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Wednesday, 8 November, 2000, 11:43 GMT
Crisis grows in young minds
The young are vulnerable to mental health problems
By the BBC's Tim Maby

More and more young people's lives are collapsing because of mental health breakdowns.

The Audit Commission found that at least one in 10 children and adolescents in Britain have mental health problems.

A report by the charity and support group Young Minds argues that the reason is that our health and social services are too disorganised and under-resourced to find all of them, let alone help them.

Peter Wilson, the director of Young Minds, says fewer than 1% of such youngsters have severe psychological conditions such as schizophrenia, or chronic depression.

"We're talking about young people, who you can see every day in the streets or in the schools, who are very troubled inside themselves.

Some of them may become very anxious or even suicidal; others are more out-going, they're defiant, they're disruptive, they get excluded from school, they get into trouble with the law."

Peter Wilson urges that there are just not enough hospital beds for mentally-ill young people, and nowhere near sufficient specialists to treat them around the country.

Workload increasing

Dr Nikos Myttas, Consultant Child Psychiatrist in Burnt Oak, North London, has found his workload increase by nearly 40% in four years.

He thinks the situation is twice as bad as the audit Commission guessed, and that child mental health services are overstretched.

The Young Minds study, based on the reports of child mental health professionals throughout England and Wales, argues that there is no comprehensive service for children and adolescents with mental problems.

Patients are often left in general paediatric wards, adolescent drug and alcohol abusers have virtually no support outside the voluntary sector, health visitors and social services rarely have the time to follow-up mental health problems that they may suspect are the root of bad behaviour.

Jan Douglas, Head of Youth services for Middlesborough says: "We're not providing a co-ordinated response at an early stage, at the point where problems are beginning to emerge."

The Young Minds report, "Whose Crisis", is being launched at a one-day conference in London to discuss mental health in "hard-to-reach young people".

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