The number of prescriptions for anti-depressants has hit an all-time high, a mental health charity has revealed.

More than 31 million prescriptions for anti-depressants were written [in Britain] last year - a rise of 6 per cent on the year before, according to Mind.

It comes as the charity released research showing that country walks can help reduce depression and raise self-esteem, leading to calls for "ecotherapy" to become a recognised treatment for people with mental health illnesses.

Comment: Of course facing objective reality in a way that fosters a solution to the problems the world faces is undoubtedly the ideal treatment.

The study by the University of Essex compared the benefits of a 30-minute walk in a country park with a walk in an indoor shopping centre on a group of 20 members of local Mind associations.

After the country walk, 71 per cent reported decreased levels of depression while 90 per cent reported increased self-esteem. This contrasted with only 45 per cent who experienced a decrease in depression after the shopping centre walk, and 22 per cent even said they actually felt more depressed.

In a separate study a massive 94 per cent said green activities had benefited their mental health and lifted depression while 90 per cent said the combination of nature and exercise had the greatest effect.

Mind describes ecotherapy as "getting outdoors and getting active in a green environment as a way of boosting mental well-being". Its chief executive Paul Farmer believes it will play an important part in the future of mental health treatments.

He said: "It is a credible, clinically-valid treatment option and needs to be prescribed by GPs, especially when for many people access to treatments other than anti-depressants is extremely limited."