GPs are dishing out record numbers of anti-depressants to children

DOCTORS are dishing out record numbers of antidepressants to children with nearly a quarter of a million prescriptions for those aged five to 16 last year.

Experts say social media is wreaking havoc on kids’ happiness while school pressures, family problems and body image all worry youngsters.

NHS figures show that nearly 232,000 antidepressant prescriptions were given to schoolchildren in 2020, up from 222,000 the year before.

Around 90 per cent are for over-11s but there was also a 20 per cent rise in prescriptions for primary pupils.

Catherine Knibbs, a child psychotherapist, said: “Antidepressants are becoming more commonplace in child clients.

“My clients speak of family issues, school pressures, gender and sexual identity and peer pressures related to body image, some of which can be attributed to the time they spend comparing themselves to others online.”

Chris Martin, of young people’s charity The Mix added: “We know that unhealthy social media use can contribute to poor mental health.”

Children’s use of the pills rose 22 per cent in the past five years, according to figures obtained from the NHS.

Some of the prescriptions may be for physical illnesses but most are given to help with mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.

NHS policy does not recommend antidepressants for children in most cases because they can increase the risk of thoughts about self-harm and suicide – therapy is the go-to treatment.

Tom Madders, campaign director at the charity YoungMinds, said: “Antidepressants can play a role in supporting some young people’s mental health but it’s crucial that they are never seen as a substitute for fast access to talking therapies, especially for younger children.”

YOU’RE NOT ALONE

EVERY 90 minutes in the UK a life is lost to suicide.

It doesn't discriminate, touching the lives of people in every corner of society – from the homeless and unemployed to builders and doctors, reality stars and footballers.

It's the biggest killer of people under the age of 35, more deadly than cancer and car crashes.

Yet it's rarely spoken of, a taboo that threatens to continue its deadly rampage unless we all stop and take notice, now.

That is why The Sun launched the You're Not Alone campaign.

The aim is that by sharing practical advice, raising awareness and breaking down the barriers people face when talking about their mental health, we can all do our bit to help save lives.

Let's all vow to ask for help when we need it, and listen out for others… You're Not Alone.

If you, or anyone you know, needs help dealing with mental health problems, the following organisations provide support:

  • CALM, www.thecalmzone.net, 0800 585 858
  • Heads Together, www.headstogether.org.uk
  • Mind, www.mind.org.uk, 0300 123 3393
  • Papyrus, www.papyrus-uk.org, 0800 068 41 41
  • Samaritans, www.samaritans.org, 116 123

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