The National Institute for Health Care and Excellence have advised that people in England with mild depression should be offered behavioural therapy or group exercise before they are prescribed any medication.
The number of people taking anti-depressants is increasing yearly with over 20 million people being prescribed them in the last three months according to figures from the NHS Business Services Authority.
People with mild depression should be offered therapy before antidepressants
The guidelines are yet to be confirmed, however the draft guidelines say: "Do not routinely offer antidepressant medication as first-line treatment for less severe depression, unless that is the person's preference."
A recent UK study has shown that people who stay on anti-depressants long term are less likely to suffer a relapse than those who stop taking them.
The guidelines also discuss how clinicians should deal with patients who want to stop taking anti-depressants and the withdrawal symptoms involved.
Stephen Buckley, Mind, welcomed the guidelines, but said that further funding was needed to keep up with the huge demand for mental health services.
Buckley said: "We are pleased to see a focus on withdrawal from antidepressants and a recognition that coming off medication may take weeks or months to complete successfully.
“We know for some; the process may take even longer. It's crucial anyone who chooses to stop psychiatric medication can do so safely, gradually, and ideally in collaboration with their GP, pharmacist, psychiatrist, or another health professional they trust."
An Office for National Statistics (ONS) survey found that around one in six (17%) adults experienced some form of depression this year, with more younger adults and women likely to be affected. This is a seven percent increase since before the pandemic.
Dr Paul Chrisp, director of the centre for guidelines at Nice, 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.”