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Sounding an alarm over children’s mental health

Readers respond to news about soaring Ritalin use, the underfunding of child mental health services and the toll GCSEs are taking

As a group of educators, psychologists, mental health professionals, campaigners and politicians, we share Amanda Spielman’s timely recognition (Report, 27 June) that the massive increase in young children receiving prescriptions for powerful stimulant drugs is both “a very big warning signal” and an indication that we need as a society to understand and address the underlying social, behavioural and educational issues that give rise to this pressure.

However, it is also timely and hopefully reassuring that this past week also saw the establishment of a new group of like-minded colleagues called Cope (Challenging over-prescription of psychiatric drugs in education) across education, healthcare and politics to begin to consider these important issues.

Part of our mission statement states: “We share the view that a caring and morally mindful society must protect and safeguard children by allowing them to develop their unique personalities and behaviours and try to avoid the first response of prescribing psychiatric drugs for behavioural difficulties.”

With the support of the British Psychological Society’s division for educational and child psychology and the Association for Educational Psychologists, we hope that we might begin to respond to this warning signal with a more intelligent, more scientific and importantly more humane way of responding to the distress in the youngest members of society. We are particularly concerned about the growing evidence of serious side effects that can lead in extreme cases to the hospitalisation and/or death of school-aged children who are being prescribed these psycho-stimulants.

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