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Teen Anxiety Services 'Need Reforming'

Changes Are Needed To Teenagers' Anxiety Treatment In The UK


Dramatic reforms are needed to the current system that provides treatment for young people suffering from mental health conditions such as anxiety, according to a new report.

Psychologists from the University of Reading have published a study in the Journal of Affective Disorders following analysis of the approach that is currently taken, which follows a 'one-size-fits-all' stance.

Talking-based treatments such as cognitive behavioural therapy are most commonly used for anxiety sufferers, but the researchers suggest that because the condition can manifest itself in many different ways, a more tailored approach may be required to suit each individual's specific needs.

In addition, as a person gets older, the treatment they require may differ, but the scientists found that teenagers were often simply being given counselling sessions designed for younger children, but that had been tweaked slightly for their age group.

For instance, lead researcher Polly Waite said images of teddy bears used in online therapy had been altered to pictures of teenagers wearing 'grungy' clothes for adolescent sessions, indicating that more effort needs to be put into ensuring the system is suitable for every sufferer's needs.

Therefore, the study concludes that the people designing the therapies need to work much more closely alongside teenagers with anxiety to find out what sort of images and phrases would appeal to them.

Speaking to BBC News, Lucie Russell from young people's mental health charity YoungMinds commented: "It is absolutely right we recognise that adolescents have a different set of needs, experiences and challenges to younger children and therefore it is vital that treatments are developed for anxiety that work specifically for them."

She added that significant changes are needed to prevent a high number of teenagers being referred to adult mental health services later in life because their illnesses have not been addressed early on.

Figures show that around 300,000 under-18s in the UK suffer from anxiety, which can prevent them from getting involved in certain social situations or attending school, for example.

Expert Opinion
The lack of help and support available for teenagers and younger children suffering from mental health issues in the UK highlighted by this report is alarming and it is imperative that action is taken to reform the way mental health services are provided to young people.

"We have seen first-hand the significant impact delays in diagnosis and treatment of mental illness can have on young people, as well as the fact treatment is seen as one-size-fits-all, rather than developing help and support mechanisms tailored to the individual needs of patients. Improving the management of mental health services and making them more appealing to young people is vital as young people have different needs to adults suffering with mental health issues.”
Mandy Luckman, Partner

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