Psychology Research's blog posts tagged with 'young people'

Does that make me crazy?



This first blog, by Dr Kathy Greenwood, has a specific focus on Psychosis and young people.

Psychosis affects 1-2% of the population and it affects young people (that’s 7,500 in young people every year in England). But taboo means that we don’t often hear about it. There is a cost to this silence. Stigmatising attitudes increase with age, self-stigma is a barrier to help seeking, and this stops young people from getting the help they need at the right time. We are working to change this. There will be an event on on Saturdsay 15th December in Brighton (details below) aimed at getting young people to think about mental health, focusing particularly on psychosis.

This image shows a contrast of something beautiful and delicate, a crystal rose that catches the light, against a bruised and weathered down wall. I thought this shows a nice metaphor for there being beautiful things in unexpected areas, physically and mentally.

Does that make me crazy? This is a question we may all ask ourselves at one time or another. Young people (and their families) in the early phase of psychosis also ask themselves this question. Is this normal? Lots of us experience unusual things at one time or another but only some of us suffer extreme distress or an impact on our school, work or social lives. It is this that should indicate a need for help. Too often people are frightened, don’t know where to turn for help, think they are truly ‘crazy’, and delay seeking help further due to stigma and shame.

Research conducted by myself and other members of SPRiG (Sussex Psychosis Research interest Group) has shown that teachers and parents are worried about talking to children about mental illness. Teachers don’t feel they have the knowledge and support to discuss the issue, as it's not part of the curriculum. It’s OK to talk about homelessness, alcoholism and death but it’s not OK to talk about psychosis. Parents don’t tend to view mental illness as something that could happen to them and their children. They are more focussed on protecting their children from a stereotyped violent or unpredictable ‘other’. Even when parents themselves have mental health problems, they don’t discuss it for fear of worrying their children, or worse still, for fear that their children will talk about it to other people. Stigma and self-stigma are high! At the same time children try really hard to make sense of their social world, and anxiety and stigma emerge when they don’t understand what’s going on.

Our research, in collaboration with Professor Rupert Brown, has shown that talking to young children about mental illness makes a difference. One of our studies has shown that reading stories and talking about psychosis with 7-8 year olds (a type of ‘indirect-contact’ for those interested in the theory), leads to more positive attitudes and behaviours a week later, compared to children who heard neutral stories. These more positive attitudes are driven by knowledge change.

Talking to psychosis service users, their relatives and young people also makes a difference. In the EYE (Early Youth Engagement in first episode psychosis) project, a 3-year NIHR funded grant, with Richard de Visser, Andy Field, Ruth Chandler and colleagues from the Institute of Psychiatry, we are doing just that. Early Intervention in Psychosis services help to change the trajectory of illness following a first episode of psychosis, leading to reduced symptoms and relapse, reduced hospitalisation and better recovery outcomes (e.g. return to college and work) but around 30% of young people either drop out of services in the first year or never engage in the first place.

In the EYE project, we are aiming to change this pattern of disengagement. The first phase involves finding out about the barriers and facilitators to engaging with Early Intervention Services. We’re holding focus groups throughout the South East and getting lots of useful information. The second phase involves translating this into a new youth engagement focussed service model (through a ‘Delphi consultation process’) with the NHS. This basically involves getting a group of ‘experts’ together, in this case NHS clinicians and managers, and asking them through a series of discussions and feedback to reach a consensus on a question, which in this case is ‘How do we translate what young people and their relatives want into something we can deliver in the NHS?’ This is not as easy as you might think! The final phase involves implementing the new service model, with supporting website, booklets and training to see if it works.

But that’s not all. SPRiG works actively with psychosis service users and carers to raise awareness about psychosis in Sussex. Help us to spread the word and find out more at our public event ‘Does that make me crazy?’ on Saturdsay 15th December 3-6pm at the Young People’s Centre in Ship Street, Brighton. There’ll be guest speakers, stalls, opportunities to talk, to take part in research, to help BBC3 with a documentary, to listen to first-hand accounts of psychosis and to take part in both a free and a research raffle, with great prizes including an i-pad.   

Sussex Psychosis Research Interest Group is a collaboration between the University of Sussex, Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and Brighton and Sussex Medical School. Find out more about our research and our public events at SPRiG (Sussex Psychosis Research interest Group) Lab. 

Sussex Psychology Research Blog

Making sense of alcohol consumption guidelines



A series of studies coordinated by Dr Richard de Visser is examining how governments, health professionals, and individual make sense of and use alcohol consumption guidelines. Such research is important because the Government is currently reviewing its drinking guidelines for the first time in 15 years.

pouring a glass of wine Agreed international guidelines would make it easier for people living in a globalised world to develop and use transferable skills for monitoring and regulating their alcohol consumption. However, a comparison of drinking guidelines around the world conducted as part of Nina Furtwængler’s DPhil research under Dr de Visser’s supervision was published in February 2013 in Drug and Alcohol Review. The study examined government alcohol consumption guidelines in 57 countries, including all 27 European Member States, and found a remarkable lack of agreement about what constitutes harmful or excessive alcohol consumption on a daily basis or weekly basis. Key findings were:

  • Many countries do not have readily accessible guidelines (including 8 of the 27 EU member States).
  • Some countries do not define standard drinks, but offer general guidance encouraging moderate alcohol consumption and/or abstinence in certain circumstances
  • The alcohol content of a “unit” or “standard drink” ranges from 8g in the UK  to 14g in Slovakia and the USA.
  • There is no consensus as to whether drinkers should have alcohol-free days every week
  • There is no consensus as to whether it is safe for women to drink as much as men

It is important to have specific guidelines, because these are likely to be more useful for individuals and health professionals than vague advice to “drink moderately”.

However, an earlier study conducted by Dr de Visser revealed that knowledge of unit-based guidelines may not be enough to motivate people to drink moderately. Other as-yet unpublished data from Ms Furtwængler’s DPhil research indicate that people tend not to use unit-based guidelines to monitor their alcohol consumption.

Despite these caveats, it is important for people who do want to adhere to recommendations to drink responsibly that there are internationally agreed standard definitions of alcohol units and consumption guidelines. Dr de Visser’s planned future research will determine whether giving people personalised feedback on their actual alcohol intake will help them calibrate their intake with government guidelines and motivate them to drink moderately.

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