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In brief: Mental health of under-fives being overlooked

An image of two children looking out of a window
Kelly Sikkema | Unsplash

News round-up by Conor D'Andrade

Reports highlights need for improved mental health support for under-fives

A report from the Royal College of Psychiatrists has emphasised the need for more support to prevent babies and young children from developing mental health problems in later life.

The report suggests that intervening very early, from conception to the age of five, could help prevent or mitigate mental health issues.

Currently, around 5% of two to four-year-olds in the UK experience anxiety, behavioural disorders, and neurodevelopmental conditions like ADHD.

The report recommends establishing new specialist services for under-fives, more training for healthcare workers to recognise and support young children with mental health problems, increased research on effective methods of assistance, improved data collection on children facing problems, and efforts to enhance public understanding of the mental health of under-fives.

The comprehensive report is supported by organisations including Unicef UK, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

Dr Trudi Seneviratne from the Royal College of Psychiatrists said:

"The period from conception to five is essential in securing the healthy development of children into adulthood.

"Unfortunately, these years are often not given the importance they should be, and many people are unaware of what signs they should be looking out for.

"Parents, carers and society as a whole have a critical role to play. This includes securing positive relationships and a nurturing environment that supports the building blocks of a child's social, emotional and cognitive development."

Mental health and social media linked to rising adolescent e-cigarette use

A study from the US investigated the relationship between social media use and e-cigarette use among youth.

The study used data from the 2022 National Youth Tobacco Survey, which includes information on tobacco use among US middle and high school students.

Of the 23,445 included students, those who used social media "very often" were more likely to use e-cigarettes compared with those who used social media "sometimes" or "never."

This relationship remained significant even after adjusting for individual characteristics and mental health indicators.

Risk of depression increased by regularly sleeping less than five hours a night

Consistently sleeping less than five hours a night could increase the risk of developing depressive symptoms, according to a new study.

While the link between poor sleep and mental health has been explored before, it has been unclear which issue typically occurs first.

This research discovered that persistent short sleep can precede the development of depressive symptoms.

It also revealed that people genetically predisposed to short sleep were more likely to experience depression over four to 12 years, but those with a genetic predisposition to depression were not more likely to have short sleep.

Additionally, the link between short sleep and depression was not limited to those with a genetic inclination, as those who regularly slept for five hours or less, even without a genetic association, were also more likely to experience depression.

CQC’s annual State of Care report finds serious decline in quality and safety of mental health services

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has released its annual State of Care report, which assesses the quality of health and social care services in England.

The report highlights the challenges faced by mental health services, with providers struggling to meet growing demand while grappling with staff shortages and limited capacity in both community and inpatient care.

Key findings related to mental health include:

  • 40% of providers received ratings of 'requires improvement' or 'inadequate' for safety.

  • Gaps in community care are placing pressure on hospital mental healthcare.

  • As a consequence, individuals with mental health issues are being cared for in inappropriate environments, such as A&E. In one trust, 42 mental health patients waited for over 36 hours in a single month.

  • Nearly one in five mental health nursing positions remains vacant, contributing to the overuse of restrictive practices like restraint, seclusion, and segregation.

  • Mental health-related sickness was more than twice as likely among NHS staff compared to other illnesses.

Clinical study announced to evaluate the safety and efficacy of methylone in patients with severe PTSD

Clerkenwell Health, a mental health company specialising in matching patients with advanced psychiatry treatments, has announced its participation in a Phase 2 study to assess the use of methylone in individuals with severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The clinical trials are taking place at Clerkenwell Health's dedicated facility near Harley Street in London.

During the trials, patients are administered with methylone, a rapid-acting neuroplastogen known for its short-acting and mild psychological effects. This characteristic may reduce the time required for clinical administration, making it a potential candidate for integration into the existing medical system.

Transcend Therapeutics anticipates releasing initial top-line data from the open-label portion of the study by the end of 2023. After completing this open-label phase (Part A), Transcend will proceed with Part B – a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled evaluation of methylone involving up to 64 patients with PTSD.

Charity provides mental health support through alternative therapy

The Chalk Effect Climbing Project, a Community Interest Company operating in the South West region, is offering a unique form of therapy through rock climbing for people of all ages in Devon and Cornwall.

With the support of South West Water, they specialise in ergotherapy – a physical treatment approach for mental health conditions. This alternative therapy focuses on achieving physical, mental, and social well-being through indoor rock climbing sessions.

The project's team, including staff and volunteers, use their personal experiences to connect with and empower participants while facilitating climbing sessions. They encourage participants to maintain journals during the course, providing a safe space for deeper emotional exploration, overcoming fears, and building teamwork skills. This approach can help break down barriers and develop new skills.

Thanks to funding from South West Water's Neighbourhood Fund, The Chalk Effect Climbing Project has been able to provide free ergotherapy courses to 12 individuals over a six-week period.

Owner of The Chalk Effect Climbing Project, Jordan Rimmington said:

“The Chalk Climbing Project are honoured to receive the Neighbourhood Fund from South West Water. This donation keeps the work we do here continuous, supporting people from local communities and providing our service to help others is what we care about the most.

“Poor mental health is becoming an increasing issue in the UK, with the Cost of Living crisis and our economic downfall as a whole, it’s seriously having a detrimental effect on almost everyone we work with. So, keeping the project going with funding is crucial to us.”


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