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All in the Mind

26 June 2018, 5:26:00

Mental health support in the community; Insiders' Guide to Mental Health; Confidence all in the Mind has been following the progress a scheme called Think Ahead, which trains high-flying graduates to become a new generation of mental health social workers. A bit like Teach First, they are taught mostly on the job with a lot of special support. Not everyone in the field supports the idea but there has been no shortage of applicants. One of the first trainees, Charlotte Seymour who used to work in the legal field, is now based in east London where her clients' needs vary – from very practical help with sorting out rent arrears to emotional support when they fear their mental health is deteriorating. She met Emma during a stay in hospital, under section and her mental health is now vastly improved. But a family bereavement has affected her deeply. Despite not eating or sleeping for days she keeps her appointment with Charlotte to discuss how to keep herself safe at this difficult time.

In our Insiders' Guide series – if you've been referred to mental health services, what can you expect to happen at that first appointment? Lisa Rodrigues who has had mental health issues herself and has long experience managing mental health services and Sri Kalidindi, a psychiatrist with South London and Maudsley NHS Trust explain what's involved. This includes building up a good rapport and the taking of a full medical history – including traumatic life events and social circumstances. This helps to establish a diagnosis. Making a list might help if you are anxious – but you should also be realistic as most problems aren't sorted out straight away. A mental illness might make you feel like you don't deserve help – but everyone does, so it's important to go along to that first appointment with an open mind.

If you're not sure about something how do you make a decision? Who should you believe if you rely on others to help you decide? Researchers have found that if someone appears confident then we are likely to be influenced by them – our brains literally tune in to confident people. Psychologist Dr Dan Campbell-Meiklejohn from the University of Sussex has scanned the brains of people and discovered that they assess the confidence of others using a specific part at the front of the brain, in the prefrontal cortex. He asked people to play a computer game – with a "virtual" jar of marbles – where the colour of the next one pulled out had to be predicted. Computer-generated faces – with more or less confident expressions – helped to influence their decisions.


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