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Volume 23
Issue 2
March 2012

 

The Government has imposed a temporary ban on the drug methoxetamine pending an investigation by the Advisory Council of the Misuse of Drugs

  • In the news

  • ‘Mexxy’ added to banned drugs list
    Source: Department of Health 10/04/12

    The Government has imposed a temporary ban on the drug methoxetamine (‘mexxy’ or MXE) while it is investigated by the Advisory Council of the Misuse of Drugs with a view to declaring it illegal. Mexxy is related to ketamine and has similar, but more intense and longer-lasting effects, including euphoria, relaxation, agitation, hallucinations and dissociative states such as catatonia. It is said not to carry the risk of bladder problems associated with ketamine, although the FRANK drug information website says it may not have been in common use long enough for these side effects to emerge. It can also cause involuntary eye movement, poor coordination, unsteadiness and slurred speech, which are not seen with ketamine. From 5 April 2012 it is illegal to sell or supply mexxy, including giving it away to friends, although possession for personal use is not illegal.


     
    Government increases funding for veteran mental health support

    Source: Ministry of Defence 04/04/12

    A national helpline to support Armed Forces veterans is to receive further government funding to continue for a second year. The free 24-hour helpline, which is jointly run by the charities Combat Stress and Rethink, has taken over 5,000 calls in its first year. The helpline will continue to run alongside the pilot Big White Wall online social network, which is jointly funded by the Department of Health and the Ministry of Defence for serving personnel, their families, veterans and the general public. The Big White Wall is staffed by professional counsellors and has already been used by 2,019 people, including veterans (40 per cent of total users) and Service family members.


     
    Doctors warn of child safeguarding threat
    Source: Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health 05/04/12

    Doctors with lead responsibility for safeguarding vulnerable children have warned that the NHS reforms may put children at risk. The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) surveyed 59 paediatricians with a formal role for leading on safeguarding children ('named professionals' in NHS Trusts and 'designated professionals' in Primary Care Trusts). Three quarters said their contracted hours did not allow them to fulfil their duties effectively, only 12 per cent felt that the NHS reforms would improve safeguarding, and only 13% said they were actively engaged with the new Health and Wellbeing Boards that are the main forum for joint working between health, local authority, social care and other welfare agencies. The RCPCH says the Government should commission NICE to set a quality standard for safeguarding and that the Department for Education's new statutory guidance Working Together to Safeguard Children must detail all the responsibilities and all the accountabilities of all agencies and professionals involved in the system.



    Mind chief executive resigns from WCA panel
    Source: Mind 02/04/12

    Paul Farmer, chief executive of the mental health charity Mind, has resigned from the Government panel reviewing the controversial Work Capability Assessment (WCA). Farmer was the sole charity representative on the four-member panel. The WCA has been introduced to check that people claiming long-term sickness and disability benefits are genuinely unable to work. In his blog on the Mind website, Farmer said he had stepped down because the WCA is ‘flawed’, actively harmful and isn’t supporting people with long-term health problems back into work, which is its main function.  Around half of the people who have been reassessed have appealed against the decision that they are fit to work and 40 per cent have won their appeal. Appeals are currently costing some £50 million a year. The Government is paying Atos, an IT company, £100 million a year to conduct the assessments.



    Unemployment link to long-term disadvantage
    Source: Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health Online First 02/04/12

    Low and declining employment rates are linked to higher mortality and ill health in local populations, new research shows. The study tracked employment rates between 1981 and 2008 and linked geographical area groupings to ONS all-cause mortality and limiting long-term illness data. Risk of mortality and morbidity was higher in areas with persistently low or declining employment rates, and higher in areas with continuously high employment rates The study also found that long-term trends in local employment rates offer a better predictor of mortality and morbidity differences than measuring employment rates at one point in time. The researchers say the findings underline the need for health promotion in areas with deep-seated deprivation.



    Virtual relaxation works
    Source: PLoS ONE 28/03/12

    Relaxation techniques can be successfully taught in a virtual setting and can result in reduced stress, a small-scale pilot study shows. A US team of virtual world technologists and mind body practitioners devised an eight-week relaxation programme on Second Life (SL). A total of 24 healthy volunteers completed the programme, which involved attending group relaxation sessions twice a week for eight weeks and practising relaxation techniques daily for 20 minutes either with their avatar in the virtual teaching area or in any other quiet setting. The researchers found a general trend toward decreased perceived stress (15.7 to 15.0) and symptoms of depression (57.6 to 57.0) and anxiety (56.8 to 54.8) and a significant decrease of 2.8 points on a symptom severity scale. Participants also reported positively on the SL experience, which some said was easier to engage with because of its anonymity and because they did not have to travel to sessions.



