The Big Anxiety festival: mental health, science and the healing power of art

24/09/2017 Brigid Delaney 0

The world’s biggest mental health and arts festival features more than 60 events, ranging from relaxing art installations to Awkward Conversations

Anxiety can come in many forms: from feeling nervous about giving a presentation, to not wanting to leave the house. But can an arts festival provide some sort of balm for mental health problems?

An ambitious and large scale project, The Big Anxiety festival – a University of New South Wales initiative run over seven weeks in Sydney – is trying to not only get people talking about their mental health, but also to alleviate some of the associated pain.

Related: Survey finds 40% of Australian women diagnosed with depression or anxiety

Related: I’ve had social anxiety disorder – and know you don’t have to live with it | Kamran Ahmed

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YouTube-style confessionals expose anorexia’s devastating hold in BBC drama

24/09/2017 Sarah Hughes 0

BBC3 series Overshadowed follows a teenager’s battle with her eating disorder

Anorexia has long been a controversial subject for film and TV with dramas such as Netflix’s To The Bone attracting a wave of negative attention. Now BBC3 aims to counterbalance those negative headlines with Overshadowed, which mimics the feel of confessional YouTube video diaries to paint a devastating, realistic picture of the way in which the illness can take hold.

The drama series was produced by Rollem, the company set up by screenwriter Kay Mellor, and written by Irish newcomers Eva O’Connor and Hildegard Ryan. Mellor became involved as executive producer after watching O’Connor’s play, Overshadowed and directed by Ryan, in Dublin.

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How can we improve the mental health of girls and women?

23/09/2017 Nihara Krause 0

Girls and women are excelling in many fields, but figures show increased anxiety, depression, eating disorders and self-harm

Girls and women are currently in a paradoxical place when it comes to their wellbeing. Outwardly they are excelling in multiple fields, including education, sport, science and politics. Yet figures confirm increasing anxiety, depression, eating disorders and self-harm, particularly and disproportionately in young girls. So what can be done to help them feel as well on the inside as they appear to be performing on the outside?

There is no doubt that the modern world poses many challenges, such as the fierce competition to “have it all” and to stay ahead of the game. This creates a perfectionist “Supergirl” culture where Fomo (fear of missing out) is common parlance, driving excessive and anxious behaviours, which can lead to “burn out”. Of course we won’t survive without fear and yet the challenge is to discern between the fears that serve us and those that hold us back.

Related: Mental health data shows stark difference between girls and boys

Related: The Guardian view on children’s mental health: not an optional extra | Editorial

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Schools fear impact of budget cuts amid girls’ mental health crisis

Problems include self-harm, eating disorders, depression, panic attacks, school refusal and attempted suicide

In a girls’ school on the fringes of London, the headteacher and her deputy are contemplating the challenges their pupils face, and the toll it takes on them every day. They describe self-harm, eating disorders, depression, panic attacks, school refusal and attempted suicide.

Where do the roots of the problem lie? “I’ve been in teaching 40 years,” says the headteacher. “I’ve never known this level of dysfunction in society.”

Related: Stress and social media fuel mental health crisis among girls

Related: Mental health data shows stark difference between girls and boys

Related: ‘Our daughters must not be scared to talk about mental health issues’

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Stress and social media fuel mental health crisis among girls

NHS data shows 68% rise in hospital admissions because of self-harm among girls under 17 in past decade

Girls and young women are experiencing a “gathering crisis” in their mental health linked to conflict with friends, fears about their body image and pressures created by social media, experts have warned.

Rates of stress, anxiety and depression are rising sharply among teenage girls in what mental health specialists say is a “deeply worrying” trend that is far less pronounced among boys of the same age. They warn that the NHS lacks the resources to adequately tackle the problem.

Related: ‘Our daughters must not be scared to talk about mental health issues’

Related: What are your experiences of mental health?

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‘Our daughters must not be scared to talk about their mental-health issues’

Young women and their parents describe what triggered their depression and panic attacks, and their strategies to cope

Related: Stress and social media fuel mental health crisis among girls

We have strategies to cope but we cannot tell her what to do.

If a post does not get more than 100 likes, it’s depressing.

We support her by having very open conversations – she tells me everything.

I use social media and my blog to seek help and advice.

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I’m lucky. I can afford private mental health treatment. What about those who can’t? | Deborah Orr

23/09/2017 Deborah Orr 0

Experts know how to help me, and thousands of others. But the NHS just doesn’t have the money

Almost one in 10 14-year-old boys have symptoms of anxiety and depression. Which is awful. But almost a quarter of 14-year-old girls have such symptoms. That is such a sad and miserable statistic that one barely knows where to start. The worst thing of all is that it isn’t really surprising. There is so much in this world of ours for a teenage girl to feel worried and hopeless about – not least that the advertising of such sensitivity can easily attract the sneering epithet “snowflake”.

