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In brief: Record referrals for youth mental health services in under-18s

An image of the trainers of a number of teenagers
Gaelle Marcel | Unsplash

News round-up by Conor D'Andrade

Youth mental health services received record number of under-18 referrals last year

Figures released by the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) show that a record number of under-18-year-olds were referred to its mental health support services.

In 2022, more than 1.2 million children and young people received referrals, representing a significant increase of 53% since 2019, when 812,000 children and young people were referred to the service.

The data from NHS Digital also indicates that many of these referrals are still awaiting treatment, as they remain on waiting lists.

Last year marked the second consecutive year of more than a million referrals to CAMHS, raising concerns about the increasing struggles faced by children and young people with mental health issues.

Some of the figures published in 2022 are estimated due to data collection issues caused by a cyber attack.

Chief executive of YoungMinds, Laura Bunt, said:

"We cannot allow this to be accepted as the new normal, with 1.2 million young people referred to mental health services, and so many going without support.

"The Government must listen to young people and commit to action that drives down numbers of young people needing support, prioritises early intervention, and properly funds mental health services."

1 in 5 women in mental health crisis asked if they are ‘on their period’

A YouGov survey commissioned by the suicide prevention charity Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) has revealed that young women are often dismissed when seeking help for mental health issues.

The survey, which included more than 2,000 women, found that many were asked dismissive questions, such as whether they were ‘overthinking things’ or ‘on their period'.

Specifically, it found:

  • 33% were asked if they were ‘overthinking things’

  • 33% fear being seen as too emotional or dramatic

  • 31% think they wouldn’t be taken seriously

  • 27% were told it could be hormonal

  • 22% fear being seen as ‘attention seeking’

  • 20% were asked if they were on their period

  • 20% were told they were being dramatic

  • 19% felt dismissed or invisible

“These are shocking and serve as a stark reminder that we need to do more to protect young people and make suicide prevention a national priority," said chief executive of CALM, Simon Gunning.

“Our research shows that even when they do speak up, young women’s feelings and symptoms are frequently dismissed and ignored – often disregarded as over-emotional, hormonal or attention-seeking.

"These damaging preconceptions are leaving young women unheard and unsupported and lives are at risk like never before.”

Loneliness increases the risk of dementia in older people

Research from Kyushu University in Japan has found that social isolation can impact the brain in areas affected by dementia.

Medical data from 8,896 people, with an average age of 73, was examined, including MRI scans and health exams to measure brain volume, and participants' social activity.

The data revealed that older people who have little social contact with others were more likely to have a loss of overall brain volume compared with those who frequently interact with other people.

Individuals with the least social contact had lower overall brain volume, including in areas such as the hippocampus and amygdala, which are involved in memory and are affected by dementia.

These participants also had more small areas of brain damage, known as white matter lesions, which are linked to neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer's disease and stroke.

While the study suggests that social isolation may impact brain health, other factors such as depression also play a role in the relationship between social isolation and brain volume.

Additionally, the researchers pointed out that the data does not prove that social isolation causes brain shrinkage, or dementia, but rather an association between them.

Low-intensity psychological intervention training for staff can reduce sickness

New research has found that improving the understanding of treatment strategies for mental health problems can significantly reduce staff sickness and encourage individuals to seek support.

The researchers at Swansea University and Cardiff University designed a workplace intervention programme, called Prevail, aimed to help employees cope with mental health problems and reduce the stigma associated with mental health.

The programme targeted common conditions such as depression, anxiety, stress, and distress caused by various life events.

Rather than identifying specific individuals in need of help, Prevail provided all employees with training on psychological interventions and coping techniques they could use for themselves and to recognise mental health issues in colleagues, friends, or family members.

The researchers conducted a randomised controlled trial with two groups of staff at the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) in Swansea, with one group participating in sessions delivered by specially trained colleagues, while the other (control) group did not attend the sessions.

The analysis showed that Prevail was well received, reduced stigma related to mental health problems, and led to a 22% reduction in recorded sick days among those who participated in the programme when compared with the control group, which experienced an increase in the number of sick days taken.

Mental health and money support could double recovery rates for those with debt and depression

Research conducted by Money and Mental Health highlights the pressing need for more integrated mental health and debt support, particularly in the context of the cost-of-living crisis.

The charity found that individuals who have experienced mental health problems in the past two years are 3-times more likely to be behind on key bills compared with those who have not experienced mental health issues.

Furthermore, 60% of people with recent mental health problems reported feeling unable to cope due to rising costs, but only 9% of them had received money or debt advice since the start of the cost-of-living crisis.

The charity is urging the government and NHS England to provide money advice alongside NHS Talking Therapies – a widely used programme for treating mild-to-moderate mental health issues that serve over 1.2 million people annually.

By integrating money advice with mental health services, the charity believes that recovery rates could be significantly improved, waiting times for mental health services reduced, and substantial savings achieved for public finances

For individuals struggling with depression and debt, the recovery rate could double from 24% to 51%.

Similarly, for those experiencing anxiety and debt, the recovery rate could increase from 41% to 53%.

This means that an additional 27,000 people dealing with depression or anxiety could achieve recovery each year.

The estimated annual savings amount to £144 million, even when considering the costs of providing additional debt advice support.

These potential savings include £39 million in healthcare savings, as reduced demand for health and social care services could free up resources and help reduce waiting times for essential mental health treatment.

Additionally, the reforms could lead to wider economic benefits, including increased workplace productivity estimated at £105 million in England.

Construction worker mental health improved by on-site Health Hub

A joint collaboration between the University of Warwick and National Grid has found that on-site Health Hubs aiming to provide support and resources for employees to improve their mental and physical wellbeing during long working days are effective.

The study involved the creation of a Health Hub at a construction site in Sellindge, Kent, featuring various facilities, such as a gym, social spaces, one-to-one wellbeing coaching, health awareness events, and a canteen offering free healthy meals.

Early findings from the project suggest that workers who used the Health Hub for longer durations and made more extensive use of its facilities experienced significantly lower levels of anxiety.

The workers reported several positive outcomes, including a greater sense of appreciation from their employer, more opportunities to make healthier lifestyle choices, improved morale, and a heightened awareness of available mental health support.

Many workers expressed that the on-site facilities helped them achieve a better work-life balance, allowing them to spend more time with their families without compromising their health and wellbeing.

In addition to the Health Hub, researchers from the University of Warwick also conducted an in-depth analysis of the challenges faced by workers in the construction industry.

Participants highlighted the negative impact of long working hours on their physical and mental wellbeing and family life, as well as the existing stigma surrounding mental health within the industry.


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