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Insight blog: Posts tagged with mental health

Stories about the people, science and research of the Medical Research Council.

Mental health: United we stand, divided we fall

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

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

Behind the picture: Metaphors of the mind

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.

Illustration of representations of the mind

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

Redefining the diagnosis of psychiatric disorders

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

Mindfulness for recurrent depression: its positive potential and the vast unknown

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.

portrait of man outdoors

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

Understanding the causes of perinatal mental illness by working with those who’ve lived through it

24 Jun 2016

Professor Ian Jones is a Consultant Perinatal Psychiatrist and Director at the National Centre for Mental Health. He conducts his research at the MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics. In this week’s blog he tells us about work he is doing to involve more women in research and why.

Professor Ian Jones

More than 1 in 10 women experience an episode of mental illness in pregnancy or following childbirth. Perinatal mental illness can be severe and have significant implications for women, their families and wider society. Suicide is a leading cause of maternal death and a recent report has estimated that the economic costs to society of the women each year who experience maternal mental illness is in excess of £8 billion. This is through the impact of illness on the women, but even more through the impact on the next generation. [...]

Continue reading: Understanding the causes of perinatal mental illness by working with those who’ve lived through it

Dementia: care today, cure tomorrow

3 May 2016

Charity partners Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer’s Research UK will be instrumental in involving people living with dementia in the work of the new £250m MRC-led UK Dementia Research Institute. Here Alzheimer’s Society Ambassador Keith Oliver shares his hopes for how the new institute will make life better for people with dementia, now and tomorrow.

Keith Oliver in his garden

Photo copyright: Alzheimer’s Society

My world changed in 2010 when I was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 55. My early symptoms were falling over, an element of reduced concentration and being unable to follow things as well as I did previously.

I went to the GP thinking I’d got an ear infection and was sent for an MRI scan. When I had an appointment with a neurologist to discuss the scan he said, totally out of the blue, that it looked like the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. After attending a memory clinic for around four months of quite intensive testing and assessments I received a diagnosis. [...]

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A ‘smart’ way to spot schizophrenia signs

31 Oct 2015

The 2015 MRC Max Perutz Science Writing Award was won by MRC PhD student Emily Eisner from the University of Manchester. In her winning article she explains her research investigating how smartphone technology might help identify when people are at risk of a psychotic episode.

Emily shows her certificate alongside the shortlisted entrants

Emily Eisner was presented with the Max Perutz at a ceremony in London

I am lying on my office floor. Swirling vision and shimmering lights have just begun. These are warnings. I know that if I take painkillers and rest I can avoid the intense pain of a migraine headache. The trick is to intervene early.

My research is not about migraines, but the rationale is the same – you’ve got to spot the signs.  [...]

Continue reading: A ‘smart’ way to spot schizophrenia signs

Revealing the ‘icebergs’ of disease

18 Oct 2012

Vittal Katikireddi

Vittal Katikireddi

Research published today by researchers at the MRC Social and Public Health Sciences Unit has found that the mental health of many people in England has worsened since the onset of the recession in 2008. Here Vittal Katikireddi, lead author of the research, tells us why using surveys to study the health of the general population like this can reveal the disease ‘icebergs’ lurking beneath the surface.

Why bother looking at the mental health of the general population? Surely, when trying to assess the impact of an event, such as a recession, on mental health, we should only focus on the number of people who are suffering from severe mental distress or the rates of suicides? I hope to convince you otherwise.

The research we’re publishing today is based on the Health Survey for England, conducted each year between 1991 and 2010. It shows that the mental health in England has declined since the onset of the recession, particularly in men. [...]

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More than the ‘baby blues’

26 Jul 2012

(Credit: Flickr/Ville Misaki)

(Credit: Flickr/Ville Misaki)

At an MRC-sponsored session at the Cheltenham Science Festival in June, women who have experienced postpartum psychosis recounted their experiences. MRC External Communications Officer Stacy-Ann Ashley was there, and reflects on this little-mentioned condition.

I had never heard about postpartum psychosis before, and I’m sure I’m not alone. The condition, in which new mothers experience psychotic symptoms in the days or weeks after having a baby, is not often talked about and women often hide their symptoms.

All the more impressive then that two women who have experienced this form of psychosis were willing to share their experiences on a rainy, windy evening at the Cheltenham Science Festival. [...]

Continue reading: More than the ‘baby blues’