LifestyleYour Health Matters


As more Colorado teens struggle with mental health, experts advise caution with antidepressants

Study shows more antidepressants are being prescribed to young people
mental health_generic.jpg
Posted at 12:42 PM, Mar 25, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-26 10:29:11-04

Editor's note: This story touches on the subject of teen suicide. If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, you can dial 988 for the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline 24/7, visit Colorado Crisis Services, or click here for a list of resources in Colorado.

AURORA, Colo. — It's been almost three years since Children's Hospital Colorado declared a state of emergency for youth mental health. Since then, health professionals say they've continued to see an increase in young people seeking help for issues like depression and anxiety.

A study recently published by American Academy of Pediatrics noted a sharp increase in antidepressants being prescribed to young people. The dispensing rate to young people between the ages of 12 and 25 rose 64% faster than normal since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, researchers found.

Hospital Superheros

Local News

Children's Hospital Colorado declares state of emergency for youth mental health

Robert Garrison
4:03 PM, May 26, 2021

Kerry Peterson, a psychiatric nurse practitioner and associate professor at the University of Colorado College of Nursing said that while antidepressants may be safe and effective for many adolescents, there are important things to consider.

“There’s the potential to increase suicidal thoughts with children and adolescents who are taking antidepressants, especially in that initial phase in the first month or two,” Peterson said.

She said all types of antidepressants have some side effects. She added that it’s important to take a holistic approach that includes counseling in addition to any medication.

“I assess my patients to really see what's going on across multiple domains in their life and looking at their relationships and all these different pieces of what's happening,” Peterson said.

One barrier to counseling though, is a shortage of mental health professionals.

Peterson said studies show only 20% of young adults and adolescents who need treatment are getting it. In Colorado, youth are eligible for six free mental health counseling sessions through the “I Matter” program.

The state legislature is currently considering a bill to make the program permanent.

As more Colorado teens struggle with mental health, experts advise caution with antidepressants

D7 follow up bar 2460x400FINAL.png
The Follow Up
What do you want Denver7 to follow up on? Is there a story, topic or issue you want us to revisit? Let us know with the contact form below.