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In brief: Mental health in classrooms, contraception, and social media


Image of pupils in a classroom
Taylor Flowe | Unsplash

News round-up by Conor D'Andrade

Teaching about mental health in the classroom improves mental health of pupils


Newly published research demonstrated the positive outcomes of reducing stigma surrounding mental health issues during a crucial stage in students’ lives by enhancing their mental health literacy.


The study, by researchers at Swansea University, shows that most mental health problems emerge during adolescence, with a significant number of young people experiencing mental health symptoms.


However, due to limited understanding and the stigma associated with mental health, many refrain from seeking help.


To address this issue, a team from Swansea and Cardiff universities collaborated with Action for Children to develop The Guide Cymru – a mental health literacy program.


The programme includes teacher training, access to online resources, videos, and classroom modules.


In a 10-week randomised control trial involving nearly 2,000 pupils aged 13 to 14 from various regions in Wales, half were required to participate in The Guide delivered by trained teachers.


The study found improvements across multiple areas for the students who had access to The Guide, including mental health knowledge, better mental health behaviours, reduced mental health stigma, and an increased willingness to seek help for personal issues.




NHS App digital expansion will see mental health services added


The NHS App is set to introduce features ‘later this year’ that will allow users to connect with mental health services and features dedicated to musculoskeletal conditions.


These services will aim to provide patients with round-the-clock access to support without requiring a clinician referral and address the need for accessible and convenient mental health care, complementing other initiatives also trying to increase access to specialist care services through digital platforms.




Oral contraception associated with an increased risk of depression in women


Research has revealed a potential association between the use of oral contraception and risk of depression in women, particularly among those who start during adolescence.


The research found that teenage girls who began using oral contraception had a 130% higher incidence of depression symptoms, while the increase among adult women using the pill was 92%.


The study also indicated that using oral contraceptives during adolescence might elevate the risk of depression later in life.


The study specifically examined combined contraceptive pills that contain progestogen, a hormone that inhibits ovulation and thickens the cervical mucus to impede sperm from reaching the uterus.


Additionally, the pill's oestrogen component thins the uterine lining, making it more difficult for a fertilised egg to implant.


While the researchers highlighted that the majority of women are able to take oral contraceptives without experiencing mood swings, they noted the importance of ‘educating oral contraceptive users, screening for depression, and informing primary healthcare practitioners regarding the [oral contraceptive]-depression relationship.'




People with diabetes more likely to struggle with mental health


A recent study published during Diabetes Awareness Week 2023 has revealed that the majority of individuals with diabetes struggle with mental health problems.


The study, commissioned by Dexcom, a provider of glucose monitoring for diabetes patients, found 84% of diabetes patients reported facing mental health challenges.


The study also found that almost all (91%) diabetes patients feel that technology plays a crucial role in helping them maintain a balanced lifestyle while effectively managing their condition.




Reducing social media time can improve mental health


A new study has revealed that limiting social media usage can have significant psychological benefits.


The two-week experiment by researchers at Iowa State University involved 230 college students, half of whom were instructed to restrict their social media usage to 30 minutes per day and receiving daily automated reminders.


At the end of the experiment, the reduced social media group exhibited significantly lower levels of loneliness, anxiety, depression, and fear of missing out compared with the control group.


Participants who limited their social media usage also reported higher levels of "positive effect," which refers to experiencing positive emotions such as pride and excitement.


These psychological benefits were observed among participants who occasionally exceeded the 30-minute time limit.


While most participants initially found it challenging to cut back on social media, many reported feeling more productive and connected to their lives after the initial adjustment period.


Other positive outcomes mentioned included improved sleep and increased face-to-face interactions with people.




Footballers need more mental support than most


A recent survey conducted by Bradford University among 74 male professional football players mostly playing in the top two English leagues, has shed light on their lifestyle issues and mental well-being.


The survey revealed that 22% of the players reported experiencing lifestyle issues that would typically warrant a referral to occupational therapy, with older players being more likely to require such referrals.


To assess the players' occupational well-being, they voluntarily completed the same Occupational Self Assessment typically used by occupational therapists working with patients in hospitals and individuals returning to work after illness or injury.


Additionally, 43 of the participants also completed the Short Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale, which indicated that their mental well-being was lower than the average population norm.


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