We know that worldwide, mental health problems account for £1.6 trillion worth of economic burden. That’s more than the combined costs of dealing with cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease, cancer and diabetes's. We know that 1 in 4 of us will experience a mental health problem each year. We know that 1 in every 10 people will experience this as depression. We also know that the average age of onset for depression today, is 14 years compared to 45 in the 1960s. What we don't know is what causes this mental health problem and what the best way might be of helping people through a depressive experience.
There is evidence that other factors could be responsible for depression in some people. Professor Carmine Pariente, from Kings College London published a study in July this year that focused on the use of biomarkers which can measure inflammation in the body. The study showed that those people with high levels of inflammatory markers also made up the group who are most likely not to respond to antidepressants. One outcome from this result is the possible conjecture that inflammation in the body, caused by the body’s immune system reacting to an infection and or stress may be responsible for an individual's depression in much the same way that our experiences and environment might.
I have long thought that medication as a way of treating mental health problems with young people is not the most effective response. The evidence appears to support my view. For me and many others, finding ways of building emotional resilience in our children and young people is the key to making a difference. There is a nothing new to be known in how we do this. For example, play and learning, particularly with others, is important in gaining a sense of self, self-worth and self in relation to others. Likewise, diet and exercise, physical as well as mental can help ensure physical and psychological development is balanced and sustained.