Mentally ill youngsters slipping through the net

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Experts have warned that thousands of youngsters could be slipping through the net because the warning signs related to mental health problems are not being spotted in time by adults.

A new website called MindEd, which is being supported by different groups including the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, is in the process of being launched in a bid to raise awareness of the problem.

A survey was done of 2,100 adults and the results indicated that at least one third were not sure of the signs of depression in youngsters. The survey which was performed on behalf of the child and adolescent mental health groups backing MindEd also indicated that 50% of the adults who were questioned would be concerned about voicing their opinions if they thought there was a problem, for fear of making a mistake. Two-thirds of the adults questioned would support government investment in mental health services for children, to offer the identification skills and allow the children to receive treatment earlier.

In excess of 840,000 UK children have a mental health problem.

Support
A child psychiatrist and clinical lead for the MindEd programme, Dr Raphael Kelvin, said the survey included other methods of helping children. The public poll on this issue revealed that 69% supported the idea that each school should offer a dedicated staff member on site whom children could approach about well-being and mental health issues.

The MindEd website is funded the Department of Health and aims to help adults who are involved with children, such as sports coaches, social workers and teachers, to be able to spot signs of potential problems.

Dr Kelvin stated that at least 50% of all mental health conditions that can be diagnosed commence before a child reaches the age of 14 and 75% by the time the child reaches the age of 21. This makes the identification of the problem at the earliest possible time crucial in getting them on the right path for their future. He also said that an investment in early intervention is critical and not doing so could come at a high cost for those who are fighting a mental health illness. It would also cost the economy huge sums of money in foregone education, training, careers, and quite often, through criminal activities.

Lack of Confidence
The results of the survey show that there is still stigma attached to mental health problems. It also indicates that many adults do not have the confidence to spot the signs of children with mental health issues, with many turning to others for advice and aid. This makes it vital for people to know exactly what to look for in order to address the problem before it becomes worse. This is the area where MindEd will be able to offer help.

Image credit: Nathan Csonka

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