In the Press: ‘Pupils are so distressed that they think the only way out is death’

Teenagers are attempting suicide because they can’t cope with the stress, and that is partly down to the fact that education has become a conveyor belt of expectations, warns one parent

My 18-year-old daughter has just texted me to say that one of her friends has tried to kill herself and my daughter is on her way to the hospital to see her. Earlier this year, another one of her friends killed himself, despite embarking on what was to have been a happy and exciting gap year.

And at the weekend, my son went to visit his friend who had tried to kill herself and is still in a psychiatric hospital, where I hope she is receiving the help she needs. Her sudden absence at school was unexplained and he had been trying to get in touch with her for weeks. Once he found out what had happened, he immediately made arrangements to see her and spend time with her. She is 16.

One family, two children, three friends who reached crisis.

And our family cannot be the exception. I just hope it is not the norm. The pressure on children is immense. The endless testing, the feeling that if you fail your GCSEs your life is over, that if you fail your A levels you are useless, that if you get anything less than a 2:1 you might as well not have bothered going to university. All ratchet up the pressure to achieve, the guilt, the feeling that you should always be working. No wonder teenagers drink themselves to oblivion or take drugs, seeking to escape by other means.

It starts at nursery, the constant comparisons, the measuring of achievement, the target setting. And all fun is sucked out of learning by the time you are 7, very aware of the stress of Sats and the pressure on your teacher. Children pick up signals from their role models. They know the stakes. And then through the rest of primary school, to Year 6, where the school’s reputation is on the line, to GCSEs, on which your future life is said to be riding, and on to A levels, where you are berated for not working hard enough almost as a constant for the two-year duration. The pressure of A-level results day is such that another girl at a nearby school killed herself on the day – before even opening the envelope. And, of course, her achievements were stellar.

Young people in crisis
Urgent action is needed nationwide for change. Change in how we assess children, change in the support available to them, and change in how easy that support is to access. Schools do their best, but recent reports have said that children are waiting up to 18 months to be seen by the NHS for mental health problems. This is too long. A year and a half can be an eternity to a young person who is struggling. And it is an absurdity to a young person in crisis. It should not be a surprise that desperate acts are becoming more common. The key to stopping any destructive behaviour, be it self-harm or self-criticism, is action – and action is what we need now. Young Minds has outlined what the government should include in its forthcoming Green Paper on children’s mental health. The government must listen to the good sense talked by an organisation that works at the front line of children in crisis. And that is the key. These are children. Children who are so distressed that they think the only way out is death.

We must help our teenagers develop resilience, a skin thick enough for them to survive living in the eye of social media, and optimism about their future. In Brexit Britain, where many teenagers feel betrayed, optimism is hard to come by, but social media can serve many purposes, including one of support and camaraderie. I have not met a friend of my children’s who did not look out for their fellow teens and who was not there when needed. Behind every teenage selfie is someone capable of compassion and good sense.

This is not the snowflake generation. This is a generation of children who have had to learn to live in the critical eye of the social network, with the constant comparisons, with the pressure always to be on point. The commodification of education has created a conveyor belt of expectations, and they believe that if you do not meet those then forget it, your life has no value. Play up, play the game, or game over.

Our children are worth more than this and we should value them for what they can bring to the world. The distress some of them live with cannot be ignored – we must acknowledge it and act now to give them the future they deserve.

Karl Ingram is a pseudonym. He is a parent of teenage children in London

Link to the original blog: https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-views/pupils-are-so-distressed-they-think-only-way-out-death

 

Thank you!

A huge thank you for the amazing support for #CheerForGood #HarmlessUK Starbucks campaign so far!

This is part of the #CheerForGood campaign partnership between Neighbourly and Starbucks, supporting local community organisations. There are 120 charities across the UK competing for 2K. The top 30 charities who #Cheer the loudest will win!

For a small charitable organisation (only 16 of us!) this is a HUGE amount of money. For an idea how huge… £25 is the cost of one therapeutic session that could save someone’s life.

To help us win please like, share, post, re tweet, Tweet and comment! Any social media activity on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and  Neighbourly will increase our cheer score!

