NICE has created the first guideline for 12 years to identify, treat and manage depression in adults

Developed by an independent NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) guideline committee, the new draft guidance for adults with depression focuses heavily on patient choice and a collaborative approach with healthcare practitioners.

Looking at existing evidence around depression, including the treatment of new depressive episodes, chronic depression and access to mental health services, the committee has created a menu of treatment options.

This allows patients to choose what may work best for them, in discussion with their doctor. Those with less severe depression will have the chance to choose from treatments including exercise, counselling, psychotherapy or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

CBT is a talking therapy that helps you recognise how your thoughts affect feelings and behaviours. With the aim of breaking down big problems into more manageable chunks, CBT helps you create coping strategies and set goals.

In this video, Counselling Directory member Marian Hanson shares more about this approach.

Mindfulness and meditation may also be recommended as an alternative to medication under consultation with your doctor. The aim is to offer alternatives to medication in the first instance to see if these interventions can help.

For those with more severe depression, a similar range of approaches will be offered alongside the option of antidepressant medication.

According to the Office of National Statistics, rates of depression have doubled since the start of the pandemic and around one in six adults in Britain experienced some form of depression during the summer of 2021.

This rise in depression cases is something the director of the centre for guidelines at NICE, Dr Paul Chrisp, acknowledges. “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.”

The new guidance also contains new recommendations for people stopping antidepressant medication. This comes after Public Health England’s 2019 evidence review, ‘Dependence and withdrawal associated with some prescribed medicine’ revealed 17% of adults in England were prescribed antidepressants between 2017 and 2018.

Those who are now looking to start or stop taking medication will be encouraged to talk with their doctor about the benefits and risks involved. Doctors should explain that coming off medication can take weeks or months and that it will be necessary to reduce the dose over time, rather than stopping cold turkey.

Mental health charities such as Mind and Rethink Mental Illness are welcoming the new guidance, but warn that more funding is required to cope with the demand on mental health services.

Speaking to the BBC, Alexa Knight, of Rethink Mental Illness said, “Improved guidelines will not, on their own, improve people's experience of care or waiting times. As demand is rising, the range of treatments available and how quickly they can be accessed is ultimately dependent on services being adequately funded and staffed.”

If you’re looking to go down the private route, you can find a therapist at Counselling Directory.