Related: Carrie Fisher showed the way. I want to acknowledge my own mental struggles | Deborah Orr

Related: I took my first antidepressant this week. The effects were frightening | Deborah Orr

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The facts about girls’ mental health laid bare | Letters

22/09/2017 Letters 0

Readers respond to reports of growing mental health problems among girls, including Katherine Sacks-Jones on the effect of abuse and Lucy Russell on the impact of stereotyping

New research showing that one in four girls have signs of depression (Report, 20 September) is yet more evidence of an alarming trend of increasingly poor mental health among girls and young women. Young women are now the most at risk group for mental ill health, with extremely high rates of self-harm and post-traumatic stress disorder. Although the drivers of mental ill health are complicated, we can’t ignore the fact that poor mental health among women and girls is often closely linked to physical and sexual abuse. Agenda’s own research has shown that more than half of women who have mental health problems have experienced abuse. This needs to be addressed.

To avert a growing crisis in women and girls’ mental health, the government and health service need to take urgent action. We need to see investment in services in schools and in the community – and we must also ensure that the care and support women and girls receive takes into account their specific needs, particularly their experience of trauma.
Katharine Sacks-Jones
Director of Agenda, the alliance for women and girls at risk and co-chair of the Women’s Mental Health Taskforce, Department of Health

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Do we really need therapy?

22/09/2017 Oliver Burkeman 0

Research suggests self-help exercises could be better for you than cognitive behavioural therapy

‘Researchers say you might as well be your own therapist,” the website Quartz proclaimed recently, in light of a new study that found a vanishingly small difference between seeing a cognitive behavioural therapist and just doing various self-help exercises on your own. Naturally, this sort of thing is liable to make therapists angry. (The correct response is to nod compassionately and ask: “Now, why do you think that makes you so angry?”) As Mark Brown noted in this paper, we should be wary of any finding that seems to suggest governments could save money by telling people to sort themselves out. But the self-help route has another limitation worth bearing in mind: what makes you so confident you even know what your problems really are?

Typically, self-help works like this: you’re troubled by some issue – procrastination, commitment-phobia, depression – so you seek a book to fix it, just as you’d seek a spanner or screwdriver if the legs on your kitchen table started wobbling. But minds aren’t like wobbly tables. There’s no reason to assume – actually, there’s much reason to doubt – that we’re in touch with our deepest anxieties and hang-ups. Rather than productivity techniques, maybe you need to face the fact that your job provides no meaning. Maybe accusing yourself of “commitment-phobia” is how you rationalise the subconscious awareness that your partner doesn’t love you. Maybe your depression is best understood not as the result of “automatic thoughts”, but as a sign that you’re living life to serve your parents’ agenda, instead of your own.

Related: Common sense isn’t always that sensible

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Pressures on the NHS are holding back progress on mental health | Richard Vize

22/09/2017 Richard Vize 0

Major advances in mental health care cannot be sustained without fixing problems in primary care and hospitals

Are mental health services getting better or worse? The government repeatedly claims it is pumping money into rapid improvements, while a number of stories in recent days reinforces the impression that services are unravelling in the face of unparalleled demand.

The Education Policy Institute has revealed that more than a quarter of children referred to specialist mental health services in 2016-17 – tens of thousands – were turned away (pdf).

Related: What are your experiences of mental health?

Related: Mental health services are in crisis but we NHS bosses can change this

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Girls and mental health: share your experiences

Data shows one in four girls have depression by the time they hit 14. We’d like you to share your thoughts and experiences of mental health issues

About 166,000 girls and 67,000 boys aged 14 across the UK are depressed, according to a new study.

Government-funded research found that 24% of 14-year-old girls and 9% of boys the same age have depression with symptoms including feeling tired, lonely and negative self-worth.

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The Guardian view on children’s mental health: not an optional extra | Editorial

21/09/2017 Editorial 0

The latest research shows the crisis is even worse than anyone realised. Wellbeing must be put back where it belongs – at the heart of what schools do

Adolescence is notorious for its moments of misery that at least for the fortunate are unequalled in later life. Almost every adult looks back on the eruption of spots and the inexplicable weight gain, the exam pressures and the mishandled relationship crises with sympathy for their earlier selves. So it is no surprise to discover that in any given fortnight, many teenagers have felt low. The shock is just how low, and how many. Nearly one in four 14-year-old girls and almost one in 10 boys the same age, say they have felt inadequate, unloved, or worthless. That means that hundreds of thousands of young teenagers are experiencing a range of feelings that amount to a diagnosis of clinical depression; worst of all, the numbers are disproportionately higher in poorer families. The link between poverty and depression is well established. Now it is clear that long before children from low-income families even start their first job, they are at greater risk. The crisis in children’s mental health is even more extensive than anyone realised.

Adding colour to these findings comes a second, much smaller but still reliable survey by Girlguiding. Previously, the survey of over 1,000 girls from the ages of seven to 21 had identified high levels of anxiety about body image and the taboos associated with talking about being depressed. This year’s report looks at the pressure girls are under to conform with gender stereotypes. It is not hard to point to other pressures that show the triviality of worrying about pimple break-out: the National Children’s Bureau, a partner in the millennial cohort study, highlights relentless demands from schools and parents to achieve at the expense of a focus on wider wellbeing and emotional resilience.

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Primary school teachers ‘not trained to deal with mental health issues’

Over 50% of teachers tell survey they don’t have adequate training in what to do when a child has a mental health problem

More than half of primary school teachers say they do not feel adequately trained in supporting pupils with mental health problems, research suggests.

Just one in 10 “strongly agreed” with the statement that they felt they had the necessary training to feel confident about what action to take when a child was experiencing a mental health problem, compared with 54% who disagreed.

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