Mindfulness and Depression

Depression is a huge problem, afflicting about 121 million people worldwide.

It has tragic consequences: it lowers mood, saps energy, and reduces the will to live. Sufferers often find they cannot work, reducing their ability to earn a living for themselves and their families. Unlike other serious illness, depression has no outward signs – no blisters, fever, or rash – so it is invisible to others. Sufferers feel ashamed, worthless, a failure – and because they cannot understand why they feel so bad, constantly torture themselves with questions about what’s gone wrong.

Global Burden of Disease 2004 - WHO ReportDepression is not limited to rich countries.

The World Health Organisation says that:

  • Depression is the leading cause of years lost to disability (YLD) in both high and low/middle income countries
  • Depression can be reliably diagnosed and treated.
  • Fewer than 25 % of those affected have access to effective treatments.

OMC Director Professor Mark Williams and his team in Oxford University’s Department of Psychiatry are responding to the pressing need for new ways to prevent depression. They are world leaders in the field of research into the prevention of depression through mindfulness.

Williams, together with colleagues John Teasdale (Cambridge) and Zindel Segal (Toronto) developed an eight week program of mindfulness training to prevent serious recurrent depression. It is called Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). They showed that MBCT could significantly reduce the rate of recurrence in serious recurrent depression.

The results of further trials are equally striking. They show that in patients with three or more previous episodes of depression, MBCT reduces the recurrence rate over 12 months by 44% compared with usual care, and is as effective as maintenance antidepressants in preventing new episodes of depression. The UK’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has recommended MBCT as a cost-effective treatment for preventing relapse in depression1.

It is now clear that the 2002 publication2 of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression (Segal, Williams, Teasdale) was not only a highly significant advance in evidence-based therapy for recurrent depression but represents a milestone in the field of mental health.

To see the Oxford Mindfulness Centre’s vision for how to meet this challenge in the future see download our brochure ‘Preventing Depression and Enhancing Human Potential‘.

1 National Institute of Clinical Excellence (2004). Depression: Management of Depression in Primary and Secondary Care. National Clinical Practice Guidelines, Number 23. London, HMSO. Updated 2009.
2 Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression (Second Edition) Zindel V. Segal, J. Mark G. Williams, and John D. Teasdale
Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn Guided Meditation Audio Download by Zindel Segal. Guilford Press. Publication date: 27 November 2012
ISBN 978-1-4625-0750-4