By Helen Clark: Director, Child Mental Health Charter Campaign
The Daily Mail’ has published figures revealing a soaring number of children prescribed antidepressants during the COVID-19 lockdowns (Article).
In April 2015, 19,739 under 17 year-olds were prescribed antidepressants but by March 2020 as the UK entered its first pandemic-occasioned lockdown, this number had climbed to 27,757.
9,855 boys and 17,902 girls were prescribed this treatment by their GPs during the same month.
While the overall recipient figure dipped to 23,397 in August 2020 coinciding with an easing of lockdown, data obtained by the Pharmaceutical Journal from the NHS Business Services Authority show a sharp incline in figures from December 2020 – January 2021 as the country endured second and third lockdowns.
Antidepressants can be an appropriate treatment in some cases of mental ill-health but it is widely understood that they are also a ‘quick fix’ choice when alternative therapies are unavailable; including play therapy for younger children and counselling/talking therapies for older children and young people.
Professor Martin Marshall who chairs the Royal College of GPs said:
‘Access to appropriate, alternative therapies in the community that many younger patients with mental health conditions find beneficial, is patchy across the country. This needs to be addressed urgently.’
Helen Clark, Director of the Child Mental Health Charter Campaign urged readers to contact their constituency MP:
‘Clearly at this unprecedented time of national emergency, the Government has failed to prioritise children.
We need to know what the access has been in each constituency during the pandemic to play therapies, talking therapies and counselling. People should ask their MPs to investigate and report findings to Government Minsters.
Until our MPs take responsibility for finding out what is happening to services in their own patches, the outlook is bleak.
MPs have a duty to acquire this information and use it to encourage the Government to prioritise children’s mental health – and resource it as necessary.’