Monday 27 June 2022

"Mentally ill" children on "anti-depressants"

have apparently reached numbers such that there is a call for the medication to no longer be available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. It seems that there are some at least who believe that there are too many children on anti-depressants.

If there were any children on anti-depressants when I was in the infant and junior schools I was not aware of it. It is actually highly unlikely. I suspect there was very little such medication around and it would only have been prescribed in the most severe cases. Any child prescribed something like that would have been acting out in ways that would likely have alarmed anyone with any powers of observation at all. 

We knew some other children we thought were "a bit odd". No doubt there were people who thought some of us were "a bit odd" too. There was an "opportunity class" in my city infants and junior school. It was intended for children who had learning difficulties of one sort or another. For most of us it was just another class. Out in the playground they were treated fairly equally if they could keep up. I got far more teasing than they did and even that stopped if I was prepared to hold one end of the rope for "long skippy". I only remember one boy we didn't mix with because he was so strange.   

So, why all the children on anti-depressants now? I know there were children who were anxious and who were going through seriously stressful times. I later did my practice teaching in a class where there was an "elective mute" - a child who would not speak. The teacher was impatient with her. She took the attitude "she can but she won't". I met the child's mother. The mother was concerned, very concerned but the child was not on medication of any sort. She wasn't even getting any extra help anywhere. I often wonder what happened to her. She really needed to be in a much smaller and more supportive environment where she could succeed at something in her own time. 

I taught children who were on medication for things like epilepsy but I never had a child on anti-depressants of any sort. This was even when children had lost a parent or were in homes where domestic violence was rife. One child who was often in the library was very afraid of walking to and from school alone because a stranger had once attempted to grab her and drag her into his car. Her friends knew and escorted her to and from school without fail.

I am sure there were children who were mildly anxious through to very worried, mildly anxious through to barely functioning some of the time. It was not dealt with using medication. It was dealt with in other ways. I remember one child in another class coming back to school after his father died suddenly. It would be one of the most stressful experiences a child could go through but nobody thought he needed anti-depressant medication. 

It makes me wonder whether we aren't encouraging children to feel "depressed" and "anxious" now. We start teaching them about issues like "climate change" and "equality" and "rights" and much, much more from a very early age. We tell them how they are expected to think as well as how they are expected to behave.  Instead of playing outside unsupervised they are given music lessons or tennis lessons or taught to kick a football. There is "screen time" where they are not interacting with other children in the way we did. Even in secondary school many children are not going to and from alone. There are still "after school" activities and increasing amounts of homework. Some children would have no idea what to do with "free time" because they simply do not have any. 

Is it any wonder if they lack resilience? Is it any wonder if they get depressed and anxious? Is it any wonder if they end up lashing out or, at the other end of the scale, withdrawing completely?

Perhaps we need to change our expectations instead of medicating the children.



1 comment:

Beryl Kingston said...

Spot on Cat. And very perceptive. xxx