Dr Cassie M Hazell
Academic and research departmentsClinical Intervention and Practice Research Group, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, Social justice and inequalities in mental health, School of Psychology.
Dr Cassie Hazell is a lecturer in Clinical Psychology at the University of Surrey and Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Sussex. She completed her PhD at the University of Sussex on the topic of guided self-help for people distressed by hearing voices. She has since completed postdoctoral positions at the University of Sussex, Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, Brighton and Sussex Medical School, and the University of Oxford - all in the area of mental health and mostly working on clinical trials. Dr Cassie Hazell is the co-founder and chair of the international Early Career Hallucinations Research (ECHR) group. Her research interests include: implementation science, psychosis, hearing voices, cognitive behaviour therapy, increasing access to psychological therapies, wellbeing of mental health carers, mental health stigma, suicide, and student mental health.
Affiliations and memberships
Written Emotional Disclosure (WED) is a self-directed, writing intervention. Treatment effects post-WED vary between studies, prompting research into which variables promote the largest improvements. Thus far, research has focussed on the frequency of certain linguistic properties of the writing, and subjective stress-related ratings. This study tests the feasibility of using an objective coding framework for stress typology to categorise WED extracts and explores whether any characteristics of the stress described were associated with intervention outcomes. WED extracts from a randomised controlled trial of patients with asthma were coded using an objective stress typology framework. The contents of the WED extracts were reviewed to ascertain whether the experience met the DSM 5 definition for trauma, involved abuse, and was experienced directly or vicariously. Also analysed were the degree of upheaval and upset associated with the event described, together with the time of the event, and number of events written about. Correlational analyses indicated that improvements in asthma-related outcomes were associated with writing about experiences that occurred in childhood, constituted abuse, or caused greater upheaval (all ps
Background Anxiety is a common mental health problem in the general population, and is associated with functional impairment and negative impacts upon quality of life. There has been increased concern about university students’ mental health in recent years, with a wide range of non-specific anxiety rates reported worldwide in undergraduate university students. We aimed to explore prevalence of non-specific anxiety in undergraduate university student populations. Methods Four databases were searched to identify studies published between 1980 and 2020 which investigated prevalence of non-specific anxiety in undergraduate university students. Each study’s quality was appraised using a checklist. Sub-analyses were undertaken reflecting outcome measure utilized, course of study, location of study, and whether study was before or during the COVID-19 pandemic. Results A total of 89 studies – representing approx. 130,090 students—met inclusion criteria. Eighty-three were included in meta-analysis, calculating a weighted mean prevalence of 39.65% (95% CI: 35.72%—43.58%) for non-specific anxiety. Prevalence from diagnostic interview studies ranged from 0.3%-20.8% 12-month prevalence. Prevalence varied by outcome measure used to assess non-specific anxiety, the type of course studied by sample, and by study location. In half the studies, being female was associated with being more likely to have higher non-specific anxiety scores and/or screening above thresholds. Few of the included studies met all quality appraisal criteria. Conclusion The results suggest that approximately a third of undergraduate students are experiencing elevated levels of non-specific anxiety. Results from sub-analyses have identified some methodological issues that need consideration in appraising prevalence in this population.
Background Levels of mental health stigma experienced can vary as a function of the presenting mental health problem (e.g. diagnosis and symptoms). However, these studies are limited because they exclusively use pairwise comparisons. A more comprehensive examination of diagnosis-specific stigma is needed. Aims The aim of our study was to determine how levels of mental health stigma vary in relation to a number of psychiatric diagnoses, and identify what attributions predict levels of diagnosis-specific stigma. Method We conducted an online survey with members of the public. Participants were assessed in terms of how much stigma they had, and their attributions toward, nine different case vignettes, each describing a different mental health diagnosis. Results We recruited 665 participants. After controlling for social desirability bias and key demographic variables, we found that mental health stigma varied in relation to psychiatric diagnosis. Schizophrenia and antisocial personality disorder were the most stigmatised diagnoses, and depression, generalised anxiety disorder and obsessive–compulsive disorder were the least stigmatised diagnoses. No single attribution predicted stigma across diagnoses, but fear was the most consistent predictor. Conclusions Assessing mental health stigma as a single concept masks significant between-diagnosis variability. Anti-stigma campaigns are likely to be most successful if they target fearful attributions.
Background: The Normalisation Process Theory (NPT) has been used to understand the implementation of physical health care interventions. The current study aims to apply the NPT model to a secondary mental health context, and test the model using exploratory factor analysis. This study will consider the implementation of a brief cognitive behaviour therapy for psychosis (CBTp) intervention. Methods: Mental health clinicians were asked to complete a NPT-based questionnaire on the implementation of a brief CBTp intervention. All clinicians had experience of either working with the target client group or were able to deliver psychological therapies. In total, 201 clinicians completed the questionnaire. Results: The results of the exploratory factor analysis found partial support for the NPT model, as three of the NPT factors were extracted: (1) coherence, (2) cognitive participation, and (3) reflexive monitoring. We did not find support for the fourth NPT factor (collective action). All scales showed strong internal consistency. Secondary analysis of these factors showed clinicians to generally support the implementation of the brief CBTp intervention. Conclusions: This study provides strong evidence for the validity of the three NPT factors extracted. Further research is needed to determine whether participants' level of seniority moderates factor extraction, whether this factor structure can be generalised to other healthcare settings, and whether pre-implementation attitudes predict actual implementation outcomes.
