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What do young people with ADHD experience when transitioning from child to adult mental health services?

Posted on November 21st 2018

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) affects 5.9% – 7.1 % of children (Willcutt, 2012), and up to two thirds of these children will carry symptoms into adulthood (Agnew‐Blais et al., 2016; Faraone, Biederman, & Mick, 2006).

Whilst this is a significant proportion of individuals, there is little research about how the transition phase is experienced. Professor Tamsin Ford and her team, based at the University of Exeter (Dr Astrid Janssens Anna Price, Helen Eke, Abigail Woodley and Matt Allwood) completed a systematic review of qualitative research, in order to increase understanding about the experience of transitioning, as a young person with ADHD, into adult healthcare services.

The team discovered that the lack of healthcare resource and provision in the UK had a direct impact on the availability and quality of care for young adults with ADHD, leaving them feeling abandoned and unsure how to manage the problems they experience.

“There are places you can go as a kid, but not as an adult, it’s kind of swept under the carpet as soon as you reach 18” (Young Person) (Matheson et al., 2013)

The team also identified an absence of key information made available for young people, such as where adult care services are located, and how to access them. The transition process can be complex and this, combined with the difficulties that individuals with ADHD face, can make the transition a challenging experience. Associate Research Fellow and PhD student Anna Price said:

“We need to serve this group of young people. ADHD has evidence based treatments available and it is very costly for the young person, their family and community when they can no longer access treatment. At the moment, lack of supported transition means that too many young people are losing contact with services at a time in their lives when they need support the most”

This systematic review feeds into the wider research project, entitled Children and adolescents with ADHD in transition between children’s services and adult services (CATCh-uS), which focuses on what happens to young people with ADHD when they make the transition to adult care services.

This paper has also been chosen for promotion by the Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), allowing the public temporary free access for a limited time. This topic will also be discussed at the CAMH Summit on Children and Young People’s mental health () which focuses on improving mental health services for young adults.

Read and download the paper here.

Recently, the team created a map of services with the help from people with ADHD, parents, carers, clinicians and commissioners which they hope will help others find support. You can view the map here.

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