UK-based mental health clinic Smart TMS said it has found that 37% of 18-24 year-olds have experienced mental health problems for years without diagnosis

smart tms

Since opening its first clinic in London in 2015, Smart TMS says it has provided transcranial magnetic stimulation treatment for hundreds of mental health patients (Credit: Smart TMS)

It’s widely recognised that there’s a mental health crisis among British teenagers – but offering brain stimulation treatment could offer a “revolutionary” alternative therapy. That’s the view of Smart TMS, a UK-based psychiatric treatment provider that wants to begin targeting 16 and 17-year-olds living with depression.

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), which offers a different type of treatment to established antidepressant drugs, is already available in the network of Smart TMS clinics across the UK and Ireland – but only to people aged 18 and over.

Smart TMS CEO Gerard Barnes said: “It has been made extremely clear to us at Smart TMS, both through external reports and our own personal research, that the young people of Britain are contending with widespread mental health problems.

“A shocking proportion of the UK’s youth are exhibiting and reporting clear signs of depression and anxiety, characterised by low self-esteem, an increase in substance abuse and a loss of the ability to carry out simple functions without overthinking, to name a few.

“At Smart TMS, we are committed to providing an alternative method of mental health treatment to the UK.

“We have successfully been treating psychological problems such as depression for several years now, and we are delighted to announce that we will now be able to extend this treatment to teenagers across the UK and Ireland.

“More must be done across the board to help the youth of Britain deal with their mental health concerns and access more treatment options, and it is my hope that Smart TMS are able to play a significant part in the road to achieving health and happiness for young people everywhere.”


What is transcranial magnetic stimulation and how is Smart TMS using it?

Depression is caused by low neural activity in the region of the brain involved in mood control.

Transcranial magnetic stimulation is a non-invasive treatment that uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain, improving depression symptoms.

It involves placing an electromagnetic coil against the patient’s scalp, which then delivers repetitive magnetic pulses into the brain.

By stimulating nerve cells, this raises neural activity back to a normal level, and alleviates feelings of depression.

TMS is typically only used when other depression treatments, such as antidepressant drugs or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) have proved ineffective.

Smart TMS is also using it to treat other mental health problems, including OCD, PTSD and various forms of addiction, in its private clinics.


UK mental health epidemic among young people

Studies by University College London (UCL) and the University of Exeter in the UK have shown the number of children and young people experiencing mental health problems in England has increased by six-times over the past two decades.

Smart TMS also said many people under the age of 18 experience “unacceptably” long waiting times to access mental healthcare.

The clinic said it has found that 37% of 18 to 24 year-olds have experienced mental health problems for several years without diagnosis.

In addition, 27% have chosen to leave a long-term mental health issue untreated to avoid the side effects associated with prescription drugs – which include sickness, loss of appetite and insomnia according to the NHS.

Smart TMS wants to improve relationships with NHS trust to make TMS treatments more widely available in the future.

Barnes added: “While there are various reasons to which this mental health epidemic can be attributed, it is undeniable that the current range of treatment options available to young people is lacking in availability and efficacy.

“One in 10 psychiatrist’s positions are left vacant in the UK, and anti-depressants have been proven to be ineffective for many, not to mention the side effects.

“It is also well known that, if mental health issues are not resolved as soon as possible, there is a high likelihood of the affected individual succumbing to a lifetime of interaction with mental health services.”