Matt Haig: ‘There is no more shame in mental illness than having tonsilitis’

In our series marking the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, the writer says it is time to integrate mental and physical health

The problem we have with talking about mental health is that we still don’t think of it as an equal priority with physical health. This is wrong not simply because it leads to less money being spent on mental health service provision by governments, but also because it fails to see that the whole idea of mental health shouldn’t be an isolated one.

As a species, we love to divide things up. We draw a straight line in a map between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans while the water remains oblivious. We also draw a line between the mental and physical and base our entire system of healthcare on that false division.

Related: NHS bosses warn of mental health crisis with long waits for treatment

You can’t draw a line between a body and a mind any more than you can draw a line between oceans

Continue reading…

Care failings contributed to death of woman in prison, inquest finds

Concerns raised about suicide monitoring and mental health at inquest into death of Sarah Reed who took her life in Holloway

A jury at the inquest of Sarah Reed, a mentally ill prisoner at HMP Holloway who took her life at the jail last year, has identified serious shortcomings in her care.

Reed was in prison awaiting medical reports about whether she was mentally fit to plead after being charged with assaulting a nurse in a secure psychiatric unit. The reports found she was unfit to plead, but Reed killed herself three days before they were due to be completed.

Continue reading…

I’m a paramedic who has considered suicide and I’m not getting support

Yes we do a traumatic job but what makes it worse is a harmful management culture

When I was 15, a teacher found me during lunch break and asked if she could have a word. Confused, as I was generally well behaved, I followed her to the office. I was told that a close friend of mine had been found by his parents that morning hanging in his bedroom. He was in intensive care at the local hospital but his family had been asked to prepare for the possibility that he would die shortly. Growing up, the ideas of major depressive illnesses, self-harm and suicide were almost entirely foreign to me.

People often ask whether this was what motivated me to enter healthcare at 17 and eventually land in my current position as a paramedic by 20. Frankly, I don’t know. What I do know, though, is that while suicide was a foreign concept to me at 15, it certainly isn’t now.

Related: Paramedic stress: ‘We’re micro-managed by people checking response times’

Continue reading…

Call for tighter checks on private hospitals used by NHS after MRSA case

Labour MP Louise Haigh cites case of young patient who contracted infection while on mental health ward in Sheffield

Theresa May has been urged to tighten checks on private hospitals used by the NHS after a Labour MP raised the case of a young patient with an open wound who contracted MRSA on a private mental health ward.

Louise Haigh, a Labour frontbencher, called for the NHS to thoroughly investigate the quality of care before it commissions beds and treatment from private providers.

Continue reading…

Lifestyle changes could prevent a third of dementia cases, report suggests

Researchers admit prevention estimate is a ‘best-case scenario’, but stress that action can be taken to reduce dementia risk

More than a third of dementia cases might be avoided by tackling aspects of lifestyle including education, exercise, blood pressure and hearing, a new report suggests.

Approximately 45 million people worldwide were thought to be living with dementia in 2015, at an estimated cost of $818bn.

Related: Drop in dementia rates suggests disease can be prevented, researchers say

Related: Hearing loss could pose greater risk of potential dementia in later life – study

Continue reading…

Half of pupils expelled from school have mental health issue, study finds

IPPR thinktank says permanently excluded children in England face significant disadvantage because of ‘broken system’

Half of all pupils expelled from school are suffering from a recognised mental health problem, according to a study.

Those who are permanently excluded find themselves at a significant disadvantage, with only one in a hundred going on to attain five good GCSEs, which are often used as a benchmark of academic success.

Related: Can a new technique stem England’s rising tide of school exclusions?

Continue reading…

Thousands of mental health patients spend years on secure wards

Critics condemn ‘Victorian approach’ to treatment after NHS watchdog reveals 3,500 patients are kept locked in

Thousands of mental health patients are being kept in secure wards for years at a time when they should be being rehabilitated and preparing to leave hospital, a NHS watchdog has revealed.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) criticised both NHS and for-profit mental health providers for forcing such a large number of patients to endure what it called “outdated and sometimes institutionalised care”, often miles from home. The practice leaves already vulnerable patients feeling isolated and less likely to recover, the CQC warned.

Honestly think we’ll look back on the mental health long term out-of-area problem as an early 21st century version of the Victorian approach

Continue reading…

Prison crisis causing violence and death | Letters

Prof Pamela Taylor on mental health problems and Prof Mike Stein on the tough-on-crime youth policy

Our prison system is in crisis and is causing suffering (Editorial, 19 July). Suicide, other deaths, self-harm and violence in prisons are rising; even purpose-designed protective procedures are failing, according to the HM Inspectorate of Prisons’ report. This affects prison staff and wider society as well as prisoners. Mental disorder is common among prisoners, but even experienced clinicians cannot deliver services when, as this report highlights, they cannot reach prisoners. Some have told us they chose to leave posts rather than offer inadequate treatment. Our last government’s prisons and courts bill, to improve prison safety and effectiveness, was dropped after this year’s snap election. What is this government’s alternative?

