Do Children and Young People suffer with Psychiatric illness?
Mental illness can affect Children and young people at almost any age, although not all conditions are equally likely. Presentations of mental illness can have a dramatic effect on young people’s lives and for those that care for them unless help is sought early. It may be difficult to work out when a child is presenting with a disordered pattern or just a variant of normal behaviour. This is something that requires a skilled specialist professional’s help, especially as it may present quite differently to how it might in adults.
This is where the experience of a specialist child and adolescent psychiatrist is essential. Examples of the kind of disorders that can affect young people include depression, anxiety disorders (including OCD), trauma, and neuro-developmental conditions such as ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), Intellectual and learning disabilities,Tourettes or Autism (which includes Aspergers syndrome).
In adolescence there may also be concerning behaviours such as self-injury, or substance misuse, that present a risk of escalating into chronic or severe difficulties. It is also a time that is more likely to present with conditions such as eating disorders, bipolar and psychotic disorders.
Child and adolescent psychiatry is a branch of psychiatry that specialises in the study, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental health problems of children, adolescents, and their families. A child and adolescent psychiatrist is a medically trained doctor who has completed basic training in all areas of psychiatry and then specialised in the psychiatry of children and young people.
Isn’t it just bad behaviour?
Sometimes distressing or stressful circumstances at home, at school or elsewhere affect the emotions and behaviour of young people such that their parents, carers or friends feel that they may need professional help. Stressful circumstances as a young person, even an infant, are increasingly being linked by scientists to the development of psychiatric disorder in young people – and, sadly, on-going problems into adulthood. The earlier that any such problems are diagnosed and treated the better.
A child and adolescent psychiatrist is the specialist who is trained to consider the whole child (from brain science, through the psychological and out to the social context in which the problems are arising) in order to make careful diagnoses when a young person is unwell, and is usually the best person to decide if someone has, for instance, a neuro-developmental disorder or is simply responding to the stressful circumstances around them, and may be the best person to help you decide what sort of help is needed.
Many other professionals such as psychologists, psychotherapists, family therapists, nurses, counsellors, social workers and occupational therapists also specialize in mental health work with children and young people. They tend to provide the non-pharmaceutical (non-drug) therapies which are often the best ways to treat such problems.
A child and adolescent psychiatrist will often recommend that working with one of these other professionals is the right help for a particular young person and we will be able to point you in the right direction to get the sort of help that you need for your child. Therefore a private consultation with a child and adolescent psychiatrist can be a very useful way of working out what you really should be doing. Some child and adolescent psychiatrists may also be able to provide psychological or family therapy themselves.
However, for some types of problems, the evidence suggests that medication should be the mainstay of treatment, supported by a range of psychological or social interventions. A child and adolescent psychiatrist is the only child mental health specialist with the medical training to recommend this option if required. You will see from our list of consultants that a number of them are qualified in this area so if you would like to discuss matters further with a child and adolescent psychiatrist, please book an initial consultation.
How does the practice of child and adolescent psychiatry differ from that of adult psychiatry?
Everything has to be a bit more structured and carefully considered when dealing with children’s mental health. There are not only the potential issues of child protection and confidentiality, there are some sorts of cases which are just not suited to being managed on line and there are the dangers of missing things by not having all of the information: children are not always able to express their experiences clearly, adolescents are notoriously secretive and uncommunicative – and parents can be very blind to their own role – as well as desperately anxious and unable to have an objective understanding of what their much loved child is really experiencing. Consequently, child and adolescent psychiatrists have to interview both parents/carers and the children concerned and they will normally seek information from their school teachers as well.
How does Psychiatry-UK structure their child and adolescent service?
The first interview is always with the parents/carers. This is a 30 minute consultation which will result in a letter, setting out a proposed plan. If the psychiatrist thinks that the case is one that is suitable for us to take on they will normally arrange with the parents for the follow up appointment(s) at the end of this initial interview and have some forms sent out for teachers, parents and the child(ren) concerned to fill in and return before the next consultation.
Does it cost more to have a consultation with a child and adolescent psychiatrist?
For the initial interview it is actually less! We charge £150 for the initial interview and letter. If there is then a need for further consultations, these will cost more – but we will provide you with estimates for those costs with the initial letter. If you would like to arrange for an initial parents interview please contact us here in the first instance.
Is there any more information available?
If you have concerns about a young person but are not sure whether you need a consultation with a psychiatrist, you may wish to get more information.
Unfortunately, though there is a lot of information available on the internet about the difficulties described above, not all of it is reliable.
However, we would like to recommend the following links as sources of good information by established and reputable organizations:
- The Royal College of Psychiatrists has a special section for young people – http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/
- The mission of National Intitute of Mental Health (NIMH) is an American Federal institution whose mission is to transform the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses through basic and clinical research, paving the way for prevention, recovery, and cure. Their website also have some very high quality information on various childhood psychiatric conditions. – https://www.nimh.nih.gov/
health/topics/child-and- adolescent-mental-health/ index.shtml
- The National Autistic Society has a lot of information for parents and young people on autism spectrum disorders and Aspergers syndrome. Follow this link here – http://www.autism.org.uk/
- The charity Young Minds is the UK’s leading organisation committed to the emotional well-being and mental health of children and Young People. They have information for young people and parents and a parent helpline. Follow this link here – http://www.youngminds.org.uk/
- The Anna Freud Centre is a charity that innovates in the psychological treatment of children and young people, evaluates these new ways of working, and disseminates them through training to professionals, nationally and internationally. Their website also has information for parents and young people – http://www.annafreud.org