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January 2011



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First Published Tuesday, 14 April 2009

New Horizons

Article Date: 14 Apr 2009

The millions of people who suffer from or might face mental illness at some point in their lives will be the focus of a new strategy, Care Services Minister Phil Hope announced today. “New Horizons” is a new strategy that will promote good mental health and well-being, whilst improving services for people who have mental health problems. It will build on the National Service Framework for mental health – widely acknowledged as the catalyst for a transformation in mental health care over the last ten years – which comes to an end in 2009.

A series of New Horizons ‘listening events’ starts this month hosted by Phil Hope and Louis Appleby, National Director for Mental Health. They will seek views on what the new Strategy should cover from a wide range of people. The Strategy is expected later this year.

New Horizons recognises that:

– Around one in four people will suffer from a form of mental illness at some point in their lives.

– One sixth of the population suffers from a common mental health problem at any time.

– 1 in 100 people suffers from a serious mental illness such as psychosis. – More than 1.3 million older people suffer from depression or other mental illness.

– 6 million people in Britain have depression and/or anxiety disorders – few get effective treatment.

– One in ten mothers suffers from post-natal depression.

New Horizons heralds a dynamic new approach to whole population mental health. The focus on prevention and maintaining good mental health is particularly relevant today with people leading more hectic lifestyles and going through the economic downturn.

Phil Hope said:

“Mental illness affects us all. Whether it is ourselves, a family member or a friend, lots of us will experience a mental health problem at some point in our lives.

“Over the past ten years we’ve made great strides in transforming the way mental health is dealt with. But we need to do more. I’m particularly interested in looking at how we can help people to look after their mental health and prevent them from becoming ill. And I’m keen to tackle the stigma that’s associated with it – this isn’t something we can shy away from, mental ill health is as serious as physical illnesses such as heart disease and cancer.

“Individuals, employers and all sorts of organisations have a role to play in helping to achieve good mental health for all. So, we’re going around the country to hear people’s views and hope to publish our new vision later this year. My ambition is to create a strategy that will improve services and promote public mental health and wellbeing for years to come.”

Simon Lawton-Smith, Head of Policy at the Mental Health Foundation, said:

“We strongly support this new focus on whole population mental health. Mental ill health is one of the biggest challenges currently facing the UK. Good mental health should be an achievable goal for everyone and mental health promotion needs to take its rightful place at the centre of public health efforts.

“A strategy that encourages people to protect themselves against mental illnesses like depression and anxiety will be of immense benefit. Mental ill health not only causes untold personal suffering and distress, but also affects people’s relationships, ability to work, family life. It can lead to a range of physical health problems.

“Both the consultation and the final strategy must address the needs of those who experience disproportionately high levels of mental ill health including older people, those living in poverty and people from black and minority ethnic communities.”

Many services are already in place, which aren’t normally considered as mental health services, but which could help promote public mental health and wellbeing and prevent future problems. It is these types of services that New Horizons could help promote. Examples include:

– Mother and toddler groups
– School health initiatives that promote self-respect or better relationships.
– Older people’s lunch clubs
– Community arts projects – there is evidence that improving the built environment is good for mental health and well-being.
– Reading initiatives which improve literacy, social skills and self-esteem. An example is the “Get into reading” project in the Northwest.
– Inner-city sports projects which promote team work, self-respect and physical health.

New Horizons ‘Listening Events’ are currently planned as below. Formal consultation on New Horizons is also planned, following these events.

April 22 – London
April 29 – Yorkshire
April 30 – South Central
May 12 – West Midlands
May 15 – East of England (tbc)
May 22 – East Midlands
June 2 – South East Coast (tbc)
June 10 – South West

Over the past ten years, the Government has put in place measures to protect people’s mental health. Measures include:

– More money: Since 2001-02, real terms investment in adult mental health services increased by 44 per cent (or £1.7 billion) putting in place the services and staff needed to transform mental health services. The NHS spent £5.53 billion on these services in 2007-08 (£3.844 billion in 2001-02).

– More patients helped: In the year 2007/08, crisis resolution teams provided over 106,000 episodes of home treatment for patients who would otherwise have been admitted to hospital.

– Improved safety: In 2006/7, the Government made available £130 million capital for improvements in the environment, including safety, on psychiatric intensive care units and adult acute mental health wards. This included £30 million targeted at acute wards for improvements in safety particularly for women service users. Allocation of this money has been phased over 2006/07-08/09.

– More staff: There are now 64 per cent more consultant psychiatrists, 71 per cent more clinical psychologists and 21 per cent more mental health nurses than in 1997, providing better care and support for people with mental health problems.

– More services: Because of the National Service Framework and increased funding, there are now more than 740 new community mental health teams offering home treatment, early intervention, or intensive support for people who might otherwise have been admitted to hospital.

– The suicide rate: The latest available data for the three year period 2005/6/7 show a rate of 7.9 deaths per 100,000 population – a reduction of 10 per cent from the 1995/6/7 baseline, which is now at an all time low

Department of Health (UK)


Family Support

Family ties protect young adults against suicidality

Joel Schwarz

Adolescents and young adults typically consider peer relationships to be all important. However, it appears that strong family support, not peer support, is protective in reducing future suicidal behavior among young adults when they have experienced depression or have attempted suicide.

New research to be presented April 17 at the annual meeting of the American Association of Suicidology shows that high school depression and a previous suicide attempt were significant predictors of thinking about suicide one or two years later. But, those individuals who had high levels of depression or had attempted suicide in high school were less likely to engage in suicidal thinking if they had strong family support and bonds. In addition, having a current romantic partner also reduced suicidal thoughts.

Our findings suggest that the protective quality of family support and bonding, or having an intimate partner, are not replaced by peer support and bonding in emerging adulthood. In fact, it appears that older adolescents – 18- and 19-year olds – who maintain strong family ties are less likely to engage in suicidal thinking, regardless of their peer relationships,” said James Mazza, a University of Washington professor of educational psychology and the lead researcher on two posters about the research being presented at the meeting.

By bonding, the researchers are referring to a person’s closeness with his or her family, or a partner, enjoying spending time with them, and the ability to talk with them about important issues.

Peers don’t provide the same type of safety net that comes from a family or by having an intimate partner. When it comes to suicidal behavior, young adults may feel that their family or partner may be more accepting and less judgmental than perhaps some of their peers,” said Mazza, who is past president of the American Association of Suicidology.

This study suggests getting the family involved in adolescent treatment for depression or past suicidal behavior may be very important. It’s also important that parents shouldn’t give up on their adolescents because our work indicates they still rely on them in this kind of situation.

Data for the research was drawn from a larger National Institute of Drug Abuse 15-year study of youth in a Seattle-area school district that looked at risk factors for marijuana and cigarette use, binge drinking, depression and past suicidal behavior.

Mazza and his colleagues will also present data from a second study that shows 18- and 19-year olds are accurate in reporting their previous childhood suicide attempts. Using the same group of students, data showed that 67 of them reported attempting suicide while in high school. The researchers found that the students’ scores for depression were elevated in the same year they made their first suicide attempt.

Collecting information about suicidal behavior in minors is difficult because of liability issues, and Mazza said “depression scores are a pretty decent proxy for suicide. But we should be asking directly about suicidal behavior, not looking for a proxy or a substitute.

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