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A £14.5m programme to help reduce the number of student suicides at universities and colleges in England has been unveiled by the higher education regulator.

Nicola Dandridge, the head of the Office for Students (OfS), has said too many students are having their experience “blighted by mental ill-health” and more should be done to tackle the issue.

One of the projects awarded funding includes an Early Alert Tool, led by Northumbria University, which will identify students at risk of mental health crisis by mining data sources, like social media.

The scheme, which focuses on early warning signs, has been launched in response to figures showing that only one in three people who die by suicide are known to mental health services.

The OfS the sector’s watchdog, has awarded £6m in funding to universities and colleges, with co-funding of £8.5m, to combat a rise in student mental health concerns.

The proportion of full-time UK undergraduate students reporting mental health concerns when they enter university has more than doubled over the last five years, according to recent figures. 

At least 95 university students took their own lives in the 12 months to July 2017 in England and Wales, the most recent figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show.

Ten projects have been given funding as part of the collaborative programme, which includes a scheme at the University of Nottingham that will focus on international students.

Full story: The Independent

So many young people are self-harming that it risks becoming normalised and increasing the number who kill themselves when they are older, a study reveals.

One in five girls and young women in England aged 16 to 24 have cut, burned or poisoned themselves, according to research that mental health experts said was “very worrying”.

The findings, published in the Lancet Psychiatry journal, show that self-harm has risen across both sexes and all age groups since 2000. In the population as a whole it almost trebled from 2.4% then to 6.4% in 2014.

The number of people overall cutting themselves jumped from 1.5% to 3.9% over those 14 years.

Growing numbers of people are harming themselves as a way of coping with feelings of anger, tension, anxiety or depression. However, a lack of NHS services and people’s unwillingness to seek help means that more than half of those who self-harm do not receive any medical or psychological care.

Full story: Guardian

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is calling for an independent review of every person who is being held in segregation in mental health wards for children and young people and wards for people with a learning disability or autism. These reviews should examine the quality of care, the safeguards to protect the person and the plans for discharge, the regulator says.

CQC makes the recommendation in its interim report published today, in which it shares early findings from its review of restraint, prolonged seclusion and segregation for people with a mental health problem, a learning disability or autism.

The review, which was commissioned by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock, also highlights the need for a better system of care for people with a learning disability or autism who are, or are at risk of, being hospitalised and segregated.

From an information request sent to providers CQC was told of 62 people who were in segregation. This included 42 adults and 20 children and young people – some as young as 11 years old. Sixteen people had been in segregation for a year or more – one person had spent almost a decade in segregation. The longest period spent in segregation by a child or young person was 2.4 years.

CQC has so far visited and assessed the care of 39 people in segregation, most of whom had an autism diagnosis.

Reasons for prolonged time in segregation included delayed discharge from hospital due to there being no suitable package of care available in a non-hospital setting. For some, the commissioners had found it difficult to find a suitable placement.

The safety of other patients or staff and inability to tolerate living alongside others were the most common reasons providers gave for why people were in segregation. In some cases, staff believed that the person’s quality of life was better in segregation than in the less predictable environment of the open ward.

Some of the wards were not suitable environments for people with autism and many staff lacked the necessary training and skills to work with people with autism who also have complex needs and challenging behaviour.

Full story: Mental Health Today

A coroner has called for universities to destigmatise mental health issues after concluding that a student took his own life after facing dismissal from his course and the prospect of losing his accommodation.

First-year Bristol University student Ben Murray, 19, fell from a bridge after receiving a note telling him he was going to be dismissed for missing lectures and an exam.

The senior coroner Maria Voisin said that more work needed to be done to make sure students felt they could declare their mental health issues without fear of missing out on a place at university.

Murray, who was studying English, is one of 12 students at Bristol who have killed themselves or are suspected of taking their own lives since September 2016.

During his inquest at Avon coroner’s court, Murray’s parents, James and Janet, said the university had failed their son.

They believe Murray was troubled and asked for help from the university but nobody saw him face to face to address his concerns.

On Thursday, Voisin ruled that Ben died from multiple injuries as a result of suicide. She said: “It is clear from the act that lead to Ben’s death that he intended to take his life.

“There were a number of issues in his personal life that support this evidence. His place had been withdrawn and he owed a significant debt for his accommodation.

“I will be writing to Bristol University, the Department for Education, the minister of suicide prevention [Jackie Doyle-Price] and Ucas [which helps process university applications].”

The coroner continued: “Bristol University have clearly made many fundamental changes to their practices since Ben’s death, and they should be praised for that. But there needs to be a move towards de-stigmatising mental health.

“Currently, only 37% of students [with a mental health issue] disclose it on their Ucas form or to their uni. More students need to be assured that disclosing this will not affect their place.”

Fully story: Guardian

Frank Field MP, Chair of the Work and Pensions select committee, has criticised the Government for not devoting enough time or energy to their response to a report published by the committee about Universal Credit. The committee refers to the response as “skimpy and disappointing”.

Responding to Frank Field’s comments, Sophie Corlett, Director of External Relations at Mind, said:

“The Work and Pensions Select Committee report yet again highlighted the many difficulties people face under Universal Credit. We know thousands of people with mental health problems are struggling to cope every week with this new benefits system. We’ve heard repeatedly from people at crisis point still being required to look for work or risk losing their benefits. We’re also concerned about what will happen to people still receiving older disability benefits moving over to the new system. We have repeatedly asked the Government to address issues and guarantee that no one receiving benefits will be worse off if they are unable to make a new claim.

