Children and teenagers who show signs of anxiety and depression are to be offered talking therapies, as part of an overhaul of mental healthcare for young people that will aim to stop them developing lifetime illnesses.
Introduction of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and other psychological therapies for children will be announced tomorrow in a new mental health strategy for England being published by the Coalition Government.
A five year investment programme for therapies for adults already exists across 60% of the country. More than 70,000 people are said to have "recovered" from illness and 14,000 have moved off sick pay and benefits.
The new strategy will earmark £400m for extending the adult programme across England by 2015 and for developing an equivalent treatment model for children.
Research suggests that half of all people who develop a lifetime mental health problem start to experience symptoms by the age of 14, with more than one in 10 teenagers aged 15 or 16 having self-harmed.
Under the adult treatment programme, people receive a short course of therapy, usually CBT, intended to help them deal with personal problems that feel overwhelming. A workforce of 3,600 therapists has been recruited specifically for the task.
The planned model for children, which will be piloted, will deal similarly with mild-to-moderate anxiety and depression, but is likely also to cover conduct disorder and disruptive behaviour.
The placement of children at the heart of the mental health strategy was welcomed by Young Minds, the mental health and wellbeing charity for children and teenagers.
Lucie Russell, the charity's campaigns director, said: 'Evidence demonstrates that intervening early is crucial. It's also important that a range of psychological therapies are available, tailored to the needs of each individual, and that these are delivered by the NHS as well as through local authority support services and voluntary organisations."
It is unclear how much of the £400m being earmarked for psychological therapies as a whole will be allocated to the children's strategy.