If you missed this BBC documentary, here is the link to catch up with Dr Chris van Tulleken as he investigates whether there are alternative treatments to drugs (in particular Calpol) to treat our children. He focuses on a small group of children who are medicated for Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder, otherwise known as ADHD. https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0b4jjq3/the-doctor-who-gave-up-drugs-series-2-episode-1
Art therapy techniques combined with play is effective in children’s counselling.
Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy and it uses art and media as a tool for expression. Its use of visual media makes it successful form of expression and communication with adults and children, especially with people who experience verbal communication difficulties and disabilities. It is also used as a medium with people with neurological problems, mental health, emotional and behavioural issues, neurological conditions and physical illness. It uses creative methods to improve a person’s emotional wellbeing, enhance cognitive abilities, manage stress and promote self-development. Art therapy does not require a client to have any artistic training, rather its techniques rely on the exploration of the properties of a wide variety of materials such as paint, clay, chalks and markers and the use of symbolism and imagery. The image can provide a safe boundary to enable the process of exploration without necessarily involving talking therapies or language, but in so doing can enhance and promote talking.
Art therapists are required to undergo training in psychological theories, clinical practice and human development. The profession has developed from a psychoanalytical and psychodynamic model to embrace cognitive therapies, neuroscience, mindfulness and mentalisation-based techniques. The training is postgraduate and the profession is state regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). Art Therapy is promoted in the UK by the British Association of Art Therapists (BAAT) which provides support, advice and an Art Therapy Practice Research Network for members.
So, teachers in secondary schools are to receive mental health training! £200,000 has been pledged by a Government funded scheme known as Mental Health First Aid and the scheme will also be rolled out into primary schools by 2022. It is fair to say that teachers are on the front line, not just for safeguarding, but additionally for helping to build resilience in children and young people.
Evidence given in a recent report on Social media and children’s mental health by the Education Policy Institute, demonstrates that 37.3% of UK 15 year olds are classed as extreme internet users (6+ hours daily). Evidence of the correlation between extreme internet use and the harmful effects on young people’s well-being makes teachers uniquely well placed to educate about the strong links between periods spent on social media and mental health and well-being problems. Especially to raise their concerns about vulnerable pupils or pupils who are exposed to problems relating to their mental and emotional well-being.
It is also fair to say that the government should ‘get real’ about the mental health problems facing children and young people. Talking therapies are in desperately short supply and underfunded, specialist services, like CAMHS, have long waiting lists. Dumping the problem onto teachers is a pitifully inadequate way to tackle serious mental health issues affecting our young and which require much more specialist input than schools-based first aid. Teachers already have overwhelming workloads and schedules and are driven to attain high targets. Target crunching is not the mind set required to understand and deal with mental health problems. To expect teachers to be able to recognise and cope with mental health issues as well, is not only naïve but it undermines the skill and experience of a properly trained mental health professional. How would a teacher be expected to have the time or skills to successfully deal with a child or young person with a full blown psychosis or offer counselling support to a suicidal teenager?
Funding needs to be pumped into specialist mental health services for children and young people so that trained and skilled mental health professionals can meet the needs of children and young people with emotional and mental health problems. Meanwhile, let the teachers get on with what they are trained to do, and do best, which is to educate.
What is disturbing is that the mental health of children appears to be so depressingly poor and prescribing of anti-depressants to children has significantly increased by GP’s. Research by Dr Ann John at Swansea University shows a 28% increase in prescribing of anti-depressants to children in Wales aged from six to 18, with girls being three times more likely to be prescribed than boys. Furthermore, some of this prescribing is being done beyond the limits of prescribing guidance and using anti-depressant medication that is not suitable for children, due to their toxic side effects. Research would no doubt reveal a similar prescribing pattern in England.
The question is however, whether this prescribing trend reflects an actual decline in children’s mental health with increased incidence of depression, or whether it is due to over-prescribing by GP’s creating medicalisation of normal teenage emotional development. Whatever the cause, training for GP’s and primary care workers is essential because future generations of children are at risk of growing up with a dependency, albeit psychological, on a host of toxic mood lifting drugs.
Counselling support for children and young people can easily prevent the use of potentially harmful drug therapies and normalise emotional turmoil, which is often a natural progression of childhood and teenage development.
Children’s counsellors who are qualified, experienced and trained specifically to counsel children and young people are able to provide specialist support for children in their emotional development. Children’s Counsellors at charities like Place2Be, deliver professional counselling in schools to children from primary age up to 18. They work closely with teachers and other professionals to provide essential support to children and young people. Any concerns about the welfare or mental health of a young person or child may be referred to a GP, who may in turn refer a child or young person to a children’s counsellor.
The use of anti-depressant therapies however, should be administered in the event of counselling therapies being ineffective, and only then with extreme caution and certainly within prescribing guidelines.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) can issue guidelines about the use of anti-depressant therapies.
2% of mainly females will develop anorexia nervosa between the ages of 15 and 20, of whom approximately 25% will develop an entrenched anorexia. The signs to look out for, whether you are male or female, are that you spend hours exercising excessively, you are taking in few calories, you are feverishly trying to maintain control of your body, and you experience intense, obsessional thoughts about food and weight. If this matches you, then it is very likely that you are becoming entrenched in an eating disorder. Anorexia nervosa is largely about control and it can be life-threatening. The more you focus on food and weight, the less rational your thoughts are.
Severe and enduring anorexia nervosa can become a challenging condition and treatment, including the talking therapies, are not always very effective. As a psychiatric condition, it is most successfully treated during the first few years of its course before patterns become entrenched, fixed and habitual. Ultimately if left untreated, hospitalisation may be necessary. In-patient treatment of this nature sometimes results in painfully slow weight gain, agonising hours spent in the dining room, desperately trying to cope with compulsive anorexic thoughts and emotions, (including suicidal ones), and frequently deeply-rooted ambivalence towards treatment.
The potential effects of starvation on the brain may be key in new innovative treatment methods. Recent research using neuro-imaging reveals clues that parts of the brain may be stimulated to bring about recovery, such as the limbic system, which is linked with reward processing and other areas of the brain dealing with body image perception and also which determine the way that we sense internal body states, like hunger or pain. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), using an electrical stimulation technique is in use experimentally and is undergoing trial in the UK. This may be helpful in resetting the brain areas that control eating patterns and decision making processes, resulting in a greater chance of being able to access a psychological therapy. This treatment could potentially be lifesaving and prevent early deaths.
If you are suffering from anorexia or a similar eating disorder such as bulimia, or are worried that you, a friend or relative may have an irregular eating pattern or may be developing an eating disorder, don’t hesitate to seek some professional help and advice before the problem progresses further. You can hear women share their experiences about binge eating problems by clicking here.
For further information follow the links or contact me.
Bethany Hughes discusses Narcissism with Psychotherapist Phillipa Perry
There is a need for heightened vigilance around coronavirus. A call for increased support for healthcare workers on the frontline.
This LBC radio recording with Dr Jack, Consultant in Intensive Care, highlights the need for containment of infection. He …