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Overstretched police forces are having to “pick up the pieces of a broken mental health system” on top of tackling crime, the emergency services watchdog has found.

More than half of all mental health patients who need help in a place of safety are taken there in a police car rather than an ambulance, according to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, Fire and Rescue Services.

The Metropolitan police (MPS), the UK’s largest force, deals with a mental health call once every four minutes, and sends an officer just to deal with mental health issues once every 12 minutes.

Some health professionals are telling patients in need to call the police in order to beat long NHS waiting lists, the report said.

The watchdog said police were being dragged away from their actual job because officers were making up for gaps left by medical experts as a “national crisis” blights mental health services.

It is the latest report from an official watchdog to criticise the government in robust terms over the effects of austerity on policing, following on from a report from the National Audit Office in September.

Full story: Guardian

90 percent of workers in the U.K. have been affected by mental health challenges. Two-thirds (66 percent) reported having personally experienced mental health challenges and even more — 85 percent — saying someone close to them such as a family member, close friend, or colleague had experienced them, according to results of new research from Accenture. Despite more people speaking out about mental health, UK businesses are falling short and need to do more to support their employees.

“We’re used to hearing that one in four people experience mental health challenges, yet our research shows that the number of people affected is in fact far higher,” said Barbara Harvey, Managing Director at Accenture and mental health lead for the company’s business in the U.K. “It’s clear that mental health is not a minority issue; it touches almost all employees and can affect their ability to perform at work and live life to the fullest.

“It’s time for employers to think differently about how they support their employees’ mental wellbeing. It’s not only about spotting the signs of declining mental health and helping employees seek treatment when needed. Employers need to take a proactive approach by creating an open, supportive work environment that enables all their people to look after their mental health and support their colleagues. The payoff is a healthier, happier organization where people feel energized and inspired to perform at their best.”

The research

The survey of more than 2000 workers revealed that mental health issues are far more prevalent than the one in four figure that is often cited. For three out of four people (76 percent), mental health challenges — either their own or those of others — had affected their ability to enjoy life, with 30 percent reporting they are ‘occasionally, rarely, or never’ able to enjoy and take part fully in everyday life.

The findings come as the taboo that has long surrounded mental health starts to break down, as 82 percent of respondents said they are more willing to speak openly about mental health issues now than they were just a few years ago. 

However, the workplace has failed to keep pace, as only one in four respondents (27 percent) said they had seen any positive change in employees speaking openly about mental health in their organizations. Just one in five reported an improvement in workplace training to help manage their own mental health (20 percent) or to help them support colleagues dealing with mental health challenges (19 percent).

Of those who had faced a mental health challenge, the majority (61 percent) had not spoken to anyone at work about their issue. Half (51 percent) of the survey respondents felt that raising a concern about their mental health might negatively affect their career or prevent them from being promoted, and 53 percent believed that opening up about a mental health challenge at work would be perceived as a sign of weakness.

Yet hiding mental health challenges at work had a negative impact on a majority of those surveyed. More than half (57 percent) reported at least one such impact, including feeling stressed, more alone, lacking confidence, being less productive, or simply ‘feeling worse’.

Full story: Mental Health Today

Children aged 10 and under are among hundreds of young people being given strong antidepressant drugs – in breach of official guidance – that increase the risk of suicide, the Guardian can reveal.

Figures show 597 children and teenagers were given paroxetine and venlafaxine last year. Government guidance cautions against their use due to increased suicidal thoughts and behaviour in younger people, but some experts argue they can be used as a last resort when all other treatments have failed.

Data shows 38 children aged 10 and under were prescribed paroxetine and venlafaxine last year.

According to guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice), antidepressants should be a last resort for under-18s, and in those instances only fluoxetine (Prozac) is recommended. Nice says paroxetine and venlafaxine should not be used.

Experts have said the disclosure of their use needs further examination, and expressed concern about the use of medication that may harm developing brains.

“Paroxetine and venlafaxine should not be prescribed as first-line treatment, that is for sure – there is no data to support this and special cautions should be taken as we don’t know the impact of these drugs on the developing brain,” said Andrea Cipriani, a psychiatrist at Oxford University.

“We should not give antidepressants to all kids but only use them if they are clinically appropriate and agreed with the patient first, and even then the best option is fluoxetine.”

Full story: Guardian

A hundred and twenty organisations have supported an open letter the government calling on the chancellor to put children at the heart of spending plans ahead of next Monday’s budget.

Anna Freud, the National Children’s Bureau and Young Minds are among those backing a letter directed to Philip Hammond and Prime Minister Theresa May.

There is “compelling evidence that the services and support that children and young people rely on are at breaking point,” they write.

“We believe this is because children and young people are being ignored in the Government’s spending plans.”

