Headlines: July 22nd, 2008

A charity has highlighted what it claims is a shortage of skilled workers to treat the one in ten children in England and Wales who have severe mental health problems. In its response to the Government’s independent review of mental health services for children and young people, Young Minds, brands services as “inadequate”, especially for children with learning difficulties and for older teenagers.

Young Minds wants all professionals who work with children to receive training that would give them the expertise to pick-up mental health problems as they arise. It says that at a recent conference eight out of ten children aged from 7 to 13 said they would turn to a teacher for help if they had a problem and not to a health professional.

Julia Mason, the Deputy Chief Executive of Young Minds, said the charity was not calling for all professionals to become therapists but simply for them to understand the part they could play in spotting mental health problems at an early stage. “It’s key that young people have someone they can turn to, who they can trust and who knows how to support them,” she said.

The charity is calling for all those working with children to have some training on mental health as part of their core professional development. “Teachers, youth workers and heath visitors should be trained to support children in distress, understand normal child development and know when and how to refer children to specialist practitioners,” Julia Mason added.

The Young Minds reponse will contribute to the Government review which aims to highlight what action is needed to improve the emotional well-being and mental health of children and young people. An interim report is due to be published before the end of this month with the final report expected in October.