Statistics from the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) show that 50% of adults with mental health problems will have presented by the age of 15 and 75% by the age of 18 – this is powerful information which points to the importance of early intervention.
Juxtapose this with the fact that (according to Dr Maureen Baker, Chair of the RCGP) fewer than half of all General Practitioners in the UK are given the opportunity to undertake a paediatric or psychiatric placement during their training, and you see the massive opportunity for improving the treatment of mental health as it stands today.
The RCGP is therefore recommending that, in future, as part of an improved four-year training programme, all GP trainees should receive specialist-led training in the fields of both child health and mental health, and is working with the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, the Royal College of Psychiatrists and Young Minds to identify ways that GPs and specialists might collaborate to work more effectively together.
Common problems among the young include poor mental resilience, anxiety, depression and self-harming behaviours – identifying suicide risk and early recognition of psychosis are among the target strategies for primary care. The RGCP is also undertaking initiatives to raise awareness about youth mental health, alerting GPs to simple actions that can be taken to ensure younger patients receive the support they need.
The College also notes that it is important that children and young people feel comfortable approaching their GP and that GPs are sufficiently prepared to discuss what are often sensitive issues with confidence. I don’t know about you, but this all sounds like delicate work – let’s hear it for our long-suffering GPs.
Written by Jacqui Hogan