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Tuesday, February 2, 1999 Published at 19:10 GMT


Millions for child mental health

Mental health problems are common among young people

A multi-million pound drive to improve services for youngsters suffering from anorexia, depression and other mental illnesses has been announced by the government.

Health Minister John Hutton said £84m would be made available over three years in a bid to raise standards and improve care and prevention for children with mental health problems.

Up to 10% of children and 20% of adolescents suffer from emotional and conduct disorders like Attention Deficit Disorder, delinquency, truancy and aggression.

A further 7%-10% suffer from moderate to severe mental illnesses like anorexia and depression.

Department of Health figures show that 1% of 15 to 19-year-old girls suffer from anorexia and 2.8% of children are diagnosed as suffering from depression.

The suicide rate among young men is also rising, with 273 per 100,000 boys aged 15-19 attempting suicide each year, and five per 100,000 actually killing themselves.

Improvement needed

[ image: John Hutton admitted current provision was
John Hutton admitted current provision was "patchy"
Announcing the extra money, Mr Hutton said: "The Government has acknowledged that child and adolescent health services are patchy.

"They have not been planned or developed to meet local needs. Improvements will not take place overnight, but I believe we now have the policies which will encourage co-operation and give services the direction and resources to develop quality care."

The £84m will come from the NHS Modernisation Fund and the new Mental Health Grants announced for local authorities.

Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of the mental health charity SANE said: "It is both surprising and shocking that there are so many children suffering from serious mental health problems who receive little or no specialised help.

"Our helpline receives calls concerning children, some as young as three, being diagnosed as suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder, depression and other potential serious illnesses.

"Families call us in great distress, not knowing where to turn. Doctors seem reluctant to diagnose children. As a result, children and families can end up ostracised, angry and confused."

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