Mental Health Intervention for Children with Epilepsy


To improve the treatment of mental health problems in young people with epilepsy.


Epilepsy is a brain disorder with seizures. It is the most common serious long-term illness in young people. At least half of young people with epilepsy also have mental health problems like depression, anxiety and behaviour problems. Many people have more than one of these problems. The mental health problems impact so much on all areas of life including family, friendships and education that the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommends that the psychological needs of young people with epilepsy should always be considered. However, existing epilepsy services are separate from mental health services so mental health problems aren't treated as well as they could be.

The proposed treatment

There is an exciting new psychological treatment for childhood anxiety, depression and behavioural problems. It is modular which means it has separate sections for treating each of the mental health problems but sections can be combined so more than one mental health problem can be helped at the same time. This Modular Approach to Therapy for Children (MATCH) can be given within epilepsy services, by staff without special mental health training and over the telephone/Skype which many families prefer and which reduces costs to the NHS so more children can be treated nationwide. The treatment is flexible so can be given to parents and/or the young person according to age and type of problem. Families have told us that the treatment needs to have an extra module to help with the special mental health issues in epilepsy e.g., worries about having seizures.

What we will do

    1. Develop a new module so the treatment meets the special mental health needs of young people with epilepsy

    2. Develop a training package for NHS staff to deliver this treatment within epilepsy services.

    3. Assess nearly 1200 young people with epilepsy. Those people with significant mental health problems will be invited to either a) receive the new treatment plus their usual care for mental health problems or b)continue to receive their usual care. Group selection is decided by chance. We will compare the two groups after treatment (six months) to see which group does better in terms of their mental and physical health. We will also see if the new treatment is value for money.

    4. Talk to young people and families to understand what treatment was like and how to improve it.

Patient and public involvement

Our PPI research advisory group and epilepsy charities will ensure the research focuses on issues that matter most to them. We will use traditional and modern (social media) methods to tell people about the findings.