"Growing Up Isn't Always Easy"
In Conversation with JARA-BRAIN Scientist Prof. Beate Herpertz-Dahlmann
Mental illness is one of the most frequent illnesses of children and young people. This is also reflected in the number of patients treated at University Hospital Aachen's Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Psychosomatics, and Psychotherapy. The number of patients here has increased by over 70 % in the past few years. This is why the hospital is extending its premises. In an interview, JARA-BRAIN scientist and head of department, Prof. Beate Herpertz-Dahlmann, outlines the new facilities available at the child and adolescent psychiatry department.
How do you explain the dramatic rise in children and young people needing help?
Herpertz-Dahlmann: We don't know whether there really are more children and young people needing help than there used to be; we only know that more parents and children are looking for assistance. Many children and young people are lonely. There has been a significant increase in the number of children growing up with just one parent. Many experience an enormous pressure to succeed at school, many have experienced bullying in their everyday life or in the social media.
Which syndromes occur more frequently?
Herpertz-Dahlmann: Once again, we don't know if they are really occurring more frequently or whether more children and patients are turning to us. It is relatively certain that disturbances of social behaviour (so-called abnormal behaviour), attempted suicides, and instances of self-harm are increasing. Eating disorders are also becoming more frequent in children and young people.
A new building is being constructed for your department in order to cope with the increased demand for care. How do you intend to use the new premises?
Herpertz-Dahlmann: Amongst other things we are going to open a parent-and-child ward. This will enable us to accommodate parents and their small children suffering from, for example, autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or eating disorders. We will also be pleased to offer seriously ill young people and those at risk, some of whom had to be admitted to the adult psychiatric department due to lack of space, accommodation in the new building with a special dedicated ward for inpatients. The rooms will all be very bright and airy so that our young patients will feel at home. There will be rooms for games and group work, areas where the young people can cook and eat together, as well as space for theatre groups, occupational therapy, and much more.
Are you going to expand facilities for outpatients and day patients as well as for inpatients?
Herpertz-Dahlmann: Thank you for the cue – yes, we are. Our outpatients' de-partment will also be moving into the new building, which, by the way, is being constructed according to the latest passive-house standards with respect to ener-gy specifications and building materials. Our previous site, Gut Neuenhof, is di-rectly opposite the new building and will now offer outpatient psychotherapy, for example for young people with eating disorders. This type of outpatient treatment has proved to be particularly effective, as we demonstrated in a major study re-cently published in The Lancet. The young patients spend the day with us but can return to their familiar surroundings in the evening.
When will the new building be ready?
Herpertz-Dahlmann: Spring 2016 – unless there are any surprises with the con-struction work.
Picture: JARA-BRAIN scientist Prof. Beate Herpertz-Dahlmann is director of the department of paedriatic psychiatry, psychosomatic disorders and psychotherapy (source: Uniklinik RWTH Aachen)