Over the years, many parents have approached me asking for advice, or asking me to meet with their young one as they are concerned about their mental health. So, this is a very welcome piece from Shamir Patel who is a registered pharmacist with extensive experience in running independent high street pharmacies across the north west of England. Shamir also established Chemist 4 U way back in 2001, which is now one of the largest digital pharmacies in the UK.
Mental health is a prevalent problem in society. We recently carried out a study into antidepressants, from which we found that as many as 28% of the population identify as having a mental health condition. That’s huge.
The State of Mental Health in the UK
The disorders suffered by respondents included body dysmorphia, SAD, bipolar and many more besides, but the two main conditions identified were depression and anxiety. 68% of UK based respondents, with mental health conditions, suffered from depression and a further 59% also said they had anxiety. While all this was entirely shocking and arguably devastating to see, perhaps the most surprising element of our study was what was uncovered when researching into the ages of those struggling with their mental health.
The bread and butter of our study was antidepressants – who was using them, what they were being used for, and how often they were being used. As a part of our study, we researched the ages of those using the medicines to counteract the effects of their mental health conditions.
[bctt tweet=”To get an accurate idea, we submitted several Freedom of Information requests to the NHS asking how many antidepressants were prescribed in the past year and to which age group. #study #children #mentalhealth” username=”BobBrotchie”]
It turns out that, in just over the space of a year, 21,297 antidepressant prescriptions were issued to those under the age of 12. In total, 58,721,177 antidepressant prescriptions were issued in 2018.
Protecting Our Kids
Those figures are surprising and not least, concerning – especially for parents. We all want to protect our children the best we can, including their mental health. But, what can we do?
1. Monitor social media usage.
Instagram has announced they’ll be testing ‘hiding likes’ on users accounts who are under 18, which may be a step in the right direction. It seems that some youngsters get a perceived sense of worth from numbers on a screen, and this is what can become problematic. Cyberbullying is now more prevalent than ever before, and the increase in the number of young people on social media is likely to have a considerable impact on this.
We shouldn’t need to limit our kid’s screen time entirely; social media and the internet has as many benefits as it does flaws. It’s a great way to keep in touch with long distance friends, to learn and to share the things that make us happy. We shouldn’t be banning our children from social media altogether, but rather keeping a note of what they’re doing and making sure that they’re only using it positively.
2. Get them to open up.
Anyone with a child, knows this isn’t the easiest thing to do. As kids develop and enter different stages, it can be hard to get them to discuss their personal lives. However, as parents, we usually notice when something has changed. With figures as shocking as the ones above, it’s incredibly important that we keep our children conversating with us. That way, if any warning signs are identified, we can tackle them early on.
3. Educate them about mental health.
Mental health is more talked about now than ever before, which is a positive step. 73% of those in our aforementioned study, who identified as having a mental health condition, said they have sought professional help from a GP, counsellor or other. This is likely due to the considerable effort that’s been poured into mental health awareness over the past few years. However, one thing we can push harder – is educating our children. Teaching our children that it’s okay not to feel okay sometimes, is a good way to help them open us to us should they ever need to.
4. Recognise the signs early on.
Lastly, one thing we can do as parents – even if our kids aren’t willing to openly talk about things that might worry them – is to keep an acute track of any telltale signs that they might not be feeling themselves. Negative emotions and mood swings, self-destructive behaviours or periods of extreme quietness could all be warning signs that our child is suffering. Find a way that’s comfortable for them to be approached if they seem to be having issues and tackle any problem with an open mind and a comforting tone.