How an innovative depression treatment centre in Sheffield is hoping to reach out to more people in an attempt to save more lives
An innovative form of treatment for those suffering from major depressive disorder and anxiety is reminding people in Sheffield and beyond how to laugh again.
Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) is a non-invasive treatment that uses magnetic impulses to stimulate nerve cells in the area of the brain responsible for mood.
Jonathan Bennett, 46, one of the clients at the rTMS centre in Sheffield, believes his life has completely changed because of it.
“Now I’m looking forward to the rest of my life thanks to rTMS,” he said.
Having suffered depression all his life, Jonathan had tried all other forms of treatment including cognitive behavioural therapy and meditation, as well as a range of antidepressants.
He believes that GPs prescribe antidepressants as an easy option and when they don’t work, people are left alone.
Jonathan said: “I literally couldn’t go any further. There’s only so many medications that you can take and I basically tried everything. This was my absolute last resort.
“I’ve been through the mental health system so many times. I couldn’t be bothered to go through it again. It’s upsetting. You have to run through the emotions again. It’s logical to not want to go through it again. It will eat you away. A key is to not shut down. I’ve done that.
“rTMS is the only one that has helped. It is the only one that has allowed me to come off antidepressants.”
Physical health problems meant that every day was tough for Jonathan and the effects on his mental health stopped him from doing ‘normal things’ like socialising.
After just two rTMS treatment sessions, Jonathan noticed that he was feeling less anxious, slept better and his tinnitus stopped.
Having had 24 sessions of rTMS treatment, he now ‘feels the best that he has felt’ and is beginning to go out and socialise again.
He explained: “It has allowed me to laugh again. A word that isn’t often mentioned in the same sentence as depression. I have missed that.”
Jonathan now wants to try and help others know about the treatment and is particularly keen on sharing his experiences at the Sheffield centre, where Nima Amiri is the clinic manager.
Being in a relaxed environment that had less of a hospital feel was an important consideration for Jonathan.
The personability of the people delivering the service was also a key factor and this led to Jonathan choosing Sheffield’s centre.
He said: “Some have your interests at heart, for others it is just about making money.
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“It was fab meeting Nima and we have developed a good friendship.
“When I left the first session I felt relaxed. That was a big part of it.”
Nima, who leads the Sheffield rTMS centre, developed a particular interest in the form of treatment while completing his masters in neuroscience at the University of Sheffield.
Rather than continue his studies doing a phD, Nima realised he could help the people of Sheffield and chose to set up the centre instead.
Patients are referred privately as the treatment is currently not available on the NHS and is for individuals with major depressive disorder and anxiety, who have not seen improvements in their symptoms using medication or talking therapies.
Nima told how rTMS is still a relatively new treatment so getting the word out is important.
He encourages people to learn more about rTMS and continue to talk about it.
Nima believes if more people could access it, it could save many more lives.
He said: “Making it available on the NHS could take the pressure off GPs and hospitals. People can come off medication. We are looking at the long term benefits, not the short term.”
Nima explained that rTMS has been shown to be successful, with 75 per cent of patients showing a significant response and 25 per cent showing a partial response.
Aged between 18 to 65 years of age, clients typically undergo a four week course of treatment.
Patients are awake and alert for the duration that the rTMS equipment is in operation - only a clicking sound can be heard and a tapping sensation can be felt on the patient’s head.
Many people listen to music or watch TV while having the treatment.
Side effects, such as a mild headache after treatment, may vary between individuals, though Jonathan reported no side effects.
Nima reiterates that rTMS is not about curing depression.
He said: “You can’t cure depression but treatment can get you to a good place, a positive place.”
For more information about rTMS or to talk to the team, see: https://www.rtmscentre.co.uk/