The use of anti-depressants among teenagers in Quebec has tripled over the course of the last ten years.

What has yet to be determined, though, is whether this is a result of an increased frequency in mental illness or whether it is merely a reflection of more people seeking treatment.

In an interview with CTV Montreal, psychologist Dr. Joe Flanders said he believes it is a combination of both.

Founder of the MindSpace clinic, Flanders said it points to de-stigmatization, but also that an increase in people being prescribed reflects an increase in mental illness.

Recent studies show teens, in general, are being prescribed medication three times more than they did in 2007. Girls, in particular, are seeing a spike in usage: they are three times more likely to be prescribed this medication than boys.

Flanders posits that girls tend to internalize mental illness more and that emerges in the form of depression or anxiety, whereas boys will externalize more and their issues might be reflected in something a little harder to diagnose, such as behavioural problems.

“I think ideally, parents and kids should have an ongoing dialogue about how they’re doing, how the child or the teenager is coping with the usual stresses and challenges of school life and social life,” he said

Flanders has a few tips on what to look for as a parent.

“At some point a child or an adolescent might start to feel that the challenges are beginning to exceed their coping strategies, so that might show up in behavioural symptoms like having difficulty getting out of bed, or perhaps being irritable, or perhaps withdrawing from social life or academic challenges, so that’s what I would look for,” he said.

Flanders said treating these issues can sometimes require a different approach than medication, including cognitive therapy, mindfulness training, talk therapy.

These forms of therapy, he said, develop a sense of self-empowerment which will carry on later in life.

Watch the video above for more on teens and anti-depressants