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Monday, November 8, 1999 Published at 12:37 GMT


ME sufferers 'treated as mentally ill'

ME is the most common cause of long-term sickness in British children

Children with chronic fatigue syndrome, or ME, are being prescribed psychiatric treatment even though the benefits are not proved, a BBC investigation reveals.

An exclusive survey conducted by Panorama reveals the extent to which GPs are recommending - or even forcing - psychiatric treatment for child ME patients.

ME affects 25,000 UK children and is the most common cause of long-term sickness in youngsters.

There is no definitive research into its causes or the best treatments.

[ image: Georgie Sheldon: Put in locked psychiatric unit]
Georgie Sheldon: Put in locked psychiatric unit
One 12-year-old girl who developed ME after brain surgery tells the programme she was placed in a locked psychiatric unit.

Georgie Sheldon says she became very confused as a result.

"I was traumatised by this place. It was just so different and so horrible," she says.

"It was just mean in there, very mean."

Georgie Sheldon, ME sufferer, speaking to the BBC's Panorama
Asked if she did anything to show how unhappy she was, she says: "Sometimes I hurt myself because I thought it was the only way I could let my anger out."

ME sufferers often develop flu-like symptoms, muscle and joint pain, gastro-intestinal problems, migraine, short-term memory loss and lack of concentration.

They may be confined to the house and in some cases may be so ill they cannot walk across the bedroom.

Panorama is on BBC One at 2200GMT on Monday.

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