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Daily Mail Australia
By Belinda Cleary For Daily Mail Australia
Published: 04:22 BST, 23 April 2017 Updated: 10:35 BST, 23 April 2017
Anti-depressants caused suicidal thoughts in children. As scores of parents join in a class action
- Two mothers have spoken out about their children’s adverse reactions to the anti-depressant drugs
- Sydney mother Donna’s son Seth went on anti-depressants when he was five and he is now 10 years of age
- Mel’s daughter Maiya, from Brisbane went on anti-depressants seven years ago, when she was six years old
- The concerned mothers claimed their young children suffered from suicidal symptoms
A mother who watched as her 10-year-old son rocked in a corner of his room begging for someone to kill him to end his misery has revealed how anti-depressants turned her ‘gentle, loving’ son into angry and suicidal young boy.
Sydney mother Donna is one of dozens of people involved in a class action over the use of ‘adult’ antidepressants in children in Australia.
The concerned mother spoke to Daily Mail Australia from beside her son Seth’s hospital bed on Friday after he was admitted for psychiatric care following multiple attempts to end his own life while being weaned off the antidepressant Aropax.
‘One day I came outside and he had a pair of scissors to his chest – he kept saying he was going to do it, so I had to call an ambulance,’ Donna said.
‘He was cuffed by paramedics and at the hospital I had to watch as he was held down by doctors, three security guards, nurses, and his father so he could be sedated.
Seth, pictured with mother Donna, has suffered from side effects of his antidepressants which include suicidal thoughts
The ten-year-old is now being weened off the drug is a Sydney psych ward
Maiya, 13, has been on Zoloft since she was six, after she had some tantrums at school
‘He looked at me and said ‘please don’t let them do it mummy I will be good’ I will never forget that look on his face.’
Now, aged 10, he is in a psych ward of a Sydney hospital after a devastating few months where he would go from ‘rocking and crying in the corner asking his parents to kill him’, to trying to jump out of his mother’s moving car.
Brisbane mother Mel, 34, also revealed the devastating effect antidepressants had on her daughter Maiya, now 13. The child, who after taking the drugs at just six years old, started ‘fantasising about death’.
‘I will never forget the moment she looked up to me and said ‘mummy, I want to go with the angels now’, it was just after an episode which saw her crying for days,’ Mel said.
The despairing mothers said they both ‘feel like it is their fault’ for making their young children take the doctor-prescribed pills.
But the lawyer running the proposed class action, Tony Nikolic, told Daily Mail Australia he had heard the stories of up to 60 children who suffered severely after taking antidepressants.
This picture was taken two weeks ago while Seth was being weened off the drugs
‘I will never forget the moment she looked up to me and said ‘mummy, I want to go with the angels now’,’ her mother Mel said
Maiya, pictured here with her younger sisters 6 months after being off the drug is now a happier person
The young girl, pictured here with her mother Mel, used to cut at her hair when she got angry
‘A bad night’: Seth’s anxiety got the better of him at his brother’s birthday and he had to leave the crowd shortly after this photo was taken
‘The complaints range from people who were given it from as young as five – to teenagers who were put on them,’ he said.
The lawyer says the fact the two drugs are ‘not recommended for children’ is little known.
‘We know the 90 days coming on and 90 days coming off are the worst times for these families – as well as any time the dose is changed- that is when there is most likely to be trouble.’
The product information on both drugs says they are not recommended for children, but doctors continue to prescribe them.
Psychiatrist and Adelaide University research leader Doctor Jon Jureidini told Daily Mail Australia the drugs are widely used to treat anxiety in young children – but there is ‘no evidence supporting it’.
He claims doctors are given ‘contradictory information’ from the pharmaceutical companies – which ‘over the years have promoted the use of antidepressants in children’ despite the warnings on the drugs which say use for children isn’t recommended.
The young girl was at her most depressed when she was 11 and 12, pictured during that time here
Seth was diagnosed with separation anxiety and ADHD in March 2012, when he was five, at the end of the year he was put on 20mg of Aropax
‘There is information which suggests tens of thousands of young people are on anti-depressants in Australia.
‘With these so-called anti-depressants a small number of children become suicidal and violent.
‘With any drug used in children it should be monitored very closely, and parents should get a second opinion,’ he said.
Seth’s mother Donna thought she was ‘doing the right thing’ by her son when she gave him the drugs because she ‘assumed the doctors knew what they were talking about’.
He was diagnosed with separation anxiety and ADHD in March 2012, when he was five, at the end of the year he was put on 20mg of Aropax.
According to the company’s product information ‘when AROPAX was tested in children under 18 years with major depressive disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder or social anxiety, there were additional unwanted effects to those seen in adults, such as suicidal thoughts, hostile and unfriendly behaviour and changing moods.
‘The use of AROPAX is not recommended to treat major depressive disorder in children under 18, as the drug has not been shown to be effective in this age group. The long-term safety effects of paroxetine in this age group have not yet been demonstrated.’
The drugs appeared to ‘fix’ the boy’s anxiety when he was first introduced to them.
