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Tool launched to improve youth mental health care

A new £3 million tool which aims to improve adult awareness of children's mental health has been hailed as "crucial" by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN). 

According to the RCN, frontline nursing staff across the UK are seeing increasing numbers of children and young people with serious mental health problems. 

Dr Peter Carter, chief executive of the RCN said "more needs to be done" to improve awareness. 

MindEd is an online tool, funded by the Department of Health, which contains bite-sized e-learning packages, individually tailored to equip professionals and volunteers working with children and young people - including teachers, sports coaches, police, healthcare professionals, social workers and many more - with the skills to identify children with a mental health condition.

The tool also aims to speed up the time it takes to identify child mental health problems and put them on the path to the most appropriate treatment. 

A study conducted before the website's launch found that more than half of adults lack the confidence to approach a child, or a parent of a child that they suspect to have a mental health problem, in case they are mistaken. 

The survey of 2,105 UK adults found that 38% didn't know what signs and symptoms they needed to look out for, and if they did, 51% said they were worried about raising the issue for fear of being mistaken. 

Over 850,000 children in the UK have been diagnosed with a mental health problem. 

MindEd has warned that without improved knowledge of symptoms thousands of children and young people are at increased risk of alcohol and drug misuse, self-harm, neglect and in extreme cases, suicide.

'Damaging consequences'

Dr Carter said: “All too often, adults do not know how to recognise signs of mental illness or how to access professional support. Poor understanding of mental health amongst adults can have damaging consequences for the children and young people in their care.

“This online tool offers crucial information on identifying mental health concerns and provides parents and other adults with a useful source of guidance and support. Increased awareness amongst adults will go a long way towards improving mental health outcomes for children and young people.”

Dr Raphael Kelvin, child psychiatrist and clinical lead for the MindEd programme, said: "Investing in early intervention is crucial - not doing so comes at a high price for those battling a mental health condition, and also costs the economy vast sums of money in lost education, training, jobs, and often, through crime. 

Minister for Care and Support, Norman Lamb, said: "Spotting the signs of mental health problems early in children and young people is essential to prevent problems from escalating and continuing into adulthood. That's why we have invested £3 million in MindEd - so that people working with children, from teachers to dinner ladies and sports coaches to Scouts leaders, can recognise when a child needs help and make sure they get it. 

"I am committed to improving children and young people's mental health. We have invested a total of £54 million in programmes and initiatives to ensure children and young people get the right support quickly."