Meditation therapy should be routinely available via the government's National Health Service to treat recurring depression and to help tackle Britain’s growing mental health problems, according to a new report.

The study, commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation, found that fewer than one in 20 family doctors prescribed meditation therapy for patients suffering depression, despite N.H.S. guidance suggesting that it could halve depression relapse rates.

The report calls for much wider use of "mindfulness" treatment, which combines meditation with orthodox "thought training."

If more doctors offered the therapy the Mental Health Foundation predicts it would sharply reduce the financial burden of depression, which costs Britain £7.5billion (US$12.05billion) a year.

Mental health specialists said that greater use of meditation would reduce an over-reliance on antidepressants, adding that while the drugs were effective, they did not help address the possibility of future depressive episodes.

Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), which has its roots in Eastern philosophy and Buddhism, trains people to focus attention on one place instead of allowing the mind to be "hijacked" by emotional issues and other distractions.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence issued guidance on meditation in 2004 after studies suggested that it might bring benefits.

Five years later, only a fifth of family doctors said they can access the treatment for their patients, and just one in 20 regularly prescribes the therapy, according to the 'Be Mindful' report.

One in 10 people in the U.K. is affected by clinical depression - defined by a range of symptoms within a single two-week period - and 50 percent of sufferers experience it more than once.

SOURCE: Times of London