Early diagnosis of mental illness in children welcomed by Royal College of Psychiatrists

Statement / comment
17 August 2017

Dr Elaine Lockhart, chairman of the Child and Adolescent Faculty, Royal College of Psychiatrists in Scotland, said: “Antidepressants are prescribed for a range of conditions, including depression, anxiety, OCD and even for migraines and pain in some cases.

“This data does not indicate what the prescriptions are for, so it is impossible to ascertain precisely why prescriptions for antidepressants have increased. Without this information, it is wrong to assume that only depressed children have been prescribed medication.

"NICE guidelines for treating those under the age of 18, suggest that in some cases SSRIs such as fluoxetine and sertraline can be prescribed for the treatment of conditions such as depression and OCD respectively, but they should always be administered in conjunction with psychological talking therapies.

“Antidepressants are an evidence-based treatment. When left untreated mental illnesses such as severe depression can cause extreme suffering, and stop children from enjoying their childhood.”

“Child and adolescent psychiatrists take the prescription of psychotropic medication very seriously, and in addition to several years of training and experiences in this area, we continue to develop our learning through ongoing professional development activities.

“Antidepressants should only be used in under 18 year olds on the recommendation of a child and adolescent psychiatrist who has a full understanding of their developmental, physical and psychiatric presentation.

“These medications are used in addition to family-based psychological therapies when the anxiety or depressive symptoms haven't responded adequately to psychological therapies alone or the symptoms are too severe and medication is required to reduce them, so that the child or young person can then make use of psychological therapies.

“Advice is given to the child, young person and parent/carers about potential side-effects and we see them regularly to monitor the response to treatment and review their overall presentation.”

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