UK Cosmetic Clinics to Screen for Mental Health

Major UK cosmetics clinics that offer procedures like Botox and facial fillers have agreed with a government initiative to protect vulnerable patients by assessing for mental health problems.

Following a meeting between NHS England and the Joint Council for Cosmetic Practitioners (JCCP), clinic staff “will be trained to recognise the symptoms of mental health conditions such as body Dysmorphic disorder (BDD), which can cause people to obsess over their appearance” reported independent.co.uk. Anyone who appears at risk “will be referred to NHS facilities”.

NHS England national medical director Professor Stephen Powis noted: “Cosmetic firms bringing in tighter controls to protect young people’s mental health is a major step forward.

“Appearance is one of the things that matters most to young people, and the bombardment of idealised images and availability of quick-fix procedures is helping fuel a mental health and anxiety epidemic.

“The NHS long-term plan is dramatically expanding world-leading mental health services, but we cannot just be left to pick up the pieces – we need all parts of society to show a duty of care and take action to prevent avoidable harm.”

Kitty Wallace, from the Body Dysmorphic Disorder foundation, added: “Cosmetic procedures like Botox, now widely available on the high street, are putting people at risk and can have a damaging effect on the mental health of young people. We know that people with BDD are more likely to turn to ‘quick fix’ procedures that ultimately do not address or help the underlying psychological condition.

”BDD affects one in 50 people, causing significant distress and has a huge impact on quality of life. It’s great to see the NHS and professionals leading the sea change, but we now need all parts of society to change their attitudes and take action to protect vulnerable individuals.”

The latest developments follow initiatives instituted by major health and beauty retailer Superdrug in January 2019, after Professor Powis wrote to the chain expressing concern it was offering cosmetic procedures such as Botox and fillers.

Superdrug agreed it would ask customers to complete a questionnaire (developed by psychologists working in the field) with assessments by qualified aesthetic nurse practitioners and lasting an hour. Where concerns are raised, the nurse is able to direct patients to a GP for support.

Tom Madders at UK charity YoungMinds told theguardian.com: “Young people who are struggling with their mental health often feel pressure around body image, so it’s good news that staff at cosmetic firms will receive training to spot the signs of poor mental health.

“But we also need wider action across society to help young people feel positive about who they are and how they look. The fashion, music and advertising industries should all be doing more to promote authentic and diverse body images.”

The British Association of Aesthetic and Plastic Surgeons has warned Botox and dermal fillers “must not be treated as casual beauty treatments because risks such as infection and facial paralysis can arise”.

Spokesman Gerard Lambe emphasised: “Administering an injection of any kind is a very serious procedure and requires an experienced and qualified health professional.”
At present “only 100 out of the 1,000 practitioners are registered” and Professor Powis said too many service providers “are operating as a law unto themselves”.

The JCCP has been established “to assist the public who are seeking, considering or undergoing non-surgical treatments such as injections, fillers, lasers, peels and hair restoration surgery” reported techtimes.com. “The council will advise patients on safety matters and how to gain access to approved practitioners.”

Once registered with the JCCP, practitioners will agree to “undergo online training on recognising the signs and symptoms of mental ill health and vulnerability and the psychology of appearance.”

Based on 2013 data from the American Psychiatric Association, BDD occurs in about 2.5% of males and 2.2% of females and “often begins to occur in adolescents”. People with BDD also commonly suffer from anxiety disorders, depression, eating disorders, or obsessive-compulsive disorder.


Sources: independent/co.uk, theguardian.com and techtimes.com