Children as young as five being treated for anxiety and depression

Figures have recently revealed that the number of children being treated for anxiety and depression has risen by almost a fifth in the last year, raising concern that modern life is having an impact on the mental wellbeing of young people across the country.

There have been almost 3000 referrals involving children and teenagers to specialist services over a one year period, with children as young as five being treated in Sussex.

Experts have stated that children are coming under stress from the social pressures of Social media, cyber-bullying and school tests from an earlier age. They also say that as a growing number of families are experiencing break ups, this could also fuel mental health problems.

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.”

The revelation follows NHS England’s announcement this week it was spending an extra £133 million on improving children and young people’s mental health this year.

Information obtained by The Argus show Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust received 2,912 referrals for anxiety and depression among children aged between five and 17 between April 2014 and the end of March compared to 2,439 the year before.

Issues included separation anxiety, general anxiety, problems dealing with social situations, avoiding going out and depression and low mood.

Most referrals, 1,264, were for depression, and included 68 children between five and 10 years old.

One four-year-old was referred because of problems with separation anxiety.

About 80,000 children in the UK are estimated to suffer from severe depression, including 8,000 below the age of 10.

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 a 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.”