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Archive December 2018

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has revealed that they have only reviewed 140,000 Personal Independence Payment (PIP) cases (less than 10 per cent) in the last year.

In December 2017 Mind intervened in a High Court case and the Court ruled that changes to the assessments discriminated against people with mental health problems.

The ruling meant that the Government must now go back and review all 1.6 million cases of people who need support from PIP to check who might be eligible for more money. Around 220,000 of the 1.6million people receiving PIP need this support primarily due to their mental health. Many of these people could be missing out on additional funds which help them live full, independent lives.

The statistics also revealed that, of those who had had their cases reviewed and were found to be entitled to more support, people received an average of £4,500 – a huge amount of money, particularly for those who need support from the benefits system because their health makes it difficult to work.

Full story: National Mind

An influential group of cross-party MPs has published a report urging the Government to properly look at the impact of Universal Credit on disabled people.

The Work and Pensions Select Committee, chaired by Frank Field MP, is particularly concerned about people currently on the older benefit Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) losing out on disability premiums – extra money which will no longer be available after they’ve moved over to Universal Credit (UC).

Disability premiums are additional benefits paid to disabled people who live independently. They are intended to recognise the extra costs people face if they are not being supported by a carer. The disability premiums exist within ‘legacy benefits’ including Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Jobseekers’ Allowance (JSA) but have been removed in Universal Credit.

In addition, the report expresses concern about the lack of clarity or adequate protections for people facing the process of ‘managed migration’, which will see thousands of people with mental health problems make a new claim for UC within three months, and lose their income if they fail to do so.

Vicki Nash, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Mind said: “We welcome this report which adds to the growing body of evidence highlighting the impact of Universal Credit on disabled people. We’ve been calling on the Government to scrap their plans for ‘managed migration’ – it’s unjustifiable to place all the responsibility of moving over to a new benefit on those who are really unwell. We know the application itself can be a complex and stressful process, and there is a real risk that many will be left without income and facing destitution.

“It’s not too late for Government to see sense and withdraw and amend these regulations. Otherwise we want MPs of all parties to vote against them. Only by fixing the regulations now can we make sure that no-one faces having their benefits cut off before they have moved to Universal Credit.

“There needs to be a welfare system which works for everyone and allows disabled people to live full and independent lives, not one that leaves people destitute. We want the Government to reconsider proposals that could see people fall through the cracks, losing vital income, through no fault of their own.”

Full story: National Mind

On 17 December 2018 a judgment handed down from the Supreme Court ruled that an individual placed on a Community Treatment Order (CTO) after coming out of hospital cannot be deprived of their liberty. Mental health charity Mind intervened in the case to highlight the widespread problem of CTOs.

CTOs are meant to help prevent people being re-admitted to hospital, for example by requiring them to attend appointments to help manage a mental health problem. However in PJ’s case – and many others – CTO conditions go much further, for example requiring them to live in a particular place or preventing them going outside without an escort.

This particular judgement handed down from the Supreme Court is important because it highlights that the conditions imposed on people can be very restrictive- often far more so than while in hospital. PJ was required to live in a care home and abide by their rules. This included his whereabouts being checked every 15 minutes and not being able to leave the premises without permission and a staff escort. PJ appealed against an earlier Court of Appeal decision that ruled a ‘responsible clinician’ had the power to impose conditions on a CTO which would deprive an individual of their liberty. The Supreme Court has now ruled in favour of PJ, effectively overturning the previous ruling. This means that going forward, mental health and legal professionals need to carefully look at the conditions imposed on their clients under CTOs to ensure that they don’t amount to depriving them of liberty.

Michael Henson-Webb, Head of Legal at Mind said: “We are really pleased that the Supreme Court ruled in favour of PJ, recognising that he was being deprived of his liberty. Unfortunately, this isn’t a one-off case – we hear from many people who have extremely restrictive conditions imposed on them after coming out of hospital. We’ve long been campaigning for a scrapping of Community Treatment Orders, or at the very least – independent oversight into their use. This would allow to better monitor and police the rules placed on people and ensure that they are given a level of freedom conducive to getting and staying well.

