Launch of UK Mental Health Networks

On the 6th September, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) announced the creation of eight new national mental health networks, funded by UKRI and the Government.

What do the new mental health networks address?

The networks are a collaborative effort between charities, researchers, as well as a wide variety of other organisations (e.g., regional and national arts councils) across the UK. The networks aim to understand the causes and development of mental health problems, as well as to explore new treatment options.

What are the research topics that the networks will focus on?

The research topics that the networks address are far reaching, and range from youth and student mental health, to addressing health inequalities in people with severe mental health problems. The eight mental health networks are as follows:

  • The Emerging Minds: Action for Child Mental Health network (led by Professor Cathy Creswell , University of Reading) will explore ways in which children, young people, and their families can experience the benefits of advances in research.
  • The ‘Closing the Gap’ Network+ (led by Professor Simon Gilbody,  University of York) to understand and close the life expectancy gap between those who do and do not have severe mental health problems.
  • The Loneliness and social isolation in mental health network (led by Professor Sonia Johnson, UCL) aims to reduce loneliness and social isolation in those with mental health problems.
  • The MARCH: Social, Cultural and Community Assets for Mental Health network (led by Dr Daisy Fancourt, UCL) aims to understand how social, cultural and community factors can improve and support mental health and wellbeing, as well as preventing problems from occurring in future.
  • The SMARtEN: Student Mental Health Research Network (led by Dr Nicola Byrom, King’s College London) aims to provide data on the state of mental wellbeing in students in higher education, as well as to support them.
  • The Nurture Network: Promoting Young People’s Mental Health in a Digital World (led by Professor Gordon Harold, University of Sussex) aims to explore the effect of digital technology on the mental health of children and young people, as well as with their interactions with their family, school, and peers.
  • The Transdisciplinary Research for the Improvement of Youth Mental Public Health (TRIUMPH) network (led by Professor Lisa McDaid, University of Glasgow) aims to explore ways to improve the mental health and wellbeing of young people, especially those who are vulnerable and disadvantaged.
  • The Violence, Abuse and Mental Health: Opportunities for Change network (led by Professor Louise Howard and Dr Sian Oram, Kings College London) aims to explore how domestic and sexual violence, as well as abuse, impacts mental health and wellbeing, and to assess interventions.

Blog post written by Dr Rachel Moss, Research Assistant (University of Portsmouth) for the Office for Students postgraduate research student wellbeing project.

 

 

The Good Childhood Report 2018

Since 2005, The Children’s Society has been working in partnership with the University of York to build up a picture of children’s wellbeing in the UK. The work aims to understand the factors that contribute to how children feel about their lives, and provide recommendations for policy makers to improve the wellbeing of children. Now in its seventh year, The Good Childhood Report describes the findings of research conducted by The Children’s Society and the University of York, with the most recent report, based on longitudinal data, published in August.

An overview of the findings from the sixth wave of the Millennium Cohort Study (MSC), with data collected when children were around the age of 14 years, is presented below. The MSC is a survey of children born in the UK between 2000-2001, and follows the lives of roughly 19,000 children. The overview will focus on the relationship between wellbeing and mental health.

Key findings

Relationship between life satisfaction, depressive symptoms, and emotional and behavioural difficulties

  • A proportion of children with a low happiness in life (happiness with life as a whole), also had high levels of depression (47%), and vice-versa.
  • A small number of children who had low life satisfaction (19%), and those who had high depressive symptoms (19%), also had a high score for emotional and behavioural difficulties.
  • Boys had greater emotional and behavioural difficulties compared to girls, but girls had lower levels of wellbeing and higher symptoms of depression compared to boys.

Physical activity and truancy

  • Children with lower life satisfaction, those with higher depressive symptoms and those with higher emotional and behavioural difficulties, were less likely, compared to other children, to be physically active and were more likely to have truanted.

Self-harm

  • Of the 15% of children who responded that had self-harmed in the past year, girls were more likely than boys (22% vs. 9%) to have self-harmed.
  • Children from White, Mixed and Other ethnic groups were more likely to have self-harmed compared to children from Indian, Pakistani/Bangladeshi and Black/Black British ethnic groups.
  • Children who were attracted to the same gender, or both, were more likely to self- harm. Just under half of children surveyed (46%) had self-harmed.
  • A higher than average risk of self-harm was observed for children who were from lower-income households.
  • Children with higher levels of depressive symptoms (60%), those with low life satisfaction (48%), and those with high emotional and behavioural difficulties (30%) were more likely to self-harm, compared to children with lower levels of symptoms/difficulties.

Policy recommendations

The Children’s Society emphasised that the insights gained from the report should be used by policy makers to inform decisions about children and young people. A key recommendation included using shorter, subjective measures of wellbeing as a tool for identifying children who may need more support (e.g., in schools, in monitoring the wellbeing of looked after children).

Please click on the links to access the full and summary versions of The Good Childhood Report 2018.

About the author

Blog post written by Dr Rachel Moss, Research Assistant for the Office for Students postgraduate research student wellbeing project. Dr Moss is based within the School of Education and Sociology at the University of Portsmouth.

Self-care for GCSE and A-Level results days

Every year, over a two-week period in August, students receive the results of their exam efforts for A-Levels and GCSEs (in 2018, these were released on the 16th and 23rd August). For many, this can be a time of great celebration and happiness, but it can also be a period of stress and anxiety.

There have been reports within the media of increases in stress and academic anxiety for students who have taken the new, adjusted GCSEs. These updated GCSEs are now assessed almost exclusively with examinations at the end of the course, and grade boundaries altered to a numeric system (9-1, similar to the old A*-G grades), adding to student pressure. A similar story has been reported for students taking their A-Levels, particularly in light of recent changes to the qualification, whereby students are assessed with end of course exams, rather than coursework and AS levels. The stress associated with exam results is also emphasised by a recent report from Childline. Last year, the charity reported a 21% increase in young people accessing Childline counselling sessions to discuss their worries over exam results, over a two-year period. For 16-18 year olds, the increase was steeper – 68% – over a two-year period.

With these reports in mind, what kind of help is available to manage this potentially stressful and anxious results period? The following online resources, which offer advice for young people, as well as parents/carers, may be useful:

Resources for young people: 

Resources for parents/carers:

About the author

Blog post written by Dr Rachel Moss, Research Assistant for the Office for Students postgraduate research student wellbeing project. Dr Moss is based within the School of Education and Sociology at the University of Portsmouth.