Aim Clinical assessments are vital for gaining an understanding of a patients' presenting problem. A priority for Early Intervention in Psychosis Service staff is understanding and supporting their patients' experiences of hallucinations and/or delusions. We aimed to identify what cognitive–phenomenology dimensions of hallucinations and delusions EIPS staff were assessing with their patients. Methods We developed a brief checklist of cognitive–phenomenological dimensions of hallucinations and delusions called the Lived Experience Symptom Survey (LESS) based on relevant literature. As part of a Quality Improvement Project, we reviewed the health records of a sub-sample of EIPS patients using the LESS identifying whether each dimension was present or absent. Results We found that all patients had been asked about the content of their hallucinations and/or delusions, and the majority had been asked about the valence of this content. Despite patients having experienced psychosis for almost 2 years on average, less than half of patients were asked about the potential or actual harm associated with these symptoms. All other cognitive–phenomenological dimensions were assessed inconsistently. Conclusions The assessment of hallucination and delusions in our EIPS was inconsistent and incomprehensive. These findings require replication in other EIPS' but may point to a need for guidelines and training around how to conduct a thorough assessment of hallucinations and delusions for current and future EIPS staff. Improved assessment of these symptoms will aid the development of risk assessments and treatment plans.
The experience of hearing voices (‘auditory hallucinations’) can cause significant distress and disruption to quality of life for people with a psychosis diagnosis. Psychological therapy in the form of cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) for psychosis is recommended for the treatment of positive symptoms, including distressing voices, but is rarely available to patients in the United Kingdom. CBT for psychosis has recently evolved with the development of symptom-specific therapies that focus upon only one symptom of psychosis at a time. Preliminary findings from randomized controlled trials suggest that these symptom-specific therapies can be more effective for distressing voices than the use of broad CBT protocols, and have the potential to target voices trans-diagnostically. Whilst this literature is evolving, consideration must be given to the potential for a symptom-specific approach to overcome some of the barriers to delivery of evidence-based psychological therapies within clinical services. These barriers are discussed in relation to the United Kingdom mental health services, and we offer suggestions for future research to enhance our understanding of these barriers.
Background: Older adult carers of people who experience psychosis are at increased risk of developing physical and mental health problems due to the compounding factors of supporting their care-recipient and the health changes associated with ageing. Effective interventions exist but can be difficult to access and maintain prolonged engagement. Self-directed writing therapies, frequently referred to as Written Emotional Disclosure (WED), might be a suitable alternative intervention to improve the wellbeing of carers.Methods: This study aimed to determine the feasibility (recruitment, retention and primary outcome completion) and acceptability of a specific WED intervention known as Positive Written Disclosure (PWD). Informal carers of people with psychosis were randomised to PWD, neutral writing or no writing. Quantitative outcomes including positive and negative affect, carer wellbeing, quality of life, depression, anxiety, stress, self-efficacy, leisure time satisfaction as well as health care utilisation were collected at baseline, 1-, 3-, and 6-month assessments. Qualitative feedback was also collected via questionnaire and semi-structured interviews from those randomised to either writing group.Results: We successfully met our progression criteria, recruiting to target and within timeframes whilst attaining 97% retention and 84% primary outcome data completed at 6 months. Carers randomised to the positive writing group described the intervention as enabling them to have a more positive attitude and focus on activities for themselves. Both writing groups described their tasks as providing distraction from caring responsibilities. However, some carers found the narrow positive emotion focus challenging.Conclusions: PWD is a feasible and acceptable intervention for older adult carers of people with psychosis within a community setting. Further refinement of the writing protocol to include choice in type of emotion disclosed in addition to screening for some level of need may be required in future trials to reduce floor/ceiling effects of outcomes which may explain the lack of change observed.