    Genes could predict PTSD

    Source: UCLA 02/04/12

    Genetic research with survivors of the 1988 Armenia earthquake survivors has identified two gene variants that seem to be linked to higher vulnerability to PTSD. Researchers at the University of California (UCLA) extracted the DNA of 200 adults from several generations of 12 extended families who survived the earthquake. People who had the TPH1 and TPH2 gene variants were more likely to develop PTSD symptoms. These variants control the production of serotonin, which regulates mood, sleep and alertness – all of which are disrupted in PTSD. The researchers say they need to replicate the study on a larger scale to confirm the finding but that, if it were the case, the discovery would allow people to be screened for vulnerability to PTSD and the development of medications to prevent and treat it.


    Early life trauma may stunt child development
    Source: Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 04/12

    Early life trauma, particularly in the first two years of life, can stunt a child’s intellectual development, a long-term follow-up study shows. US researchers followed up 206 children from birth to age eight. More than one in three (36.5%) of the children had been abused and/or witnessed violence against their mother by age five. This occurred in infancy in 4.8 per cent; pre-school in 13 per cent, and in both age periods in 18.7 per cent. These children’s cognitive scores were on average 7.25 points lower than those of children who had not been abused. The researchers say the first years of life are vital in brain development, so the impact of trauma at this age can have lifelong consequences.


    University to launch MSc in recovery and social inclusion
    Source: University of Hertfordshire 02/04/12

    The University of Hertfordshire is to lead an international team to establish an online MSc in recovery and social inclusion. The pioneering European/US initiative will equip practitioners to work with people with severe mental illness using a strengths-based approach. The partner countries will each have a national advisory group that will include service users, carers, practitioners and researchers. The three-year curriculum development project will completed by end of 2012 and the new four-module course will be piloted in the second semester of the academic year 2013–14 and the first semester of 2014–15.


    NICE to publish guidance on offender mental health
    Source: NICE 02/04/12

    NICE is to develop guidance on mental healthcare in prisons. An estimated 90 per cent of prisoners have a diagnosable mental health problem, including personality disorder and substance misuse. Over 70 per cent have two or more mental illnesses and the suicide rate in prisons is 15 times higher than in the general population. The 2009 Bradley Review called for action to ensure offenders with mental ill health and learning disabilities receive appropriate treatment. The Department of Health has asked NICE to produce guidance for health, youth and criminal justice, education and social care services on the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of prevention and early intervention to treat mental health problems in offenders.


    Survey reveals schools violence threat
    Source: Association of Teachers and Lecturers 30/03/12

    More than one in four school and college staff report having had to deal with physical violence from a pupil or student, a survey by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers shows. The survey questioned over 1,000 teachers, lecturers, support staff and leaders in schools and colleagues across the UK. Over 50 per cent reported verbal attacks, nearly 40 per cent had experienced intimidation and more than 650 had experienced physical aggression, including pushing and shoving (83%), use of fists (48%) and kicking (42%). Physical attacks were much more common in primary schools where 48 per cent of staff reported aggressive behaviour from children, compared with 20 per cent in secondary schools. Just over one in three reported being confronted by an aggressive parent or guardian.


    National Trust warns of ‘nature deficit disorder’
    Source: National Trust 30/03/12

    Children in the UK are suffering from ‘nature deficit disorder’, the National Trust says. A new report, Natural Childhood, highlights children’s increasing lack of contact with the outdoors, due to traffic, parental concerns about ‘stranger danger’ and an attitude that children’s play should be discouraged. The National Trust is launching a two-month inquiry into how to reconnect children with the natural world. According to the report, less than ten per cent of children now play in wild spaces, down from 50 per cent 30 years ago, the ‘roaming radius’ of an average child has reduced by 90 per cent in 30 years, three times more children are taken to hospital per year after falling out of bed than falling out of trees, and half of all children have been stopped from climbing trees and 20 per cent have been stopped from playing conkers or games like tag.


    Child abuse links with psychosis
    Source: Schizophrenia Bulletin 29/03/12

    Child trauma and abuse is linked with psychosis in adult life, a meta-analysis of studies shows. The review of published research looked at all cohort, large-scale cross-sectional and case-control studies investigating the links between childhood adversity and psychosis published from January 1980 to end of November 2011. A total of 36 studies were included. The review found that people with psychosis were 2.72 times more liked to have experienced childhood trauma than those who did not experience abuse.


    ‘Mind-pops’ linked to schizophrenia
    Source: Psychiatry Research 03/12

    Mind-pops – thoughts, words, images or tunes that suddenly ‘pop’ into the mind unexpectedly – are more frequent in people with schizophrenia, new research has found. The study compared frequency of mind-pops in 37 people with schizophrenia, 31 with depression and 26 with no mental illness. All the people with schizophrenia reported experiencing mind-pops, compared with 81 per cent of those with depression and 86 per cent of those without mental illness. The people with schizophrenia also reported greater frequency of mind-pops than the other two groups. The researchers suggest that mind-pops may be linked to hearing voices and may be a different manifestation of the same phenomenon.


