The Implications and Treatment Options of Mental Illness in Children in the UK (part 1)

Written by Amy Fry a Clonlara School guest blogger  (***Clonlara School does not endorse or recommend any product/service in connection with this author***).

Grazed knees, a runny nose and measles may be the most popularly expected ailments that parents can expect their children to face, not mental illness. However according to government data , 1 in 10 children aged between 5 and 16 years has a mental health problem.
two young girls laughing behind another girls back

Photo courtesy of Zalouk Web Design on Flickr

With the issue of mental illness in children being a relatively unexplored concept, it could be difficult to identify. Therefore what is being done to distinguish a mental health disorder in a child, and what help is available?

Identifying mental illness in children

Mental disorders commonly associated with children such as Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder can be detected through disruptive behavior. Experts have recently stated that if bad behavior goes beyond being naughty, and parents suspect their child may be suffering from ADHD , then they are probably right.

For example, it is normal for a child to let off steam when they come home, but if they struggle to concentrate or fail to learn from their mistakes, then they may be suffering from ADHD.

However ADHD is only suspected to affect 2% of children, and not all mental health issues will be as simple to diagnose. For example, recent figures from the Office of National Statistics show that 4% of children suffer from anxiety and depression, and 6% will struggle with a behavioral disorder.

Identifying these illnesses has been proven to be difficult; recent figures show that between 60-70% of children and adolescents with significant mental health problems were not offered necessary interventions at the earliest opportunity.

The effects of a delayed diagnosis

Professor Kamaldeep Bhui wrote for the Guardian that untreated mental health issues in children can lead to unemployment and poor levels of education later in life, so it is important to adapt a public health approach to this area in future to provide support where necessary. Currently less than 0.001% of the mental health budget is used for prevention, and Professor Bhui says this must change to improve the future of children’s mental health.

A lack of diagnoses and support of young people with mental health issues could have a damaging effect on their future; figures show that around a quarter of young offenders have a learning disability, 60,000 have difficulty communicating and a very large proportion have mental health demands. It does beg the question that if a preventative and supportive approach towards mental health disorders in children was applied, could prison have be avoided all together for these individuals?

Treating mental illness in children

To address the high figures of mental illness in children, the government is now investing an additional £22 million into providing more mental health care services for this age group, on top of the £32 million already dedicated to therapies as set out in the Mental Health Strategy. This extra financial support is to help a those who may have before “suffered in silence” due to lack of understand or resources.

In the meantime, there are a range of methods to treat mental health which can range from therapy to medication. Prescriptions are often only administered as a last resort, and a course of psychological treatment may be recommended first. This can include consulting with a psychiatrist to take part in cognitive behavioral therapy, or a form of talking therapy such as counseling.

Creating a safe, supportive and trusting environment for a child with a mental health illness is imperative to encourage a stable future and steady recovery. By seeking help as soon as possible for a child with mental health problems means that necessary treatment can be administered, therefore hopefully halting the damaging effects that can be caused by a delayed diagnosis.

Amy Fry writes for a variety of industries, but specializes in personal well-being, lifestyle and health issues. Amy lives and works in Brighton, UK and spends her spare time strolling by the seafront and going to art galleries.



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