Anti-Depressants: A quick fix, or a last resort?

Since the Government dropped their Mental Health Champion for UK schools amidst a wave of controversy last week, the issue of children’s mental health has perhaps never been a more relevant subject. With this week being Mental Health Awareness Week we pose the question; what can we change to derail this growing issue?

Natasha Devon was appointed by the government last August, with a focus on helping raise awareness and reducing the stigma of children’s mental health. However, this role came to an abrupt halt this week after she spoke out at a headteachers conference in London, claiming that rigorous testing in schools is having a direct detrimental effect on children’s mental health. With reports suggesting that prescriptions of anti-depressants administered to children rose by 54% between the years 2005 and 2012, this is a pressing and urgent matter, with the effectiveness of current methods surely a matter of debate.

Unfortunately, the issue is also prevalent in the North-East. Hospital admission for mental health issues in children aged between 0-17 is higher in the region than the national average, with Middlesbrough and Sunderland showing a huge increase.

I am not ashamed to admit that I was a figure in this statistic. With a severe acne problem and struggling with my studies, I fell into a depression. I was prescribed a form of anti-depressant almost immediately on my first visit to a GP, with no further information regarding what other resources were available. After beginning the course of medication, I found myself becoming more detached and depressed (this was also argued as an issue in Devon’s aforementioned speech). It was only then that I found help from other sources, such as communication with other sufferers and counselling from professionals, that I really starting to see light at the end of a very dark tunnel. This NHS service was a fantastic help to me, and I am certain if it had been introduced at an earlier stage, my mental health may not have deteriorated to the level it did.

It has been my personal experience which has led me to support The Children’s Foundation and the work they are doing regarding children’s mental health. We are working hard to identify the most prevalent issues facing the region’s children, whilst identifying interventions to tackle them. Our conference on this appeal, to be held at The Durham Centre on the 20th September, will further expand on our aim to inform, inspire and unite everyone involved with children and child health in the North East and agree to a three year action plan to improve the emotional health and wellbeing of children and young people in the region.

We want to help young people of the region deal with mental health issues, whilst also ensuring the help reaches them as quickly as possible.

I truly believe that the days of seeing depression as simply an illness that can disappear with medication alone should come to an end, setting the North-East on the right road to changing its perception of mental health for good.

Niall

The Children’s Foundation Volunteer