Guardian Mental Health

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

‘I feel like I’m failing’: Parents’ stress rises over home schooling in Covid lockdown

Primary pupils and parents find higher workload is leading to anxiety, survey finds

Teachers are expecting parents to do more home schooling with their primary-age children this lockdown, compared with the first one, leaving parents feeling stressed and anxious about their children’s mental health.

Nearly half of parents say primary school teachers are expecting more of their child this time round, according to research for the Observer by the Parent Ping survey app.

Related: Home schooling is widening attainment gap between rich and poor, finds report

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23 January 2021, 4:24 pm

‘They were freaking out’: meet the people treating NHS workers for trauma

As the Covid pandemic reaches its peak, nearly half of intensive care staff are suffering from trauma. Who is caring for the carers?

On a dark evening in April, a month into the UK’s first coronavirus lockdown, I joined a shift for the 24/7 text support service Shout 85258. Sitting in my kitchen, I had been given permission to observe its volunteers at work (all connected to the same Zoom session) as they held real-time text conversations with frontline NHS workers. For the previous few weeks, the volunteers – all members of the public – had been talking to doctors, nurses, paramedics and others as they did their best to manage the pandemic’s shocking first wave.

“We’ve had people texting in saying, ‘I’m not sure if I’m in a crisis, but I have had panic attacks,’” Shout’s clinical director, Sarah Kendrick, told me. Our conversation was punctuated by frequent beeps as new messages arrived, most during NHS shift turnover times. A nurse on the bus into work would text to say he was frightened to go in; an exhausted consultant at the end of her shift would offload about watching yet another patient die. There were many messages from distressed paramedics.

They have to make decisions about who gets a ventilator and who doesn’t, who is going to live and who is going to die

We will need long-term support because I think we’ve all just parked the stress and tried to get on with it

The pandemic will scar us, but we will grow from it. We’ll look back and say, I am different and I have learned

Related: On the frontline: meet the NHS workers tackling coronavirus

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23 January 2021, 9:00 am

Teenagers can 'catch' moods from friends, study finds

UK study investigates impact of individuals’ moods within shared social network

Teenagers can “catch” moods from their friends and negative moods appear to be more contagious than positive, a study has found.

The study by Oxford and Birmingham universities investigates “emotional contagion” among teenagers, to see the impact of individuals’ moods within a shared social network.

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20 January 2021, 5:39 pm

Australia 'choosing to invest' in hurting Indigenous kids, activist says – harming all of us

The lawyer: Sophie Trevitt heard horrifying stories from youngsters in Alice Springs: ‘I have never seen a child enter a youth detention centre and come out better’

In March 2018 Sophie Trevitt was in her office, working as a civil lawyer in Alice Springs, when a colleague – a youth criminal lawyer – came to her with a case: two children who said “they had been really brutally treated by police.”

Trevitt drove around town looking for them, until she found five boys, all Indigenous, aged between 12 and 16.

Related: The WA cops rounding up Indigenous kids: a ‘toxic and racist environment’

Related: ‘Hell scared’: how a terrified homeless boy found himself locked up alone in the ‘hole’

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20 January 2021, 4:30 pm

I thought my eating disorder was my protector, but I have been anorexia's prey | Melis Layik

With university online and no job to go to thanks to Covid, it has become easier to spend hours in front of the mirror berating my appearance

Name: Melis Layik

Age: 21

I increased my dosage of antidepressants today. With the loosening of Victoria’s Covid restrictions and the surge of New Year’s weight loss marketing, my eating disorder has once again overwhelmed me with feelings of inadequacy and self-loathing.

Related: Housing struggles are painted as a rite of passage for young people. Why? | Melis Layik

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20 January 2021, 4:30 pm

Mental healthcare needs an overhaul, and legislative tinkering is not enough | Dan Poulter

Reform of the Mental Health Act will make little tangible difference. As a psychiatrist, I know what the real challenges are

• Dr Dan Poulter is Conservative MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich

Being a doctor as well as an MP, I have spent more time over the past year on the NHS frontline than I have at Westminster. And as a psychiatrist, I have seen the problems created for mental health services by Covid-19 as well as the longstanding, systemic challenges that stand in the way of effectively treating mental illness in this country.

The patients that I care for are the seriously mentally unwell – people who need specialist attention because they are living with chronic and enduring conditions such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. It is these people who have been hardest hit by the pandemic as the move to online working has meant that community services and peer support groups have been less accessible.

