The steepest increase was seen in the youngest patients, those aged 12 and under, where the number of prescriptions rose on average by 24%, from 14,500 to almost 18,000.
Dr Bernadka Dubicka, who chairs the child and adolescent faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “Currently only one in four children and young people are treated for their mental health problems…… the importance of giving children access to psychological therapies cannot be overstated.
Engaging young people in exercise they enjoy, being outside, being creative, improving nutrition and gut health can make positive changes to mental health
Antidepressants come with side effects such as weight gain, stomach upset, insomnia and anxiety. In rare cases, antidepressants can trigger thoughts of suicide and self-harm in children.
The mental health charity Young Minds says waiting times for specialist child and adolescent mental health services (Camhs) have been increasing too, making it difficult for families to get support. “Camhs services across most parts of the country cover only up to the age of 16 – adult mental health services start at 18, so there is a gap for the provision of services across these services.”