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Should youth mental health become a specialty in its own right? Yes

BMJ 2009; 339 doi: (Published 26 August 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b3373
  1. Patrick McGorry, professor of youth mental health
  1. 1Orygen Youth Health Research Centre, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
  1. pmcgorry{at}

    Mental illness often develops in adolescence or young adulthood. Patrick McGorry believes the best way to ensure early treatment is to have dedicated services, but Peter Birleson (doi:10.1136/bmj.b3371) argues that integration with existing systems is more important

    Even in developed countries, access to and quality of mental health care lags way behind that for mainstream health care.1 This gap is widest for young people, who have to deal with the full force of emerging mental and substance use disorders as they struggle to make the increasingly complex transition from childhood to independent adulthood. As we strive to scale up mental health services worldwide,2 there is no better place to invest.3

    Mental illnesses are the chronic diseases of young people.4 Seventy five per cent of mental disorders emerge for the first time before the age of 25.5 There is a dramatic surge in incidence beginning after puberty, peaking in the early 20s.5 It is a curious paradox that better physical health in young people has been accompanied by steadily worsening mental health.6 7 8 A youth mental health system could reduce the long term financial and human costs associated with illnesses …

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