This independent NICE guideline committee is the first for 12 years seeking to better identify, treat and manage depression in adults. The guidelines look at new evidence on the treatment of what is called a ‘new depressive episode’, chronic depression, prevention, patient choice whilst also looking at how mental health services respond to depression and how accessible it is for those suffering from it.

“People with depression deserve and expect the best treatment from the NHS which is why this guideline is urgently required.” Said Dr Paul Chrisp, director of the centre for guidelines at NICE.

The committee has put together a menu of ‘treatment options’ designed to be discussed with a patient’s healthcare practitioner so that they can receive the help that best suits them. For those with less severe depression, options include: cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), exercise, counselling or psychotherapy, an additional option of antidepressant medication is available to those experiencing more severe depression.

Speaking on these guidelines and on the increasing numbers of people experiencing depression during the pandemic, Dr Chrisp said: “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.”

One in six (17%) of adults aged 16 and over experienced some form of depression in summer last year say ONS

The guidelines have an emphasis on the idea of patient choice, aiming to understand that the ‘one size fits all’ approach of CBT in the past might not work for everyone. Speaking on this, professor Nav Kapur from the University of Manchester and chair of the guideline committee said:

“...practitioners should offer people a choice of evidence-based treatments and understanding that not every treatment will suit every person. We now need stakeholders’ help to make the recommendations as good as they can possibly be.”

Another important improvement on the current system these guidelines offer up are recommendations on stopping antidepressant medication, with the committee suggesting anyone considering taking or stopping antidepressants should discuss with a healthcare professional the benefits and risks. This discussion should include: explanations around withdrawal, explaining the process of ‘tapering’ off medication etc.

These guidelines are but one step in our recovery from the pandemic as a nation, and how it has impacted our mental health. Depression is one of the most common, debilitating and wide-reaching mental disorders there is, now we must turn our focus to those disorders that are so often stigmatised and neglected by our society too.