The government’s recently published white paper on reforming the Mental Health Act is welcome, but it would be wrong to suggest that this is a gamechanging moment in how our country approaches mental healthcare. There are many more important issues that the government needs to prioritise if it is truly committed to improving things for patients with mental illness.

Reform of the act will do little to change the experience of care in a consistently underfunded system. A system that, for all the talk of parity of esteem between physical and mental healthcare, still lacks the money, workforce planning and community resources to provide adequate support.

So what can be done?

First, the mental health estate requires substantial investment. Many inpatient wards, where people are forced to live for weeks or months while receiving treatment, are in a poor state of repair and lack modern amenities. As a result, they are not the therapeutic environments that they need to be. On some wards, eight or 10 people share a toilet or bathroom. During the 2019 general election a new hospital building programme was announced. But almost all of this money will be spent on physical healthcare. New accident and emergency departments, maternity wards and cancer centres are wonderful, but if the government is serious about improving mental healthcare then a good place to start would be with meaningful investment in new wards fit for the 21st century.

Second, the expansion of talking therapies via the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme in the past decade has been successful in treating people with mild to moderate anxiety and depression. However, when mental health services are already struggling with finite budgets, IAPT has been prioritised for funding at the expense of the training and availability of therapists in other talking therapies. A singular focus on IAPT has meant that there are long and growing waiting lists for talking therapies for people with more severe mental illnesses, substance misuse and personality disorders.

Third, we must ensure that more sheltered housing and other forms of supported living in the community are available for people with severe illness, learning disabilities and autism. Not everyone can live completely independently, but an acute mental health ward is not always the right place for someone with a chronic mental illness, learning disability or autism. Far too often these people become trapped in the mental health system and spend many months living as inpatients on acute wards. This needs to change, and the government must develop housing strategies to better support these groups.

Fourth, addiction services should be commissioned by the NHS. The Health and Social Care Act made a terrible error in transferring the commissioning of addiction services to local authorities. As Dame Carol Black observed in the first part of her review of drugs report, this has resulted in fragmented and patchy care for patients and an unhelpful disconnect between mental health services and the treatment of addictions. Since 2013, in many areas, funding has been cut and death rates among those dependent on opioids has risen. There is an association between substance dependency and homelessness, but until addiction services are once again commissioned in an integrated manner by the NHS, it is hard to see how any homelessness strategy will be effective.

Dr Dan Poulter MP is a practising NHS psychiatrist and a former health minister (2012-15)

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20 January 2021, 1:54 pm

Neil Greenberg: hospitals must give staff better 'psychological PPE'

The consultant psychologist and trauma specialist on how NHS staff have been damaged by the battle against Covid and need more support

Listening to Prof Neil Greenberg, consultant occupational psychologist and forensic psychiatrist at King’s College London, you might think he is describing the psychological conditions of a war zone, not the NHS in 2021.

He talks about “frontline psychiatry”; the threat of “moral injury” in the line of duty; the need for a military-style covenant to protect traumatised NHS staff; the importance of camaraderie, psychological action plans and a supervisory “buddy system” for beleaguered NHS workers.

Related: Nearly half of NHS critical care staff report PTSD, depression or anxiety

Related: After an unrelenting year, stressed-out NHS staff deserve more than a clap | Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett

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20 January 2021, 7:30 am

Making lockdown a walk in the park | Brief letters

Joys of walking | Snowdrops | Central heating | Salisbury Cathedral

Ben Olins says that he does not understand people “who walk the same route over and over” (The joy of steps: 20 ways to give purpose to your daily walk, 18 January). One aspect of repeated walks in my local park for 10 months is that I swap a cheery “good morning” with about a dozen other regulars who I don’t know. It’s a small ritual but it’s uplifting in lockdown times.
Michael Cunningham

• For urban walkers, I can strongly recommend the “local explorer bingo challenge” produced by the Council for British Archaeology’s 2020 festival, although I still need to find some horse-mounting steps before I can shout “House”.
Ruth Eversley
Paulton, Somerset

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19 January 2021, 4:18 pm

Jamie Peacock: 'Success would be if one person changed their mindset’

The former rugby league great has launched a mental health campaign aiming to help people cope with life in lockdown

“Finding your purpose after retiring can be difficult,” says Jamie Peacock. The transition out of playing at the highest level is often challenging, something Peacock is not afraid to admit he experienced when his rugby league career ended in 2015. But whereas many players find direction in coaching or punditry, he has taken a different course.

