Stuff co.nz 21 March 2015
More children are being medicated for mental disorders than ever – with clinicians blaming the stress of being a modern-day teenager.
The latest available figures, released to The Dominion Post under the Official Information Act, show nearly 20,000 children and teenagers were on anti-depressants in 2013.
The number has climbed every year since 2009, and early signs from last year suggest the increasing tendency to medicate mentally troubled kids will continue.
The use of anti-psychotics, once reserved for severe psychosis, is also at record levels, being prescribed to treat everything from autism to sleeping difficulties.
Anti-psychotics are even being used on a small handful of children under 4 to treat “severe behavioural difficulties”.
A child health expert said the rise was partly down to improved access to drugs, but it also reflected a more anxious generation of children, who faced pressures unknown to their parents.
Sue Bagshaw, a Christchurch clinician who studies and treats mentally ill youth, said children and teenagers today were more likely to have busy and separated parents, higher expectations of academic and social success, and were constantly being bombarded with information through online connected devices.
“We are absolutely overloading them,” she said.