Guardian Mental Health

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

Middle-aged people who sleep six hours or less at greater risk of dementia, study finds

UCL data of 10,000 volunteers shows cases 30% higher among those who slept poorly in their 50s, 60s and 70s

People who regularly sleep for six hours or less each night in middle age are more likely to develop dementia than those who routinely manage seven hours, according to a major study into the disease.

Researchers found a 30% greater risk of dementia in those who during their 50s, 60s and 70s consistently had a short night’s sleep, regardless of other risk factors such as heart and metabolic conditions and poor mental health.

Related: The dementia that can be cured

Related: Lifestyle changes could delay or prevent 40% of dementia cases – study

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20 April 2021, 3:00 pm

‘Nobody else could make this music’: the return of underground punks Rudimentary Peni

Namechecked in the Oscar-nominated Sound of Metal, frontman Nick Blinko explains how he negotiated serious mental health issues to make astounding visual art and music

The succession of cult band shirts worn by Riz Ahmed for his Oscar-nominated leading role in Sound of Metal establish the insider credentials of the film as much as those of Ahmed’s character. One of them will provoke particularly unexpected nostalgia for underground punk fans: a white Rudimentary Peni T-shirt, emblazoned with the cover of the Hertfordshire trio’s 1988 album Cacophony.

Formed in 1980, Rudimentary Peni shuffled awkwardly at the edges of the anarcho-punk scene, their breathless pace and sheer oddity marking them as something else entirely. Though brilliant, they were far from natural performers, especially as vocalist Nick Blinko’s gargled falsetto-to-baritone screech was hard to recreate at full volume live.

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20 April 2021, 11:30 am

Psychedelics are transforming the way we understand depression and its treatment | Robin Carhart-Harris

Psychiatry has long failed to explain depression. Our research into psilocybin suggests a new approach could offer answers

Mental illness is the 21st century’s leading cause of disability, affecting an estimated billion people across the world. Depression is the number one contributor: more than 250 million people have this condition globally. The number of people prescribed antidepressant medications, the first-line treatment for depression, increases each year, and the market for them is valued at approximately $15bn (£11bn). Yet depression prevalence rates have not decreased since accurate record-keeping began. One reason for this paradox is the failure of science to adequately explain how and why depression occurs.

Related: ‘The ketamine blew my mind’: can psychedelics cure addiction and depression?

Robin Carhart-Harris is head of the Centre for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College London

In the UK, the charity Mind is available on 0300 123 3393 and Childline on 0800 1111. In the US, Mental Health America is available on 800-273-8255. In Australia, support is available at Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636, Lifeline on 13 11 14, and at MensLine on 1300 789 978

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20 April 2021, 5:00 am

UK children not allowed to play outside until two years older than parents’ generation

Survey finds most children turn 11 before they can play outside unsupervised

Primary-age children in Britain are losing the freedom to play independently and typically are not are allowed to play outside on their own until two years older than their parents’ generation were, according to research.

While their parents were allowed to play outside unsupervised by the age of nine on average, today’s children are 11 by the time they reach the same milestone, according to the study, which says not enough adventurous play could affect children’s long-term physical and mental health.

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20 April 2021, 5:00 am

Reaching vulnerable people earlier the focus of national suicide prevention report

Minister says easier access to services can reduce suicide risk, but criticism highlights lack of timeline or funding

Many people who kill themselves or who experience suicidal thoughts are not reaching out for help, including from the mental health system, the federal assistant minister for suicide prevention, David Coleman, has said.

“There are many reasons for this,” Coleman told the online national suicide prevention symposium on Monday.

Related: ‘Like hunting for unicorns’: Australians on the search for adequate, affordable mental healthcare

Related: ‘The worst it’s ever been’: Guardian readers tell us about Australia’s mental health system

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19 April 2021, 5:30 pm

Caring for a loved one with Parkinson’s and Lewy body dementia | Letter

Katherine Heiny’s moving account of her mother’s dementia prompts David Weaver to write about his wife’s condition, and its effect on him

I could barely read the extract of Katherine Heiny’s book about her mother’s descent into Lewy body dementia (Weekend, 17 April). It is such a tragic condition; my wife has Parkinson’s and Lewy body dementia, and has been in a care home for the past three years. She is looked after with great compassion by dedicated, professional staff, but despite 24-hour attention, she only weighs 42kg and is immobile.

