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Mental Health

Cuts to mental health services leave staff facing violence and aggression

James M

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Union says that reduced funding to mental health services across the UK is leaving staff vulnerable to violence and aggression from patients.

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The report, Struggling to Cope, paints a bleak picture of the country’s mental health services – for both staff and users. It is based on a survey of over 1,000 mental health employees across the UK, who work in a range of roles – with children and adults in hospitals, in secure units and out in the community.

42% of staff said they had been on the receiving end of violent attacks in the last year while 36% said they had witnessed violent incidents involving patients attacking their colleagues. Comments from some staff suggest that “violent or aggressive incidents happen on a daily basis”, and that they “go with the job”.

One worker described being “repeatedly punched to the floor”, while others spoke of “attempted strangulation”, or being head-butted, spat on, kicked and bitten.

Sara Gorton, Head of Health for Unison, said:

“These findings highlight a range of deep-rooted issues in mental health services that need to be addressed urgently.

“The lack of prevention and absence of early intervention services mean that by the time many people access help, they are already very ill and at crisis point.

“Severe staff shortages mean there are fewer mental health employees to deal with a rising number of users with complex needs. As a result, many staff are having to work alone, making violent attacks more likely. It’s no wonder so many are planning on leaving for less stressful, safer work elsewhere.”

The news comes only a week after the RCN called for an “urgent review” of hospital staffing levels after they warned patient safety and dignity is being put at risk by over-stretched services.

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Mental Health

NHS to recruit 21,000 Mental Health workers in England

James M

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The health secretary has said thousands more mental health workers are to be recruited by the NHS in England.

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The £1.3 billion pound drive is promised to increase the number of nurses, therapists, psychiatrists and other mental health professionals to treat an extra one million people and provide services seven days a week.

Jeremy Hunt has promised to end the “historic imbalance” between mental and physical health services. He went on to say that the measures were “ambitious” and amounted to “one of the biggest expansions of mental health services in Europe”.

The aim is to recruit enough nurses and support staff to treat an extra one million patients by 2020-21 but with over 30,000 current NHS vacancies unions are critical as to where these staff will come from.

Professor Wendy Burn, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, who helped develop the plan, said; “You would expect to see a consultant if you had cancer and the same applies for mental health. The biggest challenge to creating robust mental health services is the workforce. I am very supportive of this strategy which starts to tackle that problem.”

However, the Royal College of Nursing said the plans did not add up, and more “hard cash” would be needed if the new staff were to be trained in time.

“If these nurses were going to be ready in time, they would be starting training next month,” said RCN Chief Executive Janet Davies.

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Mental Health

A Prescription for Murder? The BBC Documentary that further reinforces Mental Health Stereotypes

Sarah J

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Experts have heavily criticised the BBC Panorama documentary ‘A Prescription for Murder?’.

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The controversial BBC documentary questioned if selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) antidepressants played a part or even contributed to the murder of James Holmes.

With more than 40 million prescriptions issued in the UK each year for antidepressants, a significant number of these are for SSRIs.

Experts are warning that although openly speaking about mental health is good, reinforcing a stigma that has no evidence or basis-in-fact is a step in the wrong direction and only further reinforces mental health stereotypes.

You can watch ‘BBC Panorama: A Prescription for Murder‘ on BBC iPlayer. 

Professor Wendy Burn, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, wrote in the International Business Times that; “Last night’s Panorama programme A Prescription for Murderset back the journalism of mental health by decades”.

She goes on to explain that considerable research has been done and, currently, there is no evidence to suggest an even a casual link between antidepressants and murder. Instead, there is clear evidence that antidepressants are an effective treatment for an “extremely serious illness”.

Finally, she adds “Making a link between the two only increases stigma – which we know exacerbates someone’s mental”. You can read her full article here.

Prof Carmine Pariante, Professor of Biological Psychiatry, King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, said: “There is no good evidence that antidepressants increase the risk of violent behaviour, and the extremely rare (and tragic) cases that are cited in support of this theory could be explained by chance”.

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