BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Health
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Background Briefings 
Medical notes 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Monday, 22 January, 2001, 00:03 GMT
Young mentally ill 'failed by system'
young mentally ill woman
One in five children under 20 experience psychological problems at any one time
Young people are being "badly let down" by mental health services, says a charity.

It claims vulnerable mentally ill young people are currently slipping through huge gaps between adult and child services.

The report, "Turned Upside Down," by the Mental Health Foundation reveals that each year thousands of young people are not getting the services they need.

The foundation described one 16-year-old patient who told researchers she has been sexually abused, but had to live at home with her mother, who does not believe her allegations. She feels she has nowhere to turn for help.

Mental health staff made it clear they thought I was a burden and a nuisance

Young woman with mental health problems

Another youngster, who the charity say has slipped through the net, is 16-year-old heroin addict "Maeve".

"Maeve" revealed she had been badly abused as a child and was until recently placed in a drug addiction unit, but since her treatment she has relapsed and there is currently no where to place her.

Worried researchers say she needs urgent help because she experiences acute depression, self harms and is at risk of prostitution.

Homeless young woman
One third of young homeless people have attempted suicide

Researchers are calling on the government to set up a National Service Framework especially for the vulnerable 16 to 25-year-olds to ensure young people like this get the help they need, particularly as this is the age when schizophrenia generally makes its first appearance.

The Mental Health Foundation say that each year between 500-600 young people are being inappropriately placed on adult wards.

Many child services end at 16 with adult services not starting until 18, leaving many young people isolated and unable to get help.

One young woman said: "Mental health staff made it clear that they thought I was a burden and a nuisance. This made me feel guilty about seeking help from the professionals and I became very isolated."

Mental health and the young
20% of young people aged under 20 experience psychological problems
In England and Wales 600 15-24 year olds commit suicide each year
Up to 20,000 young people need hospital treatment after self-harming
A third of all young homeless people have attempted suicide

Ruth Lesirge, director of the Mental Health Foundation, said the government should start listening now to the needs of young people.

Let down

"Our research shows that many young people are being let down badly by the current mental health services. It is essential for their future that we turn this crisis upside down."

And she called for a National Service Framework that will be both approachable and accessible for young people; with emergency weekend and holiday care and special services for those who abuse alcohol or drugs; self harmers or those with eating disorders.

The Department of Health said they realise the transitional period is a sensitive one and said it is an area the current National Service Framework implementation is looking at and addressing.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
See also:

20 Dec 00 | Health
Mental health: Reaction
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Health stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Health stories