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Related articles

Report links unemployment with teenage mental ill health

"Teenagers may be more at risk of mental ill health because they are staying longer in education after leaving school, a review from the Nuffield Foundation says. "

Isolation leads to depression

"People who live on their own are much more likely to suffer from depression, a Finnish study published in BMC Public Health shows"

Pooch power cuts employee workplace stress

"Taking your dog to work may reduce workplace stress, new research shows"

Volume 23
Issue 3
April 2012

 

Unemployment rates are rising across all sectors and for men and women alike, but people with long-term illnesses are worst affected

  • In the news

  • Unemployment hits disabled hardest
    Source: British Medical Journal 09/05/12

    Unemployment rates are rising across all sectors and for men and women alike, but new research shows people with long-term illnesses and disabilities are worst affected. Researchers tracked changes in rates of employment, unemployment and economic inactivity over the years 1973 to 2009 by gender, occupational group and health status. They found that the gap between people with and without a limiting long-term illness increased substantially: unemployment and economic inactivity rose among people with long-term limiting illness; those in good health were much more likely to get and keep a job. However the picture changes when the statistics are broken down by gender and occupational group. Employment rates for healthy men have stayed broadly the same, but have gone down among those in poor health. For women employment rates have gone up among healthy women, and have stayed broadly the same for those in poor health. The research also shows a clear class difference: employment among professional occupational groups was least affected by having a long-term limiting illness; manual and routine occupational groups were much more likely to be unemployed if they were disabled by long-term illness.


    Troubles trauma leaves mental illness legacy
    Source: Northern Ireland Trauma & Transformation Trust 09/05/12

    People who experienced trauma during the Northern Ireland Troubles are suffering high rates of mental and physical illness decades afterwards, new research shows. Researchers at the University of Ulster surveyed over 4,000 people aged 45+ who had lived through the Troubles, and interviewed 225 who had personally experienced conflict-related traumatic events. Those who had experienced conflict-related trauma were three times more more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression and or alcohol abuse and nearly half reported having a mental health problem such as anxiety or depression. People who experienced traumatic events were also more likely to have a long-term physical health problem such as arthritis/rheumatism, respiratory conditions or ulcers. The researchers say their findings show the damaging long-term effects of trauma and highlight the need for services for the older population in Northern Ireland.


    Government steps back from social care reform
    Source:Department of Health 09/05/12

    The Government has stepped back from introducing legislation this year to reform the funding and organisation of adult social care. A Bill was to have been included in the Queen’s Speech for this Parliamentary session but the Government has announced it will introduce a draft Bill only. The Department of Health says the draft Bill will create a single Act covering all adult social care, with new regulations and statutory guidance. It is also expected to reform the funding of social care for older people and continue the roll-out of personal budgets. The 2011 Dilnot inquiry recommended expanding eligibility for free social care to older people with up to £100,000 in savings and capping the lifetime amount anyone should pay for social care at £35,000.


    Social care cash should target the poorest older people
    Source: Centre for Social Justice 08/05/12

    Paying for the care of the poorest older people should be prioritised over reducing the amount more affluent older people should contribute, the right-wing think tank Centre for Social Justice says. In Transforming Social Care, the CSJ calls on the Government to invest more in improving the quality of social care services for the poorest older people instead of allowing more affluent older people to keep more of their savings and be eligible for free care, as recommended by the 2011 Dilnot Inquiry.


    AFT issues warning about unqualified therapists
    Source: Association of Family Therapists 07/05/12

    The Association of Family Therapists (AFT) has warned that practitioners should not use the title ‘systemic family therapist’ without having completed the necessary training. Legally, anyone can call themselves a family therapist: it is not protected by law. However the AFT says it is receiving increasing reports that therapists and organisations are using the title when they are not qualified to do so, and that families and other clients may think they are getting help from a fully trained and qualified practitioner when this is not the case. It says only family therapists who have completed the full, four-year accredited training and are eligible to register with the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) should use the title. The AFT says it is concerned that cuts in funding do not lead to reductions in the quality, training and experience of people working with families, an AFT spokeswoman said.


    Workplace bullying linked to depression
    Source: Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health June 2012

    Bullying in the workplace is linked with subsequent depression and anxiety ion later years, a study reveals. The study followed up 6800 public sector employees aged 40–60 over five to seven years and checked their mental health using the General Health Questionnaire. Being bullied at work was associated with an increased risk of depression and anxiety in both women and men, reinforcing the argument for action to prevent bullying in the workplace, the researchers say.


    Good food costs more
    Source: Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health June 2012

    Poor people have less healthy diets because good food is more expensive. A new study examined the daily diets of 1295 adults in King County, USA, and calculated the costs and nutrients. It found that the more expensive diets were higher in all seven key nutrients measured as well as in overall nutritional value. Higher education and income were also associated with a more nutritious diet but this was a much less significant factor than the cost. The study points out that poor quality foods such as processed white bread are much cheaper than the healthier equivalent, and that the high cost of eating well should be included in public health policies to address health inequalities.


