Parents fear mental illness is ‘life sentence’

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Two-thirds of parents fear a diagnosis of mental illness for their child would be tantamount to a ‘life sentence’, reveals a new survey.

The YouGov survey of 2,000 adults, including 500 parents, found that 67% of parents 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.

Parents also reported they might worry about the impact of a diagnosis on their children’s education, employment prospects and future relationships.

The survey was commissioned for MQ: Transforming Mental Health, a mental health charity set up by the Wellcome Trust.

The charity says the figures highlight a growing crisis in the mental health of young people. It notes that many young people are waiting an average of a decade before getting help, and just a quarter of those who are referred to services are receiving appropriate care.

It is now calling on the government to prioritise research into young people’s mental health.

Cynthia Joyce, Chief Executive of MQ: Transforming Mental Health, said: ‘It’s heartbreaking that our research shows an overwhelming majority of parents would view their children being diagnosed with a mental illness as equating to a life sentence, not least when we know that mental illness is both treatable and preventable.’

She added that we have a long way to go in addressing mental health. ‘Our understanding is decades behind that of other conditions,’ said Joyce.

Nick Harrop, Campaigns Manager at the charity YoungMinds, said: ‘Mental health problems at a young age do not need to be a life sentence, but it’s crucial that children who are struggling receive support as early as possible.

‘Child and adolescent mental health services are a postcode lottery, with extremely long waiting times in some areas, which means that too many young people reach crisis point before they get help.’

Currently, only 5.8% of UK research spend goes towards mental health despite it causing 23% of the overall disease burden in the UK.