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In brief: Regional disparities in mental health rates revealed

A photograph of London
Benjamin Davies | Unsplash

News round-up by Conor D'Andrade

Survey reveals huge mental health disparities between English regions

Data from a GP patient survey has highlighted significant regional variations in the prevalence of mental health issues among adults in different Integrated Care Board areas across England.

The findings underscore the need for a more tailored, region-specific approach to mental health care and support.

​Highest reported prevalence

​Moderate reported prevalence

​Lowest reported prevalence

​North East & North Cumbria: 15.6%

​Bristol, N Somerset & S Gloucs: 14.1%

​North West London: 9.1%

​South Yorkshire: 15.3%

​Lancashire & South Cumbria: 13.8%

​Surrey Heartlands: 9.1%

​Cheshire & Merseyside: 15.3%

​West Yorkshire: 13.7%

​South West London: 9.2%

​Greater Manchester: 14.3%

​Nottingham & Nottinghamshire: 13.7%

​Frimley: 9.5%

​Norfolk and Waveney: 13.4%

​North East London: 9.5%

​North Central London: 9.8%

​Bedfordshire, Luton & MK: 10.0%

​Hertfordshire & West Essex: 10.1%

​South East London: 10.7%

​Bucks, Oxfordshire & Berkshire W: 10.9%

Sarah Jeffries, Mental Health First Aid Trainer at First Aid Courses Manchester, commented:

"The recent GP Patient Survey reveals significant disparities in mental health issues across different areas of England, highlighting a clear need for solutions, such as Mental Health First Aid Training (MHFA). In essence, MHFA is not merely about learning mental health principles; it’s about forging a community adept at initiating and engaging in early conversations about mental health.

"In areas like North East & North Cumbria, where 15.6% of people report mental health problems, and even in North West London, with its 9.1% figure, MHFA proves to be a crucial tool to ensure everyone receives appropriate support and understanding.

"A principal goal should be to embed MHFA into our communities, workplaces, and schools, ensuring that regardless of location, mental health support is readily accessible and easy to navigate."

Study suggests that dads should be screened for post-partum depression

A pilot study conducted at the University of Illinois Chicago suggests that fathers can experience postpartum depression and should be screened for the condition.

In the study, 30% of the 24 screened fathers tested positive for postpartum depression, using the same screening tool commonly used for mothers.

Lead author of the study, Dr. Sam Wainwright, said:

“A lot of dads are stressed. They're scared. They're struggling with balancing work and parental and partner responsibilities. Men are often not doing well, but no one is asking them about it.

"A woman at risk for postpartum depression is much more likely to get postpartum depression if she has a depressed partner.

UK ADHD medication shortage causing patients problems

A national shortage of medications used to treat ADHD in the UK is causing difficulties for patients.

The government attributes the shortages to increased global demand and manufacturing issues, alongside growing awareness of ADHD and rising demand for diagnosis and treatment.

The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) has indicated that some supply issues could persist until December.

Many have reported rationing medication by taking doses less frequently than prescribed, while others have said their requests for their next prescription are unable to be filled so they are forced to go unmedicated.

Consultant Psychiatrist Dr Saadia Arshad said that while the shortage of medication is "not a new issue, it is a recurring one."

Suddenly stopping meds can result in patients “feeling jittery, finding it difficult to pay attention, staying focused and feeling restless.”

£1.68m funding announced to research extreme heat impact on mental health in urban communities

The Wellcome Climate Impacts Award will support research led by King's College London aimed at investigating the connection between extreme heat and mental well-being, particularly for individuals with lived experiences of mental health conditions.

This research, funded by the Award, will focus on understanding how extreme hot weather affects mental health in urban environments, using London as a case study.

The project will utilise electronic medical records and smartphone-based mental health data spanning 15 years to analyse the effects of extreme heat on mental health in vulnerable urban communities.

Lead researcher, Professor Andrea Mechelli, said:

“Mental health and climate change are two of the greatest challenges facing our society. Until now these challenges have been discussed and treated separately, and the effects of extreme heat events on mental health are still under-investigated and unrecognised within current policies and practice.

"This is a missed opportunity that we aim to address with the present project. It is time to bring mental health into the climate agenda.”

Mental health charity Mind responds to Conservative party conference announcements

The Conservative party conference happened this week in Manchester, where UK Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, announced the party’s commitments ahead of a General Election in 2024.

Some of these announcements included changing work capability assessments for disabled people, which will push more people into poverty, and more benefits sanctions for people who do not meet all of the welfare system’s rules.

Mind’s Chief Executive, Dr Sarah Hughes, said in response to the Prime Minister’s speech and other announcements while at the conference:

“We welcome the Prime Minister’s commitment to reducing pressure on the NHS, but mental health appears to be missing from his plan, not just his speech. If he is serious about making long-term decisions which prevent people needing to go to hospital, then investment in mental health services needs to be at the heart of his plans. Right now, millions are on waiting lists for mental health treatment, meaning more and more people are unable to get vital help when they first need it. This means more people are reaching crisis point and being admitted to crumbling and inadequately staffed mental health hospitals.

“The Prime Minister emphasised the need to ‘put the next generation first’. We couldn’t agree more. But 1 in 6 young people now having a mental health problem, and waiting lists and lack of access to services and support, this was yet another missed opportunity to back up rhetoric with action.

“Alongside this, the UK Chancellor’s announcements on benefits paint a bleak picture for those of us with mental health problem. Between a pandemic and a cost of living crisis, it is no wonder so many people are struggling with their mental health. People do not choose to become ill. They do not want to need benefits. But this is the reality for people, compounded by decades of underfunding of mental health services.

“This is not the time to punish people with mental health problems, it’s time to invest in a fit for purpose welfare system. There is no evidence that sanctions get people into work, but there is plenty of evidence they harm people’s mental health.

“The UK government is able to provide a welfare system that stops people plunging into poverty when they become unwell and offers the right support. They must change their plans and drop their proposed changes to the Work Capability Assessment.”


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