    Government think-tank to research identity
    Source: Department for business, Innovation and Skills 29/03/12

    Foresight, the Government think-tank based in the Government Office for Science, is to explore identity. Foresight will investigate how changes in technology, geo-politics, demographics and economics in the next ten years may affect notions of identity and how this in turn may affect people’s behaviour. The Foresight programme was set up within the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to provide information to future-proof Government policy-making. The project is expected to report in December 2012.


    Social care spending shifts to self-directed care
    Source: Health & Social Care Information Centre 29/03/12

    Spending on adult social care services in England fell by one per cent last year in real terms, according to Government figures. However there was also a shift in spending patterns: spending on residential and nursing care fell in the period 2009–10 to 2010–2011, but overall spending on day and domiciliary care and Direct Payments increased. Gross expenditure in 2010–11 was £17 billion, compared with £16.8 billion in 2009–10 – a one per cent increase in cash terms but a one per cent decrease in real terms and the first such fall in ten years, according to data published by the Health and Social Care Information Centre. Spending on older people aged 65+ (over half of social care spending) saw the biggest absolute fall. Spending on older people, adults with mental health needs and adults with physical disabilities fell by two per cent. Services for adults with learning disabilities were the only sector to receive an increase in spending.


    Dogs may reduce stress at work
    Source: International Journal of Workplace Health Management 23/03/12

    Bringing dogs to work can reduce stress and increase job satisfaction in the workplace, according to a US study. Researchers compared stress levels, job satisfaction and feelings about support from and commitment to the company among employees at a manufacturing company where staff are allowed to bring their dogs to work. They compared people who brought in their own pets, those who owned dogs but left them at home and those who did not own a dog. There was no different in stress levels between the three groups at the start of the working day but stress levels appeared to decline over the course of the day among those who had their dogs with them and increased in the other two groups. Stress levels also rose if an employee who usually brought their dog to work left it at home on some of the days.


    Department of Health consults on health promotion workforce
    Source: Department of Health 27/03/12

    The Department of Health has published a consultation document outlining the workforce and skills needed to deliver its public health strategy, Healthy Lives, Healthy People, and the opportunities it provides for non-specialist practitioners to contribute to improving people’s health. The consultation spells out the aims of the public health strategy to strengthen self-esteem, promote healthier lifestyles and personal responsibility and take action to make healthier choices easier. It highlights the new public health challenges, such as obesity, and the need to promote the health of children in school and employees in the workplace. The Department of Health says ‘people outside the relatively small specialist workforce for public health can contribute to the wider public health system’. The consultation closes on 29 June 2012.


    Care homes still flouting liberty safeguards
    Source: Care Quality Commission 27/03/12

    Use of Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DOLS) is increasing in care homes and hospitals, but staff are still restraining people without having formally applied for authorisation, as required under the Mental Capacity Act 2005. By law, hospitals and care homes must apply to their local authority or PCT to authorise use of restraint and if they need to place any restrictions on the movement of people who lack capacity. These are mainly people with dementia or a learning disability. In its second annual report on DOLS in England, the Care Quality Commission says awareness of the safeguards is improving. Applications for DOLS in the year ended 31 March 2011 rose to 8,982 from 7,157 in the previous year, and 55 per cent were authorised, compared with 46 per cent in 2010. But many care homes and hospitals still haven’t trained their staff in their use, two years after their introduction. Between one third and one quarter of care homes had done no training at all, and training in hospitals varied between 20 and 100 per cent.


    Dementia leads to loneliness and depression
    Source: Alzheimer’s Society 26/03/12

    Over three quarters (77%) of people with dementia say they feel anxious or depressed and 45 per cent feel they are a burden to their family, a new report form the Alzheimer’s Society says. In the first of a series of annual reports that will provide a snapshot of the lives of people living with dementia in the England, the Alzheimer’s Society says that almost two thirds (61%) feel lonely, 44 per cent have lost friends because of their illness, 75 per cent think that society isn’t geared up to deal with people with dementia, and 71 per cent say they do not always feel part of a community. Nearly half (47%) say their carer may not be getting enough support, 46 per cent say they don’t always have a choice about the support services they could get, a third say they aren’t given enough information about their condition and nearly one in two say they haven’t been given enough information to plan for the future.


    Spiritual belief may help heal bereavement
    Source: Psychology of Religion and Spirituality 03/12

    Religion and spirituality may play an important role in helping people recover from traumatic bereavement. Researchers asked 369 young people to complete measures of religiousness/spirituality and post-traumatic growth. The young people were divided into three groups: those bereaved by a violent death, those bereaved by a non-violent death and those who had not been bereaved but had experienced a life crisis of some kind in the previous two years. The young people in the two bereaved groups had higher levels of religious belief, and those bereaved in violent circumstances tended to have a greater experience of positive psychological change following their bereavement, and reported more psychological distress. The researchers say they do not have evidence to show a causal link between these findings, but suggest that some aspects of spiritual belief religious practice may contribute to healing from bereavement.


