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New mental health treatment for children with epilepsy

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New mental health treatment for children with epilepsy

A new mental health treatment has been developed for children with epilepsy that enables multiple mental health conditions to be treated at once, instead of having different treatments for different mental health difficulties.

The treatment – named the Mental Health Intervention for Children with Epilepsy (MICE) – has been developed by a UCL-led team of scientists. In a new study, the treatment has been shown to reduce mental health difficulties compared to standard care.

Up to 60% of people with epilepsy encounter mental health problems including anxiety, low mood and behavioural problems. However, mental health problems in children and young people with epilepsy are often not identified because centres that treat epilepsy are usually separated from those that treat mental health difficulties.

When mental health difficulties are identified, standard treatment for children who also have epilepsy is usually carried out by specialists, such as child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) or hospital-based paediatric psychology services. The treatment given usually involves treating each mental health condition individually.

Mental Health Intervention for Children with Epilepsy (MICE)

The new MICE treatment is based on the treatments that the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends for the treatment of common mental health difficulties, however, it uses a modular approach that enables multiple mental health conditions to be treated at once, instead of having different treatments for different mental health difficulties.

Outlined in The Lancet, the treatment was created with young people and their families, as well as doctors, nurses and psychologists.

Lead author Dr Sophie Bennett, who carried out the research while working at UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health, said: “This treatment breakthrough means that we have a new way to help children and young people with epilepsy who also have mental health difficulties.

“The treatment can be delivered from within epilepsy services to join up care. It doesn’t need to be delivered by specialist mental health clinicians like psychologists.

“Integrating the care can help children with epilepsy and their families more effectively and efficiently. We were particularly pleased that benefits were sustained when treatment ended.”

The treatment can be delivered over the phone or via video call so that people do not have to travel to the hospital and miss time from school or work.

The treatment can also be integrated into epilepsy services rather than being outsourced to services such as CAMHS – meaning that it could be delivered by non-mental health specialists.

The study

For the study, the treatment was trialled with 334 children and young people aged three to 18. Of these, 166 received the new MICE treatment and 168 received the usual treatment for mental health problems in children with epilepsy.

The team assessed adolescents’ mental health and overall well-being from a parent-reported Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) – covering areas such as emotional problems, conduct, hyperactivity and peer problems.

The results showed that the children who had the MICE treatment had fewer mental difficulties than those who had the usual treatment, and the change is equivalent to a decrease of 40% in the likelihood of having a psychiatric disorder.

Co-Chief Investigator, Professor Roz Shafran of UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health and GOSH, stated: “These groundbreaking findings not only promise brighter futures for children with epilepsy but also pave the way for a revolutionary shift in mental healthcare practices.

“The collaborative efforts of scientists, patients, and healthcare professionals have brought forth a new era of treatment of mental health challenges associated with epilepsy, offering a beacon of hope for families in the face of mental health challenges associated with epilepsy.”

Co-Chief Investigator, Professor Helen Cross of UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health and GOSH, added: “This study shows real progress for clinicians considering the high rate of mental health problems in children with epilepsy, as we demonstrate the benefit of a therapy that can be implemented within existing epilepsy services.”

The work was conducted in collaboration with experts at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital (GOSH), King’s College London and UCLA, and with funding from the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR).

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