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NHS to give therapy for depression before medication under new guidelines


Millions of people with mild depression in England should be offered therapy, exercise, mindfulness or meditation before antidepressants, according to the first new NHS guidelines in more than a decade.

Under draft guidance, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends the “menu of treatment options” be offered to patients by health professionals before medication is considered.

Currently, those with mild depression are offered antidepressants or a high-intensity psychological intervention, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). The shake-up forms part of the first new recommendations to identify, treat and manage depression in adults since 2009.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), about one in six (17%) adults experienced some form of depression this summer. The rate is higher than before the pandemic, when 10% of adults experienced it. Younger adults and women are more likely to be affected, the ONS found.

A 2019 review showed 17% of the adult population in England (7.3 million people) had been prescribed antidepressants in the year 2017-18.

Dr Paul Chrisp, director of the centre for guidelines at NICE, said: “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.”

Nav Kapur, professor of psychiatry and population health at the University of Manchester and chair of the guideline committee, said: “As a committee we have drawn up recommendations that we hope will have a real impact on people who are suffering from depression and their carers. In particular we’ve emphasised the role of patient choice – suggesting that practitioners should offer people a choice of evidence-based treatments and understanding that not every treatment will suit every person.”

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Source: The Guardian, 23 November 2021

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