The surge in anti-depressant prescriptions among children in Ireland is ‘concerning’, the Health Minister has told Newstalk Breakfast.
New figures show more than 15,000 prescriptions for anti-depressants were issued to children in 2022.
That marks a 130% increase in the past 10 years.
Minister Stephen Donnelly said he is ‘concerned’ but ‘not surprised’ at the figures.
“We need to understand this very well,” he said.
“I was writing earlier this week about some of the causes of these things in terms of mobile phone use, particular types of social media use and particular types of internet content that young people are being exposed to.
“So, we’ve got to do two things. We’ve got to make sure we have mental health services in place, but we have to tackle this at the source as well.”
The minister said he has written to the CMO asking for a full review of anti-depressant prescriptions in Ireland.
“The advice I have is that Ireland has high levels of prescription on anti-depressants, we have high levels of prescription on anti-anxiety medications,” he said.
The figures have prompted worries from experts, who believe it highlights the shortcomings in resources available for CAMHS teams.
Maynooth University Psychology Professor Malcolm MacLachlan said the rise is linked to a lack of therapy options.
“Problems could be to do with bullying, with self-esteem, with family difficulties, with marginalisation,” he said.
“If you have those difficulties, it is almost like you take this psychiatric medication and it is to cover over the toothache.
“I think that sort of implied model is really worrying.”
The HSE figures published by The Irish Times suggest the surge in prescriptions is most acute among 12 to 15-year-olds, who saw a 150% increase.
The gender divide was evenly split – with equal numbers of boys and girls being prescribed the medications.
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