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Investment in psychological therapies is key to tackling depression

30 May 2019

The Society today welcomed a new position paper from the Royal College of Psychiatrists on antidepressants and depression, which acknowledges that withdrawal from antidepressants can cause long-lasting and severe symptoms for some people. 

Commenting on the position paper, Sarb Bajwa, Chief Executive of the BPS, said:

“We welcome the recognition of the long-lasting and severe withdrawal symptoms which some people experience when they stop taking antidepressant drugs. This acknowledgement has been a long time coming.

Coupled with the call for better information on withdrawal to be included in NICE clinical guidelines and in the information provided to patients, it represents a significant step towards providing better treatment for people with depression.

Of course, antidepressants can have a place in the treatment of depression for some people with more severe symptoms, but, as the Royal College of Psychiatrists points out, those prescribing them need to carefully weigh up their efficacy against the risk of harm to the patient.

We strongly agree that treatment for depression should be based initially on the use of evidence-based psychological treatments, but we remain concerned that the lack of access to psychological therapies in many areas of the UK may be fuelling the increase in antidepressant prescribing over recent years.

Where waiting lists are long, where services do not exist or where people are presented with a limited choice of psychological alternatives, antidepressants can be seen as the only treatment option or are provided as a stop gap until psychological therapy is available.

Just this week the Migration Advisory Committee recommended that the number of unfilled vacancies for psychologists is significant enough for the profession to be added to the shortage occupation list.

This chronic underfunding of the psychological professions needs to be tackled urgently if we are to reverse the trend in anti-depressant prescribing and give people the psychological support they need.

We would also like to see a deeper understanding of some of the psychological and social causes of depression, like poverty, inequality, adverse childhood experiences, trauma, and social isolation.”

The BPS is currently focusing on a range of related work, including collaborating with the Royal College of General Practitioners on a toolkit on psychosocial alternatives to medical prescriptions for antidepressants.

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