Prison numbers – the highest in western Europe – must be reduced. The Criminal Justice Act 2003 requires courts to obtain and consider a medical report on a defendant who appears to be mentally disordered before passing a custodial sentence. But court disposals under mental health legislation are falling and the number of offenders who received a community sentence with a mental health treatment requirement has halved since 2007. Community resources must be sufficient to support optimal sentencing.
Professor Pamela Taylor
Chair of the forensic psychiatry faculty, Royal College of Psychiatrists

Continue reading…

Arts can help recovery from illness and keep people well, report says

All-party inquiry demonstrates benefits to health and wellbeing of the arts, leading to fall in hospital admissions

GPs prescribing arts activities to some patients could lead to a dramatic fall in hospital admissions and save the NHS money, according to a report into the subject of arts, health and wellbeing published after two years of evidence gathering.

The report, published on Wednesday, includes hundreds of interviews and dozens of case studies showing how powerfully the arts can promote health and wellbeing.

Continue reading…

Rise in children seeking mental health support after terror attacks

Royal College of Psychiatrists says number being treated in Manchester and London has spiked since recent attacks

The number of children and young people seeking help from mental health services has spiked in the wake of recent terrorist attacks in England, according to the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCP).

Hospitals across the Manchester region have seen an estimated 10% increase in children seeking help since a bomb ripped through the Manchester Arena on 22 May, killing 22 people, according to the RCP. Mental health experts in Greater Manchester hospitals received hundreds more patients from June to July compared with previous months.

Continue reading…

Music and poetry aren’t luxuries: they literally saved my life | Sam Walker

Doctors and healthcare professionals need to listen to young people and open up to the health and wellbeing benefits that the arts can bring

I’ve suffered from severe anxiety and depression since the age of 20. I tried again and again with many approaches to fight back against mental illness: therapy and exercise; cognitive behavioural therapy; medication; trying to be more open with the people closest to me. All of these things helped in different ways but they didn’t completely fix me.

Towards the end of my 20s I couldn’t cope. On numerous occasions I fantasised about taking my own life. I was in a lot of pain but it was a pain that nobody else could see, so it didn’t feel justifiable to me. It didn’t feel like it should have been there.

Related: ‘Just go for a run’: testing everyday advice for my depression | Martha Mills

Related: A moment that changed me: listening to, rather than trying to fix, my suicidal wife | Mark Lukach

Continue reading…

We are told we are a burden. Legalising assisted suicide would further devalue our lives | Jamie Hale

As someone who relies extensively on social and medical care I understand Noel Conway’s fears, but our welfare should not be seen as a luxury

• Jamie Hale is a poet and disabled activist

Noel Conway’s challenge to the 1961 Suicide Act goes before the high court this week. His argument is that the UK’s ban on assisted suicide breaches the right to a private life under the Human Rights Act – and his aim is to have it legalised for terminally ill people who have less than six months to live.

As someone who relies extensively on social and medical care, I have great empathy for his fear of losing dignity, and the desire to avoid suffering or a drawn-out death. However, legalising assisted suicide is a dangerous way of achieving those goals.

Related: Suicide Act breaches human right to dignity, high court told

Related: Assisted dying: what can the UK learn from places where it is legal?

Continue reading…

Hearing loss could pose greater risk of potential dementia in later life – study

Auditory issues could be an early sign of future risk of memory and thinking problems but more research is required to unpick the link, researchers say

People who experience hearing loss could be at greater risk of memory and thinking problems later in life than those without auditory issues, research suggests.

The study focused on people who were at risk of Alzheimer’s disease, revealing that those who were diagnosed with hearing loss had a higher risk of “mild cognitive impairment” four years later.

Continue reading…

Stressful experiences can age brain ‘by years’, Alzheimer’s experts hear

Child’s death, divorce or job loss linked to poorer cognition in later life, study finds, with African Americans more susceptible

Stressful life experiences can age the brain by several years, new research suggests. Experts led by a team from Wisconsin University’s school of medicine and public health in the US found that even one major stressful event early in life may have an impact on later brain health.

The team examined data for 1,320 people who reported stressful experiences over their lifetime and underwent tests in areas such as thinking and memory. The subjects’ average age was 58 and included 1,232 white Americans and 82 African Americans. A series of neuropsychological tests examined several areas, including four memory scores (immediate memory, verbal learning and memory, visual learning and memory, and story recall).

Related: Poor quality sleep could increase Alzheimer’s risk, research suggests

Related: Dementia and Alzheimer’s leading cause of death in England and Wales

Continue reading…

Art can be a powerful medicine against dementia | Nicci Gerrard

The co-founder of John’s Campaign on a new parliamentary report that confirms the profoundly beneficial role of the arts in helping people with dementia

A few weeks ago, turning on the radio, I hear a voice saying that creative writing can help wounds heal faster. Startled, I turn the volume up. Volunteers were given small wounds; half were then asked to write about something distressing in their life, the other half about something mundane. The wounds of the confessional writers healed substantially more quickly. A thought or a feeling is felt on the skin. Our minds, which have power over our bodies, are in our bodies and are our bodies: we cannot separate the two. Words, self-expression, can tangibly help pain and suffering. Art can be medicine, for body and soul.

Over and over again, I am reminded of the transformative power of art. Answering the phone, I hear a deep and husky voice: “Doe, a deer, a female deer.” My mother, 85, frail, registered blind, bashed about by cancer and several strokes, is having singing lessons. At school, she was made to mouth the words of songs and she never sang again until now. Eighty years after being told she was tone deaf, her voice is being released. “Me, a name I call myself…”

Dementia can look like solitary confinement – and solitary confinement is a torture that drives most people mad

Related: Care homes can be lonely and cruel places. But they can also be inspiring too

Continue reading…