Guardian Mental Health

This page shows the latest items from the Guardian Mental Health newsfeed.

Clenching and counting: how I get through the holidays with OCD

The holidays are a soup of stress that stirs up and intensifies my OCD: travel anxiety, socializing, pressure to make holidays special, and obsession with catastrophes

It is a few weeks until Christmas. I’m sitting at a table with my hands clasped at my chin. I probably look like I’m meditating, praying, or just deep in thought. But I’m gripping and releasing, gripping and releasing my hands in rhythm with clenching my jaw as I think about the lists I need to make and the events I must control to get through holidays.

I remind myself to try to enjoy the season, let happier thoughts diffuse the seriousness and the desperate gripping. But this is life with obsessive compulsive disorder. Every person with OCD has a unique experience, but for me it boils down to obsession with order and correctness, intrusive thoughts about catastrophe, and rituals to maintain an illusion of control.

Related: Too broke to go home: how my college debt hinders the holidays

Plane makes emergency landing on Alabama highway.

Fire kills woman and three holiday houseguests.

My husband knows I have a secret schedule and that I will get more anxious if we veer from it

No amount of organization, planning or counting will prevent my house from burning down, or the cats dying

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13 December 2019, 6:00 am

Pioneering ketamine treatments: depression – Science Weekly podcast

Ketamine might sound like an unlikely candidate for treating addiction and depression. But a growing number of scientists believe the drug could help. In the second part of this Science Weekly mini series, Hannah Devlin speaks to another expert using ketamine in their work: a physiatrist who has been conducting research on the use of ketamine for treating depression for several years

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13 December 2019, 5:00 am

Nothing could prepare me for Lockerbie. Now I help other medics face disasters

I was an A&E consultant, but started a charity so medical teams could tackle anything from earthquakes to Ebola

“This is RAF Edinburgh. A plane has crashed north of Carlisle … a helicopter has been dispatched for you and your team.” I put the phone down, mobilised my medical colleagues and found my kit; already the blue lights of an ambulance car were flashing outside my home. We saw the search and rescue helicopter gliding down alongside us as we approached the airport.

We landed by the side of a deep crater, still smouldering with small bursts of flame. I would learn later this marked the landing of the wings of Pan Am 103. After I jumped out, a police officer asked me to look at a twisted, charred, branch-like figure lying there beside him and confirm its once-human nature.

It took me a long time to revisit Lockerbie. It took longer for the nightmares to stop

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12 December 2019, 9:43 am

Why are there so few prisoners in the Netherlands?

The Dutch justice system is cutting jail populations by offering specialist rehabilitation to people with mental illnesses

When Stefan Koning, who has a history of psychosis, was found guilty of threatening a stranger with a knife, a long custodial sentence might have felt like the only answer.

In fact, after a short spell in jail, he is back at his home in Amsterdam.

The names of the Inforsa patients in this article have been changed at their request

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12 December 2019, 7:00 am

Coalition outlines plan to pressure internet giants over cyberbullying

Communications minister to say digital platforms need to ‘take more responsibility’ on harmful content as new act proposed to boost online safety

The Morrison government is putting internet giants on notice about cyberbullying, outlining a plan to tackle the problem in a new cyber safety consultation paper released by the communications minister.

Cyber safety was one of the only fully formed policies Scott Morrison put forward during the May election campaign, with Paul Fletcher left to implement the proposal.

Related: One in five Australian children are victims of cyberbullying, e-safety commissioner says

Related: Victoria to ban mobile phones in all state primary and secondary schools

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10 December 2019, 5:00 pm

Homelessness is not inevitable and can be solved – these cities show us how

Big national strategies often struggle to make progress but, from Trieste to Helsinki, individual cities are reducing – and even ending – homelessness

No one knows how many homeless people there are. Countries define homelessness differently; count only those sleeping rough and in shelters on one night night in a year; struggle to estimate those camping with friends or family and living in bad housing or places not meant to be homes.

But what’s clear is the number is increasing. Homelessness and exclusion from housing has now reached crisis point in almost all EU countries, a 2017 Europe-wide report found: families in temporary housing up 50% in London; a 75% rise in youth homelessness in Copenhagen; 37% more sleeping rough in Warsaw.

