ROCKY HILL, Conn. (WTNH) — In our Mental Health Matters series, News 8 takes a look at how doctors are now using more medication to treat kids and teenagers who are suffering amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The result is that really just an unbelievable amount of anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and kids that are really struggling,” Rocky Hill pediatrician Jennifer Schwab, who is affiliated with Connecticut Children’s, said. “They’ve lost their resilience. Most days I find myself prescribing as many antidepressants as I am antibiotics, and that’s heartbreaking. That’s not why I went into pediatrics.”

Dr. Youngsun Cho is a child and adolescent psychiatrist at the Yale Child Study Center. She says the prescription antidepressant Prozac helps with mood regulation in the brain. The FDA has approved the use of Prozac for children 8 years and up. It is one of the few tools proven to work on young brains.

“For kids and teenagers, there aren’t a ton of drugs that have meant approval because we just haven’t done the studies,” Cho said. “But, Prozac is one of those that we have done studies for and that the FDA had granted approval for.”

Both doctors are glad they have Prozac as a tool to help their young patients. Cho shared the results she sees in kids within a few weeks.

“A lot of times the mood is improved,” Cho said. “Sometimes the children may report that they’re feeling more motivated. They can enjoy things a lot more. If it’s the irritability picture, that can subside as well.”

Schwab said 80% of children and adolescents who got counseling and antidepressants showed improvement.

“That’s the good news, the silver lining, right, is that kids are getting better and they are getting back to normal,” Schwab said. “I have a patient who said, ‘look doc, look how far I’ve come. I used to not get out of bed and now I’m driving myself to school.'”

She said the idea is not to keep their young patients on the medications for a long period of time.
They recommend kids take them for six months to a year, which is enough time to let the therapy kick in and allow the kids to develop coping skills.