Cambridgeshire: New Website Could Help Childhood Depression

26 March 2014, 06:00 | Updated: 26 March 2014, 15:04

A Cambridgeshire based child psychiatrist has helped develop a new website which will help adults identify mental health problems in children - like depression.

The new website has been created to help demystify mental health launches as survey reveals:

  • More than a third of adults are unsure of signs of depression in children 
  • Over half fear approaching the subject in case they are mistaken

More than half of adults lack the confidence to approach a child, or a parent of a child that they suspect to have a mental health problem, in case they are mistaken, a new survey launched this week reveals.

The survey comes as a new website MindEd has launched this week, which has been developed by a range of experts including Dr Raphael Kelvin, Child Psychiatrist at Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust (CPFT).

The work has been funded by the Department of Health and will provide adults with the knowledge and skills to help address this lack of mental health awareness.

Commissioned by group of national organisations specialising in child and adolescent mental health, the survey of 2,105 UK adults found that 38% didn't know what signs and symptoms they needed to look out for, and if they did, 51% said they were worried about raising the issue for fear of being mistaken.

With over 850,000 children in the UK diagnosed with a mental health problem, the group warns that without increased education or awareness to help adults identify and understand children and young people with mental health issues, thousands are at increased risk of alcohol and drug misuse, self-harm, neglect and in extreme cases, suicide.

The survey shows:

  • 87% would turn to their GP for help and advice if they thought a child had a mental health issue - with 55% saying they'd turn to a family member, 37% to a teacher and nearly three quarters (72%) saying they'd use the internet
  • The majority of respondents (80%) believe that exercise is likely to improve the mental health of wellbeing of children and young people
  • Only 20% think that antidepressants are likely to have a positive effect on children and young people with mental health problems
  • Two thirds of respondents (66%) said that they would welcome more Government investment in children's mental health services to equip professionals with the skills to identify and treat these children at the earliest opportunity

 Dr Raphael Kelvin, Child Psychiatrist at CPFT and Clinical Lead for the MindEd programme, said: "Half of all diagnosable mental health conditions start before the age of 14 and 75% by the age of 21, so identifying children at the earliest opportunity is crucial in setting them on the best path in life.

Investing in early intervention is crucial - not doing so comes at a high price for those battling a mental health condition, and also costs the economy vast sums of money in lost education, training, jobs, and often, through crime.

It's clear from these results that there's still stigma attached to mental health with 51% of adult admitting fear of approaching the issue. It's also clear that many adults are not confident in being able to spot the signs of ill mental health in children and many are turning to other adults - family, friends and teachers - for help and advice.

So it's vital that people know what to look out for so they can address the issue before it worsens and that's where MindEd can help."

Launching today, MindEd is an online tool containing bite-sized e-learning packages, individually tailored to equip professionals and volunteers working with children and young people - including teachers, sports coaches, police, healthcare professionals, social workers and many more - with the skills to identify children with a mental health condition. As well as tackling stigma and giving adults access to information anytime and in any place, it aims to speed up the time it takes to identify child mental health problems and put them on the path to the most appropriate treatment.

Dr Kelvin added: "In order to build confidence and tackle mental health head on, adults need to know what to look out for and where to turn to for reliable information. With the majority of adults using the internet for advice, having easily available and accurate online information is crucial.

All young people deserve to have access to the best healthcare and when they need it. I am confident that with the right support, by the right person, in the right place and delivered at the right time, we can prevent thousands of children 'slipping through the net' and struggling year on year to cope with mental health conditions."