Published: 17:15, 23 November 2021
| Updated: 20:03, 23 November 2021
The director of a nature reserve has backed new NHS guidelines about exercise and therapy being used as an alternative to anti-depressant medication.
Mark Kent, from Eternal Lakes in Cliffe, has said that 'getting outside and involved in healthy activities' can be just as beneficial as prescribed drugs.
Today, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), has said the NHS should consider alternative treatments to anti-depressant medication.
The health watchdog explained that people with depression should make the choice on what treatment option is right for them.
Eternal Lake Nature Reserve is an area where people can connect with nature and engage in healthy activities and mindfulness sessions.
Mark, who is also the director of Osmio Water Technology, a water and health technology company that purchased the nature reserve a year ago, uses his role to focus on people's health and well being in natural ways.
He said: "Although medications are sometimes highly necessary, they shouldn't always be the first thing that you look at in order to help with your mental health.
"Sometimes people are very disconnected with with nature, and they're disconnected from friends and family so they feel isolated, alone and desperate.
"And with depression, it's difficult to even notice that you're depressed sometimes.
"Getting outside and involved with healthy activities can really boost your mood."
NICE has created a menu of alternative anti-depressant treatment options to allow patients to pick one that is right for them, in a shared decision-making discussion between them and their healthcare practitioner.
Patients with less severe depression could choose first-line treatment options such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), exercise, counselling or psychotherapy.
Mark said: "I think the new guidelines are a great move, because if a person's needs can be met through social interactions, healthy activities and being around nature it can work even far better than medications could help that person.
"It's a great move forward for health, being connected with other people, forming new friendships and getting involved in activities are really positive for your mental health."
Mark and his team offer a range of different activities at the nature reserve, including mindfulness days, yoga, Tai Chi, as well as sound, light and hydrogen therapies.
He said: "With stuff like anxiety and depression, being really connected to nature can be therapeutic for the body and mind health.
"Here at Eternal Lake we help create the necessary formula for goodness, wellness, and health. And that's what we're all about, promoting these things."
According to the Office of National Statistics, around one in six (17%) adults aged 16 years and over in Great Britain experienced some form of depression in summer 2021.
The rate remains higher than those before the coronavirus pandemic, where 10% of adults experienced some form of depression.
Psychological interventions, along with the option of anti-depressant medication, is available to those choosing a first-line treatment for more severe depression.
Following the new guidelines and the push for medication alternatives, an NHS-funded therapy provider, Insight IAPT, has partnered with health tech organisation, Limbic, to develop an AI referral tool that will provide easier access to their service for users.
Insight offers a range of treatments for mild to moderate mental health issues across parts of England, including Kent and Medway.
New technology like this assessment tool has meant that more people can access support for their mental health, like webinars, online therapy sessions, and face to face therapy sessions, more quickly and easily and at a smaller cost to the NHS.
A 60 minute assessment over the phone or face-to-face can now be reduced down to 20 minutes in many cases, which will free up over 7,300 hours of therapist time each year.
Dr Paul Chrisp, director of the centre for guidelines at NICE, said: “People with depression deserve and expect the best treatment from the NHS which is why this guideline is urgently required.
“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.”
People who are considering taking, or stopping, antidepressants medication should talk with their healthcare professional about the benefits and risks.
Anyone who feels they are struggling with their mental health can access the new referral tool on the Insight IAPT here.
To find out more about Eternal Lakes click here.