Doctors Told to Suggest Meditation, Self-Help Before Drugs to People With Mild Depression

By Lily Zhou
Lily Zhou
Lily Zhou
Lily Zhou is a freelance writer mostly covering UK news for The Epoch Times.
November 23, 2021 Updated: November 23, 2021

People suffering from less severe depression should be offered a range of options before being given anti-depressants, doctors in the UK have been told.

Therapy, self-help with support, group exercise, group mindfulness, or meditation are among the list of options patients can choose that are preferable to drugs, according to draft guidance published on Tuesday by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

The new guidance, which is subject to consultation, told doctors treating mild depression not to “routinely offer anti-depressants as a first-line treatment, unless that is the person’s preference.”

In a diagram of 11 options that doctors are expected to go through with patients who do not have a preference, anti-depressants came in at ninth place.

Group cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which focuses on how thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, feelings, and behaviour interact, could be offered as a first treatment, doctors were told.

Another intervention suggested by NICE’s guidelines committee was group behavioural activation (BA), which helps the person to recognise negative patterns and focus on behaviours that are linked to improved mood.

Individual BA or CBT may also be offered alongside group mindfulness or meditation, group exercise, and counselling.

But if the patient has a clear preference or experience from previous treatment, doctors are told to support the person’s decision unless they are concerned the preferred treatment doesn’t suit the episode.

When prescribing medication, to treat depression, doctors will need to explain the reasons for offering medication, and discuss with the patient the expected benefits as well as the possible side effects and withdrawal effects.

Contrary to treating mild depression, doctors treating severe depression (pdf) are expected to start with anti-depressants as well as individual cognitive behavioural therapy, before offering counselling, psychotherapy, self-help with support, or group exercise.

The guidance also made recommendations on how to help people successfully stop taking anti-depressant medication.

NICE said the draft was mainly developed before the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic, and asked stakeholders to raise any pandemic-related issues they believe should be taken into account.

According to the latest survey result from the Office of National Statistics, around one in six (17 percent) adults aged 16 years and over in Great Britain experienced some form of depression symptoms in summer 2021, higher than those observed before the CCP virus pandemic, where 10 percent of adults experienced symptoms.

Figures from the NHS Business Services Authority show that more than 20 million anti-depressants were prescribed between October and December 2020—a 6 percent increase compared with the same three months in 2019.

The use of antidepressants has been steadily increasing since 2015.

PA contributed to this report.

Lily Zhou
Lily Zhou is a freelance writer mostly covering UK news for The Epoch Times.