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To explore the effect of hindsight bias on retrospective reviews of clinical decision making prior to adverse incidents to inform future approaches to incident investigations.
We have undertaken focus groups with doctors of varying grades across the North West of England and North Wales. A vignette based on a real-life case from the publicly available NHS England Homicide Independent Investigation report database was presented to each group in one of three versions which differed in terms of the ending of the vignettes (i.e. suicide, homicide, no adverse incident). Using a semi-structured interview approach, the group participants were encouraged by the facilitators to reflect on issues relating to risk and risk management. All groups were provided with the same vignette which initially made no reference to the outcome and asked to comment on matters of risk and risk management. Halfway through the discussion, one of the three outcomes was disclosed, and further group discussion was held. The recorded interviews were transcribed and thematic analysis was undertaken using an adapted Framework Method.
Preliminary results (n = 10) indicate that participants identified the potential for significant harm, particularly to others, and identified evidence of key psychopathological and historical correlates to support assertive management of risk and admission to hospital.
Whilst knowledge of the outcome did not lead to participants changing their favoured management plans, it did alter how they appraised the case and led to participants constructing “narrative” explanations for the outcome given. The level of conviction participants held for their management plan reduced when their expectations about the outcome were confounded.
Participants presented with the suicide outcome vignette described their difficulties appraising risk to others and their over-sensitivity to that risk. Participants faced with the ‘no adverse outcome’ vignette perceived the original management plan far more favourably in hindsight. The groups that were presented with the homicide outcome vignette initially focused on both risks to self and others as well as the perceived need for further information. Following knowledge of the outcome, there was a tendency to highlight parts of the letter pertaining to risk to others which they previously had not given as much attention.
The initial analysis of our data confirms the findings from previous studies that hindsight colours the appraisal of adverse events. However, this study is novel in that it describes the nature of the thought processes underpinning the influence of hindsight on appraisals of risk.
There is evidence that the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected mental health, but most studies have been conducted in the general population.
To identify factors associated with mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic in individuals with pre-existing mental illness.
Participants (N = 2869, 78% women, ages 18–94 years) from a UK cohort (the National Centre for Mental Health) with a history of mental illness completed a cross-sectional online survey in June to August 2020. Mental health assessments were the GAD-7 (anxiety), PHQ-9 (depression) and WHO-5 (well-being) questionnaires, and a self-report question on whether their mental health had changed during the pandemic. Regressions examined associations between mental health outcomes and hypothesised risk factors. Secondary analyses examined associations between specific mental health diagnoses and mental health.
A total of 60% of participants reported that mental health had worsened during the pandemic. Younger age, difficulty accessing mental health services, low income, income affected by COVID-19, worry about COVID-19, reduced sleep and increased alcohol/drug use were associated with increased depression and anxiety symptoms and reduced well-being. Feeling socially supported by friends/family/services was associated with better mental health and well-being. Participants with a history of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or eating disorder were more likely to report that mental health had worsened during the pandemic than individuals without a history of these diagnoses.
We identified factors associated with worse mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic in individuals with pre-existing mental illness, in addition to specific groups potentially at elevated risk of poor mental health during the pandemic.
The past decade has seen the development of services for adults presenting with symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in the UK. Compared with children, little is known about the phenotypic and genetic characteristics of these patients.
This e-cohort study aimed to examine the phenotypic and genetic characteristics of a clinically presenting sample of adults diagnosed with ASD by specialist services.
Individuals diagnosed with ASD as adults were recruited by the National Centre for Mental Health and completed self-report questionnaires, interviews and provided DNA; 105 eligible individuals were matched to 76 healthy controls. We investigated demographics, social history and comorbid psychiatric and physical disorders. Samples were genotyped, copy number variants (CNVs) were called and polygenic risk scores were calculated.
Of individuals with ASD, 89.5% had at least one comorbid psychiatric diagnosis, with depression (62.9%) and anxiety (55.2%) being the most common. The ASD group experienced more neurological comorbidities than controls, particularly migraine headache. They were less likely to have married or be in work, and had more alcohol-related problems. There was a significantly higher load of autism common genetic variants in the adult ASD group compared with controls, but there was no difference in the rate of rare CNVs.
This study provides important information about psychiatric comorbidity in adult ASD, which may inform clinical practice and patient counselling. It also suggests that the polygenic load of common ASD-associated variants may be important in conferring risk within the non-intellectually disabled population of adults with ASD.
Comorbid post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is associated with poorer outcomes of other disorders, but is treatable.
To estimate the frequency of clinically undetected PTSD in secondary care.
A systematic review of studies that screened for PTSD and reported on PTSD documentation in clinical records. Frequency of undetected PTSD was estimated, and reasons for heterogeneity explored.
The median proportion of participants with undetected PTSD (29 studies) was 28.6% (interquartile range 18.2–38.6%). There was substantial heterogeneity, with studies conducted in the USA and those with the highest proportions of in-patients and patients with psychotic disorder reporting higher frequencies of undetected PTSD.
Undetected PTSD is common in secondary care, even if the true value is at the lower limit of the estimates reported here. Trials examining the impact of routine screening for PTSD are required to determine whether such programmes should be standard procedure for all mental health services.
Self-help interventions for psychiatric disorders represent an increasingly popular alternative to therapist-administered psychological therapies, offering the potential of increased access to cost-effective treatment.
To determine the efficacy, cost-effectiveness and acceptability of self-help interventions for anxiety disorders.
Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of self-help interventions for anxiety disorders were identified by searching nine online databases. Studies were grouped according to disorder and meta-analyses were conducted where sufficient data were available. Overall meta-analyses of self-help v. waiting list and therapist-administered treatment were also undertaken. Methodological quality was assessed independently by two researchers according to criteria set out by the Cochrane Collaboration.
Thirty-one RCTs met inclusion criteria for the review. Results of the overall meta-analysis comparing self-help with waiting list gave a significant effect size of 0.84 in favour of self-help. Comparison of self-help with therapist-administered treatments revealed a significant difference in favour of the latter with an effect size of 0.34. The addition of guidance and the presentation of multimedia or web-based self-help materials improved treatment outcome.
Self-help interventions appear to be an effective way of treating individuals diagnosed with social phobia and panic disorder. Further research is required to evaluate the cost-effectiveness and acceptability of these interventions.
The effectiveness of official support provided following a disaster has not been fully evaluated. This study aimed to ascertain whether there was an association between perceived support shortly after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and later mental health symptoms in those affected, and to explore the factors associated with this. A survey, semi-structured interviews and focus group were used to explore the experiences and perceptions of 116 individuals severely affected by the tsunami.
Agency or official support was perceived as poor overall. Perceived ineffectiveness of support available within a few days after the tsunami was associated with increased symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder 15–19 months later. The strongest themes that emerged from our study were that support provided in a humane manner was perceived as effective and that uncoordinated support, poor communication and limited accessibility to support and information were perceived as ineffective.
Improved planning of coordinated, flexible, multi-agency responses to traumatic events before they occur is required.
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