Mental health is increasingly on the agenda for policy makers and health practitioners, but one group of society seems to be at an ever increasing risk of developing mental health problems, students.
University Mental Health Day provides an opportunity to reflect on action being taken up and down the country, to tackle the issue, and with some universities experiencing as many as 11 student suicides in 2 years, today’s day of awareness may be an apt time to consider if enough is being done to protect vulnerable university students.
This year’s University Mental Health Day campaign is focused on highlighting the power of using your voice. Whilst the stigma around mental health is beginning to be addressed, students still report finding it difficult to ask for help. While the number of students seeking support with mental health has increased by more than 27,000 in five years, the numbers of students who actually receive timely help from their universities in unknown, with many students recalling long waiting lists and significant delays.
Alerting parents or guardians can be difficult for those struggling with mental health, but a new scheme launched by the University of Bristol aims to tackle this, by introducing an opt-in scheme to students. Allowing them to authorise a member of staff to contact a chosen next of kin, in the event of a serious health issue. The scheme has had a positive initial response, with thousands of students signing up, suggesting both its popularity, and student’s desire to see a need met. But with academic staff taking on a bigger role in the wellbeing of students, ensuring they are fully training, and supported, is paramount.
With nearly 150 university students in the UK committing suicide in 2016, it’s clear that the support isn’t quite right, however acknowledging that change is needed is just the first step, and campaigns like University Mental Health Day, can hopefully go some way to increasing awareness and improving support.
If you’d like to find out more, why not take our Mental Health training course, which covers everything from symptoms and causes, to treatments.
The loneliness epidemic has already begun, but is the UK sufficiently prepared to deal with it?
With the first ever Minister for Loneliness in the world, being appointed in the UK in February, are we starting to make strides in the right direction?
It was announced recently that GPs will now be able, and encouraged to, participate in social prescribing. A social prescription may include dancing, gardening, or knitting classes – social activities, and the NHS will be able to link patients up with social groups undertaking activities such as cookery. Theresa May announced the new strategy by highlighting that an estimated 200,000 elderly people haven’t had a conversation with friends or family in the past month. In light of this, the government announced £1.8 million in funding for community projects. To support the new strategy, the government is also introducing a trail scheme taking place in Liverpool, Whitby and New Malden, where, in partnership with the Royal Mail, postal staff will check in on the most vulnerable and isolated on their rounds.
Whilst all of these initiatives are a positive change, should we be asking big businesses to do more for their employees? In response to Tracey Crouch’s (Minister for Loneliness) new strategy a group of companies, such as Sainsbury’s and the Civil Service, have promised to do more to support their staff. But the question remains, will others follow suit, and do small businesses have the tools necessary to implement the appropriate support measures?
The sobering element of the new approach to tackling loneliness, is the legacy of Labour MP Jo Cox, who placed social justice high on her agenda. May specifically addressed her legacy by highlighting her work ‘Jo Cox was absolutely right to highlight the critical importance of this growing social injustice’ going on to say that it is ‘one of the greatest public health challenges of our time’.
Age UK estimates that there are around 1.2 million persistently lonely older people in the UK, and this figure doesn’t include younger individuals, who, reports suggests, are increasingly feeling the effects of loneliness. This problem is one that evidently needs addressing, but will relatively small scale measures, such as going to a social class, really help address the bigger issue?
As our society continues to change and develop, and younger generations move away from older relatives, are we treating the symptoms and not the problem? And if so, how do we build community relations in a time of increasing distance? How do we end the loneliness epidemic?
With half of all women predicted to develop dementia, are we doing enough to improve the lives of those living with this degenerative disease? Music and dementia may seem an unlikely combination, but it can have a dramatic effect.
A dementia diagnosis can be a scary thing. With limited options for those who require care, what can innovative research do for sufferers? With new research emerging from the Netherlands indicating that almost half of women and a third of men will develop dementia in their lifetimes, are we really doing enough to improve quality of life and maximise wellbeing?
It has long been suspected that music can rouse old memories and has the power to bring people together. But the ability of music to enhance quality of life, is something that only beginning to be studied in earnest.
