We cannot fight depression without first tackling deprivation | Letter

Depression is complex and there is much we don’t understand (People with depression ‘stagnating’ in UK healthcare system, 11 July).

Antidepressants and counselling help some people, and the combination of both seems to be best for them. But they don’t work for many patients, and psychiatrists can offer little more than stronger medication. What does work for everyone with depression is the opportunity to exercise in green space in daylight. If we learned anything from lockdown, it was that social contact and feeling valued are essential for good mental health.

There is increasing evidence that diet is also a crucial factor in physical and mental health. Cheap, industrially produced food is the worst, but for many it is all they can access or afford. Food banks tell us that increasing numbers of people needing their help have no access to cooking facilities, but food heated in a microwave (if they have access to one) is not healthy, and dehydrated products prepared with boiling water are even worse. One consequence is that more than 60% of the British population are overweight – of whom 28% are obese – and 6% are on treatment for diabetes. The numbers are increasing, and the crisis in fuel costs will make this even worse.

But the biggest problem is that politicians cannot tackle poverty because they don’t understand it. The surest way of exacerbating depression is taking away any hope that people have left.
Dr Michael Peel

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