Guardian Mental Health

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

Pupils 'refusing to sit GCSE exams in new tougher format'

Leading teaching unions warn changes have left students stressed and demoralised

Pupils have been so demoralised by the new, tougher GCSE format in England that some refused to sit the exams this year, while others display raised levels of stress, according to leading teaching unions.

The reports from the National Education Union (NEU) and the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), which represents many secondary school heads, come as more than 600,000 16-year-olds are waiting to receive their GCSE results, including many subjects now in the new format.

Related: Brexit ‘putting pupils off modern foreign languages’

Related: Teachers assessing pupils could replace formal exams, study says

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21 August 2019, 5:36 pm

Life-changing messages for people with dementia | Letters

We must challenge the rhetoric that describes those living with dementia as no longer themselves, says Roger Clough. Plus letters from Nori Graham, Jim Cosgrove and Barbara Deering

Nicci Gerrard writes movingly about the ways that we try to keep dementia at arm’s length (Don’t ignore dementia – it affects us all, 15 August). Dementia is what so many of us fear most about old age. It is a disease of the brain, but its impact is immeasurably different to other physical diseases. It is thought of as a single invasive force, but may affect memory, behaviour, sense of location or speech. Because of fear of the present and the future, many try to hide its development from partners, outsiders and indeed themselves. Above all, the fear seems to be of losing one’s self, the sense of “who I am”.

It is imperative that we talk about dementia, and that we guard against the words that are so destructive of people’s hold on their lives. I remember from a research project the raw pain of a woman talking about the hospital visits when she and her husband found out he was living with dementia. There was a wonderful, warm consultation when the husband pleaded with his wife not to respond to the request to say what was going on. She knelt down at his knees and said: “I’ve got to.” They both trusted the consultant, who did not appear threatening. Other episodes were not like that. On one occasion she asked how best to support her loved one and was told to stop thinking about him as “he has no quality of life”. Another time she wanted to accompany him when he was undergoing tests but was asked not to. He came out crying: “I’ve let you down, sweetheart; I’ve let you down. I couldn’t answer all their questions.” She was angry that she had not been there to hold his hand.

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21 August 2019, 4:08 pm

‘Self-care’: how a radical feminist idea was stripped of politics for the mass market | André Spicer

Audre Lorde proposed a series of calming activities as a way to survive adversity. Now it’s just another form of ‘me time’

What do professional golfers, radical queer feminists and Instagram lifestyle influences have in common? They are all devotees of “self-care”. While the earlier self-help movement focused on improving yourself, the relatively new self-care movement focuses on preserving yourself. It’s lifestyle advice for an age of diminished expectations, where most people have given up on getting to the top and the best they can hope for is to get through the day. Self-care is self-help for a time when about a third of the population will suffer from some kind of anxiety disorder during their lives.

Self-care is a remarkably flexible term. It includes nearly any activity people use to calm, heal and preserve themselves in the face of adversity. Some common forms of self-care include getting enough sleep, eating well, physical exercise, meditating and doing things you like such as watching an 80s teen film. Other suggestions for self-care include tracking your menstrual cycle, having date nights with yourself, doing craft activities such as crochet, learning the art of saying no, and “consciously unfollowing” people on social media.

The central insights may well get lost. This could mean self-care becomes just another brand of self-help

Related: Virtual reality headsets to distract women from the pain of labour? Dream on | Nell Frizzell

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21 August 2019, 10:34 am

Israeli government accused of abandoning soldiers with PTSD

Up to one in 12 soldiers report symptoms, yet struggle for official recognition and access to help

Israeli soldiers have accused the government of abandoning them with little support for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) caused by their military service, according to local mental health groups and several former conscripts.

As many as one in 12 Israeli soldiers who experience high intensity combat report PTSD symptoms, one study found, yet the lack of recognition for mental health problems caused by combat has left many former service personnel without treatment after they leave the army.

Related: Israel’s soldiers speak out about brutality of Palestinian occupation

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21 August 2019, 4:00 am

Social media pressures 'driving up exam stress in girls'

Ahead of GCSE results, Girlguiding warns of expectation to post online and schools seeking acclaim

Publicity-hungry schools and pressure to post results on social media are driving up exam stress among girls, the Girlguiding movement has said, after it found that close to two-thirds of girls now believe there is too much pressure to succeed.

