Doctors give mental health pills to more than one million 18 to 20-year-olds in a year as the number of young people on antidepressants soars by 20%
- One in nine of the age group are taking the drugs to treat anxiety or bi-polar
- There is a risk of side effects when coming off pills including suicidal thoughts
- Figures found by Channel 4 Dispatches for documentary Young, British And Depressed
More than one million Britons aged 18 to 20 were prescribed antidepressants in the last year, according to worrying new Government figures.
The number taking the medication has soared by 20 per cent in just three years, with one in nine of this age-group taking the drugs to treat mental health problems such as anxiety and bi-polar disorder.
Evidence suggests the medication is effective and safe for the majority of patients, but there is a risk of harmful side effects when coming off the drugs, including suicidal thoughts and extreme anxiety.
More than one million Britons aged 18 to 20 were prescribed antidepressants in the last year. Stock picture
‘Our research shows that half of patients on antidepressants experience withdrawal and half of these people say their symptoms are severe,’ says Dr James Davies, a mental health researcher from the University of Roehampton.
‘The guidelines state symptoms can happen for up to a week, but we found they can continue for far longer. In severe cases, we’ve seen people commit suicide.’
The new figures were obtained by Channel 4’s Dispatches, as part of an investigative documentary, Young, British And Depressed, which airs tomorrow night.
Results from the latest Government mental health survey also reveal the crisis is bigger than scientists thought.
Previous studies have estimated the incidence of mental illness in under 30-year-olds to be roughly one in five.
But the survey found three-quarters of respondents have, or have had, a mental health problem. And, worryingly, only a third felt their antidepressants relieved their symptoms.
The number taking the medication has soared by 20 per cent in just three years, with one in nine of this age-group taking the drugs to treat mental health problems such as anxiety and bi-polar disorder. Stock picture
The new findings add to a wealth of evidence suggesting a dramatic rise in mental illness among young Britons over the past two decades.
According to a 2018 report, mental health problems in young adults has risen sixfold since 1993.
Some experts say this rise explains the increased demand for antidepressants.
However, others argue the medication, which works to increase feelgood hormones in the brain, is handed out too hastily.
Dr Rachel Preston, a GP working in Cumbria says: ‘GPs are under pressure. Sometimes, it is easier to prescribe than to sit and listen and sort through complex emotional problems.’
Also, three-quarters of young people surveyed said social media had a negative impact on their mental health.