    Government to double dementia research funding
    Source: Department of Health 26/03/12

    The Government has launched a three-part programme to improve health and care services, research and public understanding of dementia. Some 670,000 people in England (800,000 in the UK) have dementia, and one in three people will develop the illness. The Government is to double funding for research to over £66 million a year by 2014/15, including funding for research into ‘living well’ with dementia. It will also seek to improve diagnosis rates by paying hospitals to assess older patients for dementia and by requiring local NHS services to set targets for diagnosis. Access to information about local health and care services and the quality of the services they offer will be mandatory. The NHS Health Check for 65–74 year olds will be extended to include information about memory clinics and referrals for assessment. The Department of Health has asked the Alzheimer’s Society to lead on raising public awareness.


    Counselling  ‘no help’ to smokers seeking to quit
    Source: British Medical Journal 26/03/12

    Free nicotine patches and intensive counselling makes no difference to the success of smoking quit rates, according to a study published in the British Medical Journal. The study was funded by the Department of Health to compare outcomes in 2,500 people calling the NHS Smoking Helpline in England for help with giving up smoking. Six months after quitting, 18.9% of the 59% who were contacted said they had managed not to smoke. But the study found no significant difference in success rates among those offered additional supportive counselling or nicotine replacement therapy over and above the standard NHS Stop Smoking support service. Based on the survey, a Department of Health spokesman said it would not be adding these extra services to the NHS helpline.


    Lone-dwellers more depressed
    Source: BMC Public Health 23/03/12

    People who live on their own are much more likely to be taking anti-depressant medication than are those who live with other people, a Finnish study shows. The study followed up 1,695 working-age men and 1,776 women over an eight-year period. Those living alone bought 80% more anti-depressants than those who lived with other people.  The main factors linked with the higher risk of depression were poor housing conditions among the women and lack of social support and heavy alcohol use among the men. The researchers say that living with others may provide emotional support and feelings of social inclusion, which are protective of mental health. Living alone exposes people to risk factors associated with mental ill health, such as isolation and feelings of social exclusion.


    CQC to inspect abortion clinics
    Source: Care Quality Commission 23/03/12

    The Department of Health has asked the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to prioritise the inspection of NHS and independent sector abortion clinics in search of evidence that they may be breaking the law. The unannounced inspections have been prompted by a report that doctors may be issuing pre-signed consent forms without seeing the woman seeking the abortion. A report in the Daily Telegraph found that one in five clinics were doing this. The CQC is responsible for the inspection and regulation of abortion clinics, and can also report any doctors involved to the General Medical Council.


    Government publishes alcohol strategy
    Source: Department of Health 23/03/12

    The Department of Health is to review its current guidelines on alcohol consumption and introduce minimum pricing measures as part of a new alcohol strategy aimed at cutting the rising health and crime costs of drinking. Local health organisations will get a say in licensing decisions and the Licensing Act is to be amended so the total number of licensed premises in an area can be limited on health grounds. Health services will be expected to provide more help to drinkers, including brief interventions, specialised treatment for people dependent on alcohol and the employment of alcohol liaison nurses in A&E departments. The Department of Health has also agreed a new Public Health Responsibility Deal with the alcoholic drinks industry to take one billion units of alcohol out of the market by 2015 by increasing the proportion of lower strength products on sale.


    Child disability groups criticise CQC report
    Source: EDCM 22/03/12

    The Care Quality Commission has come under fire from The Every Disabled Child Matters campaign (EDCM) for its recent report on Healthcare for Disabled Children and Young People. Disabled children and their families told the CQC about long waits for mobility aids and for referrals to physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech and language therapy.  But the CQC says it found a ‘significant disparity’ between these reports and the high levels of access and user-centred care reported by primary care trusts. The EDCM says too many PCTs were unable to provide the data requested or were failing to meet standards but, ‘despite this, the CQC does not recommend any intervention to improve the experiences of disabled children’.


    Welsh Government issues IAPT guidance
    Welsh Government 21/03/12

    Guidance has been published by the Welsh Government on the steps local health boards (LHBs) should take to improve access to talking treatments. Psychological Therapies in Wales requires LHBs to assess local demand for and provider services’ capacity to deliver psychological therapies, and to ensure they train and deliver enough skilled practitioners to meet this demand. It also sets out quality standards for service delivery, and emphasises the need to ensure the treatments are appropriate to clients’ needs and are available ‘as early as possible’.


