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NICE calls for greater focus on tackling child depression

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More needs to be done to improve care and support for children who suffer from depression, health experts have said.

Depression in children is more common than people think and there must be clear steps in place so health workers can deliver the best possible care to young people affected, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) said.

If a medic suspects that a youngster is depressed they must endeavour to make a diagnosis and record it in the child’s medical records, according to NICE’s new quality standards.

And experts also need to ensure that there is “age appropriate” material so that children can understand their diagnosis and treatment, NICE said.

Severe depression affects nearly 80,000 children and young people in the UK including more than 8,000 under 10s, figures suggest.

But consultant child and adolescent psychotherapist Ricky Emanuel said there are “huge variations” in the level of care delivered to young patients with depression.

Mr Emanuel, who works at the Royal Free Hospital, London, and was member of the specialist committee which developed the NICE quality standards, said: “I hope this quality standard can be used as a template to improve the care received by children and young people with depression in England.

“There are huge variations in the type and quality of care available, which can have long-term consequences on the child or young person and family themselves, as well as for society as a whole.

“The new standards set out the very best care and support for children and young people with depression.”

Professor Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive at NICE, said: “Depression in children and young people is more common than people might think and can be particularly distressing, both for the child or young person affected and their family.

“It is important there are clear steps in place to aid healthcare professionals involved in treating children and young people with depression, so that they can deliver the very best levels of care across the NHS.”

Lucie Russell, director of campaigns at charity YoungMinds, added: “This quality standard will help deliver early intervention for depression in children and young people, and improve service provision. YoungMinds hopes that these quality standards are now implemented, so that children and young people receive the very best care and support.

“We particularly welcome the need for age-appropriate information. Children and young people we work with tell us how important it is to have information that enables them to be involved in decisions about their care.”

NHS guidance states that there are a wide range of symptoms seen in people suffering depression ranging from lasting feelings of sadness and hopelessness, to losing interest in the things you used to enjoy and feeling very tearful. Many people with depression also have symptoms of anxiety. There can be physical symptoms too, such as feeling constantly tired, sleeping badly, having no appetite, and complaining of aches and pains.

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