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In brief: Meta sued by 41 US states for contributing to youth mental health crisis

An image of the Meta symbol on a dark background
Dima Solomin | Unsplash

News round-up by Conor D'Andrade

41 US states suing Facebook and Instagram owner Meta

Meta, the company behind platforms like Instagram and Facebook, is facing legal action from dozens of states in the US for contributing to the youth mental health crisis.

The states, filed by 33 states in a federal court in California, claim that the company has deliberately designed features that cause children to become addicted to its platforms.

The lawsuit also alleges that Meta violates federal law by routinely collecting data on children under 13 without their parents' consent.

Nine attorneys general are filing individual lawsuits in their respective states bringing the total to 41 states who, along with Washington DC, are taking action.

The federal suit is the outcome of an investigation led by a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general from various states including California, Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Vermont.

The investigation concluded that social media platforms use addictive algorithms that entice young people with potentially harmful content, knowingly prioritising profits over mental health.

2.7 million people considering suicide due to the financial pressure of the cost-of-living crisis

The mental health charity Mind has published a concerning report, demonstrating the significant impact of the cost-of-living crisis on mental health across England and Wales.

The study highlights the strain the crisis has placed on mental well-being, revealing that 6% of individuals in these regions have contemplated suicide due to the cost of living.

Among other concerning findings, the report reveals that 20% of respondents have experienced increased depression, while 10% have developed disordered eating patterns because of the financial strain.

The data also revealed that those receiving Universal Credit are being the most impacted by the cost-of-living crisis.

Individuals receiving Universal Credit were over three-times more likely to consider suicide due to the cost-of-living crisis compared with those not receiving benefits.

About a third (33%) of Universal Credit recipients reported worsening depression, and one in five (20%) are dealing with disordered eating.

This report comes just ahead of the Autumn Statement, with wide speculation that the government plans to forego increasing benefits in line with inflation. Mind urges authorities to ensure that benefits cover essential costs adequately and reconsider changes to the Work Capability Assessment.

Government announces £5m investment into mental health support hubs for children

The UK Government has announced a £5 million investment to establish early mental health support hubs across the nation, aiming to improve the mental well-being of children and young adults.

These open-access hubs are designed to offer timely mental health support, without the need for a doctor's referral or a prior appointment. By providing easy accessibility, the initiative aims to prevent young individuals from reaching crisis point in their mental health struggles.

The effort aligns with a broader strategy to address mental health conditions at an early stage, acknowledging that around 50% of these conditions surface before the age of 14, with 75% emerging by age 24.

These support hubs will operate in community settings and offer drop-in services, providing a range of mental health support services, including group therapy, counselling, psychological therapies, and specialised advice. The goal is to equip young individuals with effective tools to manage their mental well-being comprehensively.

The initiative targets individuals between the ages of 11 and 25, ensuring accessibility for those who might not meet the threshold for NHS mental health support.

A simple blood test may be able to diagnose bipolar disorder

Researchers from The University of Cambridge have introduced an innovative method for diagnosing bipolar disorder, utilising a straightforward blood test to identify associated biomarkers linked to the condition.

Their approach involves a combination of an online psychiatric evaluation and a blood test to accurately diagnose patients with bipolar disorder, a significant number of whom had previously received an incorrect diagnosis of major depressive disorder.

The research indicates that the blood test alone could potentially identify up to 30% of patients with bipolar disorder. However, the accuracy of diagnosis significantly improves when this blood test is paired with a digital mental health assessment.

This method is anticipated to assist physicians in distinguishing between major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder, two conditions that exhibit similar symptoms but necessitate different treatment approaches.

While the blood test is still in the conceptual phase, the researchers believe it could serve as a valuable complement to current psychiatric diagnostic methods, potentially offering a deeper comprehension of the biological underpinnings of mental health disorders.

Study finds that a specific form of CBT changes brain connectivity and reduces rumination in adolescents with depression

New findings have reaffirmed the effectiveness of rumination-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (RF-CBT) in reducing overthinking tendencies.

76 teenagers, aged 14–17 years with a history of depression underwent 10–14 sessions of RF-CBT, while a control group received standard treatment, with teens who received RF-CBT reporting a significant reduction in rumination.

More notably, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) revealed changes in brain connectivity patterns associated with overthinking.

The brain scans showed a decrease in connectivity between the left posterior cingulate cortex and two other brain regions: the right inferior frontal gyrus and the right inferior temporal gyrus. These brain areas are linked to self-referential thinking and processing emotional stimuli, indicating that RF-CBT could enhance the brain's ability to disengage from rumination patterns.

Data show that mental health patients are being left for days in A&E as hospitals exceed capacity

Data obtained by Channel 4 News reveals that mental health patients in crisis are enduring prolonged stays in emergency departments before receiving appropriate care in England.

Figures exclusively shared with Channel 4 News by the Royal College of Emergency Medicine corroborate these findings, with these patients being twice as likely to have to wait over 12 hours to be discharged or transferred compared to other patients.

As the number of mental health beds has more than halved over the last two decades, there is an urgent need to expand capacity.


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