Susy Parker was alarmed when her young daughter became fascinated with death, just weeks after starting new medication to manage her anxiety and behavioral problems.
Seren, 7, had been diagnosed with ADHD, oppositional defiance disorder and anxiety.
“She would ask ‘if I jumped off this bridge now and I died, what would happen? What would happen if I you know, put my hands into the garage door?'” Ms Parker told A Current Affair.
Ms Parker had sought the advice of several medical professionals over the period of a year, resulting in a range of medications prescribed to her daughter, after Seren had begun acting out after the family immigrated from the UK.
When Ms Parker did some research on the cocktail of medications prescribed to her child, she discovered that one particular drug was used as a sedative for violent inmates in Canadian prisons.
“I thought, if that’s being given to grown men in prison in Canada, why are you giving it to my child?” she said.
Ms Parker and her husband decided to wean their daughter off all medication, and took a holistic approach to Seren’s health, concentrating on nutrition and exercise.
The number of Australian children on prescription medication has increased. Recent government figures show that more than 100,000 children have taken ADHD stimulants.
Child antidepressant recipients in Australia soared 100 per cent from 50,804 in 2011-12, to 101,174 last financial year, according to the Department of Human Services.
Several short-term studies have shown that some children and adolescents have an increased risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors when taking antidepressants.
Mental Health patient advocate Dr Martin Whitely believes more research is needed into the long-term implications of medicating children.
“Until we start actually finding out what’s wrong with each individual child and responding to that individual child circumstances, we are selling Australian children short,” he said.
Psychologist Sandy Rae says medical practitioners should explore all psycho-social options available before prescribing medication to children.
“Psycho-social intervention is long-term, is costly and it’s very demanding,” she said.
“When you go into a doctor’s and you get anxious parents who aren’t prepared to spend the time, spend the money or be reflecting on their parenting style, a quick fix is often found in medicine.”
© Nine Digital Pty Ltd 2019