    Political violence linked with domestic violence
    Source: Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health June 2012

    Men involved in political violence are more likely to be violent in their personal lives towards their family, partners and friends, research conducted in South Africa shows. The study analysed data from the South Africa Stress and Health Study, which was conducted from 2003–04 with 4351 South Africans and examined the health impacts of apartheid. It found clear links between active participation in both the anti-apartheid and pro-government movements and physical violence against family members and close friends. The researchers say further research is needed to understand the mechanisms underlying this phenomenon, and in particular the mental health and gender issues, to inform interventions in all regions affected by political conflict.


    IAPT leads to higher antidepressant prescribing
    Source: Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health June 2012

    Access to an IAPT service results in both increased antidepressant prescribing and reduced use of hospital A&E departments. Researchers used primary and secondary care data to compare antidepressant prescribing, A&E and outpatients attendances, inpatient stays, bed days and sickness leave among people with common mental health problems (depression and anxiety) in two localities before and after the introduction of the IAPT programme. Access to IAPT resulted in a reduced use of A&E departments, less sick leave, but also an increase in numbers of prescriptions of antidepressants. They say the findings show that people are making less inappropriate use of emergency services and complying more with drug treatments.


    Email self-help therapy helps prevent depression
    Source: British Journal of Psychiatry 05/12

    An automated email self-help programme can help reduce symptoms in people with subthreshold depression, and may also prevent onset of major depression. Researchers from the Orygen Youth Health Research Centre at the University of Melbourne in Australia trialed the ‘mood memo’ emails via the programme’s website www.moodmemos.com. A total of 1326 adults with subthreshold depression were assigned to received automated emails twice weekly for six weeks. Half received advice about self-help strategies and half received emails with general information about depression. Those receiving the ‘active’ emails showed a small but statistically significant improvement in depression symptoms on the Patient Health Questionnaire. There was also a small but non-significant reduction in risk of major depression in the active group. The researchers say the method could be tested in the treatment of clinical depression.


    Second generation antipsychotics ‘no better than first’
    Source: British Journal of Psychiatry 05/12

    So-called second generation antipsychotics cause just as many unwanted side effects as the older generation and have serious health risks, secondary analysis of randomised controlled trial data shows. Patients were assigned to receive either a first generation or second generation antipsychotic and were followed up for side effects (extrapyramidal symptoms or EPS) at 12 and 52 weeks. The trial found no clinically significant difference in EPS between the two groups. The researchers say that the differences found in previous trials may be because the second generation antipsychotics were frequently compared with very high doses of haloperidol. They say the first generation drugs do not cause the distressing weight gain and dangerous metabolic disturbances associated with second generation antipsychotics and can be used at lower doses with equal efficacy to avoid unnecessary EPS.


    Men’s mental health ‘neglected’
    Source: European Commission 28/04/12

    Mental ill health in men is under-diagnosed and under-treated, a report commissioned by the European Commission says. The State of Men’s Health in Europe reviews men’s physical and mental health across all 34 European Union countries. On mental health, it says depression and other mental health problems in men are overlooked and untreated, partly because men don’t seek help but also because health services don’t reach out to the male population and don’t always recognise the symptoms of mental ill health in men. More women are diagnosed with depression and anxiety, but more men take their own lives and men are more likely to externalize their distress through substance abuse and antisocial/conduct disorder. Men also report work-related stress and stress symptoms such as fatigue and irritability more often than women.


    Telephone CBT helps workplace mental health
    Source: PLoS ONE 28/04/12

    Telephone CBT (tCBT) can reduce symptoms of subthreshold depression as part of an employee assistance programme but has no effect on productivity, a randomised controlled trial in a major Japanese manufacturing company shows. The tCBT was administered by qualified psychotherapists alongside the existing EAP. The staff who received the tCBT showed a greater drop in levels of depression after four months than those receiving EAP alone. However part of the aim of the programme was to address presenteeism – when staff under-perform at work because of ongoing illness. The tCBT had no effect on this. The researchers says remote CBT may be a way to provide easy access to psychotherapy for employees, but more research is needed into its longer term effectiveness.


    Adults with disabilities at high risk of violence
    Source: The Lancet 28/04/12

    Adults with disabilities are a far higher risk of physical violence than people without disabilities, a review of research shows. People with mental health problems are at the highest risk: 24.3 per cent had experienced physically violent attack in recent weeks, compared with 6.1 per cent of people with learning disabilities and 3.2 per cent of those with unspecified disabilities. Crude odds ratios for risk of violence in comparison with non-disabled people were also much higher for people with mental illness. The odds ratios were 1·50 across all the studies reviewed and all disability groups, 1·31 for people with non-specific impairments, 1·60 for people with learning disabilities, and 3·86 for those with mental illnesses. However the researchers caution that there are gaps in the research and the studies are methodologically weak. Also, there are no data for many regions of the world, particularly low income and middle income countries.


