Child mental ills `ignored'

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The Independent Online
ONE IN five children and young people experiences mental health problems - yet few receive the help they need, a survey has shown.

Two million youngsters in Britain suffer some form of mental health problem, ranging from behavioural difficulties and depression, to anorexia, according to research published by the Mental Health Foundation. But only 10-15 per cent of those with psychiatric disorders get psychiatric help.

Absence of family and friends, boredom, bullying and stress are key factors which contribute to poor mental health in children, according to the report, while talking is seen as one of the best ways of coping with negative feelings.

The report, produced by the Centre for the Child and Society at the University of Glasgow, said many children played down the importance of their feelings and, if they had problems, did not know where to turn for help. Children and young people often trivialised their problems because they were young and believed that adult problems were "more important".

But the report, entitled Listening to Children and Young People, recommended that young people should be given more information about mental health so they can recognise the symptoms of illness and know where to turn for help.

The Mental Health Foundation, which commissioned the research, said children's views should be seen as valuable and relevant. It is estimated that 25- 30 per cent of GP appointments with children concern behavioural problems.

The charity's director, June McKerrow, said: "Too few people take the mental health of children and young people sufficiently seriously. We hope to change that ... it is vitally important to listen to the ways young people express their feelings and to watch for signs of deeper distress."