Suffolk: Number of people with depression leaps by more than 6,000 in just three years

THE number of people with depression in Suffolk leapt by more than 6,000 in just three years, new figures reveal.

Latest statistics show there were 68,002 people with the condition in 2010/11. That’s up from 61,667 people with depression in 2008/09, making up around 10% of Suffolk’s population.

Depression is now the second most prevalent health condition recorded in the county, behind high blood pressure which affects 86,530 people.

Experts are putting the hike down to a combination of the recession and an easing of the stigma around talking about mental health issues.

Dr Tuija Juusti-Butler, a clinical psychologist with the Suffolk Wellbeing Service, said: “It’s the fact there is a recession, there’s high levels of unemployment and people are financially burdened.

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“They are losing their homes and finding it difficult to keep relationships going. They’re not sleeping or eating properly and you get into a vicious cycle. It is then easy to deteriorate very quickly.

“I think we all should be concerned that there’s that level of sufferers and people are going through a difficult time. But the positive message is it’s actually quite treatable.”

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The hike in the number of people with depression comes amid changes to how the condition is treated in Suffolk.

Dr Juusti-Butler said the Suffolk Wellbeing Service - which launched in July - offered workshops, cognitive behavioural therapy and “guided self-help”, heralding a move away from relying on treating the condition with anti-depressants.

Ezra Hewing, community development manager at Suffolk Mind, said services to treat depression in the county were “evolving” and there was “room for improvement”.

Referring to the 6,000 hike, he added: “It’s not a good statistic, but I’m not surprised.

“There are lots of factors, I think depression is precursed by worrying and ruminations and at the moment with job uncertainty, the economy, there’s lots of things for people to worry about.

“I think there’s isolation among older people and that’s an issue. There’s also expectations on young people in terms of the lifestyle they are expected to fund and what they have to do to get approval of their peers.

“We see people who are labelled the “worried well”, which is a change from 10, 15, 20 years ago. They are people who hold down jobs and participate in family life but maybe worried about things that will affect their ability to support their family, such as job security.”

Earlier this year Suffolk Mind revealed it had seen a sharp rise in the number of people using its services, from 1,401 in 2009/10 to 6,770 in 2011/12.

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