    Self-harm rates rising
    Source: Hansard 20/03/12

    New government figures show rates of self-harm continue to rise among children and young people of both sexes, with the highest numbers among young women aged 15–16 and young men aged 17–18. Total hospital admissions of young people aged 0–18 needing treatment for self-harm in 2010–11 were 17,694, up from 16,293 the previous year and 15,873 in 2005–06. The highest rates of hospital admission for self-harm were among young men aged 17 and 18. Among young women, the highest rates were among those aged 14 and 15. A&E attendances for self-harm were highest among young men and women aged 17 and 18. Over three quarters of hospital admissions for self-harm (79%) were female, as were 68 per cent of young people treated for self-harm in A&E departments.


    Department of Health funds children’s hospices
    Source: Department of Health 20/03/12

    The Department of Health has announced over £10 million grant funding to children’s hospices for 2012–13. The grant comes from funds set up by the Department of Health to provide an interim package of support for children’s hospice and hospice-at-home services until 2015 when new funding arrangements will be put in place. A total of 40 children’s hospices will be funded through this year’s grant.


    Psychotherapy less helpful for childhood abuse survivors
    Source: Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 19/03/12

    People with severe depression who have experienced childhood abuse are less likely to respond to interpersonal psychotherapy than they are to CBT or medication. A study compared outcomes for 203 adult patients with severe depression who took part in a 16-week randomised trial of interpersonal psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy or antidepressant medication. Participants were followed up after 12 months.  People who had experienced severe childhood abuse were significantly less likely to be helped by interpersonal psychotherapy than they were by cognitive-behavioral therapy or medication, although these differences were not found in people with no history of abuse. Abused participants also relapsed more quickly than those who had not been abused, regardless of the treatment they received.


    Secret of ECT uncovered
    Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 19/03/12

    Medical researchers claim to have found out how ECT works. Psychiatrists consistently claim that ECT is an effective treatment for very severe depression but have not been able to find any scientific reason for this. A research team at Aberdeen University has now published findings that seem to provide the answer. Brian scans show that ECT ‘turns down’ over-active communication between the parts of the brain that control mood and the parts that control thinking and concentration, they say. The researchers scanned the brains of nine severely depressed patients before and after they received ECT, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Patients typically received eight treatments, and the final brain scan was conducted one week after the last treatment. All patients had previously failed to respond to antidepressants and all recovered following ECT. The researchers now plan to conduct a long-term follow-up study and to conduct another trial to compare their ECT findings with outcomes from psychotherapy and antidepressants.


    US women prescribed more psychotropics than men
    Source: Medco 19/03/12

    More women than men are taking prescription drugs to treat mental illness, a survey of medication claims from US insurance companies over the decade 2000–2010 shows. A quarter of US women take at least one psychotropic medication – either antidepressants, antipsychotics, anti-anxiety drugs or drugs to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), compared with just 15 per cent of men. Antidepressants are the most common drug prescribed. They are taken by 21 per cent of women and 11 per cent of men. Eleven per cent of women aged 45-64 are prescribed medication for anxiety, compared with 5.7 per cent of men. And while more boys than girls are prescribed ADHD medication, more women than men take these drugs in adulthood, and women in the 20–44 age group have the highest use of these drugs among adults.  Similarly boys are more likely to be prescribed antipsychotics than girls, but more women are prescribed them in adulthood.


    NHS trust may outsource children’s mental health services
    Source: Guardian 15/03/12

    NHS Devon is set to be the first NHS trust to outsource provision of children’s mental health services to a private sector company. The primary care trust is considering bids from private sector healthcare providers alongside NHS and voluntary sector tenders for the £130 million contract. Companies known to have put in bids include Virgin Care and Serco. Devon Partnership NHS Trust has also put in a bid with Barnardo’s. The services include palliative care, child and adolescent mental health services, respite care for disabled children and child protection services. The final decision is expected in May.


    Australia launches online counselling service
    Source: Government News 16/03/12

    Australian federal health services will soon be able to offer online counselling in a new Virtual Clinic Service. The Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing has asked organisations to bid to deliver the online counselling clinic to treat people with low to moderate mental ill health. The clinic is to receive AUS$20 million over three years and will go live in July. The aim is to extend access to talking treatments to rural and remote communities. The service will complement existing face-to-face mental health care and existing automated online ‘teleweb’ programmes.  The ‘virtual’ counselling will be provided via telephone and online initially, although video services may be added in the future.

     


    Deaf people failed by mental health services
    Source: Lancet 17/03/12

    Despite their higher risk of mental health problems, profoundly deaf people are not getting the specialist mental health care they need, a review published in the Lancet shows. The review highlights higher rates of psychosis and depression and anxiety disorders in profoundly deaf people and BSL users and the difficulties deaf people face in accessing mental health services. This is largely because the NHS itself does not provide adequate access, information and communication support. The review says that inability to communicate is a major cause of mental ill health among deaf children, so action to help them communicate with family members and peers is paramount. It also says that specialist health and mental health services should be established, staffed by professionals trained to directly communicate with deaf people and with sign-language interpreters.


