Scottish study shows lack of mental health service for children entering care

Psychiatric disorder among children at time of entering local authority care: questionnaire survey

A considerable proportion of young children have a serious psychiatric disorder at the time they enter local authority care, but are not receiving mental health services, according to a report in this week's BMJ. Dr Gisela Dimigen and colleagues from the University of Glasgow and Yorkhill NHS Trust, say that their findings indicate a need for early intervention policies to help this vulnerable group.

Grave concerns have previously been voiced about the high rate of psychiatric disorders among children in the care system, say the authors, but until now, little has been known about the mental health of children at the time they enter local authority care. In their study of 70 children, during the first six weeks of entering care in the Glasgow area, Dimigen et al discovered that the most common disorders among the children were conduct disorder and depression.

The authors report that 30 per cent of children had severe attention difficulties and 26 per cent had autistic-like' detachment. They also found that 38 per cent of boys and 33 per cent of girls showed high levels of conduct disorder'. High levels of depression' were significantly more common among children in residential establishments than among foster children.

Dimigen et al conclude that their findings show a worrying gap in mental health provision and that the complex needs of these children can only be addressed effectively through multidisciplinary discussion and strategic planning.


Contact: Jill Shepherd
BMJ-British Medical Journal

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