The number of children suffering mental health problems is on the rise and more needs to be done to help them, according to a report out yesterday.
Children who have been in care, witnessed domestic violence or who are from poor or asylum-seeker backgrounds are at higher risk of develop-ing mental health problems, said the study from the British Medical Association (BMA).
Symptoms can include troubled sleeping, excessive temper tantrums and depressive or obsessive disorders, according to the report, Child And Adolescent Mental Health - A Guide For Health-care Professionals.
Official figures released last year showed that one in 10 children aged between one and 15 had a mental health problem.
This means around 1.1 million children would benefit from specialist services to help them, said the BMA.
Emotional disorders are the most common mental health problems in children and include anxieties, phobias and depression.
According to the report, rates of mental health problems tend to be higher among children from black and minority ethnic groups.
They are more likely to experience deprivation, discrimination and poor educat ional and employment opportunities - highlighted as "risk factors" for developing a disorder.
The report said there was a "worrying shortage" of mental healthcare professionals, including those from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, and the Government must address this problem.
Key recommendations include reducing risk factors for mental health problems, flexible services that suit a child's age and lifestyle, and tackling the stigma of mental illness.
Reforms outlined in the Government's Child Poverty Review, including increasing employment opportunities, raising incomes for those who can work and improving services around housing and homelessness all need to be implemented, the report added.
Dr Vivienne Nathanson, head of BMA ethics and science, said: "Children from deprived backgrounds have a poorer start in life on many levels, but without good mental health they may not have a chance to develop emotionally and reach their full potential in life.
"For example, 45 per cent of children in the care of local authorities suffer from mental health problems.
"These children may have come from socially and economically deprived backgrounds, and are more likely to under-perform at school.
"There are a number of Government policies currently being rolled out that are aimed at tackling these problems.
"It is essential that they deliver what they promise.
"Deprivation often goes hand in hand with poor diet and unhealthy living.
"Healthcare professionals are beginning to recognise just how important diet and physical exercise are in preventing mental health problems and it is vital that more research is carried out in this area."
A spokeswoman from the Department of Health said the latest statistics on mental health services for children were optimistic.
Between late 2002 to late 2005, the number of staff working in child and adolescent mental health services increased by more than 40 per cent, and the number of cases seen has also increased by more than 40 per cent.
She added: "In 2002 only 24 per cent of new cases were seen within four weeks, by 2004 that figure had risen to above 50 per cent.
"A dedicated team of regional development workers is advising commissioners and providers of CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) of the most effective strategies for improving services. In the last three years £300 million has been invested in CAMHS via both t he NHS and local authorities." ..SUPL: