The right way to help children suffering with depression and anxiety

Children as young as five are being referred for treatment for depression and anxiety, according to a BBC report.

The report quotes figures showing that mental health teams in Sussex are working with more than 1000 under-18s, while in the Solent 324 young people were referred for therapy.

Prescriptions for Fluoxetine, more commonly known as Prozac, have risen by 26 per cent in Oxfordshire and by 13 per cent in Berkshire between April and September of last year.

Commenting on these figures, Dr Duncan Law, Chair of the Children and Young People and their Families Faculty of the Society's Division of Clinical Psychology said:

“Anxiety and depression are one of the most common difficulties in children and young people and it is important to ensure they get the right help, at the right time, in the right place. Research evidence suggests that there are some interventions that are more likely to be effective than others, particularly with anxiety where there is strong evidence that cognitive behavioural therapy can be effective with about half of children, given the right circumstances.

"Having said that it is vital to understand the reasons that underlie a child’s psychological difficulties, and what keeps the problem in place, before deciding on the best intervention. It is important to understand the environmental factors around the child; one child’s anxiety may be related to ongoing difficulties in their parents relationship – in which case work with the parents may be the best first line of intervention intervention, another child may need a change in their education provision if their anxiety is related to a perhaps undiagnosed learning difficulty, but often the problems are maintained by more sublet and complex sets of issues.

"For these reasons we need to employ a range of psychological understanding and theory to tackle the problems of anxiety and depression in children. – direct, face-to-face therapy interventions are an  important part of the solution, but not always the only answer.

"What is vital is that we continue to find better ways to help all children in psychological distress.  We welcome the governments interest in child mental health through the Chldren and Young People's IAPT project and particularly its emphasis on regular outcomes monitoring, both to track that an intervention working (and adjusting it if it is not), and to help build a picture of what works to make children’s lives better.”