In brief: Call for evidence now open for new 'Major Conditions Strategy'
News round-up by Conor D'Andrade
Government invites evidence to help inform future care for major conditions, including mental illnesses
The UK government has published its consultation on a Major Conditions Strategy that includes mental health.
The strategy aims to coordinate the Department for Health and Social Care's approach to various major conditions, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, dementia, respiratory disease, musculoskeletal disorders, and mental health.
This strategy replaces the previous plans for a 10-year Mental Health Strategy.
The government invited views and evidence on preventing, diagnosing, treating, and managing these major conditions.
They were particularly interested in insights from individuals who have experience managing these conditions and from those who provide care or treatment to people with multiple long-term conditions.
Responses to the mental health and well-being strategy – including those from organisations such as the BACP (British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy) – call for evidence that highlights key themes such as the need for increased funding for services and support, improved access to services, better integration between physical and mental health, the importance of community support, and the need for training, education, and awareness.
One-third of employees experience mental health challenges at work
New research reveals 33% of UK employees have encountered mental health challenges in the workplace, and almost half (46%) of them fear discrimination as a result.
The study by Sodexo Engage also highlights that 41% of respondents feel they have no one to talk to about their mental health in the workplace, while 47% believe discussing it could have negative consequences for their job security.
The cost-of-living crisis is exacerbating the situation, with 47% of employees reporting a negative impact on their financial well-being and 41% experiencing negative effects on their mental health.
The research uncovers a gender disparity, with a higher percentage of women (49%) experiencing poor mental health compared to men (35%).
The survey further reveals that 27% of respondents took up to five days off work in the past 12 months due to negative mental health, resulting in reduced productivity for businesses.
Younger workers are particularly affected, with 43% of those aged 18–24 taking time off compared to 21% of those aged 45–54.
Interestingly, only 19% of respondents have mental health-related benefits at their job, indicating a significant gap in support, with only 11% utilising these benefits.
When asked about desired well-being benefits, flexible hours emerged as the top preference among respondents (41%), followed by well-being days (23%), access to mental health first aiders (18%), and manager mental health training (14%).
Study finds shared genetic basis between psychiatric disorders and cannabis use
A new study from the University of Oslo suggests that certain individuals may be at a higher risk for both cannabis use and psychiatric disorders, namely bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, due to their genetic predisposition.
The study used advanced statistical modelling techniques to demonstrate that most shared genetic variants increase the risk of both cannabis use and the development of bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.
However, there are also genetic variants with opposing effects that increase the risk of cannabis use while decreasing the risk of developing the two psychiatric disorders.
These findings provide valuable insights into the underlying mechanisms linking cannabis use and psychiatric disorders, highlighting the importance of genetic factors in understanding individual susceptibility to both conditions.
People living with long-term health conditions are more likely to experience anxiety that impacts their daily lives
The Mental Health Foundation in Northern Ireland has released data indicating that anxiety is significantly affecting individuals living with long-term health conditions, with 90% experiencing anxiety that interferes with their daily lives.
A survey conducted by Opinium on behalf of the Mental Health Foundation polled 1,000 adults in Northern Ireland and found that nearly four in ten adults (38%) living with a long-term condition reported experiencing anxiety to such an extent that it hindered their ability to do the things they wanted or needed to do.
In comparison, this figure stood at 23% for the general adult population in Northern Ireland.
Head of Northern Ireland for the Mental Health Foundation, Karen Hall, said:
“Living with a long-term physical health condition is challenging, putting you at increased risk of poor mental health, including anxiety and depression.
"That’s why we’ve been working with Healthy Living Centre Alliance across Northern Ireland on the Mental Health for Better Days project.”
Number of mums seeking post-natal mental health support has more than doubled in Northern Ireland Trust
According to figures obtained by UTV, there has been a significant increase in the number of women seeking post-natal mental health support in the Southern Trust in Northern Ireland.
In 2022, between February and December, 43 women were referred for post-natal mental health support in the Southern Trust.
However, since the beginning of 2023, the number of referrals has more than doubled, with 97 women seeking support during this period.
Dr Frances O'Hagan said:
"The biggest part of post-natal depression for us, is to normalise it and to say, 'Look this happens, this is out of your control and the most important thing is that you come and get some advice from us'."
New app aims to teach children about mental health and well-being
A new app called 'OUR Generation' has been launched with the aim of educating children about mental health and wellbeing.
The app, designed as a game, consists of five levels featuring activities related to various aspects of mental health and well-being.
Developed by researchers at Ulster University, the app is part of an EU PEACE IV-funded project led by Action Mental Health and managed by the Special EU Programmes body.
The project aims to promote positive relations and emotional resilience among children and young people.
The app is divided into two age categories, catering to children aged 11 and under, as well as those aged 12 and above.
It includes interactive drag-and-drop games, videos, and links to additional sources for support and help.
To guide users through the app, they can select one of four buddies: Stripey, Roby, Hoofy, or Bulby.
As children progress through the levels and complete activities, they earn stars and climb the leaderboard from expert to ambassador, champion, and genius.
Professor Maurice Mulvenna, who assisted with the design and development of the app, said:
“The OUR Generation app will provide a fun, free, safe, and engaging way for children, young people, and emerging adults to tackle their worries on mental health and well-being, so they can build resilience, gain confidence, and thrive."