    Children ‘returned to abusive homes’
    Source: NSPCC 26/04/12

    Nearly half of all abused or neglected children taken into care will suffer further abuse when they return home, the NSPCC has warned in a new report. Of 90,000 children in care in England last year, some 10,000 will have been returned to their family home; only 3,000 were adopted. But the NSPCC says up to 46% of those returning home will suffer further abuse or neglect and have to come back into care and a third will experienced repeated failed attempts to reintegrate them with their birth family. More than 70 per cent of children consulted by the NSPCC said they did not feel ready to return home. The NSPCC wants the Government to publish the full outcomes data on looked after children who are returned home and to revise the care planning guidance to ensure that placement decisions meet the child’s needs and the necessary follow-up support is provided to children and their families, including help with substance, abuse, mental health problems, domestic violence and other problems.


    MindWise launches community engagement project for older people
    Source: Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety 26/04/12

    Mental health charity MindWise has launched a new mental health programme to support older people in Northern Ireland’s rural areas. The project, Reaching Out – Connecting Older People, aims to prevent depression among older people with mental health problems by encouraging them to participate in community events and use local community services. It will develop links with local colleges, employers, voluntary organisations, training services, leisure facilities, spiritual organisations, health professionals and cultural communities. Nearly one in six of Northern Ireland’s population is of pensionable age, and it has the fastest growing population of older people in the UK.


    High profile group to promote dementia friendly communities
    Source: Department of Health 26/04/12

    Alzheimer's Society ambassador Angela Rippon and Chief Executive Jeremy Hughes will lead a national group of top retailers and utility companies to take forward the Prime Minister’s recently launched Dementia Challenge. The Dementia Friendly Communities Champion Group includes representatives from Tesco, Lloyds Banking Group, BT and E-On, as well as local government and the charity sector and carers of people with dementia. The group will look at how to make 20 cities, towns and villages dementia-friendly by 2015. Innovations could include having greeters in supermarkets to help guide people and setting up dementia cafes. The Design Council has also unveiled five design concepts that could help people with dementia maintain their quality of life and independence. They include a dementia support dog, a room fragrance system to stimulate appetite, an online social network for carers and a wristband personal alarm.


    Rethink complains to Ofcom about Channel 4 depression slur
    Source: Rethink Mental Illness 26/04/12

    The national charity Rethink Mental Illness has made an official complaint to the broadcasting regulator Ofcom in response to a Channel 4 programme in which an evangelical Christian suggested depression was ‘rooted in self-pity’. Malcolm Bowden featured on the 4thought.tv on 25 April. He claimed that mental illness is a 'behavioural problem, rooted in pride, self-centeredness and self-pity' and that  'true Christians should not be depressed'. Paul Jenkins, Chief Executive of Rethink Mental Illness, said that Channel 4 had ‘crossed an unacceptable line’ by broadcasting ‘harmful and ignorant views’ that would be deeply offensive to anyone who has even a basic understanding of mental illness. He said Channel 4 had a responsibility to break down the myths about mental illness, not reinforce them and that ‘to frame mental illness as a moral failing, to intentionally pile shame and guilt on people who may already be struggling to overcome these emotions, is breathtakingly insensitive.’


    Bullying link to self-harm
    Source: British Medical Journal 26/04/12

    Children who are bullied are at high risk of self-harm in early adolescence.Researchers followed up 1000 pairs of twins at ages five, seven, ten and 12 and assessed them for risk of self-harm in the six months before their 12th birthdays. Of 2,141 children, 237 were victims of frequent bullying and 18 of these (eight per cent) self-harmed. Just two per cent of the 1,904 who were not bullied self-harmed. The children who were bullied and self-harmed were also more likely to have a family member who had attempted suicide or taken their own life and to have experienced physical abuse and to have emotional and conduct disorders. The researchers, at Kings College, London, say more should be done both to challenge bullying in schools and to help children develop healthier coping strategies to deal with the emotional impact of bullying.


    ‘Legal highs’ hit new high
    Source: European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and drug Addiciton 26/04/12

    New ‘legal highs’ and other synthetic drugs are appearing on the market at a rate of one a week, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction says. Some 49 new psychoactive drugs were officially recorded in 2011 through the EU early warning system, of which 23 were synthetic substances designed to imitate the effects of cannabis and eight were created to produce the effects of amphetamine and ecstasy. The number of online shops marketing ‘legal highs’ also increased, from 314 in January 2011 to 690 in January 2012. Use of legal highs has also gone up. On average across Europe, five per cent of young people aged 15–24 say they have used legal highs. In the UK, Latvia and Poland this rises to 10 per cent, and to 16 per cent in Ireland.


