Adolescent mental health and antidepressants

When we think of mental health, we tend to predominantly think of it being an adult-related issue. This World Mental Health Day, the theme chosen is ‘young people and mental health in a changing world.’ Children are facing the growing challenges brought on by the increasingly digital world we live in. Online bullying, body image pressures and decreased social interactions due to extensive use of the Internet are some of the causes of the exponential rise in mental health issues amongst children.

One response to this has seen the rise in use of antidepressants amongst children; one recent report showing a 27% increase in use for under 12 year-olds in the past three years.

As per the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines[1] children who are prescribed antidepressants should only receive this treatment provided:

  • Prescriptions have been written by a child psychiatrist within Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (Camhs) rather than GPs
  • Antidepressants should only be provided alongside psychological therapies
  • close supervision of the patient to monitor any adverse reactions

With a potential side effect being risk of suicidal thoughts, we should be encouraging safe alternatives where appropriate. Exercise, increased face-to-face social interaction and a more considered use of social media have all been shown to make a difference to adolescents suffering from depression and anxiety.

With research showing that up to 60% of young people  are not receiving help soon enough, we need to recognise the value in these potential alternatives.



[1] BBC News