726 homeless people died in England and Wales in 2018, according to the latest ONS figures. Over the next few months, G2 and Guardian Cities will look behind this statistic to tell the stories of some of those who have died on Britain’s streets. We will tell not just the story of their death, but the story of their life – what they were like as kids, what their dreams were, their hobbies, what people loved about them, what was infuriating. We will also examine what went wrong with their lives, how it impacted on their loved ones, and if anything could have been done differently to prevent their deaths. 

Every person who is homeless goes on our by-name list … It makes a huge difference – they stop being ‘the homeless’ and become people we all know

A home should be the secure foundation that makes it easier to solve your problems

Related: Mark Starr’s family thought he was thriving in a new city. The truth was far darker

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10 December 2019, 12:00 pm

Next NHS staff shortages will include radiographers, as courses close

Podiatry, prosthetics and mental health nursing degrees also on universities’ ‘at risk’ list after end of bursaries

Radiography and nursing degree courses may be at risk of closure, academics are warning – at a time when the NHS is wrestling with a recruitment crisis.

The Council of Deans of Health has now drawn up an “at risk” list of university courses struggling to attract and retain enough students following the removal of the student bursary in 2017. The courses include: radiography, mental health nursing, learning disability nursing, podiatry and prosthetics. The list also includes orthotics, which is the provision of devices such as splints, braces and helmets, which help people recover from injury. Orthoptics, which focuses on treatments for eye conditions, is another subject listed.

Related: Universities warned Cameron in 2011 that trainee cuts would cause nursing shortage

Related: New university rankings ‘put nursing and social work degrees at risk’

Related: Government ‘reneging on promise to fund 10,000 extra nursing places’

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10 December 2019, 6:45 am

Mark Starr's family thought he was thriving in a new city. The truth was far darker

Mark Starr 1965-2019 It took five weeks for the news to reach the Starrs: rather than being stable and happy, Mark had died sleeping rough in a Glasgow park. Why?

On 8 July, Police Scotland issued a statement: “Police are appealing for the assistance of the public in tracing relatives of 53-year-old Mark David James Starr, who was found dead within the Glasgow Green area of Glasgow on 28 June 2019.” Starr was homeless and had been sleeping rough in Glasgow’s oldest city park. Police said there were no suspicious circumstances, although the cause of death has not yet been determined.

Three weeks later, another appeal was issued. “Officers believe Mr Starr may have relatives in the Kent area, but have been unable to track down any family members despite a previous appeal on 8 July.” It seemed like one of those horribly familiar stories – homeless man dies alone, with no one to miss or mourn him.

‘My homeless brother died on the streets of Glasgow. Who will be next?’ – video

726 homeless people died in England and Wales in 2018, according to the latest ONS figures. Over the next few months, G2 and Guardian Cities will look behind this statistic to tell the stories of some of those who have died on Britain’s streets. We will tell not just the story of their death, but the story of their life – what they were like as kids, what their dreams were, their hobbies, what people loved about them, what was infuriating. We will also examine what went wrong with their lives, how it impacted on their loved ones, and if anything could have been done differently to prevent their deaths. 

Mark Starr on a family holiday

Tony Starr, who retraced his brother’s footsteps from Kent to Glasgow. Photogrpah: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian

Mark, aged about 9, is centre, holding a monkey with his sister Karen (left), brother Tony (back right) and friends on holiday in Hastings

We’d be up till six or seven in the morning just chatting and he’d say: ‘You don’t know what it’s like to go in bins and search for food’

Related: Homelessness is not inevitable and can be solved – these cities show us how

Mark holding Tony’s son, Jude, a few days after his birth

They told me to sleep under a camera so I can’t be murdered. What fucking chance have I got?