    Peer-led programme liked by parents
    Source:  British Medical Journal 13/03/12

    Peer-led parenting classes are effective and may be more acceptable to low-income families struggling to cope with their young children’s disruptive behaviours, new research suggests. The study, published in the BMJ, compared 116 families receiving an innovative programme of community-based, peer-facilitated parenting education (Empowering parents, Empowering Communities (EPEC)) with families on a wait list. The intervention consisted of eight weekly, two hour group sessions aimed at improving participants' parenting skills, relationships and interactions with their children. The peer facilitators all completed accredited training and received regular supervision. Compared with the wait list, participants reported clinically and statistically significant improvements in positive parenting practices and children's behavioural problems. Both groups reported reductions in parental stress. Almost all of the parents (92%) who started the peer led intervention completed it, and all parents reported high levels of user satisfaction. The authors conclude that this may be a more successful way to deliver parenting support for some of the most vulnerable families in society who might not otherwise engage with more formalised, professional-led programmes.


    ESA mental health claimants rise
    Source: Legal & General 16/03/12

    More than 260,000 people are claiming Employment and Support Allowance because of mental and behavioural problems – a 29% increase since 2010, analysis of Department for Work and pensions statistics shows. In May 2011, 265,530 people were claiming ESA because of mental and behavioural disorders, up from 205,700 in May 2010. The largest percentage increase (66.90%) was in the 60+ age group. Numbers of mental health ESA claimants rose by 29 per cent among the 35–44 age group, and 28 per cent among those aged 24–34.


    Young people value school-based counselling
    Source: Counselling & Psychotherapy Research 03/12

    Young people say they feel more confident and better able to talk about their problems following counselling from a school-based service, new research shows. These are just some of the benefits reported by young people in a qualitative study published in Counselling & Psychotherapy Research that explored how young people themselves feel about school-based counselling. Other frequently mentioned changes by the 11 young people interviewed include improved relationships with family and friends, thinking differently, being seen differently by other people and feeling happier.  These issues were all highlighted by the young people are important to them. The researchers note that even the young people who didn’t feel counselling had changed much for them still spoke positively about it, although a small number said they’d like more active advice-giving and guidance.


    Report highlights ‘what works’ in the workplace
    Source: SAMH 14/03/12

    Two thirds of employees have told their employer about their mental health problems and 40% of these say they were happy with their employer’s response, a new report from the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) says. However 40% were not satisfied with the way their employer responded. The report also reports that many employees (over half in this survey) do not think their mental ill health has affected their ability to do their job, and 40% say they haven’t had to take sick leave. The report, What Works?, aims to dispel myths about mental ill health and provide practical advice to employers on what they can do to reduce the human and financial costs of mental ill health in the workplace.


    Higher education link to teenage depression
    Source: Nuffield Foundation 14/03/12

    Teenagers may be more at risk of mental ill health because they are staying longer in education rather than moving into employment after leaving school, a review published by the Nuffield Foundation says. The review is part of the Foundation’s Changing Adolescence programme of research into how young people’s lives have changed in recent decades. The review found that teenagers in the mid-2000s were twice as likely to frequently feel depressed or anxious than were those growing up in the mid-1980s: for boys aged 15/16, rates increased from one in 30 to two in 30; for girls they increased from one in 10 to two in ten. The Foundation says one significant social trend that might explain this is the greater length of time that young people today stay in education after leaving school. This, they argue, results in a prolonged period of ‘unstructured adolescence’ that may be linked to depression.  Another possible factor is the greater exposure of young people today to drugs and alcohol. The Foundation also warns that rising unemployment and poverty since 2008 may exacerbate the rise in anxiety and depression in this age group.


    Upturn in antidepressant prescriptions for children
    Source: PLoS ONE 13/03/12

    Rates of diagnosis and antidepressant prescribing for children in the UK are slowly rising from a sharp dip that followed warnings about selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs). A review of over 1.5 million children’s GP medical records for the period 1995–2009 found that SSRI prescription rates decreased from 3.2 per 1,000 person-years at risk (PYAR) in 2002 to 1.7 per 1,000 PYAR in 2005. Prescriptions for the SSRIs citalopram, sertraline and paroxetine especially dropped sharply after 2002 after the Committee for the Safety of Medicines (CSM) issued a warning about suicide risk associated all SSRIs except fluoxetine. Prescribing rates for fluoxetine and amitriptyline remained stable. After 2005 prescribing rates began to rise again for all antidepressants except paroxetine and imipramine, to 2.7 per 1,000 PYAR by 2009. Rates for depression diagnoses also dropped from 3.0 per 1,000 PYAR in 2002 to 2.0 per 1,000 PYAR in 2005. These have remained stable since but there has been a steady increase in the recording of depressive symptoms, from 1.0 per 1,000 PYAR in 1995 to 4.7 per 1,000 PYAR in 2009. The researchers say GPs appear to have been recording the same rates of symptoms but have been much more cautious about making a diagnosis or prescribing SSRIs following the CSM warning.


