North-East towns take up eight places in top ten anti-depressant prescription rates

The North East is more dependent on anti-depressants than anywhere else in the UK, according to a recent report.

The region takes up eight places in a list of ten locations with the highest anti-depressant prescription rates in the country.

With 303.2 antidepressant drugs per 1,000 people, Redcar and Cleveland is second only to Blackpool in the list collating figures from former Primary Care Trusts.

Darlington, County Durham, Gateshead, Sunderland, Newcastle and North and South Tyneside also appear in the list.

The report, prepared by the Nuffield Trust and the Health Foundation, found that the use of anti-depressants countrywide rocketed in recent years – soaring by 165 per cent between 1998 and 2012 and showing significant acceleration during the recent recession.

No concrete reason for this is given but researchers have established a connection between the economic downturn and the escalating figures.

The report says: “There are strong links between socioeconomic disadvantage and deprivation, and poor mental health… it is likely that the recent growth of unemployment, poverty and inequality caused by the economic recession will lead to an increase in mental health problems, and a subsequent demand for health services.”

The recession was inevitably going to take its toll on the area, according to Redcar MP Ian Swales.

A spokesman for Mr Swales said: “The rapid decline of industry in the North-East under previous governments and the economic crisis led to some tough times here – with high unemployment and limited aspiration, an impact on local wellbeing was inevitable.”

A senior mental health nurse working in Teesside echoed his sentiments, while calling for greater access to community based support.

 She said: “Depression can come to anyone for many different reasons and there could be other explanations behind these figures, such as people being more willing to seek help and doctors prescribing them too easily.

“But environment has an impact and we’ve lost a lot of industry, there’s high unemployment and it’s bound to have an effect on people.

“People are struggling to afford anything, whether it’s a holiday or even just feeding their families.

> And not forgetting the fact that they’re being portrayed as scroungers in the media, and treated like criminals by the DWP…

“We’ve lost many community-based support groups because of funding issues so help with mental health is not as easily available.

“We need more investment in community support and easier access to therapies as anti-depressants don’t solve everything and are often too easily prescribed.”

Source – Northern Echo,  28 May 2014

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