The last picture taken of Mark and Tony Starr together

Tony Starr and Semra, a homeless woman who knew Mark

You need properly resourced accommodation providers with specialist provision. Private landlords are not going to do the trick

Barry, who has been living on the streets for nearly 20 years

It’s horrible. People sleep under bridges by Central station and people spit on them and kick them. A guy got stabbed last week

I would absolutely not say our homelessness systems are fit for purpose because I know they are not

Tony Starr spreads his brother’s ashes on Glasgow Green where Mark died. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian

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10 December 2019, 6:00 am

Survivor of attack by Joseph McCann tells of long wait for therapy

Woman with PTSD symptoms had to go private as NHS wait was at least eight months

One of the victims of the serial rapist Joseph McCann has told of having to pay for her own counselling because of a waiting list of eight months to a year to access the treatment on the NHS.

The woman, whose victim impact statement was read out in court as McCann was handed 33 life sentences for crimes including her abduction during a fortnight-long rampage, continues to have flashbacks and suffers from chronic pain.

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9 December 2019, 5:11 pm

My working week: 'A pupil is worried her mum will turn up at school drunk'

I work in a school with the most vulnerable children. It can be rewarding and impossibly frustrating

I work in schools, supporting children who are struggling including looked-after children, who are not being cared for by their birth parents. Some are with other family members. Others are with foster carers, and some may be in children’s homes.

Related: ‘I am called a bad teacher and my students overturn desks and chairs’

In the UK, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or email In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international suicide helplines can be found at

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9 December 2019, 9:59 am

War service that will remain a mystery | Letters

Ann Gordon responds to a piece by John Crace in which he reveals that his father never talked about his experience of war

Like John Crace’s father (Digested week, 7 December), my father rarely talked about his war service, but it stayed with him until he died aged 87.

He served in Holland, Belgium and France, and was evacuated at Dunkirk. For the rest of his life he suffered the after-effects, now labelled PTSD, and was never free of bouts of depression and insomnia/nightmares. How I wish I had understood what had happened to him. It was only while watching the BBC’s World on Fire that the full horror of it all struck me. Above all, the sound of non-stop gunfire, shelling, shrieks, and the burning.

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8 December 2019, 5:19 pm

How can you conquer ordinary, everyday sadness? Think of it as a person

New research suggests anthropomorphising your emotions can help you control them. But how do you actually go about it?

In the Pixar film Inside Out, the emotions of an 11-year-old girl are personified as perky Joy, petulant Disgust and hulking Anger. Sadness – voiced by The American Office’s Phyllis Smith – is, predictably, a downer with a deep side-parting and a chunky knit. Amy Poehler’s Joy can hardly stand to be around her, like a colleague you would time your trips to the tea point to avoid.

But the takeaway of the 2015 film – said by Variety to “for ever change the way people think about the way people think” – was that both emotions were necessary, and Sadness was as valid a part of life as Joy. Now there is a case for not only accepting Sadness, as in Inside Out – but embodying her, too. Researchers from Hong Kong and Texas recently found that individuals asked to think of their sadness as a person reported feeling less sad afterwards, a result they attributed to the increased distance perceived between the self and the emotion.

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8 December 2019, 3:00 pm

A-Z of climate anxiety: how to avoid meltdown

With the climate emergency putting our mental health at risk, Emma Beddington presents an everyday guide to eco wellbeing

Much like the planet, people have a tipping point. Mine came last summer, when a respected scientist told me matter-of-factly that he thought it was “at least highly unlikely” that his teenage children would survive beyond late middle age. At that point, three decades of climate unease crystallised into debilitating dread, and I’m far from alone.

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8 December 2019, 9:00 am

Girl sexually exploited ‘by over 40 adults’ while in care

Abuse was so severe that ‘Laura’ has been placed in a psychiatric unit on suicide watch

The children’s commissioner has been called on to intervene in the case of a vulnerable teenager alleged to have been the victim of a catalogue of failures at the hands of social workers, medical authorities and police.

Laura*, 16, who nearly four years ago is thought to have been the youngest child ever to be placed in a secure hospital in England, has allegedly been sexually abused since she was 12 – always while supposedly under the protection of children’s social care in Sheffield. She is now confined to the seclusion unit of a psychiatric hospital under suicide watch.

The level of care and supervision she has received at [the hospital] has been appalling and she has been [treated] worse than an animal.

