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Recent media has reported a sharp increase in the number of young people with mental health issues since the recession, according to the Royal College of GPs. It estimates that tens of thousands of 15 to 34 year olds may be living with depression, stress and anxiety and says that doctors are not being given the right training to deal with the problem.

Dr Hamilton S McBrien (MB, BCh, BAO, MRCPsych), Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist and Medical Director at Priory Hospital North London comments:

"It has been the Priory’s experience that the demand for inpatient beds for young people with severe mental health problems, particularly with risk of suicide, has been relentless for over a year, and significantly increased in comparison to previous years. There are simply insufficient beds available in the country, at times leaving community services struggling to provide the intensity and frequency of support required as a safe alternative. There has also been a notable reduction in the level of support available from Local Authority children services as their funding has been cut. Thresholds for intervention are increasing as budgets are tightened.

"Transition between adolescent and adult mental health services occurs at 18 years, and has long been identified as a very difficult time for young people and families. The transition is challenging due to the difference in structure and practice of services. Professionals can find significant barriers to identifying adequate mental health support and follow-up for young people post 18 years as they are deemed not to fulfil clinical thresholds for adult mental health services, leaving the responsibility for ongoing care and mental health treatment in primary care with GPs.

"The nature of the mental health difficulties seen in young people are significantly related to hardship, abuse, bullying, assault and domestic violence throughout childhood, with significant vulnerability to further exploitation and/or drug misuse. The needs of these young people are complex, requiring multi-agency understanding and collaborative working, and unfortunately there have been numerous cases of failings in the required sharing of information and joint working.

"Training in mental health for undergraduate medical students has noticeably been reduced within some universities’ curriculums, with an emphasis on physical health. The amount that medical students have to learn is ever increasing, but it is clearly an oversight to identify mental health training and experience as an area to reduce. It is extremely rare for medical students to have any significant experience or opportunities in adolescent mental health."

This page was reviewed by Dr Hamilton McBrien (MB, BCh, BAO, MRCPsych), Consultant Psychiatrist at Priory Hospital Roehampton London

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