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Number of Young People on Antidepressants Rises by 12%
Children as young as six are being prescribed antidepressants by their doctors
The number of under-18s being prescribed with antidepressants has taken a sharp increase. Data shows that between April 2015 and June 2016, over 166,000 were given the medication; of those, 537 were aged six or under and 10,595 were aged seven to twelve. The figures which were released by NHS England under the Freedom of Information Act show a 12% rise in the numbers taking the drugs over the same time period.
Vice-chair of the child and adolescent faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Dr Jon Goldin, explained a possible cause of poor mental health in children and adolescents: “It’s not easy to be a child and teen in today’s society. There are lots of pressures. It’s partly the education system and the emphasis on testing and exams … Social media is also a problem in that children compare themselves unfavourably to images they see online.”
The figures have triggered concerns that antidepressants may be being overprescribed due to stretched and underfunded mental health services. Senior Policy Adviser at the charity Young Minds, Dr Marc Bush, warned “It is important that they can access the treatment and care they need. Antidepressants have a role to play, but are not the whole solution”. He further explained that the statistics were “substantial” and expressed his concern at the thought of six year olds being given antidepressants: “It feels quite difficult to comprehend, given what we know about the impact of pharmacology on people’s development”.
Liberal Democrats’ health spokesman, Norman Lamb, further compounded these worries, saying: “There is no doubt a significant link between the growing use of antidepressants and the immense pressure children’s mental health services are under. Children’s mental health services are in desperate need of more resources.”
However, a spokesperson for NHS England pointed out that there often is a necessity for medication, clarifying the reasons for prescriptions of these drugs: “Depression and anxiety can be debilitating, and while there are excellent psychological treatments for children and young people, in some cases it is medically appropriate to offer medication, usually in addition to any psychological therapy they are already having.”
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