Study reveals the men at highest risk of breaching domestic violence orders


Men with an acquired brain injury, an intellectual disability, or with a history of legal problems pose the highest risk of breaching family violence intervention orders multiple times, a study has found.

In one of the largest studies of its kind, Victoria Legal Aid analysed 15,522 clients who breached family violence intervention orders between 2008 and 2015 to identify trends that might keep victims safe.

Breaches of family violence intervention orders are one of the fastest-growing offences in Victoria, data from the Crime Statistics Agency shows.

By identifying recurring characteristics of those who breached the orders, Victoria Legal Aid hopes lawyers and other service providers can better recognise those people most likely to continue to commit family violence offences despite an intervention order.

The largest group to receive legal assistance for breaches of family violence intervention orders were men aged between 25 and 44.

Twenty three per cent of clients funded for ongoing legal representation were charged more than once with breaching an order. Among this group of 1,043 people, 86% were unemployed, 90% were men, and 27% reported a disability

Cutting out of work benefits for the mentally ill is cruel


I welcome the prime minister’s initiative on mental health care, but I am puzzled why the government at the same time wants to cut out-of-work benefits to those with mental health problems (“Leak reveals scale of mental health crisis”).

Before Christmas, the House of Lords voted to remove two clauses from the welfare reform and work bill, cutting the benefits of new claimants to the employment and support allowance work-related activity group (ESA WRAG) from £102.15 to £72.40 per week, also cutting their universal credit. ESA WRAG is paid to sick or disabled people currently declared “not fit for work”, but who might be able to return to work in due course, assuming they receive appropriate treatment, training and support.
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Significantly, nearly 50% of ESA WRAG claimants – almost 250,000 individuals – experience mental health problems.

The House of Lords called into serious question the notion that those found to be unable to work can be incentivised back to work by a cut to their living standards. The government wants to

The scale of the UK’s mental health challenge has been underestimated


Helping more than an extra million people with mental health problems is laudable (NHS vows to transform mental health services with extra £1bn a year, 15 February). But only if treatment is effective. Illness of the mind is inherently more difficult to diagnose than illness of the body. And treatment outcomes are more uncertain. For example, the much vaunted talking therapies can only work if counsellor and patient hit it off (over the years I have had one positive score from six attempts). Drug therapy is certainly effective, but it normally takes weeks to work and often makes people a lot worse before they start to get better, leading some to stop taking the pills too soon. It is not clear that GPs’ training yet gives them an adequate grounding in mental health. Psychiatric inpatient treatment is obviously worthwhile, but in my experience if you get 20 minutes a week of your consultant’s time and then only on weekdays you are doing well; and acute pressure on beds means that patients are often discharged too soon with added pressures on

A goldmine for nosy parkers

Unless you’re spectacularly keen on minding your own business, Radio 4’s In Therapy is a goldmine. Psychotherapist Susie Orbach lets listeners eavesdrop on private conversations with her patients in riveting 15-minute sessions.

Of course, the clients aren’t real. They are played by actors who have been given a back-story so they can improvise scenes on the couch. And they do it so well it’s easy to get lost in all their quirks and confessions.

Richard and Louise are on their fourth appointment, with a baby due any day. By now, Orbach has got the measure of the couple, and their big list of issues, and why Richard’s burying his head in work.

“Would it help, Louise, if you say: ‘I feel’, rather than: ‘You do’?” Orbach ventures, as the criticisms of a pregnant woman frustrated with her partner spill out.

Harriet, who left her partner at 46 after two failed rounds of IVF, is deep in grief. “You’re heartbroken. And bewildered. And lost. And it’s going to hurt like hell,” says Orbach as Harriet sobs. It’s touching, warm and because it is based on real life, there is no magical happy ending.

One patient, Jo, is late and quite

Unpaid carers can’t keep on plugging gaps in the NHS and social care

The Care Act, which came into force in April 2015, for the first time puts unpaid carers on an equal footing with those they care for. So what has the impact been on the lives of carers?

Over the next few months I will be working with the Carers Trust and a team of experts by experience and professionals to try and answer that question. The Care Act: One Year On Commission will be holding hearings, calling for evidence and listening to carers of all ages. We are keen to get the views of frontline practitioners, and ask carers to complete a quick online survey.

It is plain is that the tone of the debate about the role of unpaid carers needs to change. Research has underlined how badly this is needed. Moved to Care took a look at the implications of UK migration policy for the future care workforce. Its stark conclusion is that there will be a shortfall of 200,000 people needed to meet the care of a larger older and more frail population. And

Facebook launches tool to offer support to users at risk of suicide

Facebook has launched a new feature in the UK to offer support to users at risk of taking their own lives.

