UK & World News
Children With Depression 'Need More Support'
More needs to be done to improve care and support for tens of thousands of children who suffer from depression, health experts have said.
Severe depression affects nearly 80,000 children and young people in the UK, including more than 8,000 under the age of†10, figures suggest.
But there are "huge variations" in the level of care delivered to young patients with depression, according to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice), which has set out new quality standards.
Nice said there must be clear steps in place so health workers can deliver the best possible care, and if a medic suspects a youngster is depressed, they must endeavour to make a diagnosis and record it in the child's medical records.
Experts also need to ensure there is "age appropriate" material so children can understand their diagnosis and treatment, it added.
Consultant child and adolescent psychotherapist Ricky Emanuel, who was a member of the specialist committee that developed the Nice standards, said: "I hope this quality standard can be used as a template to improve the care received by children and young people with depression in England.
"There are huge variations in the type and quality of care available, which can have long-term consequences on the child or young person and family themselves, as well as for society as a whole.
"The new standards set out the very best care and support for children and young people with depression."
NHS guidance states there are a wide range of symptoms seen in people suffering depression, ranging from lasting feelings of sadness and hopelessness, to losing interest in the things people used to enjoy and feeling very tearful.
Many people with depression also have symptoms of anxiety. There can be physical symptoms too, such as feeling constantly tired, sleeping badly, having no appetite, and complaining of aches and pains.
Mother Charlotte Libman told Sky News that when her daughter Portia Dobbs became depressed, it took a year to get her treated.
"It's really disturbing, she said. "What seems to be happening is the delay from going to a GP to seeing a child psychologist and a psychiatrist who, if you are so depressed, can give you medication.
"In Portia's case she had Prozac and had a full recovery. Parents get very worried if their child takes medication but in my daughter's case there were no side effects and she's been able to lead a normal life. But it takes a long time to see a psychiatrist to get the medication."
When Portia was depressed she found it difficult to become motivated. She said: "You end up going to your room every day and crying and not wanting to do much.
"I didn't want to do anything and had no fun in anything; it wasn't a great way to live. I didn't think anything was wrong and it took a while from going to see a GP to seeing a doctor and finally ending-up with a counsellor.
"Once I'd got see a therapist it was really good but it did take a year to get things moving."
Care and Support Minister Norman Lamb said: "Young people's mental health is a priority for this Government and we have committed £54m over four years into talking therapies specifically for children and young people through the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies programme.
"Given the funding that local NHS trusts receive each year, we would expect that they would have these services at the forefront of their plans.
"We have made it very clear that the NHS needs to improve mental health care and to give it the same priority as physical health care."