A RECENT report has shown the number of antidepressants prescribed to children in Northern Ireland has risen by 6% since April 2015.
SDLP Health spokesperson, Mark H Durkan has deemed the latest figures very concerning and undoubtedly linked to the rise in waiting lists.
The Foyle MLA said: “In April, I raised concerns that our children were being failed due to underinvestment in mental health and unfortunately this issue has been aggravated by increased waiting lists.
“Waiting lists are particularly problematic in the Western trust area.
“The current waiting time for appointments here is 30 weeks, yet the target waiting time for appointments with the Paediatric Clinical Psychology Service is 13 weeks.
“Getting the bespoke treatment that children need is proving extremely difficult, if not near impossible. This isn’t just an issue for the Western Trust but it is reflected right across the North.
“Medical professionals have advised that antidepressants should only be prescribed to children under close supervision.
“It is very concerning that the figures obtained under this FOI request have shown the steepest increase among children under the age of 12.”
The Foylw MLA added that more investment was needed by the health service in the early years of a child’s life.
“Mental health issues during our formative years can have long-lasting effects; it is imperative that the issue of waiting times is addressed, to consider other mental health services and strategies before resorting to giving our children antidepressants.
“Unfortunately, we have not seen resources being put in this area; this failure is glaring and has been for some time.
“Investment in early years is not just important for the health and well-being of the child, but prudent investment for the future.”