Some days she is chatty and recognises me, but her speech is so distorted now that I can no longer understand her. The care staff have covered the walls in her room with photos of our four children and six grandchildren, and with cards and drawings, and most of the time she just sits and looks at them.

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19 April 2021, 3:36 pm

Scott Morrison bows to pressure to launch royal commission into defence and veteran suicides

When asked about previous resistance to Australian defence force inquiry, PM says: ‘I just want to get things done’

Scott Morrison has bowed to mounting political pressure by launching a royal commission into suicide among Australian defence force members and veterans.

The prime minister told reporters in Sydney on Monday he had listened to veterans who argued that the government’s previous proposal did not go far enough, and he was “pragmatic to get the right outcomes”.

Related: ‘We lost our way’: ex-soldiers regret how Australia got bogged down in Afghanistan

Related: Injured Australian military veterans waiting months for support as claims backlog rises to 25,000

In Australia, support and counselling for veterans and their families is available 24 hours a day from Open Arms on 1800 011 046 or and Safe Zone Support on 1800 142 072

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19 April 2021, 5:44 am

Laura Dockrill on parenting, paranoia and postpartum psychosis: ‘I thought I’d been hijacked by a devil’

A month after the birth of her son, the writer, poet and illustrator was on suicide watch in a psychiatric ward, experiencing severe delusions. Now her podcast is raising awareness of a condition that affects one in a thousand new mothers

Laura Dockrill told herself she was the worst case the psychiatric hospital had ever seen, and was untreatable. But that was only one of her delusions. Dockrill thought her father-in-law had hypnotised her. She would stalk the hospital corridors, feeling “like this badass”, as if she were a trained assassin. The reality was painfully different, but in Dockrill’s words it comes coloured with a comic touch.

“I was frumpy, quiet, wore my sister’s cupcake socks and a pink T-shirt with breast milk blooming over my boobs,” she says, smiling, her neon pink lipstick beaming through my laptop screen. There were times when she was on to her partner’s devious “plan” to take their newborn baby away from her, but would act like some kind of femme fatale, convinced he couldn’t resist her dangerous sexiness. He would play along – Dockrill’s psychiatrist had advised him not to try to reason with her – while gently reminding her that she would get better.

I posted my picture holding a glass of champagne, like: ‘Hey world, I’m a mum!’ And it was a complete lie – I was ill

This is the thing with mental illness: although it can, in many cases, get too big to hide, often it’s invisible

Related: ‘A small, sanitised existence’: what effect will the pandemic have on today’s babies?

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19 April 2021, 5:00 am

‘Like hunting for unicorns’: Australians on the search for adequate, affordable mental healthcare

Countless inquiries have found the same problems afflicting the mental health system, but cost and access barriers still leave those seeking and providing care in despair

Many Australians experience the country’s mental health system as inadequate, dangerous and financially punishing, saying they often feel unsafe in hospitals, are dismissed by health professionals and are hit with prohibitive costs that government subsidies do not come close to covering.

And practitioners in turn have spoken of burnout and their frustration with misplaced funding, inadequate quick fixes, overmedication of patients and inconsistencies and duplication in the system, while acknowledging that many seeking help find the system “deeply traumatic”.

Related: Mental illness must not become a political football | Jill Stark

Related: The cruel lottery of access to mental health treatment in Australia infuriates me | Georgie Moore

Too often the people most in need of ongoing psychiatric care are unable to afford the fees of the specialist

Related: Rick Morton on love and trauma

I am dismayed at how much money can be poured into medical interventions and equipment

Related: Australian government backs psychedelic drug clinical trials to treat mental illness

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18 April 2021, 5:30 pm

‘The worst it’s ever been’: Guardian readers tell us about Australia’s mental health system

Waiting times, costs, access. Issues of supply and demand. A lack of ongoing support. Inequities in the system. This is a snapshot of the mental health system in Australia

Guardian Australia asked readers to share their experiences with the mental health system. In more than 700 responses we heard from those suffering from mental health issues, their families and friends, as well as the professionals working in the field, including GPs, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and policymakers.

