Sunderland mental health charity blasts depression claims

Jacqui Reeves (right) services manager Washingtoin MIND and staff l-r Nicola Cockburn admin. support officer, wendy Hedlington information officer, Kathy McKenna independent activity co-ordinator and Judith Stokoe lead councillor.
Jacqui Reeves (right) services manager Washingtoin MIND and staff l-r Nicola Cockburn admin. support officer, wendy Hedlington information officer, Kathy McKenna independent activity co-ordinator and Judith Stokoe lead councillor.
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A WEARSIDE mental health charity has hit out at claims exercise does nothing to ease depression.

Washington Mind has been shocked by a u-turn announcement that claims exercise is not effective in the treatment of depression after following guidelines suggesting the opposite for almost 10 years.

Just days ago, a study published in the British Medical Journal claimed combining conventional treatment with exercise does not improve recovery.

The results are contrary to guidance published by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice), which suggests patients should carry out exercise up to three times a week.

Jacqui Reeves, services manager at Washington Mind, said: “We were very surprised to hear the results of the British Medical Journal’s research.

“Nice has been recommending for the best part of a decade that depression patients be encouraged to exercise, up to three times a week if possible, and we have passed this advice on to our service users with apparently good results.

“A lot of people have told us it works for them.”

Jacqui said the results vary from patient to patient and on the activity.

High intensity exercise, including running and gym classes, can help release feel-good hormones, yoga and pilates can help relaxation and creative activities can distract from depressive thoughts and boost self-esteem.

“In terms of the feedback we have received about the benefits of exercise there does not appear to be any right or wrong activities,” Jacqui said.

“The problem with depression is it can be a very debilitating illness it drains your energy, making every task seem like a monumental effort.

“Part of moving past that draining exhaustion is taking that very first step; whether it’s just getting out of bed, doing some gentle housework, taking the dog for a walk or actually putting on your work-out clothes and going to the gym.

“In our experience, keeping it simple and doable makes it easier to get started but it’s the doing something that seems to be the important factor.”

Jacqui added that at the centre, they have found a combination of treatments is often the most effective in dealing with depression.

This includes changing diet and lifestyle, talking therapies, psycho-educational groups and medication.

Washington Mind also encourages patients to get involved in creative and social events, including film and book clubs.

For more information, visit www.wellbeinginfo.org.

Twitter: @sunechochief

FOR the study, 361 people were given conventional treatments that fitted their level of depression.

After eight months, some in a randomly allocated group were also given advice on up to 13 different occasions on how to increase their level of activity.

It was up to the individual patient to decide which activity they did and how often they did it.

This approach produced good results in terms of encouraging people to do more over a sustained period of time - something which could have benefits to their general physical health.

But at the end of a year, researchers found no additional reduction in the symptoms of depression in the more active group.

The study was carried out by the universities of Bristol and Exeter.