Purpose Postgraduate researchers (PGRs) appear to be particularly vulnerable to mental health problems. Mental health-related stigma and discrimination may be endemic within universities, creating a threatening environment that undermines PGRs’ health and well-being. These environmental characteristics may increase PGRs’ absenteeism and presenteeism, attendance behaviours that have great personal and institutional consequences. The study of this issue, however, has been limited to date. Design/methodology/approach This was a mixed methods psychological study using cross-sectional data provided by 3,352 UK-based PGRs. Data were collected in a new national survey (U-DOC) led by a British University in 2018–2019. We used structural equation modelling techniques to test associations between workplace mental health-related stigma and discrimination, presenteeism, absenteeism and demographic characteristics. The authors analysed qualitative survey data with framework analysis to deductively and inductively explore associations between workplace culture, stigma and discrimination, and attendance behaviours. Findings The authors found that some PGRs report positive perceptions and experiences of the academic mental health-related workplace culture. However, experiences of mental health stigma and discrimination appear widespread. Both quantitative and qualitative results show that experiences of mental health-related stigma are associated with greater absenteeism and presenteeism. People with mental health problems appear especially vulnerable to experiencing stigma and its impacts. Practical implications Key implications include recommendations for universities to improve support for PGR mental health, and to encourage taking annual leave and necessary sickness absences, by providing a more inclusive environment with enhanced mental health service provision and training for faculty and administrative staff. Originality/value This study presents the first large-scale survey of PGR experiences of mental health-related stigma and discrimination, and their associations with absenteeism and presenteeism.
This paper explores whether the increased vulnerability of children of anxious parents to develop anxiety disorders may be partially explained by these children having increased cognitive biases towards threat compared with children of non-anxious parents. Parents completed questionnaires about their child’s anxiety symptoms. Children aged 5–9 ( n = 85) participated in two cognitive bias tasks: 1) an emotion recognition task, and 2) an ambiguous situations questionnaire. For the emotion recognition task, there were no significant differences between at-risk children and children of non-anxious parents in their cognitive bias scores for reaction times or for accuracy in identifying angry or happy facial expressions. In addition, there were no significant differences between at-risk children and children of non-anxious parents in the number of threat interpretations made for the ambiguous situations questionnaire. It is possible that these cognitive biases only become present subsequent to the development of an anxiety disorder, or only in older at-risk children.
Sixteen sessions of individual cognitive behavior therapy for people with psychosis (CBTp) is recommended. However, access to CBTp is poor, so the potential of low intensity CBTp (fewer than 16 sessions of face-to-face contact) is being explored. A systematic review and meta-analysis was conducted of 10 controlled trials evaluating low intensity CBTp. Significant between-group effects were found on the primary outcome, symptoms of psychosis, at post-intervention (d = -0.46, 95% CI: -0.06, -0.86) and follow-up (d = -0.40, 95% CI: -0.06, -0.74). Study quality did not moderate post-intervention psychosis outcomes, nor did contact time/number of sessions or therapy format (individual versus group). Between-group effects on secondary outcomes (depression, anxiety and functioning) were not significant at post-intervention, but became significant at follow-up for depression and functioning outcomes (but not for anxiety). Overall, findings suggest that low intensity CBTp shows promise with effect sizes comparable to those found in meta-analyses of CBTp more broadly. We suggest that low intensity CBTp could help widen access. Future research is called for to identify mechanisms of change and to ascertain moderators of outcome so that low intensity CBTp targets key mechanisms (so that scarce therapy time is used effectively) and so that interventions offered are matched to patient need. (C) 2016 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).
Introduction Mental health stigma causes a range of diverse and serious negative sequelae. Anti-stigma campaigns have largely aligned with medical theories and categorical approaches. Such campaigns have produced some improvements, but mental health stigma is still prevalent. The effect of alternative theoretical perspectives on mental health within anti-stigma campaigns has not been tested. Moreover, we do not know their effect on help-seeking intentions. Methods We conducted an online experimental pre-post study comparing the effects of two anti-stigma campaign posters on mental health stigma and help-seeking intentions. One poster adhered to the medical, categorical approach to mental health, whereas the other poster portrayed mental health problems in line with a non-categorical, continuous perspective. Results After controlling for familiarity with the campaign poster, country of residence and pre-test scores, we found no significant between-group differences in terms of help-seeking intentions and all stigma attitudes except for danger-related beliefs. That is, those who viewed the non-categorical poster reported an increased perception that people with mental health problems are dangerous. Discussion Our largely null findings may suggest the equivalence of these posters on stigma and help-seeking intentions but may also reflect the brevity of the intervention. Our findings concerning danger beliefs may reflect a Type I error, the complexities of stigma models, or the adverse effects of increased perceived contact. Further research is needed to test the effects of differing mental health paradigms on stigma and help-seeking intentions over a longer duration.
Access to cognitive behaviour therapy for those with psychosis (CBTp) remains poor. The most frequently endorsed barrier to implementation is a lack of resources. To improve access to CBTp, we developed a brief form of CBTp that specifically targets voice-related distress. The results of our pilot trial of guided self-help CBT for voices (GiVE) suggest that the therapy is both acceptable and beneficial. The present study aims to explore the subjective patient experience of accessing GiVE in the context of a trial. We interviewed nine trial participants using the Change Interview and a mixed methods approach. Most participants reported at least one positive change that they attributed to GiVE. We extracted five themes: (1) changes that I have noticed; (2) I am not alone; (3) positive therapy experiences; (4) I want more therapy; and (5) helping myself. The themes indicate that participating in the GiVE trial was generally a positive experience. The main areas in which participants experienced changes were improved self-esteem, and the ability to cope with voices. Positive changes were facilitated by embracing and enacting ‘self-help’ and having support both in and out of the therapy sessions. The findings support the use of self-help materials with those distressed by hearing voices, but that support both within and outside the clinical setting can aid engagement and outcomes. Overall, the findings support the continued investigation of GiVE.
