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Glasgow targets mental health

THE stigma of mental illness, which affects more than 10,000 under-17s in Glasgow, has been challenged by a revised four-year strategy for the city. Some estimates suggest that one in five young people may be at risk.

The city's children committee heard this week that services were under such pressure that they could not always deal with patients and parents with "compassion, understanding or with manners".

Mental health advisers recommend more early intervention and identification of problems. If sexual abuse and emotional and behavioural problems are not tackled early they will lead in adolescence to depression, suicide, delinquency and refusal to go to school, they say.

But clinical psychologists are barely able to meet demands. Waiting lists are common with some 360 pre-school children referred in 2000. "Many of these children lived with a high level of stressors such as chaotic parenting, family breakdown and environmental stressors such as poor housing, inadequate play opportunities, violence and drug misuse," officials report.

"Many had maladaptive coping strategies that affected their social and emotional development with a degree of anxiety and mood disturbance contributing to their behavioural problems."

A study by Greater Glasgow Health Board three years ago found that 1,000 children under the age of 12 suffered from major depression. Around 3,000 young people between 13 and 17 had similar problems. More than 2,000 young people were affected by eating disorders and 600 had manic depression or schizophrenia. Such chronic conditions carry a high social cost.

Treatment needs to be focused on the family or wider group, advisers say. "Successful types of treatment, identified by recent research, include community-based approaches and those involving problem-solving skills training."

Parent training is reported to be effective in combating severe anti-social behaviour. Other research found that up to 70 per cent of children still benefited from parent training at least four years after the end of their treatment.

Among looked-after young people, as many as one in two, or around 650 in Glasgow, have persistent mental health problems, according to studies. A further study in nine residential units put the figure far higher at almost two out of three and just under half the young people said themselves they experienced problems.

A wider cross-section of young people told researchers they want more access to guidance teachers or someone outside the school they could talk to. The city is likely to pilot school-based counselling services and post-abuse and bereavement counselling.

Leader, page 22

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