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Wednesday, 13 October, 1999, 18:45 GMT 19:45 UK
Confronting mental illness in children
Children
An estimated one in five children develop a mental illness
It is estimated that one in five young people develops a mental illness, but they account for only 5-6% of the mental health budget, according to charity YoungMinds.


It campaigns for better services, such as more emergency provision for very ill children and targeted support for young offenders and people in care who are more likely than average to develop a mental illness.

YoungMinds, whose council includes 21 professional organisations, believes early intervention in mental health problems is the key to improving the country's health problems.

Mental Health
Young people can become depressed for many reasons. For example, because of bereavement or a family break-up, being bullied, moving home or changing school, having a parent with a mental illness, tension in the family, becoming part of a new step-family, fear of failure, being abused or worrying about the future.

Helplines

YoungMinds runs a parents' information service, a free national helpline manned by experts. It says that the calls it is receiving are becoming increasingly complex and severe and require referrals.


Most concern children with depression. Parents' main concern is waiting lists for services, lack of appropriate services for adolescents and feelings of being isolated and having no-one to turn to for help.

YoungMinds, which publishes leaflets and magazines for children and parents and runs training courses for professionals, is just one of a range of organisations offering help to young people with mental illness.

Helplines are run by ChildLine, Sane and various other groups, including Samaritans which runs workshops in schools and youth centres.

The National Schizophrenia Fellowship has a youth branch which has just set up an internet experiment to encourage young people to write about their experiences to help others feel they are not alone.

There are also services for young carers, such as Young Carers run by the Carers National Association.

Treatment

The kind of professional services offered to children and adolescents include:


Child and adolescent psychiatrists: these usually see patients on an outpatient basis. They deal with a range of problems, including behavioural difficulties, anxiety, family problems, trauma, eating disorders and suicidal behaviour.

Child psychotherapists: they tend to work with children individually in the community. They observe the child's behaviour and try to understand what causes it. They aim to help the child understand their behaviour.

Educational and clinical psychologists: they aim to understand how children and young people behave, think and learn. Educational psychologists concentrate on the child from an educational perspective, while clinical psychologists work from a community care or health perspective. They can help by intervening before a problem becomes serious.

Family therapists: they work with as many members of the family as possible, believing this can help sort out a child's problems. They work both in the community and in hospital settings.

Child and family consultation services: these are places where parents can discuss concerns about their children with experts. They are free, open to all and confidential.

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