Though we often associate mental health problems exclusively with adults, a huge number of children (0-16) and young people (16-24) in the UK are also affected by various forms of mental distress, with figures for those being diagnosed continuing to grow on a yearly basis.
According to the Mental Health Foundation research suggests that 20% of children have a mental health problem in any given year with further research from The Office for National Statistics finding that one in ten children between the ages of 5 and 16 have a mental health disorder.
Children are extremely vulnerable to mental disorders and unlike adults who have the ability to identify, understand and seek help for a problem, a child may be confused and upset by what is happening to them. However, with organisations and the Government working hard to spread awareness and eliminate the stigma of mental illness, as children progress into young adults they will become more aware of what a mental illness is and will hopefully begin taking the first steps towards seeking help.
A 2004 survey conducted by The Office for National Statistics found that approximately one in ten children and young people aged 5 – 16 had a clinically diagnosed mental disorder. When that figure was broken down even further it was revealed that four per cent had an emotional disorder (anxiety of depression), Six per cent had a conduct disorder (behavioural problem), two per cent had a hyperkinetic disorder (such as ADHD), one per cent had a less common disorder (such as autism, eating disorder or mutism) and around two per cent were found to have more than one type of disorder.
The survey also found that there were certain socio-demographic groups in which mental health problems were more prevalent, such as:
- single parent families
- reconstituted families
- in families were there were lots of siblings
- where parents had no higher educational qualification
- where neither parent was working
- where there was low income
- where there was disability
- where families were living in socially or privately rented accommodation compared with those who owned their own properties.
Evidence also shows that children who have been abused stand a greater risk of experiencing mental and emotional distress in adulthood.