How to defuse the "ticking mental health time bomb" in Hastings: medication, exercise or counselling?

New research reveals almost 23 million UK adults (44 per cent) now experience anxiety symptoms at least once a week, compared to 33 per cent five years ago when the recession first hit. For 20 per cent anxiety is a daily obstacle.

 

The study published by the UK’s largest healthcare charity, Nuffield Health, reveals that early indicators of poor mental health are on the increase. It also reports that GPs are 46 times more likely to prescribe medication than explore medically proven alternative options, like exercise. 

 

The research highlights that almost two fifths (39 per cent) of people now experience low mood, an early indicator of depression, at least once a week, compared to 31 per cent five years ago. Of those with symptoms of either low mood or anxiety, nearly a third (30 per cent) say they can’t cope with everyday life unless they take remedial action and a further 29 per cent (almost 15 million UK adults) say their low mood or anxiety is so consuming that they struggle to, or cannot, work.

 

The top three reasons for people suffering from low mood were financial worries, family issues and problems at work. Nearly one in 10 said ill health affected their mood. When asked about treatment, just one per cent of those visiting their GP were recommended exercise as a way to alleviate symptoms, compared to 46 per cent who were prescribed the most common treatment - medication. However, only four per cent of patients said they would rather be prescribed medication than exercise, if given the choice.

 

Dr Davina Deniszczyc, Medical Director for Wellbeing at Nuffield Health, said

 

“We are faced with a ticking mental health time bomb in the UK.  I see time and again the affects of poor mental health on patients at my GP surgery. To be able to offer workable support, early on when a patient experiences the first signs of mental distress, such as increased anxiety and low mood, may mean preventing a more serious depression taking hold. The compelling evidence that physical activity can play an important role in both treating and alleviating early symptoms of mental ill health isn’t sufficiently filtering through to frontline and primary care services.

 

The new research shows that despite people knowing the benefits of physical activity for mood and anxiety – 76 per cent of those surveyed say it lifts their mood and 72 per cent report knowing that it has been clinically proven to manage moderate anxiety or low mood - just 17 per cent actually turn to exercise when struck down with symptoms of anxiety and depression. Of the 2,000 people questioned, one fifth (18 per cent) never exercise.

 

Nuffield Health is calling for all GPs in the UK to take a ‘diagnose, consider exercise, refer, treat’ approach to physical activity when patients present with early signs of mental ill health.

 

These findings tend to confirm the experience of local counsellors working with clients suffering from anxiety and depression. We have all seen the benefits of exercise on clients’ well-being, particularly when combined with counselling.

 

Please feel free to contact me if you feel that counselling might help. I can generally offer therapy without any waiting list.

added at 12:10am on 15th October 2013

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