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Automated virtual reality therapy helps people overcome phobia of heights

Scientists hope computer programme which requires no human therapist could be used to treat other mental health problems

Daniel and Jason Freeman: Don’t dismiss tech solutions to mental health problems

A fear of heights could be overcome with the help of a virtual therapist, new research suggests, with experts saying the findings boost hopes virtual reality could play a key role in tackling other mental health problems.

According to a 2014 YouGov survey, an aversion to heights is more common in the UK than a fear of spiders, snakes, or being on a plane, with 23% of British adults “very afraid” …read more

Don’t dismiss tech solutions to mental health problems

There is a desperate shortage of skilled clinicians to treat mental health disorders. Our study shows how virtual reality could fill the gap

The words “mental health” and “crisis” now appear to be yoked together. About a quarter of us will suffer from a clinical psychological disorder over the next year, but most people will receive no help at all. The question is no longer about whether we have a problem, but what we are going to do about it.

We don’t lack high-quality, evidence-based psychological treatments for many mental health problems. These treatments have been verified by dozens …read more

Burnt out: heatwaves can lead to poor decisions and thinking, studies say

A new study by Harvard researchers found students without air conditioning showed 13% longer reaction times on tests

If you feel like having to work during a heatwave should be banned, you may have a point. A new study conducted by the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health suggests that hot weather can make your thinking 13% slower.

The study, published on Tuesday in the journal PLOS Medicine, examined cognitive performance during a 2016 Boston heatwave among students who lived in buildings without air conditioning versus those who had it. Researchers found that students without air conditioning demonstrated about a 13% …read more

CQC head David Behan: ‘Care has got safer and quality has got better’ | Denis Campbell

The outgoing chief executive of the health and care regulator defends its tougher regime under his watch

“One of my jobs when I came in was to restore political, professional and public confidence in the Care Quality Commission, says David Behan, chief executive of the CQC. “It was shot when I took over and there’s no point in contending that it was anything else”.

Behan is reflecting on the challenge he faced when he took over at the helm of the regulator of health and social care in England in 2012. He succeeded Cynthia Bower, who was forced to resign …read more

Ordeal by Atos for sick claimants | Letters

Sick and disabled claimants are undergoing unnecessary benefits assessments, argues Patricia de Wolfe, while Dr Liam O’Toole says arthritis sufferers are being left in the dark about their entitlements. Eric Midwinter celebrates an unsung architect of the welfare state

I welcome Max Fishel’s call for more reporting on the effects of benefits assessments on sick and disabled claimants (Letters, 8 July). The appalling quality of some assessments has been publicised, but less often mentioned is their unnecessary frequency.

People with long-term health conditions, repeatedly assessed and found unfit for work over a period of decades, may well just get a …read more