1 in 10 British children under 15 has a mental health disorder

According to a new report by the British Medical Association (BMA) as many as 1 in 10 children below the age of 15 in Britain has a mental health problem and that figure is on the rise.

The report says the prevalence of mental disorders in children is on the increase, and an estimated 1.1 million children need access to specialist mental health help but services are inadequate.

The BMA has always concerned itself with the health of children and young people and has produced a number of publications giving advice and health information on this section of the public.

The latest of these is 'Child and adolescent mental health – a guide for healthcare professionals' and it says 1 in 10 children in Britain has a mental health disorder which create problems which have a huge impact on families and carers as well as on the individual by limiting their ability to cope with life and fulfil their potential.

The BMA says mental health problems in children and young people are of great significance to public health; currently children and young people make up about 25 per cent of the total population of England.

Certain groups of children and adolescents are more at risk of suffering mental health problems and socio-economic factors play a significant role.

There is a higher prevalence of mental health problems among children from deprived backgrounds and children brought in the care of local authorities are at particular risk.

Those who have witnessed domestic violence and young offenders along with refugee and asylum seeker children, and young offenders are all have a higher risk of developing mental health problems, says the BMA.

Problems manifest themselves in a variety of ways ranging from sleep disorders, temper tantrums and eating disorders to behaviour problems or depressive and obsessive disorders.

The head of BMA Ethics and Science, Vivienne Nathanson, says it is vital children have access to high quality mental health care tailored to meet their needs.

Though there are a number of government policies currently being rolled out that are aimed at tackling these problems says Nathanson, it is essential that they deliver what they promise.

Nathanson says better child and adolescent mental resources will reduce the burden on those young people as they grow up and ensure they are better able to fit into society and are happy and fulfilled.

The BMA's report shows that emotional disorders, such as depression, phobias and eating problems such as anorexia, were more prevalent among girls, while boys were more likely to suffer from conduct disorders such as severe temper tantrums.

A BMA survey of 11 to 15 year-olds in 2004 found that around a quarter of them said they drank an average of 10.7 units per week, which is more than double the 1990 figure of 5.3 units.

Alcohol says the BMA can be attractive to those suffering from depression because it increases confidence and may produce a temporary feeling of well being, but it is also a depressive and can exacerbate the symptoms of depression.

The BMA says psychiatric disorders in childhood may persist, increasing the risk of problems in adult life.

Half of those with mental health problems at the age of 26, had met the criteria for a disorder by age 15.

However a mental health problem in childhood does not necessarily lead to an adult disorder and the majority of children with anxiety or depression will not have mood disorders in adult life.

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