    Abused children more vulnerable to workplace stress
    Source: PLoS ONE 25/04/12

    Exposure to adversity in early life makes people more prone to job-related in adulthood, a follow-up study shows. The study assessed 343 women and 330 men for exposure to adversity in adolescence, at age 16, and job strain at age 43 and allostatic load – the effects on the body caused by stress or poorly managed stress –  at age 43. Adversity included unstable housing and overcrowding, parental loss, parental unemployment, and parental physical and mental illness, including substance abuse. They found that job strain was associated with increased allostatic load only among participants with adversity in adolescence, and that men showed less allostatic load in response to job strain.


    Children prefer animals to toys
    Source: British Journal of Developmental Psychology: 27/04/12

    Children prefer live creatures to toys, including those widely feared by adults, such as snakes and spider, a study published online in the British Journal of Developmental Psychology has found. Researchers presented children aged 11 to 40 months with a free-play session with a live hamster and a live fish and several toys. In a second test, children aged 18 to 36 months were given two additional animals – a snake and a spider. In a third test, children aged 18 to 33 months were observed interacting either with three live animals – a fish, hamster and gecko – or three physically similar toy animals. All the children spent more time with the animals, including the spiders and snakes, than with the toys, and the quality of their interactions was also better. The research suggests that humans have a natural affinity for all living things, and that the common aversion for predators like snakes and spiders is probably learned, rather than innate.


    SSRIs may carry major health risks
    Source: Frontiers in Evolutionary Psychology: 24/04/12

    SSRI anti-depressants (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) may be actively harmful to patients’ physical health, and even lead to death in older people, new research suggests. SSRIs work by altering the mechanisms that regulate the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain. Researchers at McMaster University in the US say serotonin is a fundamental, evolutionarily important biochemical that regulates a wide range of physiological processes in humans, including emotion, development, neuronal growth and death, platelet activation and the clotting process, attention, electrolyte balance and reproduction. Therefore taking SSRIs will have many other biological effects on the human body, in addition to reducing the effects of depression. They say SSRIs can help people with depression, but they can also increase risk of relapse following discontinuation, as the brain struggles to regain natural balance. SSRIs can also cause neuronal damage and neural death, reduce sex drive, and increase the risk of bleeding, stroke and death in the elderly. The researchers say consent forms should be updated to reflect these findings and that greater care should be taken when prescribing SSRIs.


    Unicef calls for investment in adolescence
    Source: Unicef 24/04/12

    One in five young people aged 15–19 have some kind of mental health problem, with the highest proportions in industrialised countries, central and eastern Europe and Latin America and the Caribbean, a ‘report card on adolescents’ published by Unicef shows. The report card summarises the range and scale of health and education challenges facing adolescents worldwide and the need for more investment in all aspects of their lives and wellbeing. The report details the high risks of death from injuries, childbirth, suicide, AIDS, violence and other causes in many countries, particularly in Africa. Unicef says significant efforts are needed in advocacy, programmes and policy to realise the rights of all adolescents and break the poverty cycle, with benefits for individuals, communities and nations.


    Northern Ireland students urged to ‘open your mind’
    Source: NIStudents.org: 24/04/12

    More than one in four (27%) students in Northern Ireland say they have, or have had a mental illness, a survey conducted by the Northern Ireland students union for its Open Your Mind mental health promotion campaign shows. The most common form of mental illness was depression (97%), followed by eating disorders (94%) and self-harm (94%). One in five (22%) students said they had no experience of mental illness, either personally or in a friend or relative. The main risk factors for students’ mental health include drug/alcohol misuse, managing finances and worries about job prospects. The campaign is hosting a series of events across Northern Ireland’s university campuses, where Open Your Mind staff will be demonstrating way to stay mentally healthy.


    Nurses, midwives and pharmacists to prescribe morphine
    Source: Department of Health 23/04/12

    Qualified nurses and pharmacists will be able to prescribe controlled drugs such as morphine, diamorphine and prescription-strength co-codamol, the Government announced today. They will also now be able to supply or administer morphine and diamorphine under Patient Group Directions, in cases requiring urgent treatment. The Department of Health says the changes mean patients will now be able to receive urgent pain relief more quickly, without having to wait for a doctor to sign the prescription. Nurses and pharmacists will also now be able to prescribe controlled drugs in community pain clinics for patients with long-term conditions such as arthritis.


