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Spotty Spice Victoria begs for help to beat acne... the curse that drives one teenager every week to suicide.

SHE'S one of the most fancied women in the world, but Posh Spice Victoria Adams is plagued by an affliction which drives some teenagers to suicide...acne.

Victoria has suffered from spots since school and, despite her success, she is so self-conscious about them that she is seeking help from a leading skin specialist.

The 23-year-old, once dubbed "Acne Face" by school bullies, hopes her pounds 100-a-time visits to his private North London clinic - and the drugs she has been given - will put an end to the cruel jibes from her past.

And she's not alone. The number of teenagers seeking medical help for acne has rocketed over the last five years.

But unfortunately some sufferers are not as optimistic as Victoria. A new study reveals that every week a teenager kills themselves - and many more attempt to take their own lives - unable to cope with the curse of acne.

Professor Bill Cunliffe, the dermatologist at Leeds General Infirmary who led the study, said: "The psychological effects of acne can be devastating. People with severe skin problems can go on to have problems with relationships, getting jobs and finding partners. Some take their own lives. Parents must not laugh it off as a phase. These children need a lot of support." Virtually all teenagers suffer from acne - some people get it in their 30s.

The scale of acne- related suicides emerged when Prof Cunliffe's staff noticed that the number of people seeking treatment had risen by 20 per cent every year for the last five years. Further research showed that over the past 20 years 16 sufferers had killed themselves and 35 had attempted suicide. Other clinics painted a similar picture. In Britain last year over 100 young people with acne attempted suicide...50 succeeded.

Professor Cunliffe believes most of those tragedies could have been avoided. "We can do magical things with acne now," he said. "Youngsters must not suffer in silence. For mild acne go to the chemist, for more stubborn cases see your doctor. These conditions can be cured." Dean Thirlby knew that, but he still took his own life. He was only 18. He fell into despair after he lost his job and could not afford the private sessions at a skin clinic - like those Posh Spice is having. His mum, Gillian, 36, of Broughton Astley, Leicestershire, said: "I knew he was self-conscious about the spots but I never suspected he had become so depressed."

Now the Acne Support Group, which has 5,000 people on its books, hopes to help prevent similar tragedies with a public-awareness campaign via teenage magazines. Offering support is former Radio One DJ - and acne sufferer - Simon Bates (pictured left).

"I had terrible problems - particularly with spots on my neck. I really sympathise with young people suffering with acne. I know the hell they are going through."

A spokeswoman for Acne Support Group said: "Being a teenager is hard but having spots and being a teenager is a nightmare."

One acne sufferer who has lived through that nightmare is Peter Banford.

Now 22 and a successful marketing consultant, Peter nearly took his own life as a teenager after years of torment turned him into a virtual recluse. Peter, from Cambridge, said: "I had no confidence. The teasing really went deep. I thought about hanging myself, but I realised that if I did the acne would have won." His life changed when his mum took him to see a dermatologist. "The specialist gave me a powerful drug which cleared the acne. The important thing is never give up."

Posh Spice has even had her face blasted with metallic crystals in her search for clearer skin - and her new drug treatment is working wonders. A friend said: "Victoria is looking better than ever."

Parents and youngsters can contact the Acne Support Group at PO Box 230, Hayes, Middlesex, UB4 0UT.

Acne: Fact and fiction

ACNE usually strikes at puberty when the male hormone testosterone causes pores to scale up, resulting in blockages which lead to spots. It is a MYTH that you can catch acne from someone else, or that chocolate and greasy foods - or a lack of sex - give you spots. The best way to clean spotty skin is with soap and water, not expensive cleansers and toners. But experts can't agree on whether squeezing spots makes them spread. Beauticians reckon squeezing doesn't do any harm, but dermatologists say spots are best left alone.
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Hamer, Rupert; Kelly, Amanda
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jan 11, 1998
Words:741
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