How is it that the NHS advises against the prescription of antidepressant to teenagers and yet over 100″,000 teens are prescribed them every year in the UK? Yes, teenagers are arguably the most vulnerable age group susceptive to peer pressure, bullying and an immense amount of pressure to do well in their exams. Obviously, your teenage years are one of the most challenging periods in your lifetime and sometimes people feel as if they can’t cope with their day to day life but there is colossal difference between struggling and being depressed. Antidepressants are being used as a solution to every problem, are most definitely being overprescribed to teenagers in Scotland and shouldn’t just be handed out to anyone.
Depression is not just feeling a bit overwhelmed or a little upset, it is an actual medical condition. Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness, severe despondency and dejection. It is a constant battle that takes time to conquer or even just to suppress and is not something that has one cure. Taking medication doesn’t work for everyone, actually for some people it has a negative effect, making them feel worse than they did before they started taking the medication. The vast majority of people that are depressed need some sort of therapy sessions where they can sit down, talk about their problems and have someone just to listen to them speak. The issue is that the NHS don’t have enough resources to provide this service to everyone. Mental health is made out to be a major priority of the NHS while in actual fact it is underfunded and overlooked in most cases. The therapists or councilors that are available are very scarce therefore GPs are not keen to give out many appointments. The quick, easy and cheap alternative is to immediately prescribe this medication and get the next patient in as soon as possible. Their job is done and the person prescribed the medication is sent home with some temporary hope and belief that these pills will magically cure their depression or make them feel happy again. This isn’t how it should be, obviously GPs have an incredibly hard job but we can’t let the treatment of depression be overlooked. Depression is the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide, suicide is the leading cause of death among young people in the UK and the suicide rate is considerably higher amongst males, with around three times as many males dying as a result of suicide compared to females. This issue is extremely serious and concerning, it should be investigated a lot further and considerable action must be taken.
In 2017 alone, an alarming number of more than five and a half thousand people under the age of eighteen in Scotland were prescribed with antidepressants. The issue behind this is the enormous impact this is having on our yielding youths. Professor David Healy (a well-respected professor of psychiatry and Psychopharmacology at Bangor University) told a global health conference held in Aberdeen that “in 29 clinical trials of antidepressants – each failed to produce
an obvious benefit. Also, that in each of these trials they have produced more harms than benefits in the sense that it has made children become suicidal who wouldn’t have become suicidal if they hadn’t been put on these drugs.” The general public, especially youths, are uneducated about the negative side effects of antidepressants and don’t read into it before considering taking them. For example, not many people know that taking some antidepressants can massively increase the risk of type two diabetes or that others can blur your vision, cause excessive sweating and can cause heart rhythm problems (such as noticeable palpitations or a faster heartbeat) .The fact that antidepressants can worsen their issues, have a negative effect on the mental health of a teenager and cause a teen to feel lower than they did previously should be enough to tighten the prescription of antidepressants to teenagers.
As if that wasn’t enough there are other possible side effects of these medications such as nausea, increased appetite, dangerous weight gain, insomnia, erectile disfunction, fatigue, the list goes on. These are all risks to the health and wellbeing of the teenagers and as John Locke, a famous philosopher and physician, said “a healthy body is a healthy mind”. How can we expect teenagers to be happy and positive when they are ill, tired and feeling sick? The answer it is not possible. These side effects are so severe and they are being ignored by millions of people. Young people are also uninformed about the side effects of antidepressants and don’t consider looking into alternatives before taking the medication. They can worsen your problems and cause you to feel more depressed than you did previously which clearly justifies making them harder to access.
Along with these shocking facts, the number of people under the age of eighteen that are being prescribed antidepressants has doubled from 2010 to 2017. You can’t possibly argue that teenagers are twice as unhappy as they were seven years ago. This ridiculous increase of teens being prescribed antidepressants is a result of there being no official guidelines for the treatment of depression in children in adolescents in Scotland. The doctors and GPs have nothing to refer to apart from the guidelines for England or Wales. If there was more research into why the number of teens being prescribed, it would become apparent that the needs of teenagers are not being met, they are not given the chance to try therapy or have access to counselling sessions and are being put straight onto these so called ‘happy pills.’
Just as the rates of antidepressants being prescribed is increasing so too is the suicide rate of teenagers in Scotland. How did people not see this coming? It is no wonder the teenage suicide rate is increasing if more and more teens are being prescribed these drugs which have negative effects on their mental states”,
personalities and attitudes. One example of this would be sixteen-year-old Aimee Folan from Glasgow. She was diagnosed with bipolar at the age of twelve and she was feeling low, so she went to visit her local GP for some help, maybe looking for a counselling session with a therapist but instead was prescribed with antidepressants after an incredibly brief ten-minute appointment. Aimee was told that the drug may make you feel bit low at the start but nothing to the extent that she felt. She claimed she had night terrors, was seeing people who weren’t there and was hearing voices in her head telling her to hurt herself and her partner. All of which she had never experienced before. Within the first week of taking the drug she had attempted suicide. Clearly teenagers are not being taken seriously, whether GPs aren’t taking the time to truly access the situation or it be that they are too busy, teenage mental health and depression is not looked into enough and the quick solution of medication being prescribed immediately is ineffective.
In conclusion, antidepressants are overprescribed to teenagers and the NHS should have a less relaxed approach to prescribing them to youths. These drugs are being overprescribed due to the lack of education about the possible side-effects caused by the medication, the presumption that everything will be fixed once you take these drugs. GPs are handing them out immediately without going into too much detail about the specific individual and their needs. They are also overprescribed due to the lack of access to alternative treatments such as therapy and medication is being used as a temporary solution to depression. The NHS need to take the mental health of youths more seriously and try to make alternative help and treatments more widely available.