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Australia has one of the highest rates of anti-depressant use in the world, but new research shows that it isn't just adults who are being prescribed them.
Children in the country are now increasingly being prescribed anti-depressants, according to research obtained by The Daily Telegraph.
One in every 33 children - including pre-schoolers - is now taking anti-depressant medication to combat mental illness.
Dr Paul Robertson, the head of adolescent psychiatry at the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatry (RANZCP), said anti-depressants were being prescribed 'too often' and said Australia's increasing use 'is not clearly aligned with the various guidelines around the world'.
He added that he had seen such medications being prescribed to children as young as four-year-olds.
"I think it's probably mostly not appropriate and a different sort of intervention is required," he said.
While anti-depressants are not registered for the treatment of depression in anyone under the age of 18 in Australia, more than 175,000 young people were found to be using anti-depressant medications.
It's a move that doctors claim is out of 'desperation' due to the expense of seeing a psychiatrist and the expense.
"It's a very difficult thing when you're at the frontline, the other day there was somebody under ten who's facing six to 12 months [to see a psychiatrist]," Australian Medical Association (AMA) vice president and GP Dr Chris Moy said.
Despite the fact that anti-depressants often have serious side effects, a Productivity Commission inquiry into mental health last year found that many people were being prescribed to people without a mental illness.
"We have heard distressing evidence about the adverse side effects of some mental health drugs, including dramatic weight gain, disabling lethargy, sexual dysfunction and suicidality," the commission said, adding that GPs who prescribe the drugs need to be re-educated.
Mental health has become the single largest issue for which patients seek care from their GP, according to the RACGP's 2018 Health of the Nation report.
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