This picture was taken just weeks before going on the drug
Seth’s mother Donna thought she was ‘doing the right thing’ by her son when she gave him the drugs because she ‘assumed the doctors knew what they were talking about’
‘For five days he was almost euphoric. He had no fear or inhibitions, he was busking, he was going to class, he was like a normal child. I thought it was working.
‘Then he started having fits laughter- even when he was in trouble. Not long after that things started going wrong.’
Then the angry bursts started, which meant he became a problem at school and could no longer attend.
‘The smallest things would set him off it could be something simple like asking him to have a bath or go brush his teeth.’
He became violent toward his mother and started hitting her and trying to rip out her hair.
When he was nine, and his behaviour was deteriorating the family decided he needed more help. Doctors doubled his dose of the drug.
‘He was euphoric again and I thought I must have been wrong to think it wasn’t working the way they said it would. But then he got way worse and I knew it was the medication. Seth’s suicidal tendencies got worse.
‘His father called me one day and told me Seth needed me, by the time I got to him he was in a ball, rocking in the corner yelling ”daddy please kill me I don’t want to do this anymore” it was absolutely heart-breaking, really hard to see your own child like that,’ she said.
‘I never knew it wasn’t for children, we were never told, if I had I wouldn’t have made him take it.’
She was ten, pictured left when her 2nd psychiatrist ‘upped her dose’
The family is happier now that Maiya has stopped having angry bursts and depressive thoughts
Mel’s daughter Maiya, 13, took Zoloft for seven years – her depression continued to spiral out of control so doctors gave her more of the drug – which her mother says just made her sicker.
The once bubbly little girl had her two sisters, Jazlyn, 12 and Gemirah, seven, ‘walking on eggshells every day’.
‘I thought I was doing the right thing for her, I was just doing what the doctors said, I thought I had lost my baby girl to depression. Finding out the drugs I told her she had to have were making her sad kills me,’ Mel said.
‘She would attack her sisters and scream and yell – but what is worse is when she would just cry.
‘She cried for hours and hours and hours at a time it is heart-breaking to see your baby do that and not know how to help.’
Then 12 months ago Mel stumbled across information on antidepressants which revealed Zoloft, the drug her daughter had been taking, was ‘not recommended for children and could cause suicidal thoughts’.
Pfizer, the maker of Zoloft has confirmed to Daily Mail Australia that it should only be used for children aged 6 to 18 years of age to treat obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
The teenager pictured weeks ago with her sister is excited to be able to ‘be happy’
The family used to ‘walk on eggshells’ to avoid an explosion of anger from the girl
Maiya pictured here a few weeks before she was first given anti depressants
‘I just burst into tears when I read it – I showed my mum I couldn’t believe it. We weened her off Zoloft, which was really tough but now she is a completely different kid.
‘She is not angry and there is no aggression. We don’t have unhappy days anymore,’ Mel said.
‘She will always have anxiety but we can cope with that – better then all those days of uncertainty, unhappiness and utter sadness. We never want to see that again.’
The young girl had ‘given up on life’ by the time her mother found the information on Zoloft and had stopped going to school and playing sport.
‘By the time she was 10 she was cutting her hair every time she got frustrated – when we went to see doctors they would put up her dose.
‘I am only speaking out because I never want any parent to go through what we have been through or to have their kids suffer like this.
The young girl had ‘given up on life’ by the time her mother found the information on Zoloft and had stopped going to school and playing sport
‘I have seen a spark in her beautiful face that I though we lost a long time ago.’
Mr Nikolic has also looked into the possibility of a class action for adults – because they ‘are not told it is so hard to get off’ and has had about 1,400 people contact him for that.
‘This is a hard one as people don’t know how to complain because they are just one little person who have to try and prove their case against a multi-billion dollar corporation.
‘There is interest in both cases but I have a firm belief a case for children for Aropax and Zoloft has a reasonable prospect of success.’
The lawyer is looking for more people effected by antidepressants after being diagnosed the drugs as children.
‘We are looking for children who have demoniacal physical and psychological disabilities – Kids who took meds and are now in jail or took meds and jumped off a balcony and are now paraplegics.’
‘I am only speaking out because I never want any parent to go through what we have been through or to have their kids suffer like this,’ Mel said
These cases could help move the proposed class action forward.
‘The Australian court is difficult, instead of the corporation having to prove they are right the little people have to prove the medication is dangerous and whatever has happened was caused by it.’
Pfizer the manufacturer of Zoloft and GSK the manufacturer of Aropax have both been approached for comment by Daily Mail Australia.
‘Pfizer takes the safety of our medicines very seriously and we are committed to ensuring the appropriate communication of important safety information to health care professionals and patients,’ a spokesperson said.
‘Zoloft (sertraline hydrochloride) is approved in Australia for use in children with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) aged 6 years or older.
‘Zoloft is not indicated for use in children and adolescents under the age of 18 years for the treatment of any medical condition other than OCD.’
GSK has not yet responded to our request.