MORE than one in seven Scots have been prescribed antidepressants in the last year.

Scottish health data collectors ISD Scotland report that 814,181 people were given the medication in 2014/15, up by 5.5 per cent on the previous year.

The figures, released yesterday, mean prescriptions for antidepressants have jumped by 66.6 per cent in the last decade.

Doctors’ leaders said the worrying statistics showed there was a need for longer consultation times with patients.

They also cautioned against incorrectly analysing the data, pointing out that GPs were increasingly using antidepressants for “other purposes, particularly for nerve-related and chronic pain”.

People living in Lanarkshire, Ayrshire and Arran are the most likely to be prescribed drugs, and those living in the Highlands and islands least likely.

There is also a strong link between deprivation and mental health, the study confirmed.

Jamie Hepburn, the Minister for Sport, Health Improvement and Mental Health, said the increase could, in part, be attributed to people with mental health problems being more confident about approaching their doctor

Hepburn said: “The Scottish Government has long worked hard to reduce the stigma faced by people with mental health problems. As this stigma declines we would expect more patients to seek help from their GPs for problems such as depression. This is reflected in recent statistics which show a 27 per cent increase in the numbers of people starting treatment for Psychological Therapies in the quarter ending June 2015 – compared to the same period last year.

“People with mental illness should expect the same standard of care as people with physical illness and should receive medication if they need it.

“Any prescribing is a clinical decision for a patient’s doctor and there is good evidence that GPs assess and treat depression appropriately. We have seen more people being prescribed antidepressants as a result of reduction in stigma attached to mental health, and better diagnosis and treatment of depression by GPs. This sits alongside a 17.8 per cent drop in suicide rates in Scotland between the periods 2000-04 and 2010-14.

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said the Scottish Government had completely failed to keep their promise halt the rise in antidepressants by 2009, and reduce it by 10 per cent every year thereafter. He said: “This incredible increase over the years in antidepressant use is extremely alarming. Years ago the SNP pledged to stop this rise, yet it hasn’t even been able to make a dent in it.

“We are now looking at the flabbergasting statistic of more than one in seven people in Scotland being prescribed antidepressants this year. There’s no doubt these drugs have a place in addressing mental health issues but we urgently have to look at better alternatives than simply parking people on medication in the hope things don’t get any worsey.”

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Jim Hume MSP said the figures could be the result of gaps in other services: “The fact we have seen such substantial increases in prescriptions raises real concerns over whether this reflects shortages in other services. We need to ensure that doctors across Scotland are able to refer patients to the services that offer them the best chance of recovery.

“If doctors are prescribing antidepressants because they feel they have no other option then this is a real problem.

“These figures should raise a red flag for SNP ministers. They underline the need for greater investment in mental health services across Scotland.”

Dr Miles Mack, the chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners (Scotland), called on all political parties to make a manifesto commitment to “parity” between mental health and other forms of ill health.

Dr Mack said: “We were delighted to see last year’s appointment of a Minister with specific responsibility for mental health in Scotland. That appointment was a major step along the road of equality in the provision of care. We have also called for an increase in the time available for consultations. It is simply not viable to offer someone adequate support within 10 minutes when they present to their GP with mental distress.”

The chair continued: “We recognise, of course, that in the context of today’s shortage of GPs and wider NHS pressures, longer consultation times and parity of services will not appear overnight but we should commit to them and be working towards them now. Until then, we must use whatever tools are available to us to aid our patients and antidepressants are one such tool. It is to be hoped that other supporting initiatives, such as those around social prescribing, will be bolstered meanwhile."