Few patients have access to cognitive behaviour therapy for psychosis (CBTp) even though at least 16 sessions of CBTp is recommended in treatment guidelines. Briefer CBTp could improve access as the same number of therapists could see more patients. In addition, focusing on single psychotic symptoms, such as auditory hallucinations (‘voices’), rather than on psychosis more broadly, may yield greater benefits. This pilot RCT recruited 28 participants (with a range of diagnoses) from NHS mental health services who were distressed by hearing voices. The study compared an 8-session guided self-help CBT intervention for distressing voices with a wait-list control. Data were collected at baseline and at 12weeks with post-therapy assessments conducted blind to allocation. Voice-impact was the pre-determined primary outcome. Secondary outcomes were depression, anxiety, wellbeing and recovery. Mechanism measures were self-esteem, beliefs about self, beliefs about voices and voice-relating. Recruitment and retention was feasible with low study (3.6%) and therapy (14.3%) dropout. There were large, statistically significant between-group effects on the primary outcome of voice-impact (d=1.78; 95% CIs: 0.86–2.70), which exceeded the minimum clinically important difference. Large, statistically significant effects were found on a number of secondary and mechanism measures. Large effects on the pre-determined primary outcome of voice-impact are encouraging, and criteria for progressing to a definitive trial are met. Significant between-group effects on measures of self-esteem, negative beliefs about self and beliefs about voice omnipotence are consistent with these being mechanisms of change and this requires testing in a future trial.
Objective Carers play an important role within the UK mental health system. Those carers who support persons with psychosis can experience a reduction in their own physical and mental health. As part of the Caring for Caregivers (C4C) trial, we piloted a writing intervention (Positive Written Disclosure) that has been shown to improve wellbeing in other populations. Although we reached our recruitment target, we encountered several barriers that made recruitment slower than anticipated. This paper synthesises the process data collected during the C4C trial that relates to the barriers to recruiting and retaining psychosis carers. Results We encountered four main carer-specific barriers to the recruitment and retention of participants in our study. These were: (1) poor relationship with mental health clinicians, (2) conflicting with the care recipient's (CR) needs, (3) lack of spare time, and (4) lack of services for mental health carers. The interventions to assist carers need to be informed by robust evidence and this requires trials that reach their recruitment targets. By sharing our practical experiences other researchers and clinicians can modify their practices to minimise recruitment difficulties and delay. Trial registration ISRCTN79116352. Retrospectively registered (before the final participant was recruited) on 23rd January 2017
Background The number of mental health-related 999 calls to emergency services has increased in recent years. However, emergency services staff have an unfavourable reputation when it comes to supporting people experiencing mental health problems. Aims To assess the levels of explicit and implicit mental health stigma among accident and emergency, ambulance and police staff, and draw comparisons with the general population. Additional analyses sought to identify which variables predict mental health stigma among emergency services staff. Method A cross-sectional survey of 1837 participants, comprising four independent groups (accident and emergency, ambulance and police staff, and the general population). Results Levels of mental health stigma across all four groups were lower than those reported in recent surveys of the general population by the 'Time to Change' campaign. Within this study, explicit levels of mental health stigma were lower among the general population compared with emergency services staff. There was no difference between emergency service professions, nor were there any between-group differences in terms of implicit mental health stigma. The only consistent predictors of mental health stigma were attitudes and future behavioural intentions, whereby increased stigma was predicted by increased fear, reduced sympathy and greater intended discrimination. Conclusions Our findings suggest that levels of mental health stigma have improved over time, but there is room for improvement in emergency services staff. Interventions to improve mental health stigma may be most effective if, in line with the cognitive-behavioural model of stigma, they target attitudes and behavioural intentions.
We conducted a systematic review to answer the following: (a) Is there any evidence to support increased prevalence of suicidality and self-harm (i.e. self-harm or suicidality) in urban versus rural environments? (b) What aspects of the urban environment pose risk for suicidality and self-harm? Thirty-five studies met our criteria. Our findings reflect a mixed picture, but with a tendency for urban living to be associated with an increased risk of suicidality and self-harm over rural living, particularly for those living in deprived areas. Further research should focus on the clustering and additive effects of risk and protective factors for suicidality and self-harm in urban environments.
