Mental Health Services

Department of Health and Social Care written question – answered on 22nd March 2018.

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Photo of Paul Girvan Paul Girvan Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Education), Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Transport)

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, whether his Department has made an assessment of the potential merits of (a) gym membership and (b) other recreational therapies for the treatment of mental health issues.

Photo of Jackie Doyle-Price Jackie Doyle-Price The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

The Department has not assessed the potential merits of gym membership for the treatment of mental health issues.

The implementation framework for No Health without Mental Health, a cross Government mental health outcomes strategy for all ages, published in 2012, recognised that participation in physical activity is key for mental wellbeing. There is a growing body of evidence which supports the effectiveness of non-medical, recreational therapies or activities to promote mental health and wellbeing and to support recovery.

Social prescribing is an intervention through which people are supported to access non-medical services in the community. Examples include befriending, art classes and exercise classes, but a wide variety of activities can be included. It has the potential to tackle loneliness and improve wellbeing by connecting people with support in their local communities. NHS England are encouraging general practitioners to support social prescribing as one of the 10 high impact actions to release capacity set out in the General Practice Forward View.

Guidelines issued by the Chief Medical Officer recommend that adults be physically active for up to 150 minutes a week. Furthermore, there is evidence that being physically active can reduce someone’s risk of depression by up to 30% as well as reducing stress and improving sleep.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that people with mild to moderate depression take part in about three sessions of physical exercise per week, each session lasting about 45 minutes to one hour, over 10 to 14 weeks. Physical activity is not restricted to the gym; it can incorporate activity such as walking.

NICE Clinical Guideline 178 published in 2014, also recommended the use of arts therapies using art, music, dance or drama in groups of people with similar mental health problems for the prevention and management of psychosis and schizophrenia in adults. More information is available at:

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