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Mental Health Act review recommendations published

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 This outdated legislation has seen thousands of people experience poor, sometimes appalling, treatment, who still live with the consequences to this day.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

Author: Philip Challinor
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Symptoms of depression more prevalent among children in sexual minorities

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

Author: Philip Challinor
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Sharp rise in young people seeking help for anxiety

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

Author: Philip Challinor
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Despite government promises, mental health services are still failing young people

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

Author: Philip Challinor
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More complicated than ‘social media make people depressed’

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

Author: Philip Challinor
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Aggressive debt collectors raise risk of suicide

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.

Author: Philip Challinor
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How should we talk to children about emotional wellbeing?

A major NHS report has found that one in eight young people in England, aged between five and 19, suffer with a mental health disorder.

The survey, which looked at data from more than 9,000 children living in England and registered with a GP, found an increase in conditions such as anxiety, depression and OCD in children over the past decade.

A worrying one in 18 children aged two to four years now has at least one mental health condition, while 17-19-year-old girls have been identified as a ‘high risk’ group, with one in four suffering with disorder and 46.8% of children in this age category attempting self-harm or suicide.

The emotional wellbeing of children is just as important as their physical health, and while having a conversation with your child about mental issues can be challenging, it can be the important first step in helping them to find the support they need.

Sarah Kendrick, head of service from children’s mental health charity Place2Be, reveals the dos and don’ts for talking to a young people you think may be struggling to cope.

Full story: Independent

Author: Philip Challinor
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Police ‘picking up pieces of broken mental health system’

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

Author: Philip Challinor
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Employers urged not to think of mental health as a minority issue

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

Author: Philip Challinor
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Children under 10 being given strong antidepressants

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

Author: Philip Challinor
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