Background First responders (i.e. police and ambulance staff) have increasingly become part of the mental health care system, often being the first port of call for those experiencing a crisis. Despite their frequent involvement in supporting those with mental health problems, there is evidence that mental health stigma is high amongst first responders. Aims The aim of the present study was to evaluate a brief training video aimed at reducing mental health stigma amongst first responders. Methods First responders watched a training video based on the cognitive behavioural model of mental health stigma, and involved contributions from people with lived experience, and first responders. Measures of mental health stigma were collected before and after viewing the training. Results The training video produced small but significant improvements in mental health stigma, and these effects did not differ between police and ambulance staff. We were unable to determine what psychological constructs mediated this change in stigma. The feedback on the training video was generally positive, but also indicated some key areas for future development. Conclusions The present study provides encouraging evidence that levels of mental health stigma can be improved using a resource-light training intervention.
Evidence regarding the mental health of doctoral researchers (DRs) is very limited; that which exists suggests DRs are particularly vulnerable to experiencing mental health difficulties during their PhD. Despite the associated jeopardy, however, to our knowledge there are no data published nor in the grey literature, reporting on suicidality amongst DRs. Using an online survey, we invited UK DRs to complete the Suicide Behaviour Questionnaire-Revised and qualitatively describe their experience of suicidality and its association with their PhD studies. A total of 1,263 DRs provided these data, with 40% of these participants meeting Suicide Behaviour Questionnaire-Revised criteria for being at high risk of suicide. Within the qualitative data, we identified three higher-order themes: (a) lived experience of suicidality; (b) PhD: the good, the bad, the ugly; and (c) life outside the PhD. Our findings suggest that suicidality is a common, yet complex and nuanced, experience amongst doctoral researchers. Identifiable elements of the PhD and personal lives can increase or protect against suicidality. The risk and protective factors identified here require verification using quantitative methods, but still support the immediate need for universities to respond to the risk of suicidality amongst their DRs.
Introduction: In several sub-fields of psychology, there has been a renewed focus on measurement practices. As far as we are aware, this has been absent in hallucinations research. Thus, we investigated (a) cross-study variation in how hallucinatory experiences are measured and (b) the reliability of measurements obtained using two tasks that are widely employed in hallucinations research. Method: In Study 1, we investigated to what extent there was variation in how the Launay-Slade Hallucination Scale (LSHS) has been used across 100 studies. In Study 2, we investigated the reliability of the measurements obtained through source monitoring and signal detection tasks, using data from four recent publications. Materials/data are available at doi: 10.17605/osf.io/d3gnk/. Results: In Study 1, we found substantial variation in how hallucinatory experiences were assessed using the LSHS and that descriptions of the LSHS were often incomplete in important ways. In Study 2, we reported a range of reliability estimates for the measurements obtained using source monitoring and signal discrimination tasks. Some measurements obtained using source monitoring tasks had unacceptably low levels of reliability. Conclusions: Our findings suggest that suboptimal measurement practices are common in hallucinations research and we suggest steps researchers could take to improve measurement practices.
Background Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) is recommended for all patients with psychosis, but is offered to only a minority. This is attributable, in part, to the resource-intensive nature of CBT for psychosis. Responses have included the development of CBT for psychosis in brief and targeted formats, and its delivery by briefly trained therapists. This study explored a combination of these responses by investigating a brief, CBT-informed intervention targeted at distressing voices (the GiVE intervention) administered by a briefly trained workforce of assistant psychologists. Aims To explore the feasibility of conducting a randomised controlled trial to evaluate the clinical and cost-effectiveness of the GiVE intervention when delivered by assistant psychologists to patients with psychosis. Method This was a three-arm, feasibility, randomised controlled trial comparing the GiVE intervention, a supportive counselling intervention and treatment as usual, recruiting across two sites, with 1:1:1 allocation and blind post-treatment and follow-up assessments. Results Feasibility outcomes were favourable with regard to the recruitment and retention of participants and the adherence of assistant psychologists to therapy and supervision protocols. For the candidate primary outcomes, estimated effects were in favour of GiVE compared with supportive counselling and treatment as usual at post-treatment. At follow-up, estimated effects were in favour of supportive counselling compared with GiVE and treatment as usual, and GiVE compared with treatment as usual. Conclusions A definitive trial of the GiVE intervention, delivered by assistant psychologists, is feasible. Adaptations to the GiVE intervention and the design of any future trials may be necessary.
Cognitive features of auditory hallucinations (voices) have important clinical significance and their assessment is vital for cognitive behavior therapy to be more widely deployed by multidisciplinary staff. Using a new Socratic instrument—The Staff Views About Assessing Voices Questionnaire (SVAVQ)—we surveyed a community inpatient rehabilitation multidisciplinary workforce's (N = 50) assessment and attitude toward asking cognitive questions about patients' voices. We found that there were many clinically important gaps in what staff asked about in relation to cognitive features of voices. We identified a range of beliefs the staff hold that may prevent assessment of voice cognitive features. However, after attending the Socratic SVAVQ interview, 84% of staff said they planned to ask patients more questions about cognitive features of patients' voices. Research could now test if other psychosis services neglect the assessment of important cognitive features of patients' voices and if staff Socratic questioning improves their cognitive assessments.
