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Keywords:

  • Service use;
  • child and adolescent mental health;
  • epidemiology

Background:  Most previous studies of service use in relation to mental health have examined services in the USA. We wanted to provide up-to-date findings from a general population sample of British schoolchildren.

Method:  A total of 2461 children aged 5–15 from the 1999 British Child and Adolescent Mental Health Survey were followed up for 3 years. We examine the relationship between a wide variety of potential predictors gathered in 1999 and the use of services over the following 3 years.

Results:  Contact with most services was predicted by three factors: the impact of psychopathology; contact with teachers or primary health care; and parents’ and teachers’ perceptions that the child had significant difficulties. Other predictors were specific to each service.

Conclusions:  Education of parents, teachers and other important adults might increase the proportion of children with impairing psychiatric disorders reaching services.