“Many people are slipping through the net during the move to Universal Credit – because they’ve moved house, for example, or been in hospital for treatment. The Government should be taking steps to address these issues, so it’s worrying that the Work and Pensions committee don’t feel the Government is listening to its recommendations to improve the way Universal Credit works.

“If the Government is determined to forge ahead with Universal Credit, it needs to take responsibility in tackling urgent problems affecting thousands of people – issues requiring serious attention, not scant responses.”

Source: National Mind

Screen time has little effect on the psychological wellbeing of teenagers, regardless of whether they use devices for hours a day or just before bedtime, according to a study by researchers at Oxford University.

The research, based on analysis of the screen use of more than 17,000 teenagers across Ireland, the US and the UK, found use of screens before bedtime was completely unrelated to psychological wellbeing, and screen time more generally had a “minuscule” effect on wellbeing in teenagers when compared with other activities in an adolescent’s life.

The effect was believed to be small enough that adolescents “would need to report 63 hours and 31 minutes’ more of technology use a day in their time-use diaries to decrease their wellbeing” by an amount big enough for them to notice.

The study, published in the journal Psychological Science, is an important data point in the growing debate about whether excessive screen time can damage the mental health of young people.

Full story: Guardian

A couple of years ago, the actor and choreographer Lanre Malaolu was creating a duet about mental health. “I was working with an amazing contortionist dancer,” he remembers. “But for various reasons she had to drop out … I didn’t have time to get anyone else.” He swears under his breath and smiles, before explaining how he sat in his living room and tried to come up with a quick solo performance. “I was like, ‘What’s one of the challenges that I’ve experienced with anxiety, depression? Getting out of bed.’”

The scene Malaolu made “was almost verging on clownish. I was using physical theatre and hip-hop movement to show this guy just wanting to get up.” The performance went down a storm. “People were really affected by it, and were like, ‘You need to tour this around.’ I was like, ‘It’s only 15 minutes!’ But that got me thinking.” Malaolu has expanded that single scene into a full-length show, Elephant in the Room, which now has a three-week run at Camden People’s theatre in London.

“Basically, it’s about a young man’s challenges with his mental health,” he says. “But also how he interacts with different characters that he’s grown up with, and how they influence his perception [of his mental wellbeing].” The piece mixes dance, theatre and spoken word, with Malaolu playing the mostly silent protagonist Michael and the other characters.

Conversations about mental health have become more visible, with the likes of Zayn Malik and Prince Harry openly discussing their struggles. There has been a rise, too, in theatrical work on the subject such as Milly Thomas’s Dust, a look at one young woman’s suicide, and I’m a Phoenix, Bitch, in which performance artist Bryony Kimmings looked at her trauma-related breakdown. Masculinity and the mental health of young men are considered in Barber Shop Chronicles, which is coming to the Roundhouse, London, after two National Theatre runs and an international tour, and Fledgling Theatre’s Neck or Nothing, which is at the Pleasance theatre, London, this month, in partnership with men’s suicide prevention charity Calm.

Full story: Guardian

Children and young people with mental health problems will be routinely asked about their use of social media under new guidance being issued to NHS psychiatrists.

Under-18s seeking help with conditions such as anxiety, depression and eating disorders will be questioned to see whether using Facebook, Instagram or other platforms is causing or exacerbating their illness.

As a result, when they first meet young people, psychiatrists will ask if accessing such sites is affecting their sleep, performance at school, mood or eating habits.

They will try, for example, to establish whether troubled young people have spent time on sites that promote self-harm or encourage anorexia.

Parents will also be asked what devices are in their homes, which ones their child uses and how often, and whether their offspring look at screens during meals or while adults are doing chores.

The guidance has been issued by the Royal College of Psychiatrists at a time of growing concern that long hours spent on social media, and some of its content, are damaging young people’s psychological health.

It is the first time the RCP, which represents psychiatrists professionally and sets standards for the profession, has advised members to investigate how much social media has added to young patients’ difficulties.

Full story: Guardian

Women across England and Wales will get vital mental health support as part of a major new programme launched by mental health charity Mind and Agenda, the alliance for women and girls at risk.

The £1.8 million programme, called Women Side by Side, will increase the availability of high quality, community-based peer support for women through around 70 projects delivered by specialist organisations across the country.

The projects will particularly benefit women experiencing multiple disadvantage – for example those experiencing mental health problems, homelessness, drug and alcohol misuse, abuse and violence, family breakdown, offending or a combination of these.

Around one in five (19 per cent) women experience a common mental health problem, such as anxiety or depression. More than one in two women with a mental health problem has experienced some form of violence and abuse.

Five new hubs (four in England and one in Wales), which will act as learning centres supporting every project, are already up and running. The hubs, run by women’s organisations, are using their specialist expertise and links to community organisations to make sure all services understand and respond to women’s specific needs, including their experiences of trauma and abuse. 

Research has shown that peer support – getting support from people who have similar experiences – improves people’s wellbeing and helps them manage their mental health problem, enabling them to choose what kind of support works best for them. Peer support is also a good investment and can help decrease other healthcare costs, for example by reducing hospital admissions by people with mental health problems. 

Full story: National Mind

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