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8 December 2019, 8:35 am

Strip-searches are a form of state-sanctioned violence that must stop | Peta Malins

Let’s bring in reforms to ensure our children and young people no longer have to endure the toxic brutality of these practices

One of the most important lessons I have taught my two young children is that they do not have to give anyone a hug or kiss unless they want to. They understand their capacity to say no, and the importance of respecting a no when they hear it from others. They also know that certain parts of their body are private and that no one has the right to ask if they can see or touch them. In short, they already understand ideas of bodily autonomy, agency and consent.

The value in giving kids the tools to negotiate and assert bodily boundaries from an early age is now widely acknowledged in academic and parenting literature. These skills are crucial for navigating healthy and safe relationships – including sexual relationships – later in life, and reducing the chances of experiencing, or perpetrating, sexual abuse and assaults.

Related: NSW police told 15-year-old to ‘lift your balls up’ in strip-search with no adult present

Related: ‘She grabbed my bra’: NSW woman says being strip-searched at 15 had a traumatic effect

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6 December 2019, 9:16 pm

Singing the blues: how music can help ease postnatal depression

Melodies for Mums singing class uses songs specially chosen to improve confidence and bonding

In the snug warmth of a children’s centre a group of mothers sing with their babies. But there is no Wheels on the Bus, no Wind the Bobbin Up. Instead, the women work their way through folk songs, lullabies and gospel, switching from Spanish to Hebrew to Igbo and Zulu and deftly following the group’s leader as she introduces rounds and three-part harmonies.

This is a singing class designed not to entertain the babies – though they are perfectly happy as they chew on miniature maracas – but for the women themselves. Melodies for Mums, run by the not-for-profit social enterprise Breathe Arts Health Research, aims to help new mothers with postnatal depression (PND), or those at risk of it, combat their symptoms by singing songs specially chosen to improve confidence and help them bond with their babies. No musical experience is necessary.

Related: The culture cure: how prescription art is lifting people out of depression| Helen Russell

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6 December 2019, 7:00 am

As a junior doctor I can reach breaking point. A patient's note keeps me going

To have someone recognise the difficulty of my job meant so much, and reminded me why I became a doctor

As a junior doctor who has experienced depression, I often wake up feeling like there’s a weight on top of me. During shifts we’re split in so many different directions that eating or even going to the toilet are out of the question. I’m painfully aware patients wait hours for care or even just to be discharged, and I can’t stand not being able to prevent delays.

It’s rare that I’d ever get a chance to voice these concerns to patients. That’s why Mr Jones*, an elderly patient I got to know from his recurring visits to the ward I was working on, sticks out in my mind.

Related: NHS morale needs a dose of kindness

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5 December 2019, 10:49 am

Mental health: young people in crisis waiting hours for A&E help

Figures show thousands of under-18s seeking care in England not seen in four hours

Thousands of young people undergoing a mental health crisis, including those who are potentially suicidal, are having to wait more than four hours for A&E care, NHS figures show.

Almost a fifth of the under-18s who seek A&E help in England for psychiatric problems such as depression and self-harm are not seen within the supposed maximum of four hours.

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4 December 2019, 8:00 pm

How to make cities better with hip-hop and poetry

Rapper Archie Green uses hip-hop to tackle mental health problems while poet Damien Ware’s verse brings color and positivity to his segregated neighborhood

Archie Green is a rapper and a producer who uses hip-hop to de-stigmatize mental illness in black and brown communities.

It’s a cause he has championed after facing his own challenges with depression, and a message that Green’s mental health awareness initiative, Peel Dem Layers Back, works to spread in Cleveland, Ohio.

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4 December 2019, 10:30 am

Killer of three elderly Devon men found not guilty of murder due to insanity

Alexander Lewis-Ranwell killed men while deluded and hours after police bailed him

A man with paranoid schizophrenia who killed three elderly men wrongly thinking they were sex offenders or serial murderers has been found not guilty of their murders by reason of insanity and will be detained in a secure hospital.

Alexander Lewis-Ranwell was having acute psychotic delusions when he used a hammer and spade to kill Anthony Payne, 80, and twins Dick and Roger Carter, 84, at their homes in Exeter, believing that he was acting with the police’s blessing because he had just been freed on bail following an earlier violent attack.

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2 December 2019, 5:53 pm