What kind of world are we in if children under the age of six are being prescribed antidepressants? A terrible one.
Out of the 198,906 antidepressant medication prescriptions handed out to children under the age of 18 in the UK, 12,756 of the children were ages 7-12, while 617 of them were under the age of six.
What is so shocking is these numbers represent the time period of April 2015-September 2016, so the numbers have risen since. The organization, Young Minds, says it could be so. Over the past 25 years, the rates of anxiety and depression cases have risen by 70% in teenagers.
The charities extended statistics portray a more shocking viewpoint: 3-in-4 kids with a mental health diagnosis aren’t able to receive the support they need. Psychotherapy, is what’s needed instead of antidepressants such as fluoxetine and setraline, also known as Prozac and Zoloft.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), children under 18 should be prescribed antidepressants if they have symptoms of moderate-severe depression. Therapy should also be alongside it. Children between the ages 5-11, should be prescribed antidepressants if therapy isn’t providing any relief.
“The rise in the number of children and young people being prescribed antidepressants is worrying,” says Marc Bush, a senior policy adviser at Young Minds, to DailyMail.co.uk
“Long waiting times and high thresholds for treatment mean that [general practitioners] may feel under pressure to prescribe antidepressants to children. There can be a place for medication in treating young people’s mental health problems, but it shouldn’t be used as a sticking plaster for poor access to talking therapies.”
Perhaps the rise in antidepressant prescriptions speaks volumes about the state of healthcare than any other thing.“There is no doubt a significant link between the growing use of antidepressants and the immense pressure children’s mental health services are under,” says Norman Lamb, the health spokesman for the Liberal Democrat Party.
“Children’s mental health services are in desperate need of more resources. The Conservative government has failed to invest properly and has failed to make good on the funding promises we made in the coalition. Money isn’t getting through to the frontline, and now we are seeing the consequences of this neglect.”
As concerning the numbers are, the UK isn’t alone in this. In Australia, for example in 2009, 5 deaths had been associated with antidepressants in children ages 10-19. 89 of them had suffered side effects from antidepressants. The Chief Executive of the Australian Childhood Foundation, Joe Tucci, says:
“I cannot think of a good reason why any six-year-old, or younger, should be treated with antidepressants. I think it’s gone up because medication is being used to treat the symptoms and not the cause.” Antidepressants are not a first option, and instead, should be a last resort. They only treat symptoms, not the illness itself.
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