Stories about the people, science and research of the Medical Research Council.
28 Nov 2018
Fraser Shearer, MRC PhD student at the Centre for Cardiovascular Science, The University of Edinburgh was commended in this year’s Max Perutz Science Writing Award. He describes how understanding the impact of stress hormones during pregnancy on a child’s lifelong mental health, could help us treat poor mental health more effectively in future.
In just a few weeks my first child is due. I have unbuilt furniture sitting in a wholly unprepared ‘nursery’ which is also my partner’s office, a pram that I am still unsure about, sleep sacks that are apparently a thing babies use and, for someone who does not have breasts, I have a wealth of knowledge about breast pumps. This, however, pales in comparison to the list of things I do not have and the window for fulfilling that list is rapidly shrinking. Suffice it to say, my stress hormone levels are elevated. [...]
Continue reading: Keep calm and carry to term
8 Oct 2018
We’ve recently funded Professor Sir Graham Thornicroft, a leading expert in research on mental health discrimination and stigma, to carry out a global study. On the day of the world’s first Global Ministerial Mental Health Summit, he sets out what stigma looks like across the globe and how his study will make a difference.
Around one in four people will experience mental ill health at some point in their lives, and this year alone around 450 million people worldwide have a mental health condition. Our research shows that in many countries 80 to 90% of them experience negative stigma and discrimination. [...]
It’s so important we carry out research on how to improve this situation globally. Over the last decade, in over a dozen countries including the UK, there have been national anti-stigma programmes and the evidence shows that these can be effective. But so far, all of these programmes have been in high-income countries.
Continue reading: Standing up to global mental health stigma
13 Sep 2018
Starting university should be a time for having fun and making new friends. So why are we seeing record referral rates to student counselling services and reports of student suicides in the news? And what can universities do to help? Dr Nicola Byrom, Lecturer in Psychology at King’s College London, is using UK Research and Innovation ‘Network Plus’ funding to find out.
Type ‘Student mental health’ into a search of UK news and you’ll be hit by headlines referring to: ‘The ticking time-bomb’, ‘Students being let down’, warnings that ‘problems are rising’. If you read these stories in isolation, you’d be forgiven for thinking that we’re in the depths of a crisis in student mental health.
In reality the picture is much more complex. In June this year, the Office of National Statistics reported that the suicide rate among the general population is actually higher than the comparable age group of university students. [...]
Continue reading: Is there a crisis in student mental health?
6 Sep 2018
Psychiatrist and Population Scientist Professor Simon Gilbody of the University of York, has just been awarded £1 million to build his new “Closing the gap network”. With 20 years’ experience in healthcare, Simon has seen how lives can be transformed if the same emphasis is placed on both physical and mental health. Starting this year, the special network of experts from the sciences to the arts will try to understand and tackle the root causes of why the health and life expectancy of people with severe mental ill health is so poor.
Image credit: University of York
What is the ‘mortality gap’ and what are we doing to tackle it?
People who use mental health services experience the poorest physical health and most profound health inequalities of any section of the UK population.
Diabetes, heart disease and chronic respiratory illness, are two to three times more common in this group of people than for people with good mental health. Life expectancy is reduced by 20 to 25 years, and a person developing schizophrenia in their 20s can only expect, on average, to live into their 50s. [...]
Continue reading: How do we help people living with mental health conditions live longer, healthier lives?
14 Aug 2017
University of Manchester Clinical Psychologist and Senior Lecturer Dr Sandra Bucci tells us about a Smartphone app her team are developing for the self-management of psychosis, and how it could particularly help younger ‘digital natives’.
Image credit: University of Manchester
Severe mental health problems such as schizophrenia affect 24 million people worldwide, with an estimated annual cost to society of nearly £12bn in England alone. People with psychosis tend to misinterpret or confuse what is going on around them. For example, they may experience hallucinations (in which they see or hear things that are not real), delusions (unusual beliefs not usually held by others) or confused thinking.
Connecting the disconnected
Feelings of isolation are common for people experiencing psychosis. Psychotic experiences usually begin to appear in adolescence and young adulthood – a critical time in life when we find our identity, complete our education and start out on our careers. Feeling disconnected from others during that time can have really serious knock-on effects, not only on the trajectory of the rest of your life but for your family, and for society more broadly. [...]
