12 per cent increase in number of under-18s on antidepressants in England

Data obtained by the Guardian shows that over 166,000 were given antidepressants between April 2015 and June 2016, including 537 six years old or under.

Tens of thousands of teenagers in England, including children as young as six, are being prescribed antidepressants by their doctors. 166,510 under-18s, 10,595 seven-to-12-year-olds and 537 aged six or younger were given medication typically used to treat depression and anxiety between April 2015 and June 2016.

The figures, released by NHS England under the Freedom of Information Act, have caused concern that medics may be overprescribing such medication because of strained and underfunded mental health services. They show a 12 per cent rise in the numbers taking the drugs over the same time period.

Dr Antonis Kousoulis, a clinician and assistant director at the Mental Health Foundation, said: “We are failing to provide a choice of age-appropriate psychological treatments at the point of the need. GPs overprescribe antidepressants often because of the long waiting lists for specialist services. But the evidence that these medicines are effective in children is not as comprehensive as is it for‎ drugs for other conditions.”

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