Peacock, a winner of multiple Super League titles with Leeds and Bradford, as well as a former captain of Great Britain, is regarded as one of the toughest, most uncompromising players of his generation. It may come as a surprise, therefore, to learn the 43-year-old is now pioneering change as a mentor in mental health and positive wellbeing.

Related: Leeds’ Stevie Ward ‘haunted’ by future as concussion forces retirement at 27

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19 January 2021, 8:00 am

One in four UK young people have felt 'unable to cope' in pandemic

Prince’s Trust happiness and confidence survey produces worst findings in its history

Young people are in danger of giving up on their futures and on themselves, with a quarter saying they feel unable to cope with life, one of the UK’s leading charities has said.

The Prince’s Trust long-running annual survey of young people’s happiness and confidence returned the worst findings in its 12-year history.

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19 January 2021, 12:01 am

Doctors in UK and Ireland face 'ongoing distress' from Covid first wave

Survey of workers in emergency, anaesthetics and intensive care reveals psychological toll

Nearly half of doctors working in high-pressure conditions during the first wave of coronavirus face ongoing distress, research suggests.

A study based on responses from more than 5,400 doctors in the UK and Ireland found that 45% reported psychological distress as the pandemic accelerated to its initial peak in 2020.

Related: Nearly half of NHS critical care staff report PTSD, depression or anxiety

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18 January 2021, 12:01 am

Let us play: parents and charities plead for swings and slides to be kept open during lockdown

Many playgrounds now face closure as Covid cases rise, but campaigners say their benefits to children’s wellbeing are crucial

Play charities are calling for councils to keep playgrounds open during lockdown, as many are closed due to fears that they encourage people to “congregate and socialise”.

In a letter from Play England to all local authorities in England, several experts who work with children say that playgrounds should stay open “to reduce the catastrophic impact of Covid and lockdown on children’s physical and mental health and wellbeing”.

Related: NSPCC warns of lockdown’s toll on children’s mental health

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17 January 2021, 8:30 am

Our children are in crisis and need help | Letters

Under Covid, young people are suffering from increased poverty and illness. An independent commission could avert this

The pandemic is having a devastating effect on the childhoods of children and young people across the country. Growing numbers of hard-pressed families are being swept into poverty, with more than 4 million children living in poverty even before Covid wrecked the economy. The closure of schools has widened the yawning education gap and the spiralling numbers of young people suffering mental illness and psychological distress look certain to increase with every day that lockdown keeps them isolated and uncertain about their futures.

These challenges are taking place just as the local services that children and their families rely on to keep them safe are reeling from the combined effect of more than £2bn in funding cuts over the last 10 years, coupled with unprecedented demand for their help.

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16 January 2021, 8:16 pm

UK Children's welfare becoming 'national emergency', health experts warn

A letter to the Observer calls for an urgent review of the long-term impact of lockdowns and school closures on a generation

Boris Johnson is facing demands from doctors, senior politicians and charities for a wide-ranging commission to examine the pandemic’s “devastating effect” on children, amid growing concerns about its impact on their education, development and mental health.

A major coalition of child health experts warns that many families are being “swept into poverty” by the pandemic, which is set to significantly add to the 4 million children living in deprivation before the Covid crisis.

Related: Letters: our children are in crisis and need help

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16 January 2021, 7:00 pm

The Octopus Man by Jasper Gibson review – mental illness and disrupted lives

This engaging novel evokes the radical politics of the anti-psychiatry movement

Set in a leafy parish town in East Sussex, Jasper Gibson’s second novel tells the story of Tom Tuplow, a former lawyer who has endured two decades of mental ill health as a result of heavy psychedelic drug use in his youth. He hears voices – or rather, one voice: that of the “Octopus God” Malamock, an overbearing presence that taunts and rebukes him in mannered language. (It says things such as: “The caprice of experience … shall silver the death chamber.”) On the advice of his long-suffering sister, Tom participates in a trial for a new anti-psychotic drug, and tries to rebuild his life.