    Suicide rates linked to celebrity deaths
    Source: Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health Online First 21/04/12

    Celebrity suicides are linked to increased suicide rates in the general population, a review of research shows. Sensationalist media reporting of suicide is commonly believed to be associated with increased suicide rates. The study reviewed 10 studies involving 98 suicides by celebrities and found an overall increase in suicide rates of 0.26 per 100 000 population in the month after the celebrity’s death. The suicides of entertainment celebrities were more likely to be linked with a rise in death rates. There was also a clear geographical bias: the link was strongest in Europe (0.68/100 000), North America (0.64) and Asia (0.58), and less strong in Australia (0.36)


    What your dog says about you
    Source: British Psychological Society 20/04/12

    The breed of dog you own may reflect your personality, according to research conducted by Bath Spa University in collaboration with the Kennel Club and OnePoll. A thousand dog owners completed an online questionnaire that assessed several personality traits, such as extroversion, agreeableness and emotional stability. They also provided details of the breed of dog they own. Owners of pastoral and utility breed groups were more extroverted; owners of gundogs and toy dogs were more agreeable; owners of utility, toy and gundogs were more conscientious; owners of hound dogs were more emotionally stable, and owners of toy dogs were more open to new experiences. The researchers suggested that certain personality types may be subconsciously drawn to certain breeds, or that differences in personality factors might be related to the lifestyle of the owner, which in turn would influence their choice of pet.


    Advertising influences children’s subconscious
    Source: British Psychological Society 20/04/12

    Advertising may operate powerfully at a subconscious level, new research suggests. Researchers at the University of Keele asked 70 children aged nine to 15 years to rate how much they liked a range of images of well-known celebrities, non-celebrities and fictitious brands of product. A week later they were asked to rate eight of the brands that they had previously rated neutrally that were now randomly paired with four non-celebrities they had rated neutrally and four celebrities they had said they liked. Their subconscious responses were also measured using Implicit Association Tests (IATs). The children’s response times on the subconscious IATs were faster across all age groups when the brands were paired with celebrities, regardless of the conscious, explicit brand preferences they had shown earlier. The researchers say this suggests that advertising may work at a subconscious level, by influencing consumers’ emotional responses rather than informing rational decision-making.


    Computer therapy ‘as good as face-to-face’ for young people
    Source: British Medical Journal 19/04/12

    Young people with depression can benefit just as much from CBT computer therapy as they can from one-to-one therapy with a clinician, a study published by the British Medical Journal shows. Researchers at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, compared outcomes from a computerised CBT intervention called SPARX with those from face-to-face counselling with trained clinicians. SPARX is an interactive 3D fantasy game where a user undertakes a series of challenges to restore balance in a virtual world dominated by GNATs (Gloomy Negative Automatic Thoughts). The randomised controlled trial involved 187 young people aged 12–19 attending 24 primary healthcare sites across New Zealand. Participants were followed up for three months. SPARX was as effective as face-to-face treatment in reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety by at least a third and significantly more young people recovered completely in the SPARX group (44% compared with 26% in the face-to-face therapy group). The researchers say SPARX is a potential alternative to usual care and may be more easily accessible to young people with depression in primary healthcare settings.


    We really do like to be beside the seaside
    Source: British Psychological Society 19/04/12

    Being beside the sea may be better for mental health than either a walk in the countryside or in an urban park, research conducted at the European Centre for Environment and Human Health shows. The study of 2,750 people compared the effects of different types of outdoor environments in terms of encouraging a sense of relaxation and calm. Being beside the coast was significantly more likely to create a feeling of wellbeing across all ages and regardless of where they lived or who they were with when they were in that environment. People who were travelling alone were particularly likely to get more enjoyment from the coast. The researchers say they don’t know why the seaside has this additional effect but are testing a number of hypotheses, including the idea that people respond to the way light plays on the water, or the sounds of the sea, or the social, cultural or personal expectations or experiences of the benefits of the seaside.


    Speed and ecstasy link with depression
    Source: Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health Online First 19/04/12

    Young people who use meth/amphetamine (speed) and ±3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, ecstasy) are at higher risk of depression, researchers in Canada have found. The study followed up a sample of 3880 adolescents from secondary schools in disadvantaged areas of Quebec over five years.  Those who took speed or ecstasy in grade 10 (ages 15–16 years) were more likely to have symptoms of depression in grade 11, regardless of gender or previous history of depression.  The researchers say further studies are needed to check if the link is due to drug-induced neurotoxicity or whether it is simply that adolescents are more vulnerable to the risks of synthetic drug use.


