Anxiety combined with depression is the most common form of mental health problem. Research by the Mental Health Foundation suggests that one in four of the adult population of the UK will experience some kind of mental health problem in the course of the next year. The National Office of Statistics show that 7.7% of the population suffer from the combined effects of depression and anxiety at any one time. Additionally 3.1% suffer from anxiety and 2.1% from depression. That’s a total nearing 14%. Not surprising then that Richard Layard, chair of the Mental Health Policy Group reports that “Crippling depression and chronic anxiety are the biggest causes of misery in Britain today. They are the great submerged problems, which shame keeps out of sight.”
The total cost of depression was estimated at £3 billion per year costing the NHS £420 million whilst only 2% of NHS expenditure was spent on tacking these problems. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) believe that people with anxiety and depression should be offered the choice of psychological therapy. This view is also backed by Richard Layard because in a study conducted by the Mental Health Foundation it was demonstrated that therapy is, in the short term, at least as effective as drugs and, in the long term, better at preventing relapse. No surprise then that the NICE guidelines recommend that everyone should have the therapy option made available.
But that’s simply not an option for those that need it most, as there are simply too few therapists available. Those people choosing the therapist option would have to wait at least nine months or more before getting an appointment. So if they want to avoid taking prescribed medicines, their options are limited to either private treatment which can be very expensive or ‘remote therapy’ from an online therapy site.
Perhaps this is why there has been a dramatic rise in the private or self-help alternatives available. The last couple of years have seen a dramatic growth of remote therapy sites providing for psychological issues ranging from anxiety, depression, insomnia, phobia and stress. Try it for yourself, just google ‘psychotherapy, online, self help, UK’ and you’ll find sites like virtual-therapist.com which have become very popular in the last few years. Produced by recognised therapists, the sessions are recorded onto mp3 of pdf format and can be downloaded for immediate private use. Although not having the benefit of face-to-face interaction with a therapist, they do have the advantage of being able to be used over and over again whenever needed. For example, imagine a nervous person having the benefit an Anxiety Therapy that has been downloaded onto their mp3 player that’s instantly available for whenever an anxious moment surfaces. And it’s not just about convenience these therapies are available for a fraction of the typical £750 fee charged for a course of treatment by a private behavioural therapist.
Other reasons why these remote therapies may have become increasingly mainstream is that they are anonymous, instantly available and surprisingly effective. Whatever the reason there is no denying that they very popular. Over the last year many of the self-help therapy sites have reported a 300% increase in download traffic. It’s clear that self help therapy is fulfilling a need because even by NICE’s own estimates it would take at least seven years to train all of the 10,000 therapists needed to fulfil the current demand.