The more people supporting us the more lives are saved. So if you believe in saving lives please cheer for us!

In the News today: The NSPCC is calling on the Government to shift the focus of children and young people’s mental health services towards early intervention

More than 5,000 children in Derbyshire have been referred to specialist NHS mental health services in the last two years, the NSPCC has revealed.

The NSPCC obtained new figures via a Freedom of Information request to NHS Trusts in England which found the equivalent of 150 children a day from across the country were rejected for treatment between 2015 and 2017.

In Derbyshire, a total of 2,673 cases were referred to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) between 2015 and 2016. Of those, 497 were not accepted for treatment.

Between 2016 and 2017, 2,358 cases in Derbyshire were referred to CAMHS and 376 of these were not accepted for treatment.

However, the information obtained by the NSPCC revealed that all of the cases in Derbyshire which were rejected by CAMHS were referred to other services.

The NSPCC is calling on the Government to shift the focus of children and young people’s mental health services towards early intervention, to ensure that young people’s mental health does not have to reach crisis point before they are able to get help.

On average, children in Derbyshire are waiting around six weeks, or 32 days, to see a specialist after their referral being accepted.

The findings follow news last month that the NSPCC’s Childline delivered a record number of counselling sessions to children reporting suicidal feelings in 2016/17. Mental and emotional health is now the most common reason for a child to contact Childline, with the service carrying out 63,622 counselling sessions in 2016/17.

NSPCC chief executive, said: “It is desperately sad to see so many young people facing distress around mental health issues being forced to wait months for assessment by CAMHS, many of whom are then rejected for treatment altogether. This risks leaving them in limbo while their condition potentially reaches crisis point.

“We recognise the hard work of mental health professionals in trying to help young people get their lives back on track. However, too many children who need help are struggling access support and treatment which can help them to recover. The Government’s upcoming Green Paper on mental health must urgently evaluate the early support systems available to young people to ensure that no child is left to suffer in silence.”

Link to full article here: http://www.derbytelegraph.co.uk/news/local-news/more-5000-derbyshire-children-referred-806965

In the news: The rise of mental health in hip-hop lyrics

Hip-hop is having a watershed moment for mental health. In the last two years, some of the biggest rappers have peeled back the curtain on their personal lives to shine a light on their struggles with mental health issues.

Take Kanye West’s album “The Life of Pablo”, where he mentions both seeing a psychiatrist and taking Lexapro, an antidepressant used to treat depression and anxiety disorders. Or Kid Cudi, who publicly announced he’d checked into rehab for depression and suicidal urges, writing that “anxiety and depression have ruled my life for as long as I can remember and I never leave the house because of it.” Even rap veteran Jay-Z has advocated the importance of therapy in recent months.

In the midst of hip-hop’s dive into mental health awareness, it’s perhaps unsurprising that many mainstream artists have also opened up about practicing meditation. Big Sean, Vic Mensa, Mac Miller, Earl Sweatshirt, J. Cole, and Drake, to name a few, have credited meditation as impacting areas of their lives and creative output. And, of course, Def Jam Recordings label founders Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons attribute much of their success to meditation.

“[T]he person I am was shaped by the experience of the years of meditation,” says Rubin, who produced albums for everyone from Beastie Boys to Kanye. “I feel like I can see deeply into things in a way that many of the people around me don’t, or can’t.”

“Meditation is a guaranteed way to not only dip into, but stay connected with, your creative spirit,” echoes Simmons. “People have this misconception that meditation will chill you out and make you soft, but the opposite is true. I meditate every morning when I wake up and almost the second my session is over I’m eager to tackle whatever is on my plate for that day.”

But perhaps the rap game’s biggest meditation advocate is one that currently holds the title as Greatest Rapper Alive: Kendrick Lamar.

Kendrick has plugged meditation on four (!) of his tracks. Take these lyrics from “untitled 03 | 05.28.2013”:

Meditation is a must, it don’t hurt if you try
See you thinking too much, plus you too full of yourself
Worried about your career, you ever think of your health?

