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Parents fear mental health 'life sentence'

Two-thirds of parents feel their child might never recover from a mental illness

Mark Gould

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

A new survey reveals that many parents fear a diagnosis of mental illness will amount to a "life sentence" for their child. The research commissioned for MQ Mental Health, a new charity which supports and funds research into mental health, reveals that 67% of parents who took part in the survey said they would worry that their son or daughter might never recover from a mental illness. And 74% were concerned that mental health issues might get worse over time.

The YouGov survey of 2,000 adults also highlighted the depth of parents’ concerns surrounding mental health, with many worried about the impact on education, employment and personal relationships. Around half of parents (49%) said they would be worried their child might never meet a partner or have a family of their own if they were to be diagnosed with a mental illness, while 48% feared they might never get a job and 44% admitted to fearing that their child might be taken away from home to live elsewhere.

The charity says the figures reflect "a growing crisis in young people’s mental health" with three children in every class affected by mental illness but many waiting an average of a decade between experiencing their first symptoms and actually getting help. And only a quarter of young people referred to services are receiving appropriate mental health care.

It is calling on the Government to address parent’s concerns by prioritising research into young people’s mental health, given that 75% of mental illness begins before the age of 18. It also wants to see more money going into mental health. While mental illness affects one in four people each year, only 5.8% of UK research spend goes towards mental health.

The survey also indicates support for greater investment. More than four in five adults agree that “more should be done to tackle mental illness for the future”, rising to 97% among those with lived experience of mental illness. Some 68% of adults surveyed believe that the current proportion of funding for mental health research is too low and, on average, respondents think 20% of the total UK medical research budget should be spent on mental illness.

Chief Executive, Cynthia Joyce said: “Living with a mental illness can be a tough burden for anyone. But when it affects a child it can be terrifying. Our research sheds more light on the concerns of parents - heartbreaking and all too often unspoken. And it reveals just how far we still have to go when it comes to tackling mental health. Only through research can we get to grips with this growing crisis in young people's mental health - and give parents and children much-needed hope for a brighter future.”

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