King's at the forefront of mental health research

Here we highlight the work of King’s academics, supporters and students to combat, treat and raise awareness of mental health issues, both at university and across the world. 

Study from King’s proves talking can rewire our brain

Rewiring brain

A new King’s study shows that cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) can help to rewire the brain by strengthening specific connections within it. The King’s study, which is published in the journal Translational Psychiatry, demonstrates for the first time the positive changes of CBT on psychotic symptoms, and how it can continue to help recovery for up to eight years following treatment.

CBT is often called a ‘talking therapy’ because it involves people making alterations to their thought processes and their reactions to experiences by talking with a clinician about them.

Why a chat on a ‘friendship bench’ combats stress

Friendship Bench

In Zimbabwe, King’s has been involved in an innovative – and low-cost – programme that involved patients with depression or anxiety receiving talking therapy from a care worker on a wooden bench.

The programme is called the ‘Friendship Bench’ and it was run in conjunction with partner institutions. Those patients who took part in the programme were more than three times less likely to have symptoms of depression after six months. They were also four times less likely to show symptoms of anxiety.

The Friendship Bench involved structured one-to-one counselling sessions delivered on a wooden bench in a discreet area within the grounds of a clinic in Zimbabwe. King’s researchers found that ‘problem solving therapy’, which is a type of CBT, improved a person’s ability to cope with stressful life experiences.

Alumni back mental health support for King’s students

King's Wellbeing in Maughan Library

In London, King’s students have a new Wellbeing Space within the Maughan Library –thanks to the generosity of our alumni community.

The Wellbeing Space offers a quiet reflection space and a collection of books on mental wellbeing and health, which was solely funded by King’s alumni and friends. There are also support services covering depression, anxiety and stress.

Michelle Robinson, Health and Wellbeing Lead in the Faculty of Life Sciences & Medicine, and former mental health nurse, says that students are at particular risk of stress, as going to university may be their ‘first taste of independence’.

Says Michelle, ‘the financial, social, and cultural changes in circumstances can both exacerbate pre-existing mental health issues, and lead to first time occurrences as young people struggle to adapt.

‘If left unchecked, mental health problems can easily snowball and get worse. This can lead some students to become isolated and not seek help due to feelings of shame, fear or even pride.’

Indeed, statistics show that young men are at particular risk, with Office of National Statistics showing the number one cause of death in men aged 20-49 in the UK is suicide. 

As part of Kings’ drive to tackle mental health problems, the university also offers a wide range of services for student support. Explains Michelle, ‘The best way we can work with students with mental health issues is to promote support and empower them. Widening mental health education is key, because it is not until you understand why someone is ill that you can begin to be helpful.’

There is no bad time to follow the lead of King’s students, staff and alumni and start talking about mental health. Discover how you can help support mental health initiatives at King’s.

You can also visit King’s College Wellbeing for more information on how to optimise your physical and mental wellbeing.