Various evidence is referenced:

• Less than a third of children and young people with a diagnosable mental health problem will get access to NHS funded treatment this year
• Only three in a hundred families of disabled children think the health and care
services available to their children are adequate
• Almost three-quarters of school leaders expect they will be unable to balance their budgets in the next financial year
• The number of children with special educational needs who are awaiting provision has more than doubled since 2010
• Ninety children are being taken into care every day
• Up to three million children are at risk of going hungry during school holidays

The Government pledged an extra £20.5 billion to the NHS to mark it’s 70th birthday this year.

Mental health will become a mandatory part of primary and secondary school education in England and Wales from September 2020.

Find out the key points in the government’s draft plans and take a ten question survey to tell us what you’d like the new syllabuses featuring mental health to look like:

Teach Me Well Survey

Source: Mental Health Today

Millions of people get bad side-effects trying to cut down on or come off antidepressants, a large review says.

The All Party Parliamentary Group for Prescribed Drug Dependence review suggests half of patients have withdrawal symptoms and for half of these the symptoms will be severe.

Patients should be properly warned, it says. The guidance says symptoms are usually mild and clear up in a week.

But it’s not uncommon for side-effects to last for weeks, months or longer.

The review authors, Dr James Davies, from the University of Roehampton, and Prof John Read, from the University of East London, say about four million people in England may experience symptoms when withdrawing from antidepressants, and about 1.8 million may experience these as severe.

This might include:

  • anxiety
  • sleep problems
  • hallucinations

They looked at 24 pieces of research, involving more than 5,000 patients, to reach their conclusions, published in the Journal of Addictive Behaviours.

Full story: BBC News

Soaring numbers of over-50s in England will suffer from loneliness in the coming years as a result of widowhood, ill-health and money problems, according to a new analysis.

More than two million people of that age will be lonely by 2025-26, a 49% increase on the 1.36m who were socially isolated in 2015-16, according to projections by Age UK.

While the proportion of the population who say they “often” feel lonely will not change from one in 12, the number of those affected will rise as a result of the increase in numbers of people over 50.

The findings come as the government finalises its strategy to combat loneliness, which charities, councils and health experts say has increased in recent years as a result of lengthening lifespans, cuts to social care services and families becoming more spread geographically.

Age UK warns that the problem is a looming “major public health concern, because if loneliness is not addressed it can become chronic, seriously affecting people’s health and wellbeing”. Lonely people are more likely to report mental and physical ill-health.

“Loneliness can blight your life just as badly if you are 18, 38 or 78. But our analysis found that different life events tend to trigger the problem depending on your age,” said Caroline Abrahams, Age UK’s charity director.

“It makes sense to target help at people going through the kinds of challenging experiences that put people at risk, whether you are in your youth and leaving college; in mid life and going through a divorce; or in later life, having recently been bereaved.”

Its analysis of findings in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing identified over-50s as a group particularly at risk of loneliness and the likely triggers for that. For example, widowers are more than five times as likely to report feeling “often lonely” as peers who are in a relationship. Having someone to open up to about their lives is often a predictor of loneliness, the charity found.

Full story: Guardian

Genetic links to anxiety and depression are to be explored in the largest ever study into the issue, experts have announced.

Researchers are calling on people in England to sign up to the Genetic Links to Anxiety and Depression (Glad) study. It is hoped that 40,000 volunteers aged 16 and over will agree to be part of a database which will be used in future research studies to better understand the genetic aspects of mental health conditions.

The project, by the National Institute for Health Research BioResource and King’s College London, will see people with anxiety or depression enrol online and send a saliva sample by post.

“By recruiting 40,000 volunteers willing to be re-contacted for research, the Glad study will take us further than ever before,” said study lead Dr Gerome Breen, a geneticist at King’s College London.

The Government has released statistics detailing how many people who need support from benefits are being sanctioned – having their financial support cut or stopped entirely because they’re not able to do the things that are being asked of them, such as attend appointments with a work coach or Jobcentre Plus advisor.

Universal Credit (UC) is gradually replacing a combination of other benefits, including Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), provided to those who aren’t currently able to work due to a mental and/or physical health problems, and Jobseekers’ Allowance (JSA) provided to people looking for paid work.

The figures from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) show:

  • Sanctions under Universal Credit are at least nine times higher than the benefits it is replacing. In the last period for which data is available 2.8 per cent of people saw their benefits drop due to a UC sanction compared to 0.3 per cent of people on JSA and 0.1 per cent of people on ESA.
  • Disabled people receiving ESA are over three times more likely than people in receipt of JSA to still be receiving benefits six months after a sanction – 85 per cent of people receiving ESA compared to 27 per cent people receiving JSA.

Full story: National Mind