More than one million prescriptions for antidepressants are written for young people in the UK each year, official figures suggest.
The number of drugs given to children 13 to 19 years increased by a quarter between 2016 and 2020, the latest NHS data shows.
It includes directives until the end of 2020, following the year of Covid’s national closure and the closure of schools and universities.
The growing body of evidence suggests that viral barriers have had a profound effect on adolescent mental health.
NHS data – obtained through the Freedom of Information (FOI) request – also shows that drug use increased significantly among adults in their 20s.
Mental health and child support organizations told MailOnline the data was a ‘shocking sign’ of the mental health crisis in the UK.
They warned that some young people may have been prescribed medication by doctors because they could not get counseling due to the accumulation of diseases.
Prescriptions for antidepressants among adolescents have increased by a quarter in 2020 in the UK compared to 2016. The largest increase was observed among young people aged 13 and 19 where prescription rates rose by almost a third.
Adolescents, who often leave home for the first time and start their careers, also saw antidepressant levels increase by about 40 percent.
NHS data records prescriptions instead of individual patients, meaning that one can be recorded several times.
A total of 1.03 million prescriptions for antidepressants were issued to people between the ages of 13 and 19 by 2020, the most recent data available.
This was an increase of 26 percent compared to the number of orders in 2016 (822,717).
What to do if you are a parent who needs help with their child
If your child is having problems and needs help, you may be very anxious and do not know where to start. Remember that you and your child are not alone. There are services, professionals and organizations that can help you, and information on how to access them.
Trying to find the right help for your child and finding your way around various services can be very tiring at times. Remember to take care of yourself as you go – and remind yourself that you are doing the best you can and it is not always easy.
EMERGENCY TIPS FOR GETTING HELP
Your local doctor can discuss concerns about your child’s mental health, and he or she may refer you to other services, such as CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services).
You can get counseling through CAMHS and other NHS services.
Talking to specialists can sometimes be exhausting, and it can be difficult to find the right words to describe what is going on or the help you think your child needs.
Parents in such situations have found that the suggestions below can help.
1. Write down your concerns
Before talking to a therapist, write down your concerns and times when you notice specific behaviors or feelings of concern. You can do this easily by creating a list on your phone. You can then take this for an appointment to give the therapist a clear idea of your child’s condition, and to support any referral request.
2. Examine local services
If you are on the waiting list for help, check if there are services available locally that you can currently access. Your child can also get more immediate online help from organizations such as The Mix and Kooth. You can find other online services and support numbers at the bottom of this page.
3. Try talking to other parents
When looking for your way to nearby services, try talking to other parents who have been through this, or talk to any friends or family who can advise you on where to start. For example, if you know anyone who works in mental health care, they may have a good idea about what is available locally.
4. Follow up after an appointment
If possible, follow up with an email after the appointment – for example with teachers or other staff at your child’s school – to confirm what has been agreed upon. Then check back a week or two later to find out what happened. This is a great way to keep things moving forward.
The largest increase was among younger and older adolescents, with rates for 13-year-olds and 19-year-olds rising by almost a third – 33 percent and 34 percent respectively.
Antidepressant prescriptions have also increased by 39 percent for people over the age of 20 over the same period.
A total of 7.1 million prescriptions for antidepressants for this group were issued in 2020, an increase of 2 million compared to 2016.
Olly Parker, head of external affairs at the Young Minds mental health organization, called the increase ‘alarming’.
“These figures are another alarming sign of a crisis in the mental health services of young people,” he said.
‘Record numbers try to reach out to help and often find options are few.’
There was a 12 percent overall increase between all age groups between 2016 and 2020, data shows.
Earlier this year, a record was revealed of 420,000 children under the age of 18 who were being treated for mental health problems or waiting to start in February.
Mr Parker said claims for mental health care may have left many family physicians feeling they have no choice but to prescribe medication to help young people in critical condition.
“Drugs can play an important role in helping a young person manage their mental health but never take the opportunity to talk about treatment such as counseling,” he said.
“Long waiting times and high medical thresholds may mean that doctors feel under pressure to prescribe medication, but it should not be used as an adhesive for poor access to other forms of support.”
Laurence Guinness, chief executive of The Childhood Trust, a charitable organization representing children from poor families, was also concerned about the data.
‘The increase in prescription drugs to treat adolescent mental health is a worrying situation,’ he said.
‘The Child and Adolescent Mental Health Care System cannot cope with referrals and too many children are left with no alternative but to seek help from their doctor who often has limits on prescribing medication.’
The use of social media, university debt and the prospect of not being able to afford their own home have all been linked to an increase in mental health issues among young people.
Chris Martin, chief executive of The Mix, a charity for under-25s, said: ‘We have seen an increase in concerns for young people to talk about their use of antidepressants.
‘Our own research with young people has found that antidepressants were the second drug for people aged 16-25 and that one in 10 young people has also abused antidepressants in the past year.’
Mr Martin also attributed excessive mental health services.
“Our concern is that this has a lot to do with the lack of time given to young people to seek mental health support from increased health care,” he said.
“While antidepressants may be appropriate for some, they should not be the first treatment option every time a teenager could benefit from receiving oral treatment or counseling on sleep, exercise, and diet.”
Antidepressants have a wide range of side effects, ranging from minor ones, such as headaches, diarrhea or nausea to severe serotonin syndrome, in which the body releases too many chemicals that control the condition.
Serotonin syndrome, although not uncommon, can cause serious health problems like fits and irregular heartbeats.
Aid agencies have warned that some young people will be given antidepressants by doctors as they will not be able to get other treatments, such as treatment from extreme health care.
There has been a record growth in the number of children and adolescents listed as ‘open guidelines’ by the NHS Pediatric and Adolescent Mental Health Services in the UK, with 420,314 as of February.
Responding to the data, Professor Subodh Dave, dean of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said the data on NHS prescriptions needed to be carefully interpreted as antidepressants have a wide range of clinical uses.
“These data need to be interpreted carefully as antidepressants can be prescribed to adolescents for a variety of health conditions, including physical ailments,” he said.
Depression is a family of many drugs that are widely used to treat depression as well as a variety of mental health problems such as anxiety, fear, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
However, some have other programs such as helping to alleviate other chronic pain conditions such as neck and back pain
One type of medication, tricyclic antidepressants, is sometimes used to help stop bedtime urination in children due to the relaxing effect of bladder muscles, to help increase urinary capacity, and to reduce the urge to urinate.
Source: | This original article is from Dailymail.co.uk