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Depressed kids need more than pill popping

27 February 2008

Depressed kids need more than pill popping

The practice of prescribing anti-depressants to children needs to be urgently reviewed and more funding directed to counselling services in light of new research demonstrating that these medications don't work for most patients, the Green Party says.

"This is particularly important when you also consider the fact that antidepressants have significant side effects including increased risk of suicidal thoughts and potentially harmful behaviour," Health Spokesperson Sue Kedgley says.

"The new study raises serious questions about the costs and benefits of the widespread use of these drugs, and demonstrates that treating anti-depressants as a 'one stop shop' to treat this illness would be seriously misguided.

"We know that significant numbers of children are being prescribed anti-depressants, with some even being given to pre-schoolers, despite Medsafe's prior warnings that this comes with severe risks. It is time for this to be reviewed in the light of this new study.

"We cannot continue to ignore the repeated warning from Medsafe and US regulators about the links between anti-depressant use and suicidal thoughts and hospitalisations for self harm," Ms Kedgley says.

"Given the side-effects of antidepressants, and particularly their acknowledged potential to increase suicidal thoughts and self harm, I believe an immediate review is needed," Ms Kedgley said.

"GPs have previously admitted that antidepressants are sometimes prescribed simply because of a lack of available counselling services. Instead of relying on drugs to solve all these issues, we need increased funding in this year's Government Budget for this kind of help, as well as for further research in the wake of the new study.

"While medications have their place, counselling services should be available to everyone, especially children and young people.

"It is essential that young people are offered the best possible counselling services and that antidepressants are not the only help available. We should not be putting our kids at risk simply due to lack of investment in this key part of primary health care and relying entirely on antidepressants with significant side effects."


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