The National Institutes of Health, in conjunction with the Kennedy Centre, have launched an initiative to examine the link between music and health to a greater degree. Georgetown Lombardi hospital in America, already holds music therapy sessions for patients. Whilst the anecdotal evidence for the positive effects of music as a therapy are building up, the aim is to start to build solid scientific research to enable people to make the right decisions about music and care.
When it comes specifically to dementia care, evidence already exists to suggest the serious positive benefits of incorporating music into the lives, and care, of dementia sufferers. Peter Edwards, from Singing for the Brain, Alzheimer’s Society, describes the effects of the choir sessions held in Croydon as ‘seeing people come back to life’. Music and dementia really do seem to be good partners.
But with such visible effects on wellbeing, why is it that only 5% of care homes currently have a ‘good quality’ music programme? Why are music and dementia not paired more often? Research shows that just listening to music, not even participating, can have a great positive impact. If it’s as simple as popping on a song, why isn’t there already greater provision for music in care homes?
In September, the International Longevity Centre delivered a report to the House of Lords suggesting that more needs to be done in order to provide better music provision and a national framework for its’ delivery needs to be established.
But what will this mean in terms of practical delivery for carers? Suggestions range from choirs to music making sessions, to live performances by a pianist or violinist for example, all the way to simply putting a CD on, or singing with family or friends. When something so simple as music can so significantly enhance the lives of dementia sufferers, what’s holding us back from implementing positive change?
The figures above come from a report published by the independent think-tank, the Education Policy Institute (EPI)
One clear knock-on effect is that teachers are increasingly being called on to care for young people in extreme distress. In many cases, they are being forced to do so without adequate training to back them up.
The Government’s 2018 Teacher Voice Omnibus Survey revealed that over 40% of teachers believed they lacked sufficient training to identify mental health issues in pupils. Two-thirds did not know how to help pupils access specialist support outside the school.
On average, three children in every classroom throughout the UK have a diagnosable mental health condition.
Despite the Department of Heath ploughing an extra £1,4 billion into children’s mental health, 24% of the Local Authorities who responded to the EPI admitted to having scrapped services related to the mental health and wellbeing of children over the last eight years.
This is why online training courses such as the Certificate in Mental Health & Wellbeing in Children & Young People are so valuable. It gives the knowledge teachers need in a time-saving format they can take whenever they want. And it is currently being offered at half price for World Mental Health Day.
According to Jo Hutchinson, EPI’s director of social mobility and vulnerable learners; “While we have seen a reduction in some of the longest waiting times, many children still face a lengthy period of time before they can receive any specialist treatment and the number of referrals into these stretched services is rising.”
Looking at some of the reasons given for rejections of mental health referrals seem alarming to the untrained eye –
Paul Whiteman, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said teachers were having to re-refer many children who were turned down.
Teachers need to be able to recognise the early stages of mental health conditions and act accordingly. Not only does early intervention dramatically improve mental health outcomes, a focus on emotional and mental wellbeing can help children to develop greater emotional resilience and a positive sense of self.
Wednesday 10th October is World Mental Health Day and this year’s theme is Young People and Mental Health in a Changing World.
Now is the time for all teaching staff to be supported and trained so they can understand the types of mental health conditions that they could come across and become confident that they can provide the mental health first aid their pupils need
With obesity quickly becoming the number one risk factor for cancer, is it time we start thinking about the bigger picture? Today you’d be hard-pushed to find a person who doesn’t know somebody whose life has been affected by cancer. So why are we ignoring the links between our lifestyles and our physical condition? Is it so hard to accept the link between obesity and cancer?
With one in five children being obese by the time they’re 11, and 61% of British adults being classed as overweight, perhaps we should be considering what we put into our bodies more seriously.
Nutrition is a hot topic, and for many people the expensive diets and trendy ‘health kicks’ are a luxury afforded to the rich and famous, not the time poor on a budget. But it’s not just for this reason that a 10-a-day principle seems expensive and unachievable. With our diets increasingly consisting of beige carbohydrates, is it any wonder that most of us don’t know where to start?
But why do we treat nutrition in isolation? The evidence is stacking up, and it’s increasingly pointing to how what we consume, not only affects our waistlines, but also our physical and mental wellbeing. These compelling links are suggesting that what we eat, and the diseases we might experience in later life, are perhaps inextricably linked.
