A leading mental health charity has told NHS bosses that meditation should be used as a practical solution for the treatment of depression, which currently costs the health service £7.5bn a year.
The Mental Health Foundation has advocated the use of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), which incorporates meditation and "thought training" to treat recurring bouts of depression, claiming that the availability of MBCT as a treatment option to GPs would ease the financial burden that depression places upon the NHS.
Guidance issued by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) in 2004 suggested that MBCT could halve depression relapse rates. However, only a fifth of GPs say they are able to offer MBCT as an alternative therapy for those with the condition, while only one in 20 regularly prescribes the treatment.
MBCT costs on average £300 per patient for a course of two-hour treatment sessions spanning eight weeks.
Since MBCT is a group-based treatment, often involving up to 20 individuals, the cost of the courses is spread out and is said to be much lower than traditional treatments such as one-to-one cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) and antidepressant therapy.