Young mental health patients are being let down by the system, finds Sunderland study

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CHANGES need to be made in a bid to improve relations between GPs and young mental health patients, according to Wearside experts.

New research from Sunderland University claims many GPs feel uncertain and anxious when working with young people suffering from mental health issues and find them professionally challenging to work with.

Many GPs also feel uncomfortable when discussing issues with younger patients and struggle to communicate with them.

The research, by academics at the University of Sunderland, has been published in the British Medical Journal Open Online.

It recommends changes to be made to the way medical students and GPs in training are introduced to young people’s health needs.

The research involved in-depth interviews with GPs who had experience of consulting with young patients aged between 12 and 19 who showed signs of distress when consulting with their GP.

Dr Jane Roberts who led the research alongside University of Sunderland academics, is also a GP, and is the Royal College of General Practitioner’s clinical champion for youth mental health.

She said: “Initially, when the interviews began it looked like younger female GPs were more at ease talking to teenage patients who were experiencing difficulty in their personal lives.

“However, this was not borne out by the study which found that GPs of all ages and both genders found communicating with distressed young people a challenge.

“All were agreed that it was particularly difficult for young male patients to open up in the consultation.”

Mental health problems are common among young people, with estimates of one in 10 experiencing psychological difficulty.

These figures are higher again among young people who book an appointment with their GP, (around 30 per cent).

The study concludes that GPs feelings of anxiety often dominate consultations and can lead to uncertainty.