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Antidepressants Found Dangerous for Under-18s; Research Suggests Safe Alternative

Experts agree that the pandemic has been disastrous for the mental health of young people in the UK. 

One in six children now have a mental health problem, according to NHS research, up from one in nine just three years ago. The number of children being hospitalised for mental health issues has increased significantly, and consultants across the country are seeing a worrisome “explosion” of children with disabling tics disorders and Tourette’s syndrome, according to the British Paediatric Neurology Association.1

Until recently, if you took your child to the GP with mood or mental disorder, he or she might have been prescribed an antidepressant “selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors” or SSRI,2 which are among the world’s most widely prescribed medications.3

According to the National Institute for Health Research, the number of 12-to-17 year olds prescribed antidepressants in England more than doubled between 2005 and 2017.4

However the UK is now advising against the prescription of all antidepressant drugs for children, with the exception of Prozac, because these drugs increase the risk of suicide. The following is the statement by the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency):

MHRA Statement: Use of Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) in children and adolescents with major depressive disorder (MDD) – only fluoxetine (Prozac) shown to have a favourable balance of risks and benefits for the treatment of MDD in the under 18s. On the basis of a review of the safety and efficacy of the SSRI class in the treatment of paediatric major depressive disorder undertaken by the Expert Working Group of the Committee on Safety of Medicines (CSM), the CSM has advised that the balance of risks and benefits for the treatment of major depressive disorder in under 18s is judged to be unfavourable for sertraline (Zoloft), citalopram (Celexa) and escitalopram (Lexapro) and unassessable for fluvoxamine (Luvox). Only fluoxetine (Prozac) has been shown in clinical trials to have a favourable balance of risks and benefits for the treatment of MDD in the under 18s.5

What’s the safe alternative to antidepressants for under-18s?

Boosting your child’s gut gut and mental health, using a combination of probiotics and prebiotics (fibres which feed probiotics) has been found to be a safe, natural and effective alternative to dangerous antidepressants. 

Research has shown that this probiotic-prebiotic protocol is safe and effective for easing both depression, (BMJ Nutrition Prevention & Health),6 and anxiety, (General Psychiatry).7

What’s the most effective probiotic?  

Dr. Michael Mosley in NHS trials on his BBC2 television show Trust Me I’m a Doctor found that traditionally-made kefir is the most effective of any probiotic food.8 Kefir is more powerful than yogurt, because it contains non-transient bacteria that have been shown to survive the digestive process. The best kefir for therapeutic purposes is unflavoured, unsweetened, made with real kefir grains and goats milk, which is less allergenic than cow’s milk. 

What’s the best way to consume kefir? 

It’s simple to nurture your child’s gut and mental health each morning, with a daily 

Gut Health Smoothie


  1. 170 ml of Chuckling Goat live kefir
  2. 10 g of Complete Prebiotic 
  3. 1 handful blueberries 
  4. Half a banana

Method: Blend and drink. 

What does the science say? 

Research shows that your gut microbiota can help regulate your brain function through something called the “gut-brain axis.” The gut is often referred to these days as “the second brain.” 

Because of the close connection between the brain and the gut, patients who suffer with mood disorder also frequently suffer with intestinal issues like IBS. 

Both issues can be resolved together; probiotics may relieve symptoms of depression, as well as help gastrointestinal upset, research from McMaster University has found.9

How does the gut-brain axis work?

Mood disorders including depression and anxiety are associated with a neurotransmitter called serotonin, also known as the “happy hormone.”10

Although serotonin has such a powerful impact on your brain, 90% of your body’s serotonin is actually produced inside your gut, by special cells called enterochromaffin cells. 

If you damage the health of your gut microbiome, by taking a course of antibiotics, for example, then you may also damage your enterochromaffin cells, and disrupt your body’s ability to produce serotonin. Results can include anxiety and depression. 

Your gut health may also be compromised by stress, sugar, other medications and chemicals like pollution, 

Restoring your gut health has been shown to benefit not only your digestive and brain health, but also the proper function of your immune system, heart, skin, blood sugar and weight.11

Chuckling Goat can deliver live kefir and Complete Prebiotic to your door, with free shipping and next day delivery. Questions? Get free personalized advice from our team of Nutritional Therapists, 8 am to 8 pm, on live chat.


  1. The Telegraph - "'Explosion' of children with tics and Tourette's from lockdown". Written by Camilla Turner on February 13, 2021
    link to article
  2. NHS - "Treatment - Clinical depression". December 10, 2019
    link to article
  3. Harvard Medical School - "What are the real risks of antidepressants?". March 3, 2014
    link to article
  4. National Institute for Health Research - "Teenagers' use of antidepressants is rising with variations across regions and ethnic groups". November 18, 2020
    link to article
  5. MedicineNet - "Antidepressants Banned for UK Kids". Written by Barbara K. Hecht, Ph.D, Frederick Hecht, M.D on
    link to article
  6. BMJ Nutrition Prevention & Health. - "Probiotics alone or combined with prebiotics may help ease depression". July 6, 2020
    link to article
  7. BMJ General Psychiatry - "Anxiety might be alleviated by regulating gut bacteria". May 20, 2020
    link to article
  8. BBC - "Which foods can improve your gut bacteria?". Written by Dr Michael Mosley on January 30, 2017
    link to article
  9. McMaster University - "Probiotic use linked to improved symptoms of depression". May 23, 2017
    link to article
  10. Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet Muenchen (LMU) - "Combating mood disorders: New approach simplifies the search for more specific drugs". October 3, 2011
    link to article
  11. HealthLine - "Why the Gut Microbiome Is Crucial for Your Health". Written by Ruairi Robertson, PhD on June 27, 2017
    link to article

6 thoughts on “Antidepressants Found Dangerous for Under-18s; Research Suggests Safe Alternative

  1. I am very interested in this article however my teenager is vegan so what would be a good alternative to goats milk? Thank you in advance 😊

    1. Hi Angie – You could try water kefir, but it’s much less power than milk kefir, as milk provides the strongest possible base for probiotics, so I wouldn’t rely on it in a therapeutic capacity.
      Shann Jones

  2. Hi there this sounds very interesting , my daughter is a teacher at a private school in Spain she is also head of pastoral care there. She has completed various courses of Food and Mood! My daughter in law also completed her day course last week on line of course! As a trainee Mental Health nurse I know they would be very interested in your article on antidepressants .

    1. Hi Karen –
      The science is in – it’s all about the gut-brain connection!
      Sounds like your daughter and daughter-in-law are both right on the cutting edge of research. So glad to hear that people who are in contact with our under-18s are taking this latest science on board!

  3. Thank you, interesting article, as always. 🙏🏼 Maybe antidepressants are not the answer for people, full stop !
    I have just finished reading ‘Lost Connections’ by Johann Hari which is one of those wonderfully, thought provoking books that you wish everyone would read,….and maybe the world would be just a little happier and a tad more compassionate place.

    Kind Regards

    1. Hi Annie –
      If antidepressants increase the risk of suicide, (as they do for under-18s) I’d agree with you that they need to be re-examined as an option for mood disorder!
      Thanks for your suggestion –
      Shann Jones

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