On the eve of the GCSE results the charity said girls were facing a perfect storm of pressures, with well over half of those aged 11 to 21 fearing a bad performance in exams could ruin their futures.

Related: Summer camps for all: no mobiles, no selfies – just the chance to be children | Hazel Davis

The proportion of 17-to-21-year-olds wanting to be leaders in their profession has fallen from 66% in 2016 to 53%.

More than a third of girls aged 11 to 21 have faced bullying about how they look, rising to almost half among those aged 17 to 21.

71% of girls apply filters to the pictures they post on social media some or all of the time.

A third said they had seen upsetting or harmful pictures or videos online that they wish they hadn’t.

Related: Female students outnumber males in A-level science entries

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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20 August 2019, 11:01 pm

Growing up in air-polluted areas linked to mental health issues

Correlation found between poor air quality and disorders including schizophrenia

People who spend their childhood in areas with high levels of air pollution may be more likely to later develop mental disorders, research suggests.

Air pollution has become a matter of growing concern as an increasing number of studies have found links to conditions ranging from asthma to dementia and various types of cancer.

Related: Revealed: air pollution may be damaging ‘every organ in the body’

Related: Growing up in dirty air ‘quadruples chances of developing depression’

Top 10 U.S. Cities Most Polluted by Year-Round Particle Pollution (Annual PM2.5)

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20 August 2019, 10:41 pm

Players’ union urges action on mental health after Kearnan Myall speaks out

• RPA says 10% of Premiership players phone helpline every year
• England assistant coach denies training regime too intense

Rugby’s players’ union has called for urgent action to be taken to protect players’ mental wellbeing following stark warnings from Kearnan Myall, the former Wasps and England Saxons forward.

Myall’s compelling interview in the Guardian has set off alarm bells across the game and Damian Hopley, the chief executive of the Rugby Players’ Association, is increasingly concerned about the strain on modern players.

Related: Kearnan Myall: ‘Several England players I know dread training camp’

Related: Lean Mako Vunipola hungry to return for England against Ireland

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20 August 2019, 6:03 pm

When the fringe is no joke: minding your mental health in Edinburgh

Performing at the festival can be a taxing experience. Objectively Funny has created a peer support network that turns attention offstage

It’s lunchtime in Edinburgh’s Old Town and I’ve swapped comedy for something more serious. On stage, psychotherapist Rachel O’Connor draws a picture of the brain while people in the room share stressful moments from the first fortnight of the fringe: flyers arriving late, nightmares about missing their own show. Soon, we are all releasing tension with some diaphragmatic breathing.

While punters enjoy the buzz of the fringe, others often have a much tougher experience. Those working here deal with low wages, fragile living arrangements, long shifts and constant rejection. Performers face a potent mix of financial stress, pre-show anxiety, pressure to party, and the dread of a two-star review. Comedy production company Objectively Funny is working with O’Connor to provide support.

Objectively Funny is running drop-in sessions at the Forest Café, Lauriston Place, until the end of the festival: Mondays 10am–12pm, Wednesdays 4pm–6pm and Fridays 2pm–4pm.

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20 August 2019, 6:00 pm

Pupils who take drugs, drink and smoke more likely to be unhappy

NHS survey of children aged 11-15 also links substance use to stress and poor life satisfaction

Children in England aged 11 to 15 who have recently drunk, smoked cigarettes and taken drugs are more than twice as likely to say they feel low levels of happiness than their peers who have done none of those things, a large NHS Digital survey has found.

Fifty-one percent of children who had recently drunk alcohol, smoked cigarettes and taken drugs said they had experienced low levels of happiness, compared with 22% who had done none of those things. Among those who had done one of those things, 36% reported having had a low level of happiness the previous day.

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20 August 2019, 2:04 pm

Kearnan Myall: ‘Several England players I know dread training camp’

The former Wasps lock sounds the alarm over the mental wellbeing of top players after intolerable pressure and scrutiny took him to the brink of suicide

No one is paying much attention to the tall man sitting quietly on a sunny hotel terrace in Richmond. Such is life for the majority of professional rugby players, even those with 13 years of sterling club service. Kearnan Myall played more than 200 games for Wasps, Sale and Leeds and toured with England to Argentina in 2013 without many people contemplating the human being beneath the headguard.

