HEALTH chiefs have warned there is no 'silver bullet' to stop a rise in anxiety and depression across Oxfordshire.

Latest figures show a blanket increase in severe mental health issues across the county, with Oxford City 'well above the average' of all other districts.

Deprivation in parts of the county, along with increased awareness, are being blamed for the rise.

The figures were published in the Oxfordshire Joint Strategic Needs Assessment 2018, an annual report by Oxfordshire County Council.

It showed the number of people diagnosed with depression in Oxfordshire increased by 7,100 between 2016/17 and 2015/16 - an increase of 14 per cent.

Depression is now the second highest diagnosis for patients across Oxfordshire, with the total of 56,800 trumped only by cases of high blood pressure.

The report also revealed suicide rates of under 25s and cases of self-harm were statistically above the national average.

These statistics continue a concerning trend that has seen the number of GP-registered patients in Oxfordshire with depression or anxiety increase significantly each year over the past four years.

Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust is the county's mental health service provider and communications and engagement manager Christopher Kearney admitted there was no quick fix for the issue.

He said: “We know that in Oxfordshire there has been a rise in the number of people accessing our services over the past several years at all ages and we are working hard to provide care for all those we are coming into contact with.

“Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet to stop this growing trend.

"However, as with any illness, prevention is better than cure, and we are working closely with schools and educators to provide better training for those coming into contact with children and young people on a daily basis, who might then act as a first line of detection to signpost people to help early on.

“We have also forged strong links with local charities that cater for all ages, so that we might be able to offer access to a wider range of services and support within our local communities, and we are working closely with our patients to make sure that the care we provide fits their needs.”

All six districts within the NHS Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group recorded an increase in patients who had been diagnosed with a 'severe and enduring' mental health problem.

This was most apparent in the Oxford City district, where 1.1 per cent of all GP patients were recorded as having severe and enduring mental health issues, compared to a high of 0.8 per cent elsewhere in the county.

Self-harm is also higher in Oxford City than the rest of the county, which the report suggested could be due to deprivation as well as more drug and alcohol users.

Sue Boyce, Senior Communications and Engagement Manager at Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, agreed deprivation could be a reason for the rise in mental health issues.

She said: “A key to improving mental wellbeing is to tackle health inequalities in Oxfordshire.

"People living in parts of Oxford, Banbury and some rural areas experience worse mental health, linked to higher levels of deprivation.

"The CCG is working with health partners, local authorities and voluntary organisations to improve access to mental health services for everyone."

There were also 23 suicides of under-25s in the Oxfordshire CCG area between 2014-16, which was also above the national average.

Oxfordshire's mental health service providers have joined forces to tackle the issue, forming the Oxfordshire Mental Health Partnership in 2015 to streamline mental health support.

The group consists of Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, plus local organisations Connection Floating Support, Elmore Community Services, Oxfordshire Mind, Response and Restore.

Although the partnership recorded a 29 per cent increase in demand for its services last year, Mr Kearney argued the reasons for this increase may be positive.

He said: “Part of the reason for the growing number of people presenting at their GPs with mental health concerns may be down to the hard work that has been done over the past decade to reduce the stigma around talking about mental health.

"This, coupled with better understanding of mental health issues and the things to watch out for, is likely to have contributed to this rise."

Dan Knowles, CEO of Oxfordshire Mind and chair of the Oxfordshire Mental Health Partnership, said: "The increase in campaigning and awareness of mental health issues are enabling more people to come forward and acknowledge their own personal challenges.

"This is a good outcome as the first step to recovery is seeking help and talking to other people."

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