Prevalence of depression and anxiety rises across Suffolk and Essex
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One in seven people in Suffolk are living with depression or anxiety, according to a survey of patients registered with GPs.
Figures from Public Health England show 13.5% of registered patients in the county were suffering with at least one of the mental health conditions at the start of last year.
The most recent survey showed the rate in Suffolk had increased by 13% since 2015. It is slightly lower than the national average of 13.7%.
In Essex, 12.4% of GP patients were living with depression or anxiety at the beginning of 2017 – an increase of 6.5% from two years previously.
As the prevalence of mental illness rises so is demand for talking, or psychological, therapies.
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Dr Gary Howsam, East of England spokesman for the Royal College of GPs, said: “Depression and anxiety can be very serious conditions, and something that GPs are increasingly seeing more of in our surgeries, not just in Suffolk, but across the country. Around 90% of patients with mental health problems are cared for in primary care, putting GPs and our teams in a unique position to help patients.
“Psychological therapies are often the desired first treatment option for patients presenting with depression and anxiety, and can often have significant benefits for their long-term health and wellbeing. But these therapies can be hard to come by in the community, particularly in rural areas, and we desperately need more, and more varied, mental health services in the community, where they can be of most benefit to our patients. Alongside this, GPs need better access to them to ensure patients get the care they need and deserve quickly.”
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In 2008, NHS England began a programme called Improving Access to Psychological Therapies, which aims to expand services in primary care settings to enable more people to get counselling for depression or anxiety.
As part of this project, an extra 3,000 mental health therapists are being recruited for GP practices across the country.
Dr Howsam said this was needed “as a matter of urgency”.
Paul Driscoll, medical director and chairman of the Suffolk GP Federation, said: “The GP Federation believes that there should be closer working between general practices and the mental health teams which should be based in GP surgeries. This would improve both access and communication between the teams and be more convenient for the patients.”
Nesta Reeve, consultant clinical psychologist and clinical lead for the NHS Wellbeing Suffolk service, said mental health practitioners were already based in many GP surgeries in Suffolk.
Mrs Reeve put the rising prevalence of mental health issues in Suffolk down to greater public awareness and reducing stigma. She said population growth was also factor.
Anyone struggling with mental health issues in Suffolk can contact the wellbeing service directly via: 0300 123 1781 or online.