Related: Eddie Jones’s England have cause for optimism in world of tight margins | Robert Kitson

Related: Kyle Sinckler: ‘You think Eddie is tough? My mum put me in my place’

Related: Wales’s James Davies: ‘I take opportunities and change opinions’ | Paul Rees

You’d expect that as players get paid more they’d get looked after better but they’re becoming more disposable

Related: Lewis Ludlam: ‘This time last year I was fighting for a club contract’

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19 August 2019, 1:00 pm

MDMA treatment for alcoholism could reduce relapse, study suggests

Researchers say drug is safe and appears more effective than conventional treatments

The first study looking into the use of MDMA to treat alcohol addiction has shown the treatment is safe and early results show encouraging outcomes from the approach, scientists have said.

Doctors in Bristol are testing whether a few doses of the drug, in conjunction with psychotherapy, could help patients overcome alcoholism more effectively than conventional treatments. Those who have completed the study have so far reported almost no relapse and no physical or psychological problems.

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19 August 2019, 10:19 am

Call for cut in stock market trading hours to aid working parents

Proposal by City lobby groups could make the industry more accessible to women

City lobby groups are proposing cutting stock market trading hours to help make banking and asset management more accessible to women and working parents.

The Investment Association, which represents City firms with £7.7tn in assets under management, and the banking lobby group the Association for Financial Markets in Europe, plan to consult members on options that include reducing trading hours from 8.5 to 6.5 hours.

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19 August 2019, 9:36 am

Over a third of Britons admit ageist behaviour in new study

Research by SunLife found those in their 30s most likely to use discriminatory language

More than a third of British people admit that they have discriminated against others because of their age, according to new research on everyday ageism, with those in their 30s most guilty.

The Ageist Britain report, which surveyed 4,000 UK adults and analysed thousands of tweets and blogposts in the UK, found a further one in 30 people admitted to regularly discriminating against anyone aged over 50 – and more than one in 10 admitting that they don’t even know if they are ageist.

Related: Ageism may increase people’s risk of ill-health, study finds

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18 August 2019, 11:01 pm

Gap in NHS provision forcing gaming addicts to seek help abroad

Addicted teenagers travelling to overseas clinics as there are no NHS facilities to treat them

Teenagers addicted to gaming are travelling to private clinics overseas for treatment due to a lack of services in England and Wales to tackle the growing problem, the Guardian has learned.

There are no NHS facilities to treat gaming addiction, which was listed and defined as a condition in the 11th edition of International Classification of Diseases. It means people are having to seek treatment privately or travel abroad.

Related: How a Dutch clinic helps UK teenagers addicted to gaming

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18 August 2019, 4:00 pm

How a Dutch clinic helps UK teenagers addicted to gaming

Tom, 17, went through a 10-week course involving therapy, outdoor activities – and no phones or coffee

When gaming addiction took hold of Tom, 17, he would stay up all night glued to his computer. He stopped going to school and, despite his exams approaching, the only thought on his mind was how long the new game he had purchased was taking to download.

Then one day, after refusing to leave his bedroom for months, he decided to get help. He found very few places in Britain offering much in terms of treatment, but a psychologist suggested he go to the Yes We Can clinic, Europe’s only addiction treatment centre for young people, almost 300 miles away in the Netherlands.

Related: Gap in NHS provision forcing gaming addicts to seek help abroad

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18 August 2019, 4:00 pm

My son keeps stealing from me and my dad, but I can’t tell anyone | Dear Mariella

You must turn to a support group and confide in people you trust, Mariella Frostrup tells the mother of a young man struggling with addiction

The dilemma I’m 54, single, with two sons and am a carer to my parents. For 10 years my younger son, who is 26, has sporadically stolen from my father and me. Whenever he was caught, he was full of regret and would promise not to do it again. He has also smoked cannabis since the age of 17 and I’m sure he’s started taking pills. Things came to a head when he borrowed my car – I haven’t seen it since – and I discovered he’d stolen a ridiculous amount of money from my parents and me. I threatened him with an injunction and he left home. Since then he has come to the house twice. The first time he took my bank card and emptied my account. The second time he found my father’s card. I need to change the locks, but I have no money to do this. It’ll take months of extra shifts at work before I can make things right. I’ve only told my oldest friend – she said I need to call the police. I cannot bear the thought of telling my siblings and I would never ask them for money. I need to be seen as strong and capable of looking after our parents and I don’t want them to hate my son. Is there any way I can get through this without police involvement? I feel scared and vulnerable – every solution either involves having him arrested, or costs money that I simply do not have.