Children of anxious parents are at high risk of anxiety disorders themselves. The evidence suggests that this is due to environmental rather than genetic factors. However, we currently do little to reduce this risk of transmission. There is evidence that supporting parenting in those with mental health difficulties can ameliorate this risk. Therefore, the objective of this study was to test the feasibility of a new one-session, group-based, preventive parenting intervention for parents with anxiety disorders. Feasibility Randomized Controlled Trial. A total of 100 parents with anxiety disorders, recruited from adult mental health services in England (and child aged 3-9 years), were randomized to receive the new intervention (a 1-day, group workshop), or to treatment as usual. Children's anxiety disorder and anxiety symptoms were assessed to 12 months by outcome assessors who were blind to group allocation. Exploratory analyses were conducted on an intention to treat basis, as far as possible. A total of 51 participants were randomized to the intervention condition and 49 to the control condition (82% and 80% followed to 12 months, respectively). The attendance rate was 59%, and the intervention was highly acceptable to parents who received it. The RCT was feasible, and 12-month follow-up attrition rates were low. Children whose parents were in the control condition were 16.5% more likely to have an anxiety disorder at follow-up than those in the intervention group. No adverse events were reported. An inexpensive, light-touch, psycho-educational intervention may be useful in breaking the intergenerational cycle of transmission of anxiety disorders. A substantive trial is warranted. Anxiety disorders run in families, but we currently do little to help anxious parents to raise confident children. A brief group workshop was highly acceptable to such parents and was very inexpensive to run. Children of parents who took part in the brief intervention were 16.5% less likely to have an anxiety disorder, 1 year later, than children whose parents were in the control group. This was a feasibility study, and while it showed that both the intervention and the research were feasible, the study needs replicating with a much larger sample. Many parents faced barriers to attending the workshop, and future efforts should focus on widening accessibility. We were unable to obtain sufficient self-report data from children, so the outcomes are based on parent report only.
Background Voice-hearing is a common, phenomenologically diverse, experience across different mental health diagnoses. Patient preferences for psychological therapies are helpful in informing treatment commissioning and provision, especially in the context of complex and variable experiences like voice-hearing. There is, however, very limited evidence as to the psychological therapy preferences of transdiagnostic voice-hearers. Methods Three-hundred and thirty-five voice hearers were recruited from secondary care NHS mental health services across England, between 2020 and 2022. Participants completed a questionnaire battery, involving a psychological therapy preference survey. Participants ranked their preferences across categories of practical, technical and relational therapy elements. Therapy preferences were examined using non-parametric ANOVAs and the significance of pairwise comparisons between different therapy elements. Results There were significant differences in all categories of preference elements. Clear hierarchies of preference were observed in therapy location, timing, delivery, and therapy approach. Preferences were evident, albeit with less clear vertical hierarchies, for number of sessions, mode, therapist qualities, and therapy focus, tasks and outcomes. Discussion Overall, participants expressed a preference for individual, face-to-face intervention of at least nine sessions, with a highly experienced therapist and a core focus on enhancing coping strategies for voice-hearing experiences.
Doctoral Researchers (DRs) are an important part of the academic community and, after graduating, make substantial social and economic contributions. Despite this importance, DR wellbeing has long been of concern. Recent studies have concluded that DRs may be particularly vulnerable to mental health problems, yet direct comparisons of the prevalence of mental health problems between this population and control groups are lacking. Here, by comparing DRs with educated working controls, we show that DRs report significantly greater anxiety and depression, and that this difference is not explained by a higher rate of pre-existing mental health problems. Moreover, most DRs perceive poor mental health as a 'normal' part of the PhD process. Thus, our findings suggest a hazardous impact of PhD study on mental health, with DRs being particularly at risk of developing common mental health problems. This provides an evidence-based mandate for universities and funders to reflect upon practices related to DR training and mental health. Our attention should now be directed towards understanding what factors may explain heightened anxiety and depression among DRs so as to inform preventative measures and interventions.
Objectives Anxiety runs in families, and its transmission is largely environmental. However, studies rarely explore this process in clinically anxious parents or ask participants to face a genuine fear. We also do not know whether this process is modifiable. This study will explore these questions using a sample of clinically anxious parents. Design Experimental design comparing clinically anxious parents with non-anxious parents, and exploring the effects of a tutorial intervention versus a control group. Methods Parents with and without anxiety disorders and their children (5–9 years) participated (N = 72). Children chose two fearful animal stimuli. Parents helped the child approach the first in graded steps. The following parental behaviours were recorded: positive/negative verbal information; positive/negative modelling; encouragement/praising of approach/avoidance behaviours. Half the parents were then randomly assigned to a short video tutorial advising how to help children cope with fearful situations. The remainder watched a control video. The approach task was repeated with the second stimulus. Results Parenting behaviours fell into two categories: ‘approach parenting’ (encouraging/praising/modelling approach; positive verbal information) and ‘avoidance parenting’ (encouraging/praising/modelling avoidance; negative verbal information). The parenting tutorial increased ‘approach parenting’ and decreased ‘avoidance parenting’ and was associated with increased child approach towards fearful stimuli. This was not moderated by parent or child anxiety. Conclusions Parenting, particularly ‘avoidance parenting’, is associated with children's approach and avoidance. A short video tutorial modified these parenting behaviours and reduced avoidance. These effects were apparent regardless of parent or child anxiety level.
