The study, published in journal Plos One, involved over 200 patients who had been diagnosed with depression by their GP.
Over half of the participants were on antidepressant drugs. Randomly chosen individuals were given a self-help guide detailing ways to cope with depression, including advice on how to overcome sleeping problems and become more assertive.
Along with the books, the patients were given three sessions with an adviser who helped them get the most out of the books and plan for future changes.
When all patients were examined four months later, scientists found that those who used the self-help books had significantly lower levels of depression than those who just had regular GP care.
A year later, and the self-help group were still staying on top of their depression.
A telephone service has now been set up in Scotland providing support for those using self-help books to treat their depression.
Study leader Prof Christopher Williams, from the University of Glasgow, said: “We found this had a really significant clinical impact and the findings are very encouraging. Depression saps people’s motivation and makes it hard to believe change is possible.”
Prof Williams also happens to be the author of the two self-help guides used in the study, ‘Overcoming Depression’ and ‘Low Mood’.
He believes the advice was key to getting people to engage with the books.
It is hoped that a self-help book scheme could be run in England as part of the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies programme designed to support people with depression.
As a whole this scheme is set to save the NHS £272 million and the wider public sector £700 million.
Self-help books are thought to treat depression using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. To find out more about CBT, please follow the link.
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