The social network developed the Suicide Prevention tool with support from the Samaritans charity.

The tool works by asking users to flag and report posts from friends that cause concern. These posts will then be reviewed by a special team at Facebook, with help options sent to those the reviewers deem to be struggling.

A message appears when the person in question next logs in that reads: “Hi, a friend thinks you might be going through something difficult and asked us to look at your recent post.”

The user can then choose to talk to someone – either a friend or helpline worker, or be sent tips and support directly. There is also an option to ignore the offers altogether.

Facebook’s safety policy manager in the UK, Julie de Bailliencourt, said: “Keeping the Facebook community safe is our most important responsibility.

“We worked with organisations including Samaritans to develop these tools, and one of the first things they told us was how much

Unhappy Child, Unhealthy Adult In Therapy

Of late, the BBC has been focusing on mental health and it’s felt a little depressing, if you can excuse the term. Not because we shouldn’t be talking about it – clearly, we should – but because the provision for mental health in this country is so utterly inadequate that almost every story you hear is a heartbreaker. Patients being shunted between A&E and police cells for problems that are clearly not physical. Women with postnatal depression having to cope on their own; with the depression, plus a baby. And oh, the stories of the young! Falling through the cracks – the yawning abysses – in the system. So sad.

So this week I’m reviewing a few programmes on the topic that made me feel hopeful or inspired. We all need to know that there’s something positive out there. First up, Unhappy Child, Unhealthy Adult. Presented by the calm, informed Geoff Watts, this programme was a mixture of hope and frustration. Doctors have discovered that childhood stressors – growing up with physical/sexual/emotional abuse, being neglected, having an alcoholic as a parent etc – not only lead to mental health problems later in life, but physical health problems too. Surely, this is

Christine, film about presenter’s on air suicide, is cashing in says brother

The brother of a 1970s Florida news presenter who committed suicide live on air has attacked a new film about the episode, calling it “despicable and deplorable”.

Christine Chubbuck was 29 when she shot herself in 1974, while presenting the Suncoast Digest morning show on the Sarasota-based WXLT-TV channel. British actor Rebecca Hall stars as the news anchor in the drama Christine, which premiered to positive reviews at last month’s Sundance film festival.

Chubbuck’s brother, Greg Chubbuck, 69, described the film as “despicable and deplorable” in an interview with the Mail on Sunday and attacked producers for failing to contact him prior to its release.

“I have not seen the movie and nor do I intend to,” he said. “To me, this is nothing more than a cynical exploitation of my sister’s death. How can someone like Rebecca Hall cash in on a family tragedy, and in particular a suicide that

Mental health is an easy target says head of one of largest NHS trusts

By any standard, last week was a big one for mental health. David Cameron was promising a “mental health revolution” and proclaiming a £1bn annual boost for services by 2020, and there was the long-anticipated report from an independent taskforce for NHS England that lays bare the chronically underfunded state of mental health services and detailed recommendations for improvements.

Claire Murdoch, the chief executive of Central and North West London NHS foundation trust was keenly following developments. Her trust, one of the largest in the UK, delivers 300 different health services for people with a range of physical and mental health needs across 150 sites. She says the report is “hugely significant”.

Murdoch is also chair of the Cavendish Square Group, a coalition of 10 NHS trust chief executives from across London to raise awareness about mental health services. As well as highlighting the dire consequences of not investing adequately in services, she says the taskforce report made a powerful case for why properly funded interventions at community and acute care levels would deliver improved outcomes and financial savings for the whole system.

It called for a wide range of moves to improve care. These include guarantees of 24/7 provision for

Sarah Reed’s death demands a paradigm shift in how black women are treated

A 19-year-old mother and her partner are put into a taxi by a hospice and told to take their dead baby’s body, wrapped in a sheet – to an undertaker. This didn’t happen in some far off part of the world devastated by war and poverty. It happened here in the UK.

This was to be the first of many occasions when this country’s public institutions would fail Sarah Reed. She had also been assaulted by the police (PC James Kiddie was sentenced to just 150 hours of community service for grabbing Reed by the hair, throwing her on the floor and punching her in the head) and later charged with GBH while at the Maudsley hospital. Reed had told her family she’d been defending herself against sexual assault.

While the case was ongoing, she was unexpectedly remanded into custody and sent to Holloway. Her family still do not know why but before she died, Reed, 32, wrote to her mother, Marilyn, from Holloway, pleading: “Please help me to get out of here; I

What it takes to pursue a career in mental health nursing

There is no doubt about it: mental health nursing is a formidable as well as rewarding career and one that requires a range of skills, training and experience to do it well. And for anybody considering a career as a mental health nurse there is no shortage of options.

