The Age

Many children in poor mental health

The Age (Melbourne)
Thursday 30 November 2000

More than 520,000 Australian children, or 14.1 per cent of children aged four to 17, have a mental health problem such as attention deficit disorder, depression or anxiety, according to a national study.

But the report warned that many children were not getting the help they needed. Many parents said they did not seek help because of cost, lack of knowledge of where to go and because of lengthy waiting times.

"Somatic complaints," where a child reports suffering from a chronic physical complaint without a known cause, is the most prevalent childhood mental health problem, the study shows. More than 7 per cent of Australian children have such a complaint.

Children from step, blended and sole parent families are much more likely to suffer a mental health problem than those living with their original parents, the research shows. Twenty-five per cent of boys in step and blended families have a mental health problem, the study found, compared with only 11.3 per cent of boys living with their original parents.

The study, commissioned by the federal Health Department, said children from low-income families were twice as likely to have problems than children from families earning more than $1030 a week.

Federal Health Minister Michael Wooldridge said the findings demanded a response from governments.

"Healthy children and adolescents are quite simply our community's greatest resource and we have a duty of care to ease the severe personal and financial burdens that mental health problems impose on children, families and the community," he said.

Copyright The Age Company Ltd 2000.