“The recently published Mental Health Act review made references to the worryingly high use of CTOs and that people seem to be under them for a much longer timeframe than intended. At the same time, we know these orders are not effective in reducing hospital readmission. The review did acknowledge the need to tighten the rules for imposing them but didn’t go far enough in terms of calling for them to be scrapped altogether. We hope this latest legal challenge will once again bring into question the use of these orders.”

Source: National Mind

The independent review of the Mental Health Act 1983 has been published. The Act sets out when people with a mental health problem can be detained and treated in hospital against their will. 

The review was established by Prime Minister Theresa May last year to look at how the legislation is used and what needs to change. Recommendations include minimising the numbers of people being held against their will; strengthening the rights, dignity and wellbeing of people who are in extremely vulnerable situations; and dealing with racial inequality in the use of the Act. 

Mind was part of the steering and working groups for the review and Steven Gilbert, who has lived experience of the Act and is also trustee at Mind, was the vice-chair of the board. 

Responding to the review, Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said:

“Mind welcomes the review and the recommendations of the panel. This outdated legislation has seen thousands of people experience poor, sometimes appalling, treatment, who still live with the consequences to this day. We are pleased to see that many of our concerns – and those of the people we represent and have supported to feed into the review – have been heard. 

“The recommendations to strengthen people’s rights, empower them to question decisions about their care, choose their treatment and involve friends and family have the potential to make a real difference to those who are in an extremely vulnerable situation. We back the call for people on mental health wards to have a legal right to an independent advocate and agree that people who have been detained should be able to choose which family members and friends can make decisions about their care and treatment. 

“It’s good to see the review address racial inequalities. We know that black people are disproportionately sectioned, are more likely to be restrained, and are most likely to be put on a Community Treatment Order. These orders have been proven ineffective in reducing hospital readmission. Tightening the rules for imposing them is a small step in the right direction but we are disappointed that the review has not called to scrap them. Likewise, we back the promotion of race equality in mental health services and in the use of the Act but this must come with concrete commitments, including that the NHS builds relationships with local communities. 

“The Government now needs to take this review forward as soon as possible so that people with mental health problems get the support they need. A key test of the recommendations will be their impact on racial inequality and we look forward to the NHS long-term plan which will set out how mental health care will be transformed. These recommended changes are much needed but detentions will only reduce when people have access to quality, culturally relevant and timely care, so that fewer people end up in a mental health crisis.”

Source: National Mind

Children as young as 10 who don’t identify as heterosexual have a greater probability of experiencing symptoms of depression, new research has uncovered.

Approximately one in 25 people aged between 16 and 24 in the UK identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual, according to the Office for National Statistics.

While it’s previously been discovered that young members of the LGBT+community are more likely than those who identify as heterosexual to self-harm or experience depression, there hasn’t been a substantial amount of research pinpointing when these mental health issues appear or how they progress over the years.

In a new study published in The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health journal, researchers compared the symptoms of depression exhibited by adolescents who are in a sexual minority with those who are heterosexual. 

The authors have expressed their opinion that more mentors and role models are needed for sexual-minority youth, especially if they may be experiencing discrimination or stigma.

Individuals in sexual minorities include those who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, not exclusively heterosexual or haven’t defined their sexual orientation.

The researchers followed almost 5,000 adolescents over the course of 11 years, noting depressive symptoms at seven points between the ages of 10 and 21 with a questionnaire.

The scientists from University College London also had the participants fill out a self-harm questionnaire at the age of 16 and then again at the age of 21.

All of the participants were born between 1 April 1991 and 31 December 1992 and reported their sexual orientation at the age of 16.

The team found that symptoms of depression were far more prevalent at the age of 10 among those in sexual minorities.

Full story: The Independent

A children’s helpline says the number of counselling sessions it has delivered to youngsters with anxiety has almost doubled in two years, with nine out of 10 calls from girls.

According to Childline, which is supported by the NSPCC children’s charity, there has been a sharp rise in the number of young people seeking help because of anxiety as they struggle to cope with the demands of modern life.