Mariella replies My heart is broken for you. Addiction is as cruel as dementia when it comes to the degree of living loss we endure for a person we love. A drug addict’s whole emotional range is highjacked by a powerful, seductive force that obliterates any sense of loyalty, morality or duty to those who care for them. Your boy is at present as lost to you as my grandmother was to me in the final days of her untethered dementia.

This is not your guilty secret, but a modern dilemma – one that holding close to your heart won’t solve or expunge

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18 August 2019, 5:04 am

'I thought the staff were trying to kill me': the illness that can haunt new mothers

Experts are divided over what causes postpartum psychosis, which can leave mothers of newborns detached from reality

When Sarah Hayes’ son Alex was born 24 years ago, she wasn’t just happy – she was euphoric.

“I couldn’t believe Alex was mine. Even after 30 hours of labour, I was full of energy,” she says. “I was so elated, I couldn’t switch off and sleep.”

We need to start asking how the mum is doing. Not just the child

This article was amended on 18 August 2019. Irene died at 28, it originally said she was 24.

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16 August 2019, 10:00 pm

Leader at care home where teen died admits withholding evidence

Duncan Lawrence told he could face prison after failing to cooperate with inquest

The “clinical lead” at a heavily criticised London care home where a vulnerable teenager killed herself has pleaded guilty to failing to cooperate with the inquest into her death.

In what is believed to be the first such prosecution, Duncan Lawrence has been warned by magistrates he could face a prison sentence for the offence of “withholding evidence/documentation in relation to a coroner’s inquest”.

Related: Care home ‘neglect’ contributed to teenager’s death, inquest rules

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 on 13 11 14. Other international suicide helplines can be found at

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16 August 2019, 12:34 pm

'I felt like a spy infiltrating the IRA' – the hurling player who exposed his sport

Timmy Creed quit the tough Irish sport damaged and disillusioned. But he returned to his club ‘undercover’ – to turn its toxic masculinity into a play

‘You can hit people,” says Timmy Creed, reassuringly, as he swings his hurling stick inches from my head. “As long as you’re going for the ball, you can do what you want.” Creed is teaching me how to use a “hurley” properly. Not because I’m considering a switch into the world of gaelic sports (my inability to hold the stick correctly put paid to that idea, along with the fact that I’m a total wimp who hates getting hurt) but because he’s promoting his new play, Spliced. It’s about hurling, the Irish sport Creed spent much of his teens and 20s playing to an impressively high club level. But it’s also about more than that – masculinity, peer pressure, body image, conformity, feminism and self-discovery.

Creed thinks it will help the interview if we knock a hurling ball around to get a feel for the game. (The play is normally staged outdoors, in one of Ireland’s numerous handball alleys, although for its run in Edinburgh a squash court will suffice.) Mercifully, he plays gentle with me as he explains his love-hate relationship with the sport that moulded him. “It gave me an identity,” he says. “But that identity shapes the way you are with men, with women, with how you see the world. A whole other side to you gets missed.”

I was bricking myself when we performed it at the club – but some of the guys came up to me with tears in their eyes

Morning shows

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16 August 2019, 9:13 am

NHS bill for private out-of-area mental health care rises to £100m

Labour calls for investment in public provision rather than lining companies’ pockets

NHS spending on private firms nursing people with mental health problems outside their local authority area has risen by almost 30% in a year to £100m.

Adults in mental health crises were sent as far as 300 miles from home last year – a situation NHS chiefs have admitted reduces the chances of recovery because vulnerable people are separated from their loved ones.

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15 August 2019, 5:01 pm