Children aged just five are suffering with depression

Thousands of children in Britain are showing signs of suffering with depression and some are aged as young as five, according to new NHS guidelines.

The National Institute for Care and Health Excellence (NICE) say that as many as 80,000 children and young people suffer from severe depression. This figures comprises of more than 8,000 children under 10 years old and NICE say that care and support for these vulnerable people must urgently be revamped and improved.

To help this happen, a quality standard has been released by NICE which discusses improving diagnosis of depression and better management of those aged between 5 to 18 who have the condition.

Many factors are being highlighted as being reasons behind an increase in mental health problems amongst children in the last decade.

For example, cyber bullying connected to more social media use is one major issue which seems to rear its ugly head on a weekly basis and it is a worrying common occurrence that some children even feel depressed enough to take their own lives.

On top of this, a breakdown in family units is being blamed and an increasing number of parents splitting up – often before the child has reached secondary school. In fact school is believed to be another factor behind more cases of depression with tests, exams, coursework, etc. all amounting to extra pressure.

Dr Gemma Trainor, Nurse Consultant, Greater Manchester West Foundation Mental Health Trust, and member of the specialist committee which developed the guidance said: “I have over 30 years of direct clinical experience of children and young people presenting with symptoms of depression. In that time, there have been many changes and trends; over the past ten years, the increase of primary school-age children presenting with depression is a particularly worrying phenomena.”

Lucie Russell, director of campaigns for charity Young Minds, said: “Modern childhood has become really stressful: there are family breakdowns, increasing pressure from school with testing from a very early age, and then the really significant factor in recent years is social media.”

She added: “It used to be the case that while some children might have a hard time at school, they could go home and switch off. Now there isn’t that escape, children are on devices all the time. As well as the problems with cyberbullying, we have developed this culture where even young children are trying to create a brand, based on how they look – which can make girls especially feel very anxious – and about how many Facebook friends they have.”

Those who had assessed children showing signs of depression commented they did not typically fit in with others, had difficulty making friends and were more withdrawn.

Physical symptoms included a diminished appetite, feeling tired often, poor sleeping habits and complaining of having aches and pains.

Care and Support Minister Norman Lamb commented: “Young people’s mental health is a priority for this Government and we have committed £54 million over four years into talking therapies specifically for children and young people through the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies programme.”

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