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Depression: New Guidance

Therapy, exercise, mindfulness and meditation trump medication, under new NICE guidelines.

The rise in people experiencing depression has prompted a review of the best way to support them and so new guidance by NICE is very much welcomed. It is the first draft guideline in 12 years to identify, treat and manage depression in adults. As the body that professionals should adhere to, the new recommendations, currently under consultation, are more likely to be put into practice. And the move away from anti-depressants will be appealing for those people experiencing symptoms but wanting to avoid medication, and so they may be more inclined to seek professional help.


About 1 in 6 (17%) of adults experienced some form of depression this summer (ONS), compared to 10% before the pandemic. Younger adults and women are more likely to be affected, the ONS found.


We know that drugs are not a long-term fix; they fail to help people manage emotions in the future. So people experiencing ‘less severe depression’ should be offered an alternative to antidepressants:
  • Exercise to release chemicals such as endorphins and serotonin, reduce stress, depression and anxiety, and improve sleep
  • Mindfulness, paying more attention to the present moment, touching base with how we are right now, to reduce being caught up in our thoughts, without noticing how these thoughts are driving our emotions and behaviour. It is possible to engage in everyday activities by being mindful, including eating, walking, having a shower.
  • Meditation is a practice where an individual uses a technique – such as mindfulness, or focusing the mind on a particular object, thought, or activity – to train attention and awareness. It is often associated with ‘non-doing’, being still, to achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm and stable state.
  • Therapy. I use the Human Givens approach to psychotherapy as it is practical, forward-focused, short-term and uses the best of other models, such as CBT, to provide a fluid and flexible experience for clients. People come to me directly but organisations looking to make a meaningful difference for their employees are increasingly funding such intervention, to keep people in work and avoid absence or leaving work permanently.


If you are struggling at work due to depression, stress or anxiety, you may benefit from the Access to Work Mental Health Support Service, a confidential service delivered by Remploy and funded by the Department for Work and Pensions. It is available free of charge.


Be alert to possible depression (particularly in people with a past history of depression or a chronic physical health problem) and consider asking them if:
  • During the last month, have they often been bothered by feeling down, depressed or hopeless?
  • During the last month, have they often been bothered by having little interest or pleasure in doing things?
If someone answers ‘yes’, recommend that they seek a professional opinion.


For people experiencing more severe depression, anti-depressants may still be helpful, along with the alternative recommendations above. And individuals will continue to have their say, expressing their preference for medication.


Although the reviewed guidance is very much needed, so too is provision for mental health services; the demand for therapy is rising and so access to them is dependent on funding and staffing. That is no quick fix, which is why employers are now taking on the role of providing funding to support those individuals who are struggling to get through the current challenge to their mental health, to enable them to thrive.


Want to know more or explore which may be the best route for you? Get in touch.