The British Psychological Society supports the call for a national review of the use of medication to treat children’s behavioural issues including temporary sleep problems, mild social anxiety and shyness.
Peter Kinderman, Chair of the Division of Clinical Psychology said: “We welcome the announcement from the government pledging an extra £400 million for the provision of psychological therapies – including the promise of better support for parents and children with behavioural problems. However, we are concerned that the overall cuts to the public sector will place all of mental health care – including care for children - at risk.
“We know BPS members are involved in excellent work with Child and Mental Health Service teams, but child mental health is an area that is grossly under resourced, resulting in too few children and young people being able to get timely access to the appropriate therapy.
“Clearly, it is important to understand children’s behavioural and psychological problems fully, and to invest in proper, expert, therapeutic approaches. We would be very concerned if children were being prescribed medication as a quick fix rather than accessing the full assessments and psychological therapies which take may longer and cost more, but ultimately are likely to be better value in the long run.”
Figures released by the Department of Health show that in 2009 the number of prescriptions issued to 16-18 years olds to treat ADHD had risen by 51% in just two years.
Peter concluded: “Clearly, many children unfortunately have behavioural and emotional problems which of course demand appropriate care. Many psychologists are very concerned at the use of psychiatric and medical diagnoses in cases such as this – not only because of doubts about the validity of many of the diagnostic approaches, but also because of the possible adverse effects of the medication. Children for whom the diagnosis of ADHD is being considered should receive full multidisciplinary assessments, the option of receiving psychological and behavioural therapies, and their parents or carers should be offered parent-training and education programmes. Drugs should be considered as an option but this should be part of an overall therapy programme. In the case of problems such as temporary sleep problems, mild social anxiety and shyness, I fail to see how medicalising these problems and contemplating the use of drugs is justified. These may indeed be problems, but they are problems that clearly deserve a more psychological response”.
The call for a national review is also supported by the Society’s Division of Educational Psychology.
PR: 1848 8 February 2011