Specialising in mental health starts with getting the necessary qualifications for entry to a nursing degree course. Entry requirements vary between universities but, in general, minimum A-level prerequisites or equivalents are necessary. Mental health nursing has changed significantly in recent years, so the training and clinical experience on offer has altered to reflect this.

The variety and seniority of roles and career development paths available within mental health nursing – in and outside the NHS – are extremely diverse. Whatever route someone chooses, though, a key aspect is ongoing learning and keeping knowledge and skills up to date in order to maintain professional registration.

Mental health nursing in numbers

Mental health nurse: ‘it’s all about the relationship with our patients’

Rikke Albert has no qualms about her decision to work as a nurse in mental health. “I think what makes mental health nursing special is that it’s all about the relationship with our patients,” she says. “It’s about how we can help that person fully. It’s a whole-person approach. That’s what our training is.”

A nurse consultant at East London NHS foundation trust for the past two years, Albert has a varied and wide-ranging role. In essence, she says being a consultant is about improving care and encouraging best practice.

“It’s very much like a teaching, research and development role. It’s about improving the working of a team, including the nursing positions.”

A core part of Albert’s day-to-day work – she is part of a liaison psychiatry team – involves working alongside other teams in the hospital to bridge the gap between mental and physical health. She would help, for example, identify where someone admitted for a physical problem may also require mental-health support. An emphasis on recognising that physical and mental health

Mental illness is a result of misery, yet still we stigmatise it

It matters how we talk and think about mental health. Get it wrong, and people can end up being misled, or even worse, hurt. Last week the BBC ran a well-intentioned season about mental health that, unfortunately, gave a completely lopsided view of psychiatry.
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The headline programme was Stephen Fry’s The Not So Secret Life of the Manic Depressive: 10 Years on. Like many mental health professionals, I have enormous respect for Fry’s openness about his mental health. I also feel a personal sympathy towards him: we were both boarders at Uppingham school, Rutland, in the early 70s (though he has no reason to remember me). Our unhappy experiences there have no doubt helped to shape our pathways since, which have converged many years later on a shared interest in mental health – in my case as a clinical psychologist and researcher.

The BBC focused on an extreme biological approach to psychiatry, which is contested by many psychologists and psychiatrists. This approach sees psychiatric problems as discrete brain conditions that are largely genetically determined and barely influenced by the slings and arrows of misfortune. According

Trans children allowed to express identity ‘have good mental health’

choosing and allowing them to change their hairstyle and clothing. Photograph: Picture Partners / Alamy/Alamy

Transgender children who are allowed to present their gender identity and change their names have good mental health outcomes, according to a study released on Friday and hailed as “crucially important”.
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The study, published in the March issue of the journal Pediatrics, shows the positive impact family support can have on the lives of transgender children, a group long hidden from public view.

Researchers found normal levels of depression and only slightly elevated anxiety levels in transgender children who were supported by their families.

Such support included the use of pronouns that matched the child’s gender identity, calling them by the name of their choosing and, often, and allowing them to change their hairstyle and clothing to reflect their identity. Such children are also known as “socially transitioned” children.

In a commentary published with the study in Pediatrics, Dr Ilana Sherer, assistant medical director at the University of San Francisco’s Child and Adolescent Gender Center Clinic, said the findings were “crucially important”.

Sherer said the study was useful for responding to questions surrounding the impact of social transition, and whether

A fuller picture of modern psychiatry

Professor Bentall (Opinion, 26 February) writes well about the realities of mental disorders, but paints a less than complete picture of modern psychiatry. Psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, psychotherapists and other professionals work together for the benefit of patients. We share a common goal to improve the lives of those with mental ill health – indeed guidelines for treatment are decided by multidisciplinary teams. Some people do get better without medication, but there is a strong body of evidence that for many people, medication reduces the risk of relapse and harmful behaviour, and enables them to live full lives. While psychiatry is a medical speciality, we do not recognise the narrow biomedical approach that he suggests. In order to help the understanding, treatment and support of those with mental disorders, psychiatry brings together in equal measure the biological, psychological and social. Remove any one of these three, and I’m not sure what you would have, but it’s not psychiatry.

It has been frustrating to see services which offer such therapeutic approaches suffer so many cuts on the NHS in recent years. Clearly, there is a role for medicine and shorter-term therapeutic interventions in the treatment of some people, but a way

My fertility problems made me feel like a failure

When I started trying to conceive aged 26, I knew it wouldn’t be easy – I had endometriosis, polycystic ovaries and periods so infrequent that if everyone were like this, the birth rate would plummet. For a year, nothing happened. My initial (misplaced) optimism gave way to nervousness, and then dejection crept in. One by one, my friends got pregnant, while I still hadn’t even had a period.

