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Calls to mental health helplines and prescriptions for antidepressants in England have reached an all-time high, while access to potentially life-saving talking therapies has plunged during the coronavirus pandemic, a Guardian investigation has found.

More than 6 million people received antidepressants in the three months to September, equivalent to more than one in 10 people and the highest figure on record.

This is thought to have been a result of counselling services going online, which some doctors may have deemed inappropriate for certain patients, while some patients were reluctant to seek face-to-face help or add extra pressure to health services.

Concerns have been raised that vital early intervention treatment will not have been given, with experts saying the longer people wait for appropriate help the “more severe and complex their difficulties and their lives can become”.