Tuesday 24 April 2018

'Sometimes they work wonders, sometimes they don't' - New figures reveal increase in under-16s on anti-depressants

HSE figures reveal the number of under 16s on anti-depressants. Inset: Rosemary McCabe
HSE figures reveal the number of under 16s on anti-depressants. Inset: Rosemary McCabe
Catherine Devine

Catherine Devine

New HSE figures have revealed that the number of under-16s prescribed anti-depressants in Ireland in 2016 is set to double the number in 2015.

According to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request into the HSE, in the first half of 2016 almost 1,500 young people under the age of 16 were prescribed anti-depressants.

From January to July 2016 alone, there were 1,478 under-16s on the HSE records for anti-depressants.

This is in comparison to the total for the whole of 2015, where 1,348 under-16s were prescribed the mind-altering drugs.

According to the HSE the most common anti-depressant prescribed was Methyphenidate, with 825 under-16s using the drug in 2016.

Methylphenidate, is commonly used to treat neural conditions liked ADHD.

Blogger and TV personality Rosemary MacCabe (32) told Independent.ie that anti-depressants are like "long walks".

Rosemary MacCabe

“Some are better than others – sometimes they work wonders on your mood, sometimes they don't. Sometimes it's too cold, sometimes it rains... I've tried a few different medications until we found the "right" one, the one that seems to be sticking and helping elevate my mood without having a particularly detrimental impact on, say, my sex drive or my ability to connect with my feelings.”

Rosemary said she's been suffering with mental health issues for over a decade.

“I suffer from depression, I guess, although my doctor has never exactly sat me down and said ‘you suffer from depression’.

“I started going to the free counsellors in college. I found that semi-helpful, but I think those counsellors were probably used to dealing with people who were stressed because of college work, or had issues at home – whereas I didn't have any issues, per se, I just felt really sad.”

Rosemary praised her GP for going through everything with her slowly.

“My GP has always been great at taking the time to talk to me about my concerns, go through all the possibilities, chat about my options – I've never felt like she's rushed me, and she always seems to be listening and taking in what I'm saying. I don't think that's the experience that everyone has with their GP, so I feel like I've been quite lucky.”

Paul Gilligan, Chief Executive Officer of St Patrick’s Mental Health Services told Independent.ie that Irish children appear to have higher rates of mental health difficulties than their equivalents in other countries.

"Internationally one in 10 children experience a mental health difficulty severe enough to require specialist intervention. Research also indicates that one in three Irish children aged 13 and under experience mental health issues, this rises to one in two by the age of 25," Mr Gilligan told Independent.ie.

Speaking on the HSE figures, Mr Gilligan said the most important thing about anti-depressants is that "the best prescribing practices are followed".

Paul Gilligan. Photo: David Conachy

"Prescribing anti-depressants for a child requires ensuring best prescribing practices are followed such as giving serious consideration to the need and the alternatives.

"You also need to ensure that the child and family is also receiving the required therapeutic inputs and not just receiving medication alone."

Mr Gilligan said that it is important that the child is given understandable information and is given an age appropriate opportunity to express their own views on taking the medication and that these views are been given appropriate consideration.

He also highlighted the need for under 16s to receive psychological supports and not being treated with medication alone.

"It is really important that any parent whose child is on anti-depressants is receiving the right advice and support and if not that they seek to obtain this before making any changes to their treatment approach."

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