In case there was any doubt about the impact of numerous long-lasting lockdowns on the youngest in society, new NHS figures have revealed that record numbers of antidepressants are being prescribed to children, with 231,791 prescribed to children aged between five and 16 in 2020 alone. Long waiting lists for mental health services, caused in part by lockdowns, have certainly added to the problem. And as we have previously reported, many people who have been able to receive ‘treatment’ over the course of the lockdowns still feel as though they missed out on proper care due to the loss of face-to-face appointments. For some, video calls made matters worse. The Times has the story.
Health service guidance says that they should be offered to under-18s only in cases of moderate or severe depression alongside talking therapies.
Campaigners fear that long waits for specialist mental health services aimed at children and young people are driving higher rates of prescription from GPs, who feel powerless to offer anything else.
Studies suggest that lockdowns and missed schooling, as well as the pressure of social media, may be behind higher rates of mental distress. The number of prescriptions issued to primary school children has increased by 20% in the past five years; those for secondary school pupils rose 23% in the same period. …
Catherine Knibbs, a child psychotherapist and online harm adviser, said that she often saw antidepressants handed out for mild cases of anxiety or depression. “Children’s mental health and wellbeing is complex, however pharmacology ought to be a last rather than first resort as their brains and bodies are still developing and maturing,” she said. …
A recent Unicef survey ranked the U.K. in the bottom third of wealthy nations when it came to assessing the quality of children’s mental health. Its report stated that problems with children’s mental health were only likely to get worse. “The existing children’s mental health crisis will probably intensify,” it stated.
“The experiences of lockdown, bereavement and ongoing strains on family relationships of economic uncertainty can damage many children’s mental wellbeing. Children may feel anxious, insecure and fearful for the future.”