Children face a mental health crisis, but they need more than antidepressants | Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett

Mental health awareness has come on a lot since I was a child, but drugs are being used as a sticking plaster for a failing system

I was still a child when I read Prozac Nation, the 1994 depression memoir by Elizabeth Wurtzel. It was probably inappropriate for a tweenager, but thankfully no one ever monitored what I checked out of the library. On its release, Prozac Nation had been hailed as capturing the zeitgeist in its depiction of the child and adolescent mental health crisis that then gripped the US.

“Very early in my life it was already too late,” Wurtzel wrote, likening the creep of her depression to Mike Campbell’s description of how he went bankrupt – “gradually, then suddenly” – in Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. “You won’t even notice it coming on, thinking that it is somehow normal, something about getting older, about turning eight or turning 12 or turning 15, and then one day you realise that your entire life is just awful, not worth living, a horror and a black blot on the white terrain of human existence. One morning you wake up afraid you are going to live.”

Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett is a Guardian columnist and author

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Category: Mental Health