Continue reading: Connecting with help
10 Apr 2017
One of the ways the MRC supports scientists in delivering world-leading research is by holding workshops where researchers can meet with our programme teams to discuss the MRC’s aims and ambitions for their area of work. As we prepare to publish our updated Strategy for Lifelong Mental Health Research, Dr Kathryn Adcock, the MRC’s Head of Neurosciences and Mental Health looks forward to the global mental health workshop coming in June.
As with so much in life, the best ideas often emerge when we come together. It’s the meeting of minds that enables those ideas to grow, and dialogue and debate that nurtures those ideas, shaping the world of tomorrow.
This is especially true for research. The MRC fervently believes that the best research often comes about when researchers collaborate, irrespective of science area and increasingly, irrespective of geographical boundary.
Social media provides a terrific virtual way to bring scientists together, whether it’s announcing new programmes and research calls on twitter, or commenting at the foot of blog posts like this one. But as helpful as the virtual world can be, there’s nothing like face-to-face interaction. [...]
Continue reading: Mental health research: working it out together
13 Mar 2017
Developing better approaches to treating and preventing mental illness is one of the greatest challenges we face. But by sharing ideas and working together we can make progress, says Professor Sir Michael Owen, Director of the MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics at Cardiff University.
Prof Mike Owen
Mental health is never far from the headlines these days, and this is as it should be. One in four of us will suffer from some form of mental ill health in any given year. Mental illness affects people across the lifespan from children to the elderly, and the burden imposed on individuals and society is immense.
It is widely acknowledged that we need more investment in care provision, and research into the causes and prevention of mental ill health and into the development of new treatment approaches.
We need new thinking about care and treatment, causes and prevention. We also need to hear from a wide constituency, including those with direct or indirect personal experience of mental illness (virtually all of us), healthcare professionals and academics. [...]
Continue reading: Mental health: United we stand, divided we fall
3 Mar 2017
Frustrated by the lack of images to illustrate the mind, Dr Rhys Bevan-Jones, Clinical Research Fellow at the MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics, decided to create his own. Here he describes the story behind this picture, where the worlds of psychiatry and art collide.
Copyright: Rhys Bevan-Jones
One of my friends once told me that he saw the mind as a senate. He described it as a place where the issues of the day are discussed by lots of little people and organised by the main debater in the middle. So that’s what I drew (see middle-right of the picture).
This gave me the idea of asking more people how they saw their mind, or different aspects of the mind. I received a variety of responses. My hairdresser, for example, sees the mind as a series of little post boxes (middle-bottom). There’s a little person who receives the messages – visual and auditory – inside the head. They post and categorise each of the messages into different post boxes, based on the emotional content. [...]
Continue reading: Behind the picture: Metaphors of the mind
11 Oct 2016
For world mental health day, Professor Sir Michael Owen, Director of the MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics, describes how genetics is changing the way we study psychiatric disorders – and our approach to biomedical research as a whole.
Image copyright: Mike Owen
We’re learning more and more about the genetics and biology behind psychiatric disorders, and one of the things this is telling us is that we need better diagnostic approaches.
In psychiatry we use diagnostic categories such as ‘schizophrenia’, based on clinical knowledge, to define sets of signs and symptoms in the clinic. This gives us an idea of what course the condition will take and its outcome. But these categories need to be more precise so the advances in understanding can be translated into better treatments. [...]
Continue reading: Redefining the diagnosis of psychiatric disorders
17 Aug 2016
Dr Bergljot Gjelsvik, Dr Laura Taylor and Daniel Brett, from the Oxford Mindfulness Centre at the University of Oxford, explain what we’ve learnt so far from research into mindfulness for recurrent depression and what we still need to find out.
Mindfulness practice is everywhere. Not only is it recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines as an intervention for people with recurrent depression, you may have kids who’ve done it at school, your workplace might be offering mindfulness sessions during your lunch break, or perhaps you have picked up one of the many books on the subject promising to teach you the skills. However, despite the buzz, there’s a lot more we need to find out. To do that, we need thorough scientific research. [...]
Continue reading: Mindfulness for recurrent depression: its positive potential and the vast unknown