MeIt is not surprising to learn that UK primary care physicians are increasingly prescribing antidepressants to children, violating the guidelines of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice). The pressure on children’s mental health services means that access to NHS specialist treatment is more difficult than ever. Similarly, Nice’s decision to recommend the use of cognitive-behavioral therapy apps as a treatment for young people shows that there is no other way to meet the growing demand.
The NHS guidelines are clear. Children under the age of 18 should be prescribed antidepressants with psychiatric approval in combination with talking therapy. The only exception is for obsessive-compulsive disorder. But long waiting lists and unmanageable patient numbers leave many children in need of the kind of support, and the kind of attention from qualified professionals that are most likely to make them better. Overworked Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services staff describe a situation in which nearly all of a clinician’s time is spent identifying problems and managing risks. I’m here.
In order to protect scarce resources, the bar for referrals is set so high that, in some cases, children in severe distress or danger are denied care on the grounds that they do not meet the standards. It has been. An investigation earlier this year gave shocking examples, such as the service’s refusal to take on a boy whose ligatures were found in his room.
The government is facing calls for a public inquiry after an investigation found three teenage girls were disqualified from a Mental Health Trust in the North East of England.Christy Harnett, Nadia Sharif, Emily Moore died less than eight months after receiving inadequate care in 2019-2020. He admits that it wasn’t a thing, and he’s right to argue that the family must learn a lesson.
But it doesn’t take research to establish that child mental health services have reached, and in some cases exceeded, breaking points. When the budget was increased, it was often used to hire mental health professionals to work on the support team, with as little as 60 days of training. Such staff can contribute. However, they are ill-equipped to deal with the kind of complex conditions and home environments that more and more young people are dealing with (including mentally ill parents and domestic violence).
Some young people may be helped by the new app, but evidence so far is weak and recommendations are under discussion. . But Nice’s guidelines are evidence-based and exist for a reason. If your child is sick and your GP thinks you need the pill, the NHS should be able to recommend talk therapy. Rapid diagnosis and treatment of young people with mental health conditions should become a national priority after the disruption to education caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. We must help the next generation grow up healthy.
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