Children are being wrongly prescribed anti-depressants when they just need rescuing from bullies warns schools’ mental health tsar

Daily Mail, 29.04 16, children are in danger of being wrongly ‘medicalised’ if schools fail to tackle bullying and other causes of adolescent depression, according to the government’s mental health tsar - speaking at HMC's 2016 Spring Conference 'Good Mental Health in Schools - What Works?'.

Natasha Devon, who advises the Department for Education, said that while some may be pre-disposed to mental illness, others may be suffering simply because of the issues they face in their life.

She warned that many ‘don't necessarily need anti-depressants or therapy', and that they may just need peers to stop picking on them.

Ms Devon, who is preparing a report for the DfE on mental wellbeing in schools, said cyberbullying, online porn and heightened exam pressures mean today’s children face greater pressure than any other generation.

Speaking at a meeting of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference, which represents private school heads, she said pressure on children can sometimes be acute in the independent sector because of the ‘rigorous academic standards’.

She said mental health problems among school children are much worse than many people think and many youngsters are 'flying below the radar'.

She added: ‘It's my belief that many of these struggles could be avoided if we get our approach right.

'And if we don't, we're giving with one hand and taking away with the other.

'And we run the risk of medicalising childhood.'

She said while a proportion of child suffers might be 'genetically always destined' to have mental illness.

But for others, she said they may be 'just responding to something that is happening to them'.

She added: 'If a child is being bullied and they have symptoms of depression because they are being bullied, what they need is for the bullying to stop.

'They need to feel safe again. They don't necessarily need anti-depressants or therapy.'

She also criticised 'naysayers' who say 'children need to be acclimatised to stress.'

She added: 'You cannot apply an adult amount of pressure to a child brain and expect them to cope.

'Being a young person today is harder than it has ever been.

'Yes children have more stuff - more possessions. They have more of what they don't need.

'They have less of what they do need.

'Parents work long hours. Family time that is spent together is spent staring at a screen.

'The culture of schools has become fiercely competitive.

Ms Devon, who is preparing a report for the DfE on mental wellbeing in schools, said cyberbullying, online porn and heightened exam pressures mean today’s pupils face greater pressure than any other generation

'And all of this is exacerbated by the relentless pace that is set by the internet.

'Online, children face cyber bullying, advertising which tells them they're not good enough, pornography, airbrushed lives.'

‎Education Secretary Nicky Morgan recently enlisted the help of professional rugby players to help instil a culture of ‘grit and resilience’ in school children.

You cannot apply an adult amount of pressure to a child brain and expect them to cope
Natasha Devon

Ms Devon warned: 'There are some people who... constantly sneer at this narcisitic generation, or even worse start to mis-use these words like resilience, character and grit, as if struggling with a mental illness is somehow a defect of the individual.'

Caroline Meyer, an expert on eating disorders at the University of Warwick, added: 'It's fine for children to have high standards for themselves.

'It's what they do with them, that's the critical thing.

'The number of new students that come to university having always got As and A*s, the time they get a 2.2 in a piece of coursework, they fall apart.

'Or when they don't make the team, or whatever that might be.

'It's about enabling them to have the resources they need to deal with that lack of success.'

One of the risk factors was over controlling parenting, she said, especially ‘the types of parents who don’t allow their children to develop self-regulation, to find their way, to solve problems, the parents are always there, always involved, in school at the drop of a hat.’

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