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Monday, July 19, 1999 Published at 11:07 GMT 12:07 UK


'Dome opening will spark Millennium madness'

The dome opening could lead to psychosis

The approaching Millennium is already triggering psychotic behaviour, and the opening of the dome is likely to make it worse, say mental health experts.

The NHS trust which deals with mental health problems in the Greenwich area is preparing for greatly increased numbers of cases of psychosis.

And staff are already reporting an upturn in the numbers of incidents connected with the Millennium, having dealt with eight or nine cases since March.

[ image: One man believed he had swallowed the Millennium Bug]
One man believed he had swallowed the Millennium Bug
A typical case involved a patient who believed he had swallowed the "Millennium Bug", and by keeping it within his body until the year 2000 would save millions, even though it might kill him.

Another went on a wrecking spree after voices told him he would free people for the celebrations if he knocked down walls.

Stanley Risborough, mental health service manager at Oxleas NHS Trust said: "When the dome opens, the Millennium will come even more into the consciousness of people who are unwell."

'Millennium Bug has worried many'

Professor Bryce Pitt, from the Public Education Committee of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said that although it was not unusual for people with mental problems to focus on a major issue of the day, the Millennium was an "unique time".

He said: "I think all the publicity over the Millennium bug has raised the anxiety levels in many people, and it will be worse in some people who are susceptible.

"I certainly don't think that it is some new form of psychosis, but it is centred on this major event."

He said that other happenings which frequently triggered psychotic behaviour were solar eclipses.

"I think the post-Millennium fortnight will be a very interesting period," he said.

It is not unusual for psychosis to be based on events - during the 1960s space race, many patients claimed to have been infected with moon rays.

In the 1980s the film "Star Wars" caused psychosis, and the arrival of Aids in the 1990s provided another focus.

Chris Naikin, an acute admissions charge nurse at Oxleas NHS Trust said: "We remain concerned about the vulnerability of this patient group. I am expecting problems among them around October."

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