Figures released by Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust reveals children as young as four are being treated for depression and anxiety.
During the period March 2014 to March 2015, 2,912 under-17s in Sussex were referred by their GP to a specialist mental health unit.
This is up by a fifth on 2013-2015’s figures.
Experts believe this increase is due to external pressures children face. These pressures include exams, family breakdown and the relatively new phenomenon of ‘cyber-bullying’.
Sussex-based consultant psychiatrist Paul McLaren said: “Anxiety and depression usually start in adult life but can affect us in childhood too.
“While genetics play a part, there has also been a huge change in societal pressures on young people.”
A spokeswoman for the charity Young Minds said: ‘Children and young people in Britain today are growing up in a fast-paced, competitive, stressful environment.
“Family breakdown, exam pressures, early sexualisation, bullying and issues about body image affect most children and young people.
“‘They exist in a 24/7 online world where there is no privacy, they seek constant reassurance from each other online, and they are under pressure all the time to present the perfect me.
“As they move into adulthood they face huge competition to get a job, leaving home is often not feasible financially and if they go to university they are saddled with lifelong debt.
“It’s no wonder then that many young people are developing depression and anxiety and the age they are experiencing these issues is getting younger and younger.
“We have to act now and help children and young people to develop the resilience to deal with the world they are growing up in, provide support when they first start to struggle and accessible mental health services when they need them. ”
The most common mental health problem suffered by the under-17s during 2014-2015 was depression at 1,264 out of the total 2912 referrals.
68 children treated for mental health problems in Sussex were aged between five and ten years’ old. Even a four-year-old was referred to a specialist unit due to ‘separation anxiety’.
Nationally around 85,000 children are thought to suffer from depression. Around 9,000 of this number are thought to be under the age of 10.
NHS England has announced it was spending an extra £133 million to combat mental health problems suffered by our nation’s children.
Since depression is by far the most common form of mental health problem children suffers from, below we outline signs of the condition parents should be aware of:
David Kingsley, consultant adolescent psychiatrist at Cheadle Royal Hospital’s Young Persons’ Service told Rehab 4 Addiction: “If a young person is unable to function at school and has lost interest in things they were previously interested in, that’s a major sign.
“So is increasing social isolation. These are signs that low mood is causing significant impairment.”
If you suspect your child suffers from depression you must first talk to your child and attempt to determine the reason for the suspected depression.
Don’t trivialise the issue, no matter how small it may be. If your attempts to improve the situation are met with failure then contact your GP. You GP may refer your child to a counselling service for children or prescribe anti-depressants.
Therapies typically include cognitive behavioural therapy or family therapy. Therapy attempts to treat the underlying causes of depression.
If you wish to engage residential rehabilitation services for depression call Rehab 4 Addiction today. Allow our team of qualified experts to steer your child towards a depression-free future.
Call Rehab 4 Addiction today on 0800 140 4690 or complete the enquiry form.