What support is available for patients with low vision and depression?

29 October 2021
Autumn 2021

Helen Gilbert asks what are the signs of depression you should look for among those with low vision and how optometrists can help them

Depression is not uncommon in patients with eye health issues. Approximately 13% of people in the UK with a visual impairment have significant depressive symptoms – roughly three times greater than the general population – while the prevalence in those accessing low vision rehabilitation clinics is around 43% (Nollett et al, 2016).

But it seems the pressure of COVID-19 could be exacerbating mental health problems among both the general population and optometry patients. 

A study of almost 10,000 people in England published in June found a total of one in four adults and more than one in six young people experienced mental distress for the first time during the pandemic (Mind, 2021). 

NHS figures also showed that the number of people in contact with mental health services was the highest since the first lockdown (1.27 million) and the number of urgent referrals to crisis care had increased by a fifth (19%) since the beginning of the year (Mind, 2021). 

Meanwhile, the Macular Society has reported a 27% increase in demand for its counselling services in the wake of coronavirus, from 601 counselling sessions in the year up to June 2020 to 810 in 2021, while the number of counselling “conversations” it has per month has jumped from an average of 64 per month pre-COVID-19 to an average of 125 per month today (Macular Society, 2021). 

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