Daily Mail - Health section
September 28, 2005
Around 40,000 children are prescribed anti-depressant medication when they should be offered 'talking' therapy first, a Government watchdog has warned.
New national guidelines tell doctors not to prescribe pills as a 'first line' defence against depression. Instead GPs should offer three months of 'talking' therapy first, according to the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).
The recommendations come after the revelation that half of children and teenagers on anti-depressants receive no psychological support.
Professor Peter Fonagy, chairman of the NICE guideline development group, said 30 per cent of those who suffer depression in childhood go on to have severe adult discorders.
"No other children's illness damages so many children so seriously," he said.
He predicted that mental disorder will become one of the five most common causes of mortality, morbidity and disability among children.
In the past few years, there has been growing concerns that doctors were prescribing anti-depressants to youngsters as an 'easy option.'
It led to most, known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, being banned to children, with the exception of Prozac. In 2003, the number of children taking anti-depressants was put at 50,000 but, despite the ban, that figure has only fallen to around 40,000.
The NICE report made four key recommendations:
Children or young people with moderate to severe depression should not be given anti-depressants except in conjunction with psychological therapy.
Healthcare professionals need further training to spot symptoms of depression.
An acknowledgement that a parent whose child suffers from a mental disorder may also be suffering some form of depression.
Advice on nutrition, exercise and sleep to help combat depression should be more readily available.
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