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Sad children at risk of mental disorder diagnosis

15th September 2011

Concerns have been raised that common problems among children could come to be regarded as illnesses.

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Experts fear that children who are merely shy or sad are at risk of being diagnosed with mental disorders and given powerful drugs.

It comes as new guidelines, developed in America and scheduled for UK use, could lead to more young people seeing their common problems regarded as illnesses that must be treated.

That may mean they be given drugs such as Prozac or Ritalin to control or alter their behaviour.

However, following a vote at the TUC Congress, there are calls for a national review of the use of such drugs on schoolchildren as well as more research into their long-term effects.

Kate Fallon, general secretary of the Association of Educational Psychologists, said: “Behaviours develop over a long period of time, often with a range of complex causes; we can’t ‘cure’ the behaviours we don’t like with a quick fix of medicine. They usually require careful management by all the adults around the child.

“In 2013 we’re expecting new criteria for the definition of mental illness to be adopted here in the UK. These criteria will lead to many more children being diagnosed as mentally ill, based on reports of their behaviours.”

Some 650,000 children under 13 are on such drugs but that could rise when the new diagnostic criteria known as DSM-5 is adopted by health authorities in Britain in 2013.

The British Psychological Society has also raised concerns about the proposed revisions to the DSM.

 

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