Now shy children face risk of being given mental-health drugs… with 650,000 youngsters already on Ritalin

  • Experts fear widespread use of powerful medications
  • Hyperactive children already being treated with drugs

By Emily Allen

Children who are shy or considered moody run the risk of being diagnosed with mental illnesses and given powerful drugs like Prozac, psychologists have warned.

Experts said mental health diagnoses are likely to increase from 2013 as new guidelines on the definition of mental illness are being drawn up in America and are likely to be replicated in Britain.

Psychologists in the UK fear school-age children could be diagnosed with mental illnesses like ‘social anxiety disorder’ if they are quieter among their peers, or depression if a child is temporarily sad or is battling bereavement.

Earlier this week, the TUC called for an investigation into the use of mental health drugs among school-age children and voted to see more research into their long-term impacts.

Kate Fallon, general secretary of the Association of Educational Psychologists, told The Daily Telegraph: ‘Behaviours develop over a long period of time, often with a range of complex causes; we can’t “cure” the behaviours we don’t like with a quick fix of medicine.

‘They usually require careful management by all the adults around the child.’

She said parents need to take time and energy to help their children deal with their problems and warned it was tempting to opt for a drug which would be quick to change their behaviour.

The British Psychological Society is also concerned about the new guidelines and said pigeon-holing problems as ‘illnesses’ ignores the wider causes.