I got married, went on honeymoon, and then I began to bleed. The pain was so acute that I couldn’t stand up straight. I bled for a month. I thought it was just my endometriosis again. One morning, I couldn’t get out of bed. I was having an ectopic pregnancy.
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Viv Groskop
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There was a huge amount of internal bleeding. I lost my fallopian tube and along with it, the pregnancy. The woman in the hospital bed opposite me was having an ectopic pregnancy with twins. This was her second twin ectopic in six months. She was about to lose her remaining fallopian tube and, with it, her chance of conceiving naturally. About 10 members of her family were standing around her bed,

People get happier as they approach 70, study finds

Feelings of wellbeing increase in the seventh decade of life, the longest-running study following the progress of people from birth has shown.

Researchers who quizzed more than 3,000 participants found that approaching 70 can put a spring in your step.

Aged 60 to 64, the volunteers were tested on a range of wellbeing measures including feeling cheerful, confident, optimistic, useful and relaxed.

When they were asked the same questions again at age 69, there was an improvement in all 14 categories that made up the wellbeing scale.

This was despite most of the group experiencing at least one chronic disease including arthritis, diabetes and high blood pressure.

Dr Mai Stafford, from the Medical Research Council Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing at University College London, said: “What we’ve found is that, on average, levels of wellbeing increased during people’s sixties.

“We found that one in five experienced a substantial increase in wellbeing in later life, although we also found a smaller group who experienced a substantial decline.”

The MRC’s National Survey for Health and Development was launched

‘Self-harming is behind me, but it blights many students’ lives’

It was during my first year of university that I first self harmed. The normal freshers’ year reliance on alcohol and a depressive episode led me to hurt myself to stimulate any kind of feeling.

Although that period seems far behind me now, there are many other students who self-harm. Some are not as lucky as I was – I had supportive peers and friends.

Each year, self-harm results in about 150,000 attendances at hospital accident and emergency departments, and around one in 12 young people are thought to injure themselves intentionally at some point. This is why self-injury awareness day, on Tuesday 1 March, is so important.

The reasons why young people self-injure are hard to explain, though it is often portrayed as a cry for attention. There are Instagram tags that feature up to half a million posts related to self-harm, some graphically so.

What lies behind these posts may be a desire for self-expression and an attempt to escape the feelings of isolation that self-harm can bring, according to Wedge, chair of the volunteer-led self-injury charity LifeSigns (the charity only uses first names for its members).

“For people who are self-injuring, it can be a very immediate reaction to what they are

Does city life make us more or less lonely? Share your stories

Cities are places where people come together, hubs of culture and trade – it would seem that if anything, a metropolis is the antidote to loneliness. And yet, in a context where anxiety and depression rates are higher in urban rather than rural settings, the reality may be anything but.

“You can be lonely anywhere,” writes Olivia Laing in her new book The Lonely City, “but there is a particular flavour to the loneliness that comes from living in a city, surrounded by millions of people.” Laing’s book explores her own experience of solitude in New York, and how she tackled the issue through art.

Cities can be overwhelming places, full of anonymous strangers. In 1903, the German philosopher Georg Simmel described the social tendency that “one nowhere feels as lonely and lost as in the metropolitan crowd”. A 2013 survey by ComRes found that 52% of Londoners feel lonely, making it the loneliest place in the UK. Last year, charity network Acevo set up The Loneliness Project to tackle social isolation among young people in the capital.

How to promote good mental health among teachers and students in your school

We all know the basic requirements to maintain good physical health. We know we must eat well, exercise regularly, drink plenty of water, alcohol in moderation etc. These golden rules have been impressed upon most of us since we were old enough to comprehend them.

When it comes to mental health, however, we’ve been taking a different tack; most of us wait for mental illness symptoms to arise before giving the health of our minds any consideration. It’s a strategy that’s been disastrous for an entire generation of British people (and in particular those under the age of 25).

A person’s mental health cannot be seen and there is still a significant stigma attached to discussing mental health problems something which, in my capacity as the government’s mental health champion for schools, I am working hard to change.

Statistics tell us that one in four people in the UK will experience a mental illness each year. Yet we all have a brain and, therefore, a mental health. What if we gave consideration to how we might make lifestyle choices, and create an environment and society which is conducive to good mental health?

It was from this starting point that our Self-Esteem Team lessons for