Access to psychological therapies continues to be poor for people experiencing psychosis. To address this problem, researchers are developing brief interventions that address the specific symptoms associated with psychosis, i.e., hearing voices. As part of the development work for a brief Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) intervention for voices we collected qualitative data from people who hear voices (study 1) and clinicians (study 2) on the potential barriers and facilitators to implementation and engagement. Thematic analysis of the responses from both groups revealed a number of anticipated barriers to implementation and engagement. Both groups believed the presenting problem (voices and psychosis symptoms) may impede engagement. Furthermore clinicians identified a lack of resources to be a barrier to implementation. The only facilitator to engagement was reported by people who hear voices who believed a compassionate, experienced and trustworthy therapist would promote engagement. The results are discussed in relation to how these barriers could be addressed in the context of a brief intervention using CBT techniques.
Carers of people experiencing a first episode of psychosis are at an increased risk of developing their own physical and mental health problems. Psychoeducation has been found to improve carer wellbeing and reduce distress. However, few psychoeducation interventions have considered the resource constraints on mental health services and the impact that these can have on the implementation of any such interventions. The present service evaluation aimed to evaluate an abbreviated version (sole session) of a previously tested psychoeducation intervention (three sessions) that targets less adaptive illness beliefs (n= 17). Pre-post effect sizes reveal that all of the carers' illness beliefs changed in the desired direction, with four out of the 10 illness beliefs associated with large to moderate improvements. When compared with the outcomes obtained in our evaluation of the more intensive, three-session version of the intervention, the between-group effects largely favoured the three-session version but were mostly small. Moderate to large effects in favour of the three-session version were found for two of the 10 illness beliefs. These findings support the further investigation of the sole session psychoeducation intervention as part of a randomised controlled trial. Key learning aims To evaluate the impact of a sole-session psychoeducation intervention on illness beliefs. To compare the outcomes of the sole-session psychoeducation intervention to the previous, more intensive (three-session) version of the same intervention. To consider the value of research approaches to evaluating psychoeducation interventions for carers of people with psychosis.
Doctoral researchers (DRs) appear at elevated risk of mental health problems and poor wellbeing during the PhD process, yet there is limited high quality research in this area. We aimed to derive a conceptual model of DR mental health risk and protective factors using thematic analysis of focus group data. The model positions mental health as reflecting dynamic balance across key tensions characterising the doctoral experience (chaos-cosmos, product-person, agency-acceptance, social-individual, safety-authenticity) within core experiential domains; the doctoral researcher, the supervisory relationship, and the system. Individual factors, including historical and personal characteristics, impact on mental health and the expression and balance of key tensions. Key practice recommendations include supporting DR mental health with a whole university approach rather than intervention silos.
Background Emerging evidence demonstrates that postgraduate researchers have high rates of mental health problems. These problems are distressing, affect PhD studies, and have longer-term potential effects beyond the duration of the PhD. Yet large-scale studies of multiple risk and protective factors are rare. Aims We aimed to test the predictive validity of a comprehensive set of potential determinants of mental health symptoms (depression, anxiety and suicidality) among postgraduate researchers in the UK, including personal, study-related, and supervision characteristics. Method We used regression models applied to data obtained from a national online survey of UK postgraduate researchers (Understanding DOCtoral researcher mental health; U-DOC, 2018–2019) to test predictors of mental health symptoms. Results These models show that postgraduate researchers' mental health symptoms are predicted by demographic, occupational, psychological, social and supervisory relationship factors. Greater perfectionism, more impostor thoughts and reduced supervisory communion most strongly and consistently predict mental health symptoms. Conclusions Institutions training postgraduate researchers should focus interventions intended to improve depression, anxiety, suicidality, on self-beliefs and social connectedness. Moreover, supervisors should be provided with training that improves the degree of agency, and especially communion, in the relationships they form with postgraduate researchers.
