THE number of people with depression or anxiety referred for therapy more than halved during lockdown in Southampton, new figures reveal.

Mental health charities say they are concerned people may not be seeking help, despite suffering stress and anxiety during the coronavirus crisis.

Last April, NHS statistics show that 675 people were referred to psychological therapies for depression and anxiety in the NHS Southampton Clinical Commissioning Group.

But the latest figures show that this April, the number fell to just 315 – a drop of 53%.

There was also a drop in the number of patients who began therapy during the month – 375 compared to 520, a fall of 28%.

Across England, referrals fell from 133,191 to 57,814.

The number of patients starting treatment fell from 95,070 to 62,375, a decrease of 34%.

Danielle Hamm, associate director for campaigns and policy at charity Rethink Mental Illness said the figures reflected the “significant disruption” to mental health services during the initial pandemic response.

Research carried out by the charity in April found 79% of people with pre-existing mental illnesses said their mental health had deteriorated because of the pandemic.

While 42% said this was the case because they were getting less support.

Ms Hamm said: “We’re very concerned to see the number of referrals dropping so rapidly at a time when a significant number of people reported a deterioration in their mental health, combined with an increase in waiting times for those who have sought help.”

The NHS’s official measure of waiting times looks at the waits those who finished treatment during the month they were first referred.

But for patients across England who were waiting for treatment at the end of the month, 18% were on the waiting list for more than 18 weeks.

Dr David Crepaz-Keay, from the Mental Health Foundation charity, said the figures were “troubling”, but that the Government can still help.

He said: “This includes action to increase people’s financial and physical security, so they don’t have to fear running out of food or fuel or being evicted, as well as wider changes such as more health visitors to support new parents, and mental health support for people who work in the NHS.”

An NHS spokesman said the pandemic had turned lives upside down, but that therapy has always been available.

He added: “Local services continue to adapt to maximise the mental health support available, including online and telephone support, and anybody who thinks they would benefit from psychological treatment can refer themselves directly."