    Therapy can help cut NHS medical care costs
    Source: NHS Confederation 19/04/12

    Integrating counselling and therapy into NHS physical care services for people with long-term conditions could save millions and improve patient care, the NHS Confederation says. A report from its Mental Health Network cites examples of positive outcomes from integrating mental and physical health care. They include a psychotherapist working with a diabetes team at Royal Sussex County Hospital, which helped reduce admission rates and specialist nurse workloads and improved blood glucose levels in patients during and after treatment, and cognitive behavioural therapy for people being treated for angina, which improved patient outcomes, reduced cardiac intervention rates and covered its costs by reducing need for specialist cardiac care. The NHS Confederation says 30 per cent of people in England have one or more long-term condition and 30 per cent of these are estimated to have some kind of mental health problem linked with their condition, costing up to £1 in every £8 spent on their care and treatment.


    NHS waits for treatment rise above 18 weeks
    Source: Department of Health 19/04/12

    The numbers of people waiting more than the NHS maximum of 18 weeks for treatment has reached a record high since the 2010 election. A total of 26,417 people in England were waiting more than 18 weeks to be treated in February this year compared with 20,662 in May 2010, when the government was formed – a 27% rise. Thirty-five out of 151 NHS primary care trusts in England also failed to treat the required 90% of patients within 18 weeks during February, up from 32 the month before. The latest NHS referral to treatment (RTT) figures also show the average or median waiting time for patients who completed their RTT course of treatment in February was 8.7 weeks, compared to 8.4 weeks in May 2010. However the number of patients waiting over 18 weeks for treatment was 100,000 lower than in February 2010.


    Travel firm to explore health benefits of holidays
    Source: Kuoni 18/04/12

    A travel company has joined forces with Nuffield Health to research the health impact of going on holiday. The public can enter the trial in April, May and June 2012 at www.kuoni.co.uk/holidayhealthexperiment, where they will be asked to complete a survey of their health and holiday habits. A final selection of entrants will be picked to go on a Kuoni holiday in the summer. They will undergo a series of clinical tests and discussions with a psychotherapist before, during and after their trip. The study will look at the effects of everyday life on mental and physical wellbeing and compare the data with the effects of different types of travel and holiday experiences.


    ACAS launches mental health at work guide
    Source: ACAS 18/04/12

    ACAS, the employment advisory, conciliation and arbitration service, has launched its first guide to promoting mental health in the workplace. Mental illness at work costs the UK an estimated £30 billion a year in lost production. The guide, which was produced with the NHS Mindful Employer initiative, tells employers and line managers how to spot early signs of mental ill health in the workplace, how to raise awareness of mental health among staff and managers, how to promote a culture where employees feel able to disclose their mental health problems, how to manage a member of staff with a mental health condition, and how to help them cope with their mental health so they are able to stay in their job.


    St Mungo’s urges NHS to reach out to homeless mentally ill
    Source: St Mungo’s 18/04/12

    The NHS needs to improve its support for homeless people with mental health problems, homeless charity St Mungo’s says in a joint report published with the NHS Confederation mental health network. The report warns that homelessness is a growing problem in recession Britain. Rough sleeper numbers have risen by 23 per cent nationally since 2010 to 2,200 and many thousands more are staying in shelters, homeless hostels or other temporary accommodation. Up to seventy per cent of people who use homelessness services have a mental health problem. The report says mental health services are best provided closer to where homeless people are, in drop-in clinics or hostels; that services need to be better at staying in contact with homeless people; that the NHS needs to work more effectively with specialist services such as alcohol dependency clinics. It also asks questions of NHS Trusts to promote them to improve their organisation and staff training to better meet the mental health care needs of homeless people.


    Expressive writing may boost self-esteem
    Source: Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice: 17/04/12

    Expressive writing may help people with low self-esteem, a study suggests. Researchers asked a group of 46 participants to write either about their life goals (the expressive writing task) or a review of a recent book or film (the control task) for 15 minutes, three times within an hour. Participants were then assessed for levels of self-criticism/self reassurance, stress and positive affect at baseline and at two-week follow up. Neither group showed significant changes in self-reported stress or positive affect at two-week follow-up but levels of self-criticism decreased among participants in the expressive writing group. Text analysis showed those in this group who used the subjunctive tense and words that imply doubt or failure were least likely to show decreased self-criticism. The researchers say further study is needed to see if changes in self-criticism lead to the improvements in psychological health.


    Happiness may protect against heart problems
    Source: Psychological Bulletin Online first 16/04/12

    Happy, optimistic people are at a lower risk of heart disease and stroke, a review in the Psychological Bulletin suggests. The review, carried out at the Harvard School of Medicine, looked at 200 studies of psychological wellbeing and cardiovascular health. Factors such as optimism, life satisfaction and happiness were associated with a reduced risk of heart and circulatory diseases, regardless of a person's age, socio-economic status, smoking status or body weight. The most optimistic people were at 50 per cent lower risk of heart disease. The researchers stress that optimism does not protect against heart disease but that psychological wellbeing is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, in the same way as exercise and a healthy diet. 