In a 2016 interview for GQ Style, Kendrick elaborates on his meditation routine:

“I have to have at least 30 minutes to myself,” he says. “If it’s not on the daily, every other day, to just sit back, close my eyes, and absorb what’s going on. You know, the space that I’m in [and] how I’m feeling at the moment.”

Kendrick cites the frenetic busyness of his career as a motivator to practice being more present. “When you in music—and everybody knows this—the years are always cut in half, because you always have something to do,” he says. “It just goes and then you miss out on your moment because you’re so in the moment you didn’t know the moment was going on.”

After realizing that music was consuming his thoughts and attention, Kendrick turned to meditation for time and space away from his work: “That 30 minutes helps me to totally zone out and not think about my next lyric. You know? It gives me a re-start, a jump start, a refresh. It lets me know why I’m here, doing what I’m doing.”

Competition is ingrained in hip-hop’s DNA; there’s tremendous pressure to claim the “best rapper alive” throne by breaking the mold on verbal gymnastics, pushing artistic boundaries, and resonating with audiences through culture and emotion. Slap on deadlines from record labels, plus scrutiny and sensationalism from the public eye—it’s a paralyzing weight for anyone to endure.

“There’s a great deal of bullshit that people think about when they make music, things that don’t matter,” Rubin says. “[Meditation] kind of wipes that away, and you focus on the real job at hand, as opposed to thinking about what the management wants, or what the record company’s saying, or what somebody at a radio station might think.”

While the dusty notion that hip-hop is all about cars, money, and clothes may still ring true for certain acts, there’s no denying that the genre has evolved. By unmasking both the stigmas attached to mental health issues and stereotypes about meditation, the rap game is well set up for a healthier and happier road ahead—for artists and fans alike.

Link to full blog here: https://www.headspace.com/blog/2017/10/13/mental-health-hip-hop/

In the news: Police receive new powers to search people with mental health needs

Guidance issued to police will see many new changes in the way police respond to call outs from December 11. Police will now be expected to “keep” individuals at a ‘place of safety’ (including, potentially, their home) rather than move them to hospitals or police station, which what has typically happened to date. 

Police are to receive new powers next month to search people with mental health needs. The new search power allows police officers to search people in distress when section 135 or 136 (‘sectioning’) orders are imposed. Mental Health Today were first last week to reveal 1,000 people vulnerable people were detained in police cells last year. New guidance released by the Department of Health reveals police will now be given the powers to carry out searches for “their own safety”. 

Guidance issued to police today will see many new changes in the way police respond to call outs from December 11 onwards:

• section 136 powers may now be exercised anywhere other than in a private
dwelling

• it is now unlawful to use a police station as a place of safety for anyone under the age of 18 in any circumstances

• a police station can now only be used as a place of safety for adults in specific circumstances, which are set out in regulations

• the previous maximum detention period of up to 72 hours has been reduced to 24 hours (unless a doctor certifies that an extension of up to 12 hours is necessary)

• before exercising a section 136 power police officers must, where practicable, consult one of the health professionals listed in section 136(1C), or in regulations made under that provision

• a person subject to section 135 or 136 can be kept at, as well as removed to, a place of safety. Therefore, where a section 135 warrant has been executed, a person may be kept at their home (if it is a place of safety) for the purposes of an assessment rather than being removed to another place of safety

• a new search power allows police officers to search persons subject to section 135 or 136 powers for protective purposes.

Link to full blog here: https://www.mentalhealthtoday.co.uk/breaking-police-receive-new-powers-to-search-people-with-mental-health-needs

 

 

In the news: The counsellors on the frontline of the student mental health crisis

I am walking through Nottingham’s Arboretum park on a bright cold afternoon with 10 other people, all of us in complete silence. At first I find the whole thing so awkward I have to suppress an embarrassed laugh. But as we make our wordless way through the dappled shade, I feel an atmosphere of calm and thoughtfulness envelop us like a protective cloak.

