The Telegraph reports today on a study published in New Scientist which claims that believing you are sick can make you sick. The so-called ‘nocebo’ effect is explained.

“The idea that believing you are ill can make you ill sounds far-fetched, yet rigorous trials have established beyond a doubt that the converse is true – the power of suggestion can improve health,” reported New Scientist magazine.

“The placebo effect has an evil twin: the nocebo effect, in which dummy pills and negative expectations can produce harmful effects.”

Although I’m very far from being a scientist, I can’t say I’m wholly surprised by this. There is no reason for the placebo effect not to have an opposite kind of reaction. I just didn’t know it had a name!

So what we are left with is a rather tentative call for positive thinking.

And on that note, a few positive stories for a Friday.

image srboisvert at flickr

– Brian Burnie, a Scottish multi-millionaire, is selling his estate and the luxury hotel he has spent his life creating, to raise funds for a cancer charity.  As the Times reports

Proceeds from the sale will go to establish and fund a Marie Curie/Macmillan cancer nurse for north Northumberland, and vehicles to take cancer patients to hospital.

Now there’s an antidote to all the stories about MPs with their snouts in the trough!

– Speaking of which, the Independent has profiled Britain’s cheapest MP. Not quite such a bad place to be at the moment, Mr Hollobone !

– And at the end of Mind Week 2009 which this year focused on Men’s Mental Health, the awards were announced with the Mind Book of the Year going to Sathnam Sanghera for The Boy with the Topknot.

Eleanor Harding of the Wandsworth Guardian won the Journalist of the Year award. Writing for a local paper, her profile probably isn’t as large as some of the nominees but the nomination speaks of her clear, accessible reporting on individuals’ experiences of mental distress, avoiding sensationalism and allowing us to see interviewees as everyday people.

Some recent examples of her interviews include Judy Wilson – interim head of Springfield Hospital who speaks of her own experiences of depression. And an interview with ‘Laura’ who speaks of the ways that phobias affect her.

The prize of the Mind Champion of the Year went to Alastair Campbell. This was an award whose winner was chosen by a public vote so particular congratulations to Mr Campbell who has without doubt, devoted a great deal of time to fighting stigma relating to mental illness with a great deal of honesty.

And finally, on the subject of positive thoughts – It’s Friday!!