More South African children on antidepressants


South Africa is seeing an increase in the number of children on antidepressants. According to a child and adolescent psychiatrist, Helen Clark, the usage of antidepressants by children has increased, subsequent to an increase in anxiety and depression experienced by children.

Clark says family disintegration and domestic violence are some of the main causes of distress in children.

Once children are placed on anxiety drugs, the chances are high that the symptoms of anxiety and depression would re-occur. Clark says it is recommended that children on antidepressants are closely monitored.

Clark mentions that according to an international medical policy, children should be prescribed antidepressants for a minimum of six months, but it should not exceed a year.

“Medication is never the first line in the treatment of children. We always try some more conservative options such as therapy and support, but there are times when antidepressants are required in very severe anxiety and depression cases with distressed children, when children’s depression interferes with their capacity to function academically and when they pose a threat to themselves,” says Clark.

Clark explains that below the age of six these drugs are not supposed to be used. “We do, however, see more and more children who experience anxiety. In cases where children are under the age of five, we use therapy and counsel parents on how to manage children with anxiety or depression,” she says.

She adds although there has been an increase in the number of children on antidepressants, it should be noted that medication will not heal environmental causes of anxiety and depression.

katleho Morapela/ Courant News