Find Us on Facebook

Should Children Take Antidepressants?

While this decision is one that parents of minors should ultimately weigh carefully and decide upon, many of us are hesitant to put too many artificial chemicals inside our bodies. These chemicals often come with undesirable side effects, sometimes dangerous ones, and never is the case more so than with antidepressants.

The ongoing, tragic series of mass shootings by children and young adults that the United States has experienced recently, has brought the subject of youths and antidepressants to the forefront once again. Some of the children and young adults who committed these crimes are now known to have been taking antidepressants. As we know, some of the shooters went on to kill themselves after committing their massacres.

A few years ago, an evaluation of clinical trials in patients under age 18 found that a current  frequently prescribed class of antidepressants, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, raised the risk of suicidal thinking when compared with a placebo. Many studies followed, and while their findings varied, a pattern was found: when compared with a placebo, antidepressants, including SSRIs, seem to double the risk of suicidal thinking from 1-2  percent, to 2-4 percent in both children and adults.

One of these SSRIs was fluoxetine (Prozac), which is approved to treat depression in children, as well as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Many children’s advocates feel that antidepressants are being prescribed excessively for children, and that the long-term effects haven’t been studied enough. For example, a common side effect of SSRIs is that they diminish the sex drive, ability to perform, and sexual satisfaction in adults who take them. This damage can sometimes be permanent. Parents should give careful thought to whether they want to move in that direction with their children, possibly impairing the children’s future ability to engage in sex and derive enjoyment from it, when they become adults.

Symptoms of childhood depression include:

  •     Intense sadness
  •     Irritability or frequent anger
  •     Low self-esteem
  •     Changes in sleep pattern — sleeping too much or sleeping less
  •     Persistent clinginess or withdrawal
  •     Decreased or increased appetite
  •     Frequent headaches
  •     Feelings of worthlessness
  •     Thoughts of death or suicide

The causes of childhood depression can include traumatic life events, diminished physical health,  history of depression in the family, or dietary imbalances. Also, families where there is ongoing  chaos or conflict (such as fighting/arguing between parents or other relatives) can increase the chances of a child or teen becoming depressed.

Not all children will display all the symptoms listed above. If you suspect that your young child or teen is in the 2.5 percent of American youths who suffer from depression, here are some natural, beneficial, side effect-free things that you can get your child to try:

  1. Exercise every day: regular exercise increases endorphins — brain hormones that enhance feelings of well-being; exercise also decreases anxiety and boosts self-esteem
  2. Encourage children to play or interact with other kids, have sleep-overs
  3. Encourage your children to volunteer in the community, helping others who are less fortunate, or becoming involved in activities at your place of worship
  4. Have your child stop consumption of caffeinated sodas (or sodas in general); caffeine increases anxiety, nervousness, and can worsen feelings of sadness after caffeine’s effect wears off
  5. Avoid sugary foods or treats. Sugar may give child an initial rush of energy, but when blood sugar and energy later drop, child may feel more depressed. Stick to fresh or dried fruits as snacks. When eating ice cream, chop fresh fruit or nuts and pour over ice cream, to slow absorption of sugar into bloodstream
  6. Insure that your child is getting enough levels of B vitamins, which help boost blood circulation and will energize him or her naturally (you may wish to buy a quality multi-vitamin + minerals, or a B-complex supplement)
  7. Omega-3 fatty acids aid normal brain function. Salmon and sardines are rich in these; but you can also purchase quality fish oil capsules, which filter out contaminants like mercury in fish. Look for “DHA” on the label
  8. Eat foods high in magnesium: peas, beans, nuts, whole grains, green vegetables. The body uses magnesium to produce the mood-enhancing neurotransmitter serotonin; emotional stress is known to deplete magnesium

Other things you can do:

Talk to your child, to try to pinpoint what’s making them blue. Make empathic statements such as, “I can understand how (a certain situation or event) could make you feel very upset.” Help them try to have a positive outlook for the future by expressing hope that things can and will get better with a particular situation. Let them know that you love them and that they are important to you. Speak of human imperfection, but how we all just need to keep doing the best we can and working on improvement. Pray together.

If you feel the need, seek the help of a school counselor, or a psychotherapist.

By Marc Courtiol

Leave a Reply