A number of themes emerged from the replies, including waiting times, cost, the inadequacies of care and resources on offer and the impact of broader societal issues such as poverty and abuse.

Related: Why mental health is the legacy-defining fight Scott Morrison can’t afford to lose | Katharine Murphy

Related: Reading about women’s mental health throughout history, I began to understand myself | Katerina Bryant

Related: Landmark mental health report calls for $4bn upgrade to care from ‘moment’ a person is struggling

Related: We need more than ‘hope’ and ‘optimism’ to tackle Australia’s mental health crisis | Ian Hickie

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18 April 2021, 5:30 pm

Mental ill-health is a bigger threat to university students than Covid | Letter

A mother of three undergraduates is worried about their wellbeing after students were told face-to-face teaching would not return until May at the earliest

Students should have been returning to their studies on campus over the next two weeks, but universities have now been told they cannot return to face-to-face teaching until 17 May (Report, 13 April).

I am a widow with three children who worked extremely hard through very difficult circumstances to get to university. While studying for their GCSEs and A-levels, they were also caring for me, as I was having treatment for breast cancer. However, I am now more worried about their mental health than I have ever been.

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18 April 2021, 4:51 pm

The wisdom of water: 12 ways to use blue spaces to improve your health and happiness

From relaxing baths to seaside swims, water can be a balm in difficult times. Catherine Kelly, the author of a new book on blue spaces, shares her tips

It was after her mother died that Catherine Kelly learned the healing power of water. Following instincts that she did not yet understand, she moved to live alone by the sea in County Mayo, on the west coast of Ireland, and over the next few years began to heal. “It’s an ebb and flow that water gives us that allows us to connect with ourselves. It’s an allowing,” she says.

After eight years studying the therapeutic effects of nature, she has written a book called Blue Spaces, packed with ideas about how to make the most of being in or near water. You don’t have to live near the coast to benefit. “There’s being in it, being next to it, thinking about it,” she says. Nor does it matter how much water is available. From raindrops to the ocean, urban fountains to canals and fast-moving rivers, there is a blue space for everyone. And although the phrase “blue space” typically refers to natural waters, Kelly says the possibilities for meaningful connection are the same whether it is the sea or your shower.

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18 April 2021, 1:00 pm

‘Some messages have been just sobbing’: phone line helps headteachers with burden of Covid

A group of former heads have set up a vital service for colleagues with nowhere to turn

For Alex Barnes*, head of a large secondary school in Yorkshire, the stresses of being in charge in the pandemic became too much. Last spring, just at the end of the first lockdown, she reached breaking point. “The demands were coming at me from every angle,” she says. “Worried parents bombarding me with questions, teachers and their unions demanding assurances that the school was safe. I became desperately worried that I’d be responsible for a rise in infections.

“One night I went home to my husband and said, ‘I don’t think I can do this any more.’ The look of shock on his face. He had never heard me speak like that before.”

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17 April 2021, 7:30 am

‘Her eyes stay shut. She doesn’t respond. But nothing feels real until I tell her’: visiting my mother’s care home after a year

For the past year, the pandemic stopped novelist Katherine Heiny from seeing her mother. Now that she can, where will she start?

In Boolean logic, a syllogism is a valid deductive argument having two premises and a conclusion. (I know this because logic is the only even vaguely mathematical class I ever understood.) For example, apples are fruit; all fruit is delicious. Conclusion: apples are delicious.

Or in my case: I am eager to visit my mother; my mother has advanced dementia. Conclusion: I am eager to visit someone who won’t even know I am there. Is it a logical conclusion? Maybe not. Is it a valid one? Yes.

Lewy body dementia has seven stages, and my mother raced through them like a gifted student not content to plod

She doesn’t know my father died last November, and I know I won’t have the courage to tell her

I asked her what she’d remember about me, and she said, ‘How much you love to talk.’ But I only love to talk to those I love. Like her

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17 April 2021, 5:00 am

Has the pandemic really caused a mental health crisis? | Letters

Understandable human responses to difficult circumstances should not be framed as a ‘mental illness’ pandemic, writes Dr Lucy Johnstone, but Dr Annie Hickox says there has been a significant increase in cases over the past year

Many mental health professionals will have read your carte blanche for a further massive expansion of psychiatry into our lives with dismay (Editorial, 12 April).

