The NHS trust which provides mental health services in Andover and across Hampshire has launched a new treatment it hopes will “transform how people with severe depression are treated.”

Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust have launched The Neuromodulation Centre, which offers treatments including Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Therapy (rTMS), where magnetic fields are targeted towards certain areas of the brain.

The trust hopes that it will help those with severe depression which is resistant to other means of treatment, with one patient saying that they had “nothing but praise for the whole unit,” adding: “I am so pleased I was referred by my consultant psychiatrist.”

The use of electromagnetism for use to treat psychological disorders has a controversial history, with “gross overuse” of electroconvulsive therapy, where seizures are induced to treat depression, in the 20th century leading to a backlash against the treatment.

Subsequently, the understanding of the use of electricity and magnetic fields to treat psychiatric disorders has developed, with electroconvulsive therapy now considered “a highly effective treatment for depression,” according to a 2010 paper in the British Medical Journal.

One emerging treatment is rTMS, where a magnetic field is used to induce an electric current in a specific area of the brain, without any need for invasive probes. It has been used for a variety of purposes, including diagnosis and treatment.

Southern Health says that the treatment induces “the brain’s ability to mend and build connections between the nerve cells” and is given as an outpatient treatment with immediate recovery. rTMS was due to be offered later this year, but has been introduced early to help treat those suffering from severe mental health issues during lockdown. 20 patients have so far been treated.

One patient said: “When the time comes and I’m really struggling, I’ll at least know there is something that works for me.”

Karen Osola, Service Lead for Southern Health commented “This new service is allowing us to be leaders in this field. We are one of a handful of trusts nationwide which are delivering this treatment within the NHS, the first in the South. We hope this will transform how people with severe depression are treated in the future.”