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Mentally Ill: Children

Volume 501: debated on Wednesday 2 December 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what estimate he has made of the incidence of mental illness amongst children in each of the last 12 years; and what recent assessment he has made of (a) trends in that incidence and (b) contributing factors to mental illness in children. (300666)

This Department has not made its own estimates of the level of mental illness among children in each of the last 12 years. It commissioned the Office of National Statistics to carry out surveys in 1999 and 2004 on the mental health of children and young people in Great Britain. The 2004 survey found that nearly one in 10 children aged five to 16 had a clinically diagnosable mental disorder. The 1999 survey, which covered children aged five to 15, produced a similar result. Earlier surveys have shown that the proportion of young people with hyperactive or emotional problems increased significantly between 1974 and 1999 but this increase may not reflect and increase in incidence, but rather greater awareness of conditions. No recent assessments have been carried out on trends because of the difficulty in identifying the extent to which other factors, such as greater awareness of conditions, have contributed to changes in incidence.

A three-year study by the Office of National Statistics (ONS), commissioned by the Department and the Scottish Executive, “Three Years On: A survey of the emotional development and wellbeing of children and young people” published in October 2008 tracked the emotional wellbeing of a sample of children and young people between 2004 and 2007 and reviewed the factors likely to be associated with the onset or persistence of mental disorders. The report is downloadable from the ONS website.

An independent CAMHS Review, commissioned by Ministers, reported in November 2008 setting out 20 recommendations to improve children and young people’s mental health and psychological wellbeing. The full Government response to the CAMHS Review is to be published soon.