Dr Maureen Baker, Chair of the Royal College of GPs (RCGP) said: "The majority of GPs are skilled at supporting young people and families in their generalist role but fewer than half of GPs are given the opportunity to undertake a paediatric or psychiatry training placement during their training.
"The vast majority of NHS care for children and young people is delivered by general practice teams and so GPs have a crucial role to play in improving the mental health of younger people. It is also important that children and young patients feel comfortable approaching their GP and that their GP is sufficiently prepared to discuss what are often sensitive issues with confidence.
"Youth mental health is a clinical priority for the RCGP and we are embarking on a number of important projects to raise awareness of youth mental health and simple things that GPs can do to give our younger patients a more positive experience.
"The RCGP is proposing that there should be increased focus on equipping GPs to deal with the common mental health problems faced by younger people - this includes improving mental resilience, managing anxiety, depression and self-harm, identifying suicide risk and in the early recognition of psychosis.
"The College is therefore recommending that in future, as part of an enhanced four-year training programme, all GP trainees should receive specialist-led training in both child health and mental health. The RCGP is also working with the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, and Young Minds to develop ways that GPs and specialists might train together and so work more effectively when caring for young people with mental health problems and has set up a series of meetings to take this forward.
"Children and young peoples' mental health and wellbeing is fundamental to their physical health. Statistics show that 75% of adults with mental health problems will have presented symptoms by the age of 18 - and 50% by the age of 15 - and so it makes sense that we do more to tackle mental health problems as early as possible."