The others in my group are undergraduate students, chaplains and other staff of Nottingham Trent University (NTU), all taking part in a mindfulness walk, intended to bring some space and quiet reflection into students’ hectic lives. Guided by the chaplains (who speak occasionally), we pause as a group to consider questions in the booklets we have been handed: “who am I?”, “where am I going in my life?” and “what brings me a sense of excitement?” Left to our silence, we note down our answers. Stopping by a rubbish bin, we ask, “What rubbish am I carrying with me in my life?” We tear off our answers and throw them in the bin. It sounds silly, but weeks later I still feel lighter for casting off that scribble on a scrap of paper.

Back in the bustling City Campus of NTU, students and staff weave their way around each other, a mass of hoodies and headscarves, skullcaps and backwards caps, hipster beards and hi-tops. Posters advertise a programme of free yoga, craft classes and eating-disorder information sessions: my visit coincides with Wellbeing Week, designed to raise awareness of mental health and encourage students who need help to seek it. This is just one part of NTU’s strategy to meet a dramatic rise in the need for support.

Last month, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) published a reportrevealing that nationally, the number of first-year students who disclose a mental health problem has risen fivefold in the past decade. A record number of students with mental health problems dropped out of university in 2015, the latest year for which figures are available. In the same year, 134 students killed themselves, the highest number on record. Similarly, the number of UK students seeking counselling has rocketed by 50% in the past five years, to more than 37,000, according to figures obtained by the Guardian. This trend is reflected at NTU: wellbeing services received 38% more referrals last year than in 2014/15.

There are many reasons mental health problems may arise at university. It is a time of transition: people are no longer living in the family home, but not yet fully independent either. Added to this, some might experience the big fish – small pond effect, where teenagers who are used to being recognised for their achievements find themselves in a more competitive yet more anonymous environment. Difficulties that have been repressed throughout school can bubble up when students leave their support network behind. As Glenn Baptiste, a mental health adviser at NTU says, “Sometimes it might look like it’s a problem that’s occurred within university, but that’s not always the case. If students come here with ongoing issues that they’ve not discussed, the university environment can make life difficult.”

Student Services manager Alison Bromberg says the most common mental health problems reported by NTU students are anxiety and depression. Bromberg can see how the challenges young people face today play their part in this rise – the burden of student debt, economic uncertainty, global political upheaval, apocalyptic climate change – “but,” she says, “I also think that a lot of work has happened and is still happening to reduce the stigma around discussing mental health and emotional needs. I think it’s making it more possible for people to come forward and ask for that support.”, global political upheaval, economic uncertainty, student debt

 

Rosie Tressler, CEO of student mental health charity Student Minds, tells me, “The 2016 Student Academic Experience Survey provided strong evidence that [undergraduates] have lower levels of wellbeing than the rest of the population, with roughly one-third reporting psychological distress, and we know that the median age of higher education students overlaps the peak age of onset for mental health difficulties.” In other words, evidence suggests many people with mental health disorders first experience symptoms between the ages of 18 and 25.

 

When I asked students around the country about their experiences of mental health, they talked about stressful deadlines, difficulties forming new relationships, balancing a job with studies, financial worries and social pressures. They also painted a picture of patchy provision: while some received prompt and effective help, others described underfunded services, excruciatingly long waiting times and dismissive attitudes. One student talked about desperately trying to get a counselling appointment when booking opened at 9am, only to find that all the slots had gone when she got through at 9.03am. A final-year student at another university wrote that she is experiencing increasing anxiety and can’t get help: “A good counsellor I saw in my first year has left, and they are not recruiting any more, so there are lots of students chasing very few appointments. They refer you on or offer leaflets. It seems very inadequate.”

Alex, 21, was a student at a Midlands university when she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, anxiety and severe depression. She says services are able to deal only with the most seriously distressed students: “Because of the strain on the service, if you weren’t suicidal at the current time, you weren’t helped. You had to be five minutes from death or you had to wait weeks. You had to be at your worst.”

