Poor children run higher risk of developing mental health problems

Children and young people from poor and deprived backgrounds are at greater risk of suffering mental health problems, according to a report published today by the British Medical Association.

The figures highlighted stark differences between poor and vulnerable children’s experience of poor mental health compared to those from wealthier backgrounds. Fifty four per cent of children with an emotional disorder lived in households with weekly incomes of under £300, while children living in families with a weekly income of under £100 were three times more likely to suffer mental health problems than those with incomes in excess of £600.

Looked-after children were at particular risk, with 45% of this group having some form of mental health problem. Young people in the youth justice system, asylum-seeking children; children from black and minority ethnic groups; and those who had witnessed domestic violence also faced higher risks.

The BMA also found there was a “worrying” shortage of mental health professionals, and urged the government to address this urgently. It also called on the government to fully implement its current strategies for tackling child and adolescent mental health problems; to tailor services to meet children and young people’s needs and to implement the reforms outlined in the Child Poverty Review.

Vivienne Nathanson, BMA head of ethics and science, said the government must “deliver what they promise”. “Children from deprived backgrounds have a poorer start in life on many levels, but without good mental health they may not have a chance to develop emotionally and reach their full potential in life,” she said.

Mental health charity Young Minds said the report underlined the urgent need to provide flexible, holistic support at times and in places that suit young people.

“Critically, Young Minds believes that it is young people themselves who should be involved in the development of these support services,” said Avis Johns, Young Minds’ development director.

“Mental illness can have a devastating effect on children, their families and the community and we must ensure that all people that work with children are mental health aware ¬ensuring early diagnosis and support,” she added

Child and Adolescent Mental Health – A Guide for Healthcare Professionals from www.bma.org.uk

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