NICE has published draft guidance in which it says GPs can consider referring children and young people for this form of treatment.
Digital CBT is delivered on mobile phones, tablets or computers, meaning users can access help quickly, avoiding waiting lists. Group CBT, group interpersonal psychotherapy and group mindfulness are also recommended as first-line treatments.
The draft recommendation has been made in a fast-tracked update to NICE’s existing guideline on depression in children and young people aged five to 18.
The new guidance says the choice of treatment should be based on clinical need and patient and carer preferences and clinicians should also consider the young person’s history, circumstances and maturity.
GPs could also consider referring young people with continuing mild depression but no significant comorbid problems or suicidal thoughts to group therapy (CBT or interpersonal psychotherapy), or mindfulness.
If there was little response to the psychological treatment after two to three months in the young people affected, then GPs could consider referring them for review by a CAMHS (child and adolescent mental health services) team.
Paul Chrisp, director of the Centre for Guidelines at NICE, said: “In this update to our depression in children guideline, we reviewed evidence for the most effective psychological interventions for children and young people with depression. The guideline update emphasises the importance of a child or young person’s personal choice when receiving treatment for depression.
“We want to ensure children are offered a range of therapies to suit their needs and individual preferences are placed at the heart of their care. The evidence showed digital CBT and group therapy were most effective at reducing depressive symptoms and we have recommend these as first-line options for children and young people with mild depression.”
Claire Murdoch, NHS England’s national mental health director said: "Given how quickly technology is constantly evolving and the fact that young people are usually at the forefront of this change, updating this draft guidance is another step forward.
“Digital and online interventions can play an effective and important role in treatment, particularly when backed up by face to face support, and the NHS Long-Term Plan makes clear that the health service will continue to look to harness the benefits these advancements can bring.”
The guideline is out for consultation until 20 February.