    False memories linger longer
    Source: PLoS ONE 9/03/12

    Psychologists have proved that people’s brains can be tricked into retaining vivid memories of something that they know didn’t happen. People often spontaneously to report vivid memories of events that they don’t actually believe have happened. Psychologists now say they know how to make this happen. In a series of experiments reported in PLoS ONE, researchers first asked participants to imitate simple actions, and then to view doctored video-recordings that falsely suggested they had performed additional actions. As expected, this procedure created false memories. The participants were then debriefed and told that they hadn’t performed the actions filmed in the videos. When asked what they remembered, participants no longer believed in the fake actions but they still had vivid false memories that they had performed them. The researchers say this also shows that belief in and memory of an event can be independent processes.


    They really don’t rate you
    Source: Journal of Clinical Psychology 03/12

    People who worry that other people think badly of them may be right, according to a study in the latest issue of the Journal of Clinical Psychology. Researchers asked participants to watch one of four videos in which the person either looked or did not look anxious and did or did not tell anyone about their anxiety. People who looked anxious were more likely to be perceived as socially awkward, lacking in social skills and weak. If they disclosed their anxiety, they were seen more positively.


    IAPT reports fall in back to work rates
    Source: NHS Information Centre 13/03/12

    Nearly 5,500 people moved off sick pay and benefits in October–December 2011 following treatment from an IAPT service, the latest quarterly statistics from the NHS Information Centre show. Referrals to IAPT services rose slightly, to 218,192 – an increase of 1.9 per cent. The number of people starting treatment also rose, to 131,066 – an increase of 0.9 per cent. The number of people recorded as ‘moving to recovery’ was also up at 43.9 per cent (31,347), slightly higher than the 43 per cent recorded in the previous quarter. But the 5,488 people recorded as having moved off sick pay and benefits was 12.7 per cent down on the previous quarter.


    Views sought on children’s health
    Source: Department of Health 13/03/12

    A national consultation to identify what would most improve the health of children and young people has been launched by a Government-backed forum. The findings will inform the Government’s new Children and Young People’s Health Outcomes Strategy. The Children and Young People’s Health Outcomes Forum, an independent group of health and social care experts and charities, is seeking public and health and medical professionals’ views about what they think would make most difference to children’s health, including mental health and the health of children with disabilities, and how services can best meet these needs. The forum is hosting a webchat with its co-chairs on 20 March at 2.30pm to hear ideas for inclusion in the new strategy.


    Government launches social justice strategy
    Source: Department for Work and Pensions 13/03/12

    The Government has launched a national social justice strategy to tackle social disadvantage and breakdown among the UK’s most troubled families and communities. Social Justice: Transforming Lives aims to switch the focus of Government policy and funding towards tackling the root causes of social breakdown and disadvantage and helping individuals and ‘troubled’ families turn their lives around. The Department for Work and Pensions is inviting bids to set up an Early Intervention Foundation to build the research evidence base for ‘what works’, to advise local authorities and commissioners and commission new research. An Early Intervention Consortium of children’s and other charities, including BACP, is submitting a tender to run the Foundation.


    Welsh Government to reform social services
    Source: Welsh Government 12/03/12

    The Welsh Government has announced plans for a major reform of social services to give people more say in the care they receive and increased rights to assessments of their needs. The Social Services (Wales) Bill would expand the choice of social care services available by direct payments, ensure people remain entitled to the same level of services without being re-assessed if they move house within Wales, require local authorities to provide information to carers on their rights and services available to them, and create a national adoption service. The Welsh Government is consulting on its white paper, Sustainable Social Services for Wales: A Framework for Action, from 12 March to 1 June 2012.


    NHS to improve access to school nurses
    Source: Department of Health 12/03/12

    Pupils should be able to make an appointment to see their school nurse by text, the Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has said. The Department of Health has launched a new framework for local school nursing services that aims to raise the profile and expand the role of the school nurse as part of the Government’s Healthy Child Programme 5–19. The British Youth Council asked children and young people for ideas for improving school nursing services. They said they wanted easier access, without having to go through a teacher, the choice of seeing a male or female school nurse and for school nurses to attend assemblies and classrooms so pupils know who they are and where to find them.


    Mindfulness may broaden horizons
    Source: Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 12/03/12

    Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) helps people with depression maintain recovery, a randomised trial has show. This may be because MBCT encourages interest in life. The study examined changes in mindfulness and decentering among 84 patients who received six to eight months of antidepressant treatment followed by an 18-month maintenance phase where they were randomly assigned either to stop taking medication and receive MBCT or to continue on antidepressants or to take a placebo. All participants reported reduced scores for rumination and increased decentering in the antidepressant phase. Only those receiving MBCT continued to show significant increases in decentering and mindfulness. But the study, which used the Experiences Questionnaire and Toronto Mindfulness Scale to measure change, also found that increased scores for curiosity and ‘wider experiences’ were associated with lower depression scores.


