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Identifying questions that need answers in depression

Date: 03 June 2016

Category: Depression

Therapist with client

Earlier this year, we announced the top ten research priorities for depression, as agreed by those affected by the condition.

Compiled and ranked from a survey that reached over 3,000 participants generating nearly 10,000 questions, these provide guidance to researchers on the issues that could make the greatest impact for people living with or affected by depression.

Depression Top 10

  1. What are the most effective ways to prevent occurrence and recurrence of depression?
  2. What are the best early interventions (treatments and therapies) for depression? And how early should they be used in order to result in the best patient outcomes?
  3. What are the best ways to train healthcare professionals to recognise and understand depression?
  4. What is the impact on a child of having a parent with depression and can a parent prevent their child from also developing depression?
  5. What are the best ways to inform people with depression about treatment options and their effectiveness in order to empower them and help them self-manage?
  6. What are the barriers and enablers for people accessing care/treatment when they are depressed, including when feeling suicidal, and how can these be addressed?
  7. Does depression impact employment? How can discrimination and stigma of depression in the workplace be overcome, and how can employers and colleagues be informed about depression?
  8. What are the best ways to help friends and family members to support people with depression?
  9. Are educational programmes on depression effective in schools for reducing stigma?
  10. What is the impact of wait times for services for people with depression?

Depression is one of the most common mental health conditions, affecting one in 10 adults each year in the UK – more than six million people. If left untreated, it can have a serious impact on a person’s health, their work and their family life. Most worryingly, it can lead to suicide – the biggest killer of young men in the UK.

It is not surprising then that understanding “what is the best early treatment for depression?” was number two of our Top Ten Depression Priorities.

This is such a great question, with so much potential to help people affected. Researchers can approach it from many different angles too. For example, they could look early in life at treatments that work well for teenagers and young adults, the time when symptoms most often appear or for older people for whom depression is also common.

It’s not just about the treatment someone receives. Our survey participants told us that it is also important to have the knowledge and skills to be able to manage their condition in their day-to-day life. In physical health, self-management of symptoms is a common thing – and is backed up by evidence of what works, but when it comes to mental health conditions, like depression, our evidence base is lacking.

This issue was number five in our priority list and it’s clear that further research on self-management is needed if we are going to provide the best opportunities for people with depression to lead fuller, healthier, and happier lives.

People with depression are also looking for meaningful support in their day-to-day lives, whether at home, at school or in the office. At least three of the ten questions in our Top Ten list concerned the need for good evidence on how we can best enable help and support from family friends and peers. The environmental and social aspects of depression cannot be overestimated.

Where do we go from here?

The Top Ten list of questions concerning depression is just a first step toward research that addresses what matters to people most. Research funders and researchers need to work on turning these important questions into realistic and fundable research projects. We are calling on researchers from across disciplines to champion this effort and are working with a range of funders to build support for projects that will help address the Top Ten.

The good news is that research funders like NIHR and MQ are already funding research to tackle these questions head on. Our work to uncover new treatments and improve existing ones will be truly transformative in getting people the care they need at the earliest possibility. But we need your help.

There are many ways you can play a role in helping tackle the issue through research, whether through getting involved yourself, sharing your ideas or even your data , or donating to fund the next new advances.

Depression affects us all - we all can be a part of the solution.

MQ is proud to be the sponsor of the Depression: Asking the Right Questions project in partnership with over 30 organisations and charities. It was independently overseen by the James Lind Alliance , a non-profit making initiative, hosted by the National Institute for Health Research . Visit http://www.joinmq.org andhttp://www.depressionarq.org to learn more about the project and to work with us in tracking research progress.

  • Summary:

    Where should research into depression go next? A survey has identified the top ten priorities.

About the author

Cynthia Joyce

CEO of MQ

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