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NHS Mental Health Strategy is Depressing

February 18, 2010

The Tory election campaign has twigged that NICE and the NHS are less concerned with the clinical effectiveness of healthcare than they are with its cost effectiveness. Nowhere is that more obvious than in mental health care. An article in The Guardian focuses some much needed scrutiny on the issue in an article on the treatment of depression in the NHS:

When it comes to depression, the British stiff upper lip is alive and well. A recent survey by the charity Turning Point reveals that three quarters of British people experience depression at some point, making it one of the UK’s most common health concerns. Despite its prevalence, a third of sufferers do not seek help due to embarrassment, worries about confidentiality and a feeling that they could cope by themselves.

Around 31m prescriptions for antidepressants are doled out every year to the British public. After all, pills – like cognitive behavioural therapy – are cheap, and fit neatly into the idea that a depression is a “chemical imbalance” that can be easily cured.

The psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Dr John Steiner tells me that the chemical imbalance idea can be “damaging, but its partly true. Some people are just more prone to depression than others. But then theres also an interaction of that persons genetic make-up with their relationships”. According to Steiner, CBT “can often work in the short term, but it doesnt affect the underlying problem. Its a symptom-treatment, like antidepressants”.Longer-term psychotherapy aims to uncover those underlying problems. But as anyone with depression will know, getting referred on the NHS to anything other than CBT is almost impossible. On the YoungMinds helpline, Ive even heard of young people being offered electroconvulsive therapy before talking therapy – one would think that it would be the last, not the first or second, resort.

via Theres no quick fix for depression | Luiza Sauma | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk.

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