Dan Parton cutEditor Dan Parton looks back at some of the bigger news stories on the Mental Health Today website in 2013.

For this blog, I’m using the stories that garnered the most views on the Mental Health Today website over the course of the year. This is not to say they are the most significant – that is a matter of opinion.

Last year it seemed that mental health edged more into the mainstream media. For example, the most viewed story on the website was one announcing that BBC Three was to run a season of documentaries focused on mental health and young people.

Another popular story concerned various celebrities, including Frankie Sandford, singer in The Saturdays, showing their support for anti-stigma programme Time to Change’s Time to Talk campaign.

Later in the year, Channel 4 showed Bedlam, a series documenting the workings of the South London & Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust. This gave access to mental health services that had not been seen on television before.

Hopefully in 2014 this trend will continue and we will see much more mental health-related programming on mainstream television. The more mental health issues appear in the public eye, the more people know about them and it helps to break down the stigma that still exists.

Meanwhile, welfare benefit reform continued to be a major topic. And, as in previous years, it was the work capability assessment (WCA) – or fit-for-work test – for employment and support allowance that caused much controversy.

After years of claimants saying the WCA disadvantaged people with mental ill health, learning disabilities and autism, in May, three High Court judges agreed, following a judicial review.

But despite this, the WCA has remained in place, largely unchanged. In December, the fourth review of it by Dr Paul Litchfield did make more revisions in regards to mental health, although charities said they did not go far enough to address the problems

It seems likely that opposition to the WCA and calls for further reforms will continue in 2014, but also that the government will hold firm on its stance with it. If a judicial review won’t bring about fundamental change its numerous critics have called for, it is unlikely that anything else will.

Another area of mental health that continues to be controversial is community treatment orders (CTOs). In April, a study concluded that placing mental health patients on CTOs after a period of involuntary hospitalisation does not alter the likelihood of them being hospitalised again, and their use should be reviewed.

The use of CTOs – and the associated opposition and concerns – has consistently grown since their introduction in 2008. I suspect calls for reform will also continue in 2014, especially when the yearly figures, which will more than likely show another increase, are released. 

Elsewhere, mental health is increasingly embracing digital technology to engage young people, and the launch of two apps, Doc Ready and Well Happy, created much interest. Doc Ready aims to ensure young people confidently take control of what happens when they meet with their doctor and to help them get the most out of their visit. Well Happy is designed for people aged 12-25 in London who are concerned about mental and sexual health, drugs, alcohol and smoking.

This is another trend I see developing in 2014 as more mental health organisations realise the value of digital technology as a way of engaging people, and reaching some who may be reluctant to visit the doctor, for example.

These are just some of the major topics covered on the website in the past year. Other topics, including worries over continuing service provision, research into various conditions and the publication of new guidelines also created significant interest. 

All these, and more, will doubtless continue to be at the forefront of the minds of all those who work in, or use, mental health services in 2014.

More on what 2014 may bring will be covered in a future blog.