    Poorer breast cancer survivors ‘more depressed’
    Source: Journal of Consulting and Clinical psychology 12/03/12

    Younger women and women from low-income households experience greater anxiety and depression than other women following treatment for breast cancer. The study was conducted to test the hypothesis that lesbian and bisexual breast cancer survivors were more at risk of depression and anxiety than heterosexual women. However the results disproved this, and even age and disadvantage explained only 20 per cent of the variance in survivors’ mental health. The researchers conclude that further research is needed to explore why lesbian and bisexual women make this better-than-expected recovery from breast cancer.


    Injustice affects workers’ health
    Source: Journal of Applied Psychology 03/12

    Injustice and unfairness at work can have a negative effect on employees’ health, new research shows. In a meta-analysis published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, researchers looked at the evidence for the effects of perceived unfairness on workers’ health and if the type of unfairness influenced this. They concluded that perceived unfairness is clearly associated with stress-related physical and mental ill health. However they also found that a worker’s psychological sense of breach of contract made it more likely that they would suffer health-related harm from being treated unfairly at work.


    ‘Battlemind’ no better than standard debriefing
    Source: Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 12/03/12

    Standard debriefing is just as effective with UK armed forces personnel as a specialist ‘Battlemind’ programme, a randomised controlled trial has show. Battlemind is a post-deployment psycho-education programme that has had very positive results in preventing mental ill health and PTSD among US troops returning from overseas combat. The trial tested an Anglicized version of Battlemind against standard debriefing for UK military personnel and found no difference in mental health or overall alcohol use disorders between the two groups. However those who received Battlemind were less likely to report binge drinking.


    Because they’re worth it
    Source: Journal of Infant, Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy 09/02/12

    New research has been published that supports the popular catchphrase ‘because I’m worth it’. According to research published in the Journal of Infant, Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy, a sense of entitlement among affluent adolescents is linked not to his or her family’s wealth but to the quality of their family relationships and friendships. The study looked at attachment between adolescents and parents in wealthy families. It found that the adolescents who reported higher levels of alienation from and lower levels of trust in their parents and peers were also more likely to demonstrate high levels of narcissistic entitlement. Less alienation from primary attachment figures and higher levels of wellbeing were associated with healthier entitlement.


    Homeless women campaign launched
    Source: St Mungo’s 08/03/12

    St Mungo’s, the national homeless charity, is to launch a new campaign to raise awareness of the support needs of homeless and vulnerable women. The 18-month Rebuilding Shattered Lives campaign will highlight issues that lead to and perpetuate homelessness among woman. According to a recent survey of St Mungo’s residents, 35% became homeless because of domestic violence, 49% are mothers and more than one in 10 (12%) have been in care. ‘Homeless services are mainly designed for men,’ Charles Fraser, St Mungo’s Chief Executive, said. The campaign will begin during the St Mungo’s Action Week 18–24 June.


    Whistleblowing enshrined in NHS constitution
    Source: Department of Health 08/03/12

    Whistleblowing NHS staff will be protected by law under new clauses added to the NHS constitution. The Department of Health has published an updated version of the NHS constitution following a public consultation last year. The revised constitution includes an explicit expectation that staff will raise concerns about quality and standards of care at the earliest opportunity and a pledge that NHS organisations will support staff when they do raise concerns and enable them to do so, and it also clarifies the legal rights of staff to raise concerns without being penalised. The constitution applies to all organisations providing NHS services, the Department of Health says.


    Class divide in smoking rates
    Source: Office for National Statistics 08/03/12

    Smoking rates continue to fall, newly released data from the 2010 General Household Survey show. In 2010 just 20 per cent of the UK adult population smoked cigarettes, compared with 45 per cent in 1974. However cigarette smoking was highest in the manual and routine occupational groups (28 per cent) and lowest in the professional and managerial occupational groups (13 per cent). Smoking rates were also lowest among married people (14 per cent) and highest among cohabiting couples (35 per cent). There was no significant difference in smoking rates between men and women. There has been an overall decline in smoking rates among young peopled aged 16–19 from 31 per cent in 1998 to 19 per cent in 2010.


    Welfare Reform Bill becomes law
    Source: Department for Work and Pensions 08/03/12

    The Welfare Reform Bill, which will replace the current system of means-tested benefits with a single Universal Credit, has become law. The Government claims the reforms will make 2.8 million low and middle income households better off and lift 900,000 adults and children out of poverty. Universal Credit will be implemented from October 2013. Other major reforms include the introduction of a  £26,000 cap on the total net benefits received in a year by any one household, a new Personal Independence Payment to replace Disability Living Allowance and a new Social Sector Size Criteria that will mean families have to move out of social housing if their home becomes to big for their needs.