NHS could give therapy before anti-depressants

New advice is recommending that people with mild depression should be initially offered behavioural therapy or group exercise instead of medication.

Anti-depressant use has increased in recent years - with an estimated one in seven people in England taking them. More than 20 million were prescribed in just three months last year.

The clinical watchdog, NICE, is also recommending mindfulness and meditation as possible alternatives to anti-depressants in new guidelines under consultation. The draft guidelines call on doctors to involve patients in conversations about what would suit them best, but say group cognitive behavioural therapy could be offered as a first treatment.

NICE said that the new draft guideline is the first in 12 years to identify, treat and manage depression in adults. A similar range of psychological interventions, along with the option of antidepressant medication, is available to those choosing a first-line treatment for more severe depression.

Dr Paul Chrisp, director of the centre for guidelines at NICE, said: “People with depression deserve and expect the best treatment from the NHS which is why this guideline is urgently required. The Covid-19 pandemic has shown us the impact depression has had on the nation’s mental health. People with depression need these evidence-based guideline recommendations available to the NHS, without delay.”

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