    MPs call for tighter online child protection controls
    Source: www.claireperry.org.uk 17/04/12

    Internet service providers (ISPs) and the Government should be doing much more to keep children safe online, a cross-party Parliamentary Inquiry into online child protection says. The inquiry, chaired by Claire Perry, MP for Devizes, was set up to review current online child protection measures and to review the case for and against filtering internet content at ISP level. The report of the inquiry says the Government should take active steps to prevent adult content reaching children by encouraging ISPs to set up filtering and opt-in systems so that all content is ‘clean’ and users have to choose to access adult sites. It also says there should be a single regulator for internet safety, that the Government should draw up guidelines with the internet industry to publicise existing safety settings on computers and internet-enabled devices, and ISPs should provide more support and signposting for internet safety education.

     


    Study to test exercise with depressed teens
    Source: Nottingham University 17/04/12

    Researchers at the University of Nottingham are to test the benefits of personally tailored exercise programmes for young people with depression. The HEALTH project (Help Enable Active Lifestyles Towards Health) is recruiting 158 young people aged 14–17 years with depression or low mood who have been referred to child and adolescent mental health services in Nottinghamshire. Participants will be randomly assigned to a control group receiving standard NHS mental health care as usual or to attend a six-week supervised circuit training programme alongside usual NHS care. Both groups will be followed up after six months to measure outcomes. The researchers say young people with depression tend not to take much exercise and that this approach will provide motivational support in a friendly, stimulating exercise class that they believe will improve young people’s self esteem, physical fitness and quality of life as well as lift their mood.


    Campaign launched to tackle obesity
    Source: Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health 16/04/12

    Doctors have launched a nationwide campaign to combat obesity, which they say is the single biggest public health danger in the UK. The campaign unites hospital doctors with GPs, psychiatrists and paediatricians under the umbrella of the Academy of Royal Medical Colleges (AoMRC).  The UK has the highest rate of obesity in Europe. A quarter of women (24%) and just over a fifth of men (22%) in the UK are classed as obese and one in three children are overweight or obese by age nine. On current trends, half of all children in the UK will be obese or overweight by 2020. The campaign will take evidence from healthcare professionals, local authorities, education providers, charities, campaign groups and the public and will draw up recommendations for individual, environmental, clinical, fiscal and educational interventions to prevent obesity. The campaign's first report will be published later this year.


    Call to screen pre-school children for anxiety disorders
    Source: University of British Columbia 16/04/12

    Children should be screened for anxiety disorders in nursery school, just as they are for hearing, vision and reading ability at that age, according to a Canadian psychologist. Lynn Miller, associate professor of counselling psychology at the University of British Columbia, presented a paper at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association in Vancouver this month. Miller says one in 10 children has a mental health disorder, and the majority are anxiety disorders, and that studies show that the earlier children are offered help, the better their long-term adult outcomes. She has developed a simple two-part questionnaire for parents, which was 85 per cent accurate in identifying anxiety disorders in a pilot study with 200 children. Parents, teachers and community members can then teach children how to identify anxiety symptoms and coping techniques that work for them so they can face their fears, Professor Miller argues.


    Report criticises IAPT ‘state monopoly’
    Source: Centre for Social Justice 15/04/12

    A report from the independent Conservative thinktank the Centre for Social Justice says the Department of Health-funded IAPT programme is helping only a small minority of clients and preventing them from accessing alternative talking treatments on the NHS. The report, Commissioning Effective Talking Therapies, says the NHS should be using accredited therapists from the private and voluntary sector, instead of training more IAPT practitioners in CBT skills. This would save £10 million a year and give people more choice, better treatment and equal access to the full range of talking treatments. It says up to 87 per cent of patients are not benefiting from IAPT treatment, according to the programme’s own outcome reports, and the monopoly given to IAPT and maintained by NICE guidelines means people cannot access alternative treatments if CBT fails to help them. The report’s authors argue that the Department of Health should adopt the Payment by Results model used by the Department for Work and Pensions in its Work Programme and pay therapy providers only if their clients recover.


    Virtual party test reduces social anxiety
    Source: PLoS One 14/04/12

    Exposure to an anxiety-provoking situation in a virtual setting may help people with social anxiety. A study, published in PLoS One, compared anxiety levels in men who were asked to enter a virtual world party where they were approached by a lone virtual woman who initiated a conversation, that was initially mundane but became more personal and intimate issues. Overall, the socially confident and socially anxious men on average showed significantly increased stress at the initial approach of the virtual woman. Pre- and post-questionnaire anxiety scores showed no change for the more confident participants but a significant decrease in average score among the socially anxious group. The researchers say placing socially anxious participants in a virtual reality where they can gain experience of how to act in a stressful situation could offer a new model of treatment.