The NSPCC said Childline counsellors delivered 11,700 sessions to children and teenagers complaining of anxiety in 2015-6. That number rose to 21,300 in 2017-18. At least 88% of the support they provided was for girls.

Callers gave a variety of reasons for their anxiety including bullying and cyber-bullying, eating problems, relationship issues and school pressures such as homework and exams. Others reported abuse, neglect and bereavement.

The NSPCC said the figures demonstrated the increasingly important role Childline was playing in the child mental health landscape. Young people who were referred to children and adolescent mental health services could face long delays and government proposals to boost support in schools were being rolled out gradually.

The charity also reiterated now familiar concerns about girls’ mental health. According to the latest figures from Childline, about 17,400 counselling sessions were delivered to girls suffering from anxiety, and 2,300 to boys. In a further 1,600 cases gender was undocumented.

Full story: Guardian

The word “crisis” comes up a lot whenever children and young people’s mental health is mentioned. Whether it’s youngsters in desperate need of acute care being sent hundreds of miles away for treatment due to local bed shortages, failure to receive help even after their GP has referred them for specialist care, or enduring problems with NHS child and adolescent mental health services (Camhs), patients under 18 find it increasingly difficult to access the support they need.

Today, for the first time, the Office for National Statistics is publishing figures on children and young people’s views and experiences of loneliness and how to overcome it. Separately, NHS Digital figures published last week found that as of the end of August, 213,702 children were referred to or being seen by children and young people’s mental health services. In all, one in eight young people between five and 18 in England has a mental health disorder. While the government has repeatedly said that youth mental health is a priority and has pledged to do more, especially around early intervention, the reality is that for many of those seeking help, long waits and inadequate services are the norm.

“Growing numbers of young people are seeking mental health support, meaning that an already over-stretched system is a long way from meeting demand,” says Emma Thomas, the chief executive of the charity Young Minds. “This can have devastating consequences. Every child who reaches out for support should be able to get the help they need.” We talked to young adults about their experiences of seeking help and accessing mental health services while under 18 and asked them what they feel needs to change.

Full story: Guardian

Over the past decade, social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have become a central part of everyday life. Despite their massive popularity, however, controversy abounds regarding their impact on mental health and wellbeing. A new research study by the University of Amsterdam (UvA) has now found a correlation between the passive use of social media and depression symptoms like loneliness and fatigue. The findings were recently published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.

For many of us it is a daily habit. Whenever we have a moment to spare, we find ourselves reaching for our smartphones and aimlessly scrolling through social media feeds reading updates or looking at pictures. This behaviour, called passive social media use (PSMU), is often used to relieve boredom and can swallow up large chunks of personal time. While seemingly innocent, PSMU isn’t without controversy – experimental research shows that it can decrease affective wellbeing, a sense of belonging and life satisfaction.

To investigate the link between social media use and depression symptoms, an international research team led by the UvA recruited 125 students and measured their wellbeing and passive social media use seven times daily for 14 days. A special app on their phones prompted participants at fixed times to complete a 12-item depression questionnaire. Their responses were analysed with a novel statistical technique, which was developed/implemented by researchers affiliated with the UvA’s Psychosystems Group (Dr Laura Bringmann and Dr Sacha Epskamp). The analysis focused on three timeframes – short-term (within the same two hours), medium-term (prediction from one prompt to next) and longer-term (across the entire 14 days).

Full story: News Medical

More than 100,000 people a year in England who are mired in heavy debt try to end their lives, new research has revealed.

Intimidating and threatening letters sent by debt collectors, bailiffs and councils raise the risk of suicide by adding to people’s feelings of despair, the study found. The findings have prompted calls from mental health experts for an urgent overhaul of the tactics banks, utility companies, credit card companies and others use to pursue people struggling to repay money they owe.

One in 14 adults is in problem debt, meaning they have fallen very behind on paying bills or credit agreements or have been cut off by a gas, electric or water supplier in the past year. They are three times more likely than the general population to have thought about ending their life, according to research undertaken by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen), Britain’s largest independent social research body.