
index which encompasses quality of life and wellbeing for a nation
in rapid transition and renaissance.
Protection and Damaging Effects of Stress Mediators,
McEwen B.S., New England Journal of Medicine, 1998
Mechanisms of Brain Development - Developmental
Health and the Wealth of Nations - Cynader and Frost, Book 1999
Early Years Task Force Study Report for the Government
of Ontario, Canada -April 1998
Independent Inquiries into Inequalities in Health Report, London,
The Stationery Office, Nov. 1998,
"A Precarious Balance: Economic Opportunities, Civil Society,
and Political Liberty". The Responsive Community Vol. 5., Issue
3, Summer 1995, pages unnumbered
"Investing in the Future", World
Bank Conference on Early Childhood Development, Atlanta, Georgia,
The Selected Works of Melanie Klein and The Undiscovered
Self, Carl Jung
Civilisation and Its Discontents, Sigmund Freud
Conclusions About the Assessment and Management
of Common Mental Disorders in Australian General Practice, School
of Psychiatry, University of New South Wales, MJA, July 2001
Men's Health Paper, Prof. Avni Sali, Head of
Graduate School of Medicine, Swinburne University, Victoria, 2000