Young people need tailored mental health treatment

  • A study has found that a one size fits all approach to treating young people with anxiety problems may be putting their futures at risk.

    Psychologists at the University of Reading have said that current childhood therapies are just being adapted for teenagers and argue that adolescents face distinct issues which all for tailored treatments to address them, reports the BBC. /images/mentalhealth.jpg

    Anxiety affects almost 300,000 young people in the UK and charities say that adolescent and child mental health services are at breaking point and need to change.

    Young people are diagnosed with anxiety disorders if anxious feeling seriously affect their everyday lives.

    Those who are offered specialist help are often given cognitive behavioural therapy which is a talking treatment that involves helping people understand triggers for their anxiety and encourages them to change the way they think about and behave in anxiety-inducing situations.

    The study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, compared the symptoms of 100 children (aged six to 12 years) with those of 100 teenagers (13 to 18 years) referred for CBT in Berkshire.

    Lead researcher Polly Waite said: "We found teenagers were often receiving treatment designed for younger children which is then simply being adapted or made cooler. For example, some of the pictures used in the online therapy were simply changed from teddy bears to images of grungy teenagers. Many teenagers therefore will be receiving treatment that does not specifically address symptoms that occur in adolescence. This may mean they have poorer treatment outcomes, putting their futures at risk. By targeting more effectively, we could stop teenagers developing mental health problems, leading to fewer suicides and incidence of drug and alcohol problems."

    Lucie Russell, of the charity YoungMinds, said: "It is absolutely right we recognise that adolescents have a different set of needs, experiences and challenges to younger children and therefore it is vital that treatments are developed for anxiety that work specifically for them. Child and adolescent mental health services are at breaking point with too few resources to meet an ever increasing demand. It is worrying but not surprising that sometimes adolescents are not able to receive specific treatment for their needs. This needs to change if we want to stop the slide of many young people from children's to adult mental health services because their problems weren't addressed appropriately when they first started to suffer."

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