But how do we even start to change this? Perhaps the key is education. While many individuals are attempting to take responsibility for their own diets, we may need to give people the tools to succeed. Maybe in order to see real, lasting change, we have to start further up, by implementing effective policy. Perhaps education is our best way forwards in tackling this issue.
The broader picture of the obesity epidemic is the long term effect that is has on the healthcare system and its ability to finance facilities.
Whilst it is important to acknowledge the difficulty of a lifestyle change, we must also be careful not to underestimate the cost of neglecting our nutrition. Are we consciously aware of how the decisions that we make every day affect both our long term, and short term, health? Are we paying sufficient attention to the link between obesity and cancer?
With all the public health issues that the UK might face in the coming decades, is our lack of nutritional understanding one of the biggest concerns of our generation?
If you want to learn more about Nutrition, why not take our Nutrition and Hydration course!
With the #itsokaynottobeokay campaign sweeping social media, is it a sign that we’re finally starting to break the mental health taboo?
The biggest cause of death in men under 45 in the UK is suicide; and a quarter of us experience mental health problems in any given year. Perhaps it’s time we really got to grips with this epidemic.
While there are numerous charities that deal directly with mental health and offer support to those who need it, will it take implementation of effective policy at a national level, for the UK to start seeing real change?
The NHS aims to ‘transform mental health services’ by 2020 and by that time wants mental health to be considered equal to physical health, but what are the current plans and what policy changes can we expect to see in the future?
In December 2017, the Department for Education and the Department for Health and Social Care launched a green paper on mental health provision. It outlined their approach to improve the mental health facilities available to young people. It included proposals such as: ensuring schools have a designated individual responsible for the school’s mental health care provision, reducing waiting times for treatment, setting up a national partnership to improve mental health services, as well as aiming to improve society’s understanding of mental health.
These are all welcome changes, but the question is how do we really go about improving society’s understanding of mental health in a matter of years? Education is often seen as a key way to improve national awareness. Be it through national campaigns such as the It’s Okay campaign by Scottish charity See Me (which aims to let people know it’s okay to experience a range of emotions, as well as to talk about them), or through informal information session in schools and in the workplace.
With a reported two in three adults in the UK having suffered with mental health problems in their lifetime, we should continue to ask, are we taking the rights steps to end mental health stigma, but perhaps more pressingly, are we improving the mental wellbeing of our society?
This is the first part of a short series of articles focusing on mental wellbeing.
With an estimated 1 in 4 people exeriencing a mental health problem in any given year, it is perhaps unsurprising that our mental wellbeing is gaining increasing focus within the media. However, what is becoming particularly apparent is the role that those around us can play in supporting our mental health. With a recent study commissioned by the charity, Business in the Community, reporting that three in five employees have experienced mental health issues in the last year as a consequence of work, the important role that employers can play in improving mental wellbeing is becoming increasingly clear.
Research conducted by the mental wellbeing charity Mind has consistently reported a positive correlation between how meaningful employees believe that their work is, as well as how valued and supported they feel, and how high they report their levels of wellbeing to be. This extends to how committed employees feel to their organisation’s goals, and most importantly, to their overall performance and productivity levels. The charity also found that 60% of employees believe they would feel more motivated, and be more likely to recommend their organisation as a good place to work, if their employer took action to support mental wellbeing. These findings all demonstrate the link between the mental wellbeing of an organisation’s employees and the levels of productivity, and ultimately profits, that they produce.
With the important role that employees’ good mental health plays in workplace productivity levels being highlighted, the question becomes how can employers manage and promote wellbeing in the workplace? One way to do this is through implementing a campaign to encourage all staff to take lunch breaks, to work healthy hours and to make use of their annual leave. These simple actions allow employees to temporarily switch off from the stresses of work and can have a big positive impact on their wellbeing. It can also be beneficial for leaders to establish a culture of openness. This can make it easier for employers to monitor their employees’ wellbeing and support them in their role.
Implementing and maintaining a good ethical process within an organisation can help employers monitor their employees’ mental wellbeing and ensure that they are
This is the second part of a short series on mental wellbeing.
10th August 2018