Gibson’s narrator-protagonist is an affable and engaging companion. Tom is lippy with doctors and huggy with strangers; one minute he’s officiously articulate, the next a jabbering wreck. Somewhat surprisingly for a novel about mental health, there is relatively little interiority here – it’s mostly action and dialogue, delivered in brisk and lively prose. Sprinklings of gallows humour and dry bathos riff on the absurd human comedy of mental illness. (“I stand up and headbutt the television. It is crunchier than expected.”) The novel’s portrayal of mental health facilities is pointedly unflattering: during a stint in a psychiatric unit in north London, Tom witnesses staff using excessive force to subdue patients, and being trigger-happy with sedative injections; one of the nurses is secretly sleeping with a patient.

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16 January 2021, 9:00 am

Eagerly awaiting Brexit dividend for the NHS | Brief letters

Death in Paradise | ICU pressures | Living in the 1930s | £350m-a-week pledge | Conspiracists

Sirin Kale concludes that Death in Paradise is “good” (Murder mystery: how Death in Paradise quietly became one of TV’s biggest hits, 13 January). Why, then, does she say that the show uses “a cast of C-list actors”? I’m sure the likes of Kate Beckinsale, Anna Chancellor, Samuel West and Adrian Dunbar, all of whom have appeared on the show, will be somewhat discombobulated with this labelling.
Rupert Bagilhole

• Any readers feeling sympathetic about the pressures on ICU staff (Report, 13 January) might consider a donation to the Laura Hyde Foundation, which supports NHS staff with mental health issues.
Elaine Webb

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14 January 2021, 5:50 pm

Covid restrictions on visits to detained children and parents are 'cruel', MPs told

Prison, care home and mental health institution visit limitations failing to consider impact on family life, campaigners say

Children with parents in prison have been forgotten during lockdown, campaigners have told MPs.

The cross-party human rights committee is looking at the impact on the right to family life, with a focus on people in institutional settings including prisons, care homes and mental health facilities.

Related: ‘Just 15 minutes out every day’: a teenage prisoner’s life during Covid

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14 January 2021, 1:59 pm

How everyday objects can improve quality of life for people with dementia

A new training programme in care homes shows how mundane tasks like making a drink or polishing is good for residents’ wellbeing

“When you woke this morning the clothes you planned to wear were gone. The shower gel smelt weird – it wasn’t your usual. There was no hairdryer to dry your hair. You wanted to make a hot drink but you had no access to a kettle … How is your day going? How do you feel? Welcome to the lives of many people with dementia living in care homes.”

This is the opening of a new training programme for care home staff developed by Dr Kellyn Lee, chartered psychologist and research fellow in ageing and dementia at the University of Southampton. Called material citizenship, it aims to get staff thinking about the importance of mundane, functional objects to our lives and identities, and how giving their residents agency over these things can significantly improve their wellbeing.

Related: The music project helping people with dementia find their voice during lockdown

To watch a short video on material citizenship:

For more information contact Dr Kellyn Lee

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14 January 2021, 7:30 am

The Guardian view on Trump's executions: vicious to the end | Editorial

The federal execution of a woman who was mentally ill was the act of a morally bankrupt administration

In the early hours of Wednesday morning, Lisa Montgomery became the first woman to be put to death by the United States government for almost seven decades. At the Indiana penitentiary where she was executed by lethal injection, there are no facilities for female prisoners. So during prolonged legal wrangling over her fate, Montgomery was cruelly placed in a holding cell in the execution-chamber building itself.

Her crime was horrific. In 2004, Montgomery strangled a young woman, Bobbie Jo Stinnett, who was eight months pregnant. She then cut a baby girl from her womb, and attempted to pass her off as her own. The pain and suffering of Ms Stinnett’s family can barely be imagined. But the political context of this week’s execution, and overwhelming evidence of Montgomery’s longstanding mental illness, suggests a gross miscarriage of justice has taken place.

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13 January 2021, 6:33 pm

Epidemic of grief: the challenge of the UK's massive loss of life

Many of those bereaved by Covid seek help online, but that won’t be enough for everyone, experts warn

Those mourning loved ones lost in the coronavirus pandemic are increasingly turning to online forums and virtual remembrance websites for support with grief, experts say.

Meanwhile, the national bereavement charity Sue Ryder and a coalition of cross-party MPs, charities and healthcare professionals are calling on the government to introduce a minimum of two weeks’ statutory paid bereavement leave for UK employees who have lost someone.

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13 January 2021, 4:14 pm