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Mindfulness may not be effective for young adults

Image of schoolchildren in classroom
Kenny Eliason | Unsplash

News round-up by Conor D'Andrade

Standardised mindfulness training has been found to be ineffective in improving the mental health of young people or teachers in school, according to new research.

The research, carried out over 8 years by the University of Oxford, University of Cambridge, University of Exeter, University College London, Kings College London and Pennsylvania State University, included 28,000 children aged 11-14 and 650 teachers from across 100 schools.

The report found that one in five teenagers will experience mental health problems, with most of these being aged 13-15 with depression.

While mindfulness training was found to be useful for some young people, most did not engage with the training fully, and huge resources were required for the training to be provided adequately.

"Our project, MYRIAD, is the largest of its kind to explore, in detail, whether mindfulness training in schools can improve young people’s mental health," said the researchers. "With early adolescence being an important window of opportunity in terms of preventing mental health problems and promoting well-being, and young people spending much of their waking lives at school, a schools-based programme could be a good way to support young people’s mental health."

The study also found that some groups of young people were more likely to report mental health problems, specifically girls, older teenagers, those living in urban areas, and those living in areas of greatest poverty and deprivation.

The young people participating in the studies reported mixed views of the mindfulness-training curriculum (some rating it highly and others negatively), while 80% did not do the required mindfulness practice homework.

"The findings from MYRIAD confirm the huge burden of mental health challenges that young people face, and the urgent need to find a way to help," added the researchers. "But they also show that the idea of mindfulness doesn’t help – it’s the practice that matters.

"If today’s young people are to be enthused enough to practice mindfulness, then updating training to suit different needs and giving them a say in the approach they prefer are the vital next steps."

New NHS software will help GPs monitor mental health of gun owners

A new digital system developed by NHS Digital will monitor the mental health of gun owners across England following the large volume of mass shootings occurring across the United States.

The system has been rolled out across GP practices in England, being accessible to 98% of practices within its first week.

The software places a digital marker on a patient’s record if they are a gun owner which automatically alerts doctors to certain medical changes, such as the diagnosis of a mental condition.

NHS Digital worked with the British Medical Association (BMA), National Police Chiefs’ Council, and Home Office concerning doctors’ roles in firearms licensing, leading to the development of the system.

“As advocates for their patients and communities, family doctors support the need for scrutiny and proper safeguards when it comes to owning a weapon that can be used with lethal outcomes," said GP and BMA lead for firearms licensing policy, Dr Peter Holden.

“For decades now, the BMA has been pushing for an active flagging system within patients’ records that is robust, clear and standardised across the country, and the new digital marker is a positive step in the right direction of improving the contribution GPs make to the licensing process."

The new scheme will apply only to new applicants or people renewing their licences, and will take up to five years before all licensed gun owners are included in it.

Diagnosis and treatment flaws found in NHS depression services

Researchers have warned that the UK’s mental health system is ‘stagnating’ with ‘substantial and concerning’ gaps in care when treating depression.

The findings come from a study by King’s College London which compared the treatment pathways for major depressive disorder (MDD) available to people in the UK and five other European countries.

It was found that in the UK people waited an average of 8 years after first showing symptoms of MDD before seeking medical help – longer than any other nation included in the study.

An estimated 52% of MDD cases also go undiagnosed in the UK, and of those that are successfully diagnosed, 38% go untreated.

In addition to the difficulties in diagnosis of MDD in the UK, the study also highlighted an average delay of around 4 years between first contacting mental health professionals and receiving appropriate treatment, with only 66% of those receiving follow-up care.

The results have been described by experts as ‘concerning, but sadly not surprising.’

“Many people with symptoms of depression are not able to access or benefit from usual treatments, are not followed up adequately after initial contacts, and cannot access secondary care or specialist services when required," said the researchers.

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