Background: Carers of patients experiencing first episode psychosis (FEP) are at an increased risk of mental and physical health problems themselves. However, little is known about how the psychological needs of carers may differ between those caring for an adolescent versus an adult who has FEP. Aims: This pilot study aimed to explore any differences in the psychological needs of carers caring for adolescents versus adults with FEP. Methods: We surveyed 254 carers of 198 FEP patients (34 carers of adolescents of 24 FEP adolescent patients). Carers completed self-report measures of anxiety, depression, burnout, subjective burden, coping, and key illness beliefs. The sample was divided according to whether the patient was under (adolescent) or over (adult) age 18, and analysed using mixed model logistic regressions. Results: Compared to the carers of adult patients, carers of adolescents were more than twice as likely (12% vs. 30%) to experience overall burnout syndrome (all three domains), and to develop it much quicker (19.4 vs. 10.1 months). They were also more likely to adopt behavioural disengagement avoidance as a form of coping. However, there was no difference between carers in terms of anxiety, depression, beliefs and subjective burden. For carers of adolescents, burnout was independently predicted by: a negative belief about the consequences of psychosis for the adolescent patient and an incoherent understanding of the patient’s mental health. Conclusions: If our findings can be replicated in a larger sample, then Rapid-Onset-Burnout-Syndrome (ROBS) is a particular problem in carers of adolescents at FEP, suggesting a need for routine screening and possible prophylactic intervention. Carers of adolescent’s use of behavioural escape coping maybe also require early intervention. Theoretically, consideration could be given to the development of an adolescent sub-branch to the cognitive model of caregiving.
Background The presence of auditory verbal hallucinations (AVHs) does not currently feature in the main diagnostic criteria for borderline personality disorder (BPD). However, there is accumulating evidence that a high proportion of BPD patients report longstanding and frequent AVHs which constitute a significant risk factor for suicide plans and attempts, and hospitalization. Aim This study addressed questions about the validity and phenomenology of AVHs in the context of BPD. The longer-term aim is to facilitate the development and translation of treatment approaches to address the unmet need of this population. Method This was a cross-sectional study, combining phenomenological and psychological assessments administered in person and online. We explored the experiences of 48 patients with a diagnosis of BPD who were hearing AVHs. Results Participants gave ‘consistent’ reports on the measure of AVH phenomenology, suggesting that these experiences were legitimate. Similar to AVHs in a psychosis context, AVHs were experienced as distressing and appraised as persecutory. AVHs were found to be weakly associated with BPD symptoms. AVHs were also rated highly as a treatment priority by the majority of participants. Conclusion The findings suggest that AVH is a legitimate and distressing symptom of BPD and a treatment priority for some patients. The relative independence of AVHs from other BPD symptoms and emotional states suggests that psychological treatment may need to be targeted specifically at the symptom of AVHs. This treatment could be adapted from cognitive behaviour therapy, the psychological intervention that is recommended for the treatment of AVHs in the context of psychosis.
Background: The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for psychosis (CBTp) is offered to all patients with a psychosis diagnosis. However, only a minority of psychosis patients in England and Wales are offered CBTp. This is attributable, in part, to the resource-intensive nature of CBTp. One response to this problem has been the development of CBTp in brief formats that are targeted at a single symptom and the mechanisms that maintain distress. We have developed a brief form of CBTp for distressing voices and reported preliminary evidence for its effectiveness when delivered by highly trained therapists (clinical psychologists). This study will investigate the delivery of this intervention by a cost-effective workforce of assistant psychologists following a brief training and evaluate the acceptability and feasibility of conducting a future, definitive, randomised controlled trial (RCT). Methods: This is a feasibility study for a pragmatic, three-arm, parallel-group, superiority 1:1:1 RCT comparing a Guided self-help CBT intervention for voices and treatment as usual (GiVE) to Supportive Counselling and treatment as usual (SC) to treatment as usual alone (TAU), recruiting across two sites, with blinded post-treatment and followup assessments. A process evaluation will quantitatively and qualitatively explore stakeholder experience. Discussion: Expected outcomes will include an assessment of the feasibility of conducting a definitive RCT, and data to inform the calculation of its sample size. If evidence from a subsequent, fully powered RCT suggests that GiVE is clinically and cost-effective when delivered by briefly trained assistant psychologists, CBTp offered in these less resource-intensive forms has the potential to generate benefits for individual patients (reduced distress, enhanced recovery and enhanced quality of life), service-level patient benefit (increased access to evidence-based psychological therapies) and economic benefits to the NHS (in terms of the reduced use of mental health inpatient services).
Background Carers of people with psychosis are at a greater risk of physical and mental health problems compared to the general population. Yet, not all carers will experience a decline in health. This predicament has provided the rationale for research studies exploring what factors predict poor wellbeing in carers of people with psychosis. Our study builds on previous research by testing the predictive value of demographic variables on carer wellbeing within a single regression model. Methods To achieve this aim, we conducted secondary analysis on two trial data sets that were merged and recoded for the purposes of this study. Results: Contrary to our hypotheses, only carer gender and age predicted carer wellbeing; with lower levels of carer wellbeing being associated with being female or younger (aged under 50). However, the final regression model explained only 11% of the total variance. Conclusions Suggestions for future research are discussed in light of the limitations inherent in secondary analysis studies. Further research is needed where sample sizes are sufficient to explore the interactive and additive impact of other predictor variables.