The counselling she was eventually offered was helpful, but she felt the eight-week wait was too long and the six weeks it lasted too short. For long-term therapy on the NHS, she was told she needed to wait a year, by which time she would have graduated and moved home. “So it’s kind of pointless,” she says. For others, such as George Watkins, 21, who is at Cardiff and has had anxiety and depression for eight years, the experience has been more positive: “It is since coming to university that I have made the most progress. I came off the crippling medication, came through suicidal patches and have now come more or less out the other side.” After having a breakdown around the time of his GCSEs, Watkins didn’t leave his house for six months, and then didn’t leave his small town in Dorset for three years.

At NTU, Alison Bromberg still thinks there is cause to feel optimistic about the future. “I do. I actually do. It feels as if we’re embracing a much more holistic framework across the sector.” She cites proposed changes to the university curriculum, such as creating course content for all students on subjects such as coping with change and understanding stress and anxiety. “We’ve got to make sure mental health becomes everybody’s business. That’s the journey we’re on. And I think we’ve come a long way.” 

Click here for link to the full article: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/oct/28/campus-confidential-counsellors-student-mental-health-crisis

 

In the news: Recognising that mind and body are not separate opens door for new treatments

Descartes’s notion of dualism – that the mind and body are separate entities – is wrong, but has proved surprisingly persistent, and until recently dominated attempts to understand mental illness. When the brain stopped working properly, a psychological origin was sought. Undoubtedly, life’s experiences and our personalities shape the way our brains function. But there is now a compelling body of evidence that brain disorders can also originate from things going awry in our basic biology. Particularly intriguing is the discovery that the brain, once thought to be separated from the immune system by the blood-brain barrier, is powerfully influenced by immune activity.

The latest trial, focused on schizophrenia, is backed by converging evidence from several fields that immune cells in the brain, called microglia, play at least some role in this disease. Prof Oliver Howes, the psychiatrist leading the work, discovered that these cells appear to go into overdrive in the early stages of schizophrenia. Genetics studies have linked changes in immune system genes to increased risk for schizophrenia and anecdotal evidence, including a recent case report of a patient who developed schizophrenia after receiving a bone marrow transplant from a sibling with the illness, also triangulates on to the immune system. “It’s all challenging the idea that the brain is this separate privileged organ,”said Howes.

Schizophrenia is not a special case. Scientists are showing that immune activity may play a role in a broad spectrum of mental disorders, ranging from depression to dementia.

People with diabetes, an auto-immune disease, are 65% more likely to develop dementia, according to a 2015 study. Other research has found that Alzheimer’s patients who suffered regular infections, such as coughs and colds, had a fourfold greater decline in memory tests during a six-month period compared with patients with the lowest infection levels. And there is tentative evidence that some patients with treatment resistant depression may benefit from antibody treatments. Perhaps most striking has been the discovery of an entire network of vessels beneath the skull, linking the brain and the immune system, that had surprisingly been overlooked until very recently.

“It has been a fundamental problem that the brain and mind have been seen as somehow separate entities, and that physical and mental healthcare are separate,” said Belinda Lennox, senior clinical lecturer in psychiatry at the University of Oxford. “It has denied the psychological factors that play a vital part in all medical disorders, just as much as it has denied the importance of the biological factors in mental illness.”

Whether the latest trial will yield a successful treatment is difficult to predict and the psychiatry’s record warns against premature optimism. However, recognising that biological factors, such as the immune system, can have a powerful influence on the brain and sometimes explain why things go wrong, will be essential to finding new and better treatments.

Link to full blog here: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/nov/03/recognising-that-mind-and-body-are-not-separate-opens-door-for-new-treatments-schizophrenia

 

JAY-Z Stresses Importance of Mental Health Awareness

Following the death of Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington, JAY-Z has urged fans to tackle mental health issues head-on.

The 99 Problems hit maker got to know Chester and his Linkin Park bandmates during the recording of their 2004 mash-ups album Collision Course, and he was saddened to hear of the singer’s suicide last month, just weeks after the tragic loss of his close pal Chris Cornell.

JAY-Z, who recently paid tribute to the rocker at his V Festival show in the U.K., touched on the topic during the second part of his Rap Radar podcast interview, which was released on his Tidal streaming service on Friday (Aug 25).