The “mental health pandemic” trope simply does not fit the evidence. Yes, some people have suffered greatly, but the overall picture is of a population that is largely resilient, although understandably bored, lonely and frustrated at times.

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16 April 2021, 3:29 pm

Tell us: how has it felt to re-emerge from England’s lockdown?

We’d like to hear how people have fared emotionally since restrictions in England were partially eased

As pubs, restaurants, hairdressers, gyms, outdoor leisure venues and non-essential shops in England opened their doors again this week, we’d love to hear how people feel about resuming social activities after months of lockdown.

If you went out since restrictions were relaxed, you could tell us about the first time you were among lots of people again, used public transport, met others to socialise or treated yourself.

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16 April 2021, 11:23 am

I’ve been agoraphobic – what I learned may help those with post-lockdown anxiety | Rhiannon Lucy Coslett

When home feels like a place of safety, ‘re-entry’ syndrome makes sense. But there are ways to gradually return to society

We have been trying to get the cat to go outside. You can tell a part of her wants to; she’s curious, certainly, but her fight-or-flight wins out. If you try to let her out of the building’s main entrance, she bolts back upstairs and sits in front of the door to the flat until she is let inside again. She feels safe in her home territory.

Perhaps being a lockdown kitten has affected her. Her behaviour reminds me of when I was agoraphobic. I desperately wanted a normal life, of going into the office on public transport, seeing friends, eating in restaurants, travelling. But any time I wanted to do these things my threat response was triggered; I became terrified, like a frightened animal. I believed that bad things happened when you left the house, and I had reason to believe that. I had been attacked, and then, several years after being successfully treated for PTSD, the Paris attacks set it off again: but this time it was full-blown agoraphobia. Home became safety to me.

Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett is a Guardian columnist

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16 April 2021, 8:00 am

Instagram apologises for promoting weight-loss content to users with eating disorders

Social media platform says it was a ‘mistake’ and that harmful terms have been removed in an update

Instagram has apologised for a “mistake” that meant it promoted weight-loss content to users with eating disorders.

A new feature on the social network provides users with suggested search terms based on their interests, with default prompts including terms such as “yard work”, “home decor” or “sunsets”. But some people with eating disorders found the app was prompting them to search for terms like “appetite suppressant” instead, raising the risk of a relapse or worse.

In the UK, Beat can be contacted on 0808-801-0677 or emailed at (over-18s), (students) or (under-18s). In the US, the National Eating Disorders Association helpline number is 1-800-931-2237. In Australia, the Butterfly Foundation for Eating Disorders helpline number is 1800-33-4673.

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15 April 2021, 1:34 pm

‘We spoon-feed audiences too much’: behind the creation of Wakefield, ABC’s lauded new drama

Writer Kristen Dunphy and director Jocelyn Moorhouse explain how their unorthodox singing and tap-dancing show about mental illness took flight

Kristen Dunphy was met with blank stares when she first pitched Wakefield. It’s a mystery, but it’s not about a crime. It’s a drama, but it’s full of singing and tap-dancing. It’s an intricate patchwork of stories and looping timelines about trauma and mental illness, and it’s frequently soundtracked by Dexys Midnight Runners’ 80s hit, Come On Eileen.

“It all did look a bit crazy,” the veteran screenwriter says.

Related: Wakefield review – superbly made and utterly riveting series based in a psych ward | Luke Buckmaster

Related: Neighbours: more actors come forward with allegations of racist slurs and discrimination on set

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15 April 2021, 1:31 am

No rise in suicides in early months of Covid pandemic, study suggests

Researchers find no increase, though results are based on data from wealthier countries

The number of suicides did not increase in the early months of the Covid pandemic, at least in wealthy countries, researchers have found.

This month the Royal College of Psychiatrists warned the NHS was struggling to cope with demand for mental health support, noting that record numbers of children and adults in England had sought help last year.

Related: Extent of mental health crisis in England at ‘terrifying’ level

In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or by emailing or 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 helplines can be found at

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13 April 2021, 6:50 pm