    Internet CBT helps young people with chronic fatigue syndrome
    Source: The Lancet 14/04/12

    An online cognitive behavioural therapy programme for adolescents with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) has shown promising results. Fatigue In Teenagers on the interNET (FITNET) is a dedicated internet-based therapeutic programme developed in the Netherlands for adolescents with CFS. To test effectiveness, a group of 135 adolescents aged 12–18 years with chronic fatigue syndrome was randomly assigned either to FITNET or to usual care. At six months, those in the FITNET group were significantly more likely to have returned to full school attendance and to report less severe fatigue and normal physical functioning. The researchers conclude that FITNET offers an accessible and effective treatment for adolescents with CFS and the programme should be trialed on a wider scale.


    Atos doctors ‘gagged’ by Official Secrets Act
    Source: The Guardian 12/04/12

    Doctors working for Atos Healthcare, the French company delivering the Government’s controversial work capability assessments (WCA), are being gagged by the Official Secrets Act, a report in the Guardian says. Atos is contracted by the Department for Work and Pensions to review all long-term sickness claimants to check their fitness to work. The assessments are said to have a high failure rate, with 40% of those found fit for work appealing successfully against the decision. According to the Guardian, doctors and nurses working for Atos have to sign a document setting out the basic terms of the Official Secrets Act, even though much of the work is not bound by the terms of the Act. Atos has said that it has a blanket security policy across the company. Employment minister Chris Grayling has said that the DWP does not require Atos employees to be bound by the terms of the OSA. A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson told the Guardian that the department was not aware that Atos employees were being made to sign the OSA. Labour MP Tom Greatrex said signing the Act could prevent staff raising concerns about the WCA.


    More than one in five children hear voices
    Source: British Journal of Psychiatry 12/04/12

    More than one in five children aged 11–13 report hearing voices, a study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry reveals. The study, conducted in Ireland, questioned nearly 2,500 children aged 11–16. The research was conducted with healthy children in schools and community settings. Between 21–23 per cent of the children aged 11 to 13 reported hearing voices and over half (57 per cent) of these children were found to have a non-psychotic mental health problem such as depression. Just seven per cent of the older group of young people aged 13–16 also reported hearing voices and nearly 80% of these had mental health problems above the diagnostic threshold. The researchers, base at the Department of Psychiatry at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI), said that for many children hearing voices does not indicate mental illness, and that further research is needed to clarify its significance for the subsequent development of serious mental illness in later life.


    RCT challenges preventive use of anti-psychotics
    Source: British Medical Journal 05/04/12

    Researchers comparing cognitive therapy with supportive contact for young people deemed at high risk of developing psychosis say that many will recover without intervention. The trial, published in the British Medical Journal, compared two groups of 114 young people aged 14–35 considered at high risk of developing schizophrenia and other serious mental disorders. One group received up to 26 weekly sessions of cognitive therapy over six months. The other group received just supportive face-to-face contact. Overall, fewer of the young people developed psychosis than expected over the next year (23, or eight per cent), with no statistically significant difference between the two groups. Distress, depression, anxiety and life satisfaction improved over time for all participants. The cognitive therapy group did report less severity, frequency and intensity of psychotic symptoms where they developed. But the researchers say that many young people at risk of psychosis will recover with minimal or no intervention and that anti-psychotic medication should not be offered as the first line treatment for young people at risk of developing schizophrenia, as supportive contact appears to be equally effective.


    Walking ‘can help treat depression’
    Source: Mental Health and Physical Activity 04/04/12

    Walking can help people manage symptoms of depression, a meta-analysis and review of research shows. Physical activity has been shown to alleviate depression but this study looked at the less vigorous activity of walking, which more people are likely to undertake, as it is free and easily incorporated into everyday activities. The review found eight trials involving 341 people that met its criteria for inclusion. The results showed that showing that walking has a statistically significant, large effect on symptoms of depression. However the researchers, based at the University of Stirling, say that more research is needed as the research studied covered a very varied range of populations and conditions and the results cannot be generalised to the primary care population. More studies are need to find out how often, how long, how fast and what type of walking would benefit people seeking treatment for depression in primary care.


    Birth month raises mental illness risk
    Source: PLoS One 04/04/12

    People born in January are at greater risk of developing schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, a UK study shows. Summer-born children are at much lower risk of these disorders, but at higher risk of depression. The study used data for nearly 58,000 patients drawn from the English Hospital Episode Statistics. Data were also collected for people with Parkinson’s disease and the general population, for comparison. The study found that schizophrenia risk was highest for people born in January and lowest for those born in July. For bipolar disorder, the highest risk birth time was also January and the lowest August and September. For depression, the highest risk month was May and the lowest November. The researchers say further research is now needed to identify the causes of these clear trends, and that other studies suggest vitamin D levels may be one factor.

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