“Not only do we have to watch our physical health and what we’re doing with our bodies, but also mental health,” he said. “A lot of people go through trauma and you’re too embarrassed to get help for it…

“A lot of times, we tend to be like, ‘They were selfish. It’s like, no they weren’t; they’re sick, they’re in pain. I can’t even imagine that kind of pain, especially unchecked. We’re not dealing with that because it’s not the cool thing to do.”

He continued: “I think that we can use it and hopefully, as a society, we use that to go forward. People can start getting help for what they’re going through, talk to somebody…”

“These losses could be lessons. Someone somewhere could be looking at Chester and be like, ‘Man, I wasn’t feeling so good and I need to get some help or I need to talk to somebody about it.'”

If you would like support or information, please do not hesitate to contact us at info@harmless.org.uk.

Harmless appear in national news

Harmless have appeared in numerous news stories surrounding the sharp rise in recent reported cases of self harm in young girls aged 13-16.

A few of our clients and our CEO, Caroline Harroe, have taken part in various national news stories around this recent statistic.

Yesterday we filmed a piece for Sky News which has featured on the Sky News channel and online at various times throughout today.

You can watch this news story at this link: http://news.sky.com/video/girls-self-harming-more-due-to-social-media-11087600

We have also been filming today for ITV national news which was broadcast on today’s lunchtime news bulletin. This story will also feature on ITV Central News at 6pm this evening. Make sure you tune in!

In the News: Police dealing with record level of phone calls on mental health

Britain’s biggest police force received a phone call relating to mental health every five minutes last year, an escalating level of demand caused by NHS services struggling to cope.

The number of calls handled by the Metropolitan police in which someone was concerned about a person’s mental health hit a record 115,000 in the last year: on average 315 a day, or about 13 an hour.

Volumes have grown by nearly a third since 2011-12, according to data released under freedom of information legislation, and officers fear the demand for help from the public will continue to increase.

One senior police officer told the Guardian a reduction in the ability to cope of NHS mental health services was a key factor in the rise in mental health calls to the police, and it was a national trend.

Insp Michael Brown, mental health coordinator for the College of Policing, said police had become better at recording such calls but this could not account for the big rise.

“We know there is more demand on NHS mental health services and their funding has been cut,” he said.

Commander Richard Smith, head of safeguarding at the Met, said: “Based on current trends, section 136 demand is set to double in London in the next 10 years as it’s increasing by approximately 10% each year.”

Smith added: “The issues we deal with include those with mental ill health who are involved in crime as victims or suspects as well as people who are in crisis in their home or in a public place.”

Nationally, police believe a significant number of those about whom they get calls are already under the care of NHS mental health services, or have been, which is beginning to have an effect on policing.

In West Yorkshire, mental health nurses are being employed in two custody suites to help with people brought in by officers. The force says the mental health incidents it deals with every month have risen to 1,300, up from 850 two years ago.

Brown added that so called “street triage projects” across Britain, where calls are attended by a mental health expert and a police officer, showed that in the majority of cases, police were not needed to resolve the problem.

In Lincolnshire, mental health nurses will now work in the police control room to give clinical advice to police dealing with callers.

The Met figures were obtained by the Labour party under freedom of information legislation. The full figures show that in the 12 months up to 20 July 2017, the Met received 115,000 calls flagged up on its systems as regarding mental health, up 33% on the volume of calls received in 2011-12.

Louise Haigh, the shadow police minister, said: “The dismantling of vital early intervention services forces those with mental health issues on to lengthy waiting lists.

“In desperation or in crisis, they will turn to the police, who are acting as the service of last resort, a role they are wholly unequipped for.

“While facing a savage cut in numbers, the police are increasingly being asked to pick up the pieces of a scandalous lack of mental health provision. Incidents involving mental health are at record highs as police resilience reaches rock bottom.

“The result is genuinely frightening and these figures should act as a wake-up call for the government.”

A Department of Health spokesperson said: “Everyone should be able to access the mental health support they need. We have made major improvements in recent years, including setting up the first ever access and waiting standards for mental health and increasing mental health spending year on year to a record £11.6 billion in 2016/17.

For the full article: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/aug/28/police-phone-calls-mental-health-nhs