MP Graeme Morris claims that shocking new figures showing the North East to be a mental health blackspot are due to Government cuts.
The Easington representative claims there is a link between the Government’s austerity measures and mental health problems, after new figures show that the North is the anti-depressant capital of Britain.
The region takes up six of the top 10 places in England for use of the drugs, with poverty and deprivation being blamed for the widespread problems with people’s mental health.
NHS data shows doctors here prescribe more anti-depressants per head than anywhere else in the country, with more than one million prescriptions handed out in the last three months of last year.
In the former industrial heartland of East Durham there are 45 prescriptions for every 100 patients – the second highest rate in the country.
Also in the top 10 are Sunderland, with doctors making 41.2 prescriptions for every 100 people, North Durham, Gateshead, South Tees and Newcastle West.
Mr Morris, a member of the Commons Health Select Committee, said: “We’re fighting a rearguard action to protect our community. I see in my surgeries every week people displaying symptoms of anxiety, stress and depression as a consequence of the Government’s policies.
“I had a gentleman come to see me on Friday who was 60 years old, had worked from being 15, and he’d had to give it up due to a crumbling spine. He’d been put in a fit for work category when he couldn’t walk for 20 paces, and his benefits were suspended for eight months while the appeal is heard.
“There’s a definite link between the Government’s policies of austerity and welfare reform and the impact it’s having on people’s mental health.”
Paul Farmer, of mental health charity Mind, said: “We know reforms to the welfare system are taking their toll on the mental health of many people. Depression can affect anyone, regardless of background, but there are certain factors that can increase the risk of someone developing depression.”