Are antidepressants the answer?

Queensland children rank as the second most medicated in the country.

Psychiatrists around Queensland remain divided when explaining why children as young as two are being prescribed antidepressants.

Data from the Department of Human Services has revealed more than 12,000 Queensland children under the age of 16 were taking antidepressants in 2015 – 342 of those were aged from two to six.

Nationally, almost 50,000 children under 16 were prescribed antidepressants, with New South Wales leading the way (15,702) followed closely by Queensland (12,295) and Victoria (10,948).

The reason behind the heightened amount of prescriptions has split medical professionals, who say it could be to combat bed wetting, or to relieve anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders.

Children’s psychiatrist, Dr Jon Jureidini, from the Critical and Ethical Mental Health Research Group said the number of children on antidepressants was “very worrying”.

“There is no evidence to convincingly support any benefit from the drugs,” he said.

“The overall harm/benefit analysis for most kids suffering with depression is unequivocally against prescribing.

“Most of these are prescribed in general practice, and GP’s are under a lot of pressure and often don’t have support to provide a non-pharmaceutical intervention.

“So, they tend to reach for the prescription pad, even if they aren’t convinced it will be helpful.”

Dr Jureidini said he hoped medical professionals would only view antidepressants as a last resort, because they often masked a patient’s illness rather than solving it.

“It’s symptomatic treatment and is not dealing with the cause of the problems,”
he said.

“We need to get away from the idea that anytime someone is anxious or depressed it’s a medical problem.

“There are lots of reasons why someone can be anxious or depressed, and there are lots of ways of dealing with them, without coming into the medical system.”

Psychiatrist and Professor of Psychiatry and Epidemiology at University of Queensland, Steve Kisely, disagreed and said antidepressants, when prescribed in the right case and for the right disorder, could be very effective.

“They are all the same disorders that adults face, just a bit earlier,” he said.

“It’s important to get on top of the problems as soon as you can.

“When children develop adult-like disorders, they are similar to what they will continue with in later life.

“If you have a depressive disorder early, you run the risk of ongoing depression through life.

“The important thing is that parents need to be willing to discuss with their doctors the pros and cons of any approach.”

Antidepressants around Australia

  • Nationally: 1459 kids aged two to six on antidepressant medications.
  • Nationally: 49,052 under 16 on antidepressant medications.
  • QLD: 342 kids aged two to six on antidepressant medications.
  • QLD: 2713 kids aged seven to 11 on antidepressant medications.
  • QLD: 9240 kids aged 12 -16 on antidepressant

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