As Mental Health Awareness week comes to a close across the UK, Cardiff University’s National Centre for Mental Health (NCMH) has reiterated its call for volunteers to help with research.
The NCMH’s Wales Mental Health Network is working to recruit thousands of volunteers to help advance scientific understanding of a range of mental health conditions.
So far over 1200 volunteers of all ages from across Wales have come forward to join the network. NCMH Director Professor Nick Craddock hopes that with mental health in the public eye this week, more people will think about joining the network.
“The public’s understanding of mental health issues is much more developed than it once was, and that is partially down to initiatives such as Mental Health Awareness Week. Hopefully this year’s event will bring mental health and wellbeing to the forefront in people’s minds and encourage them to get involved in a range of mental health related causes, including our own” said Professor Craddock.
Anyone who has been diagnosed with Autism, bipolar disorder, depression, schizophrenia, post traumatic stress disorder, Alzheimer’s disease or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can join the network and help with their research.
Taking part involves a brief 20-30 minute meeting with a researcher in the volunteer’s own home or at a local clinic to answer some questions and provide a small blood sample. People interested in taking part can contact the centre at email@example.com or on 029 2074 4392 to find out more. You can also use our contact form to register and interest.
The information collected by the centre’s researchers will then be used to inform a range of studies with the aim of improving diagnosis, treatment and support for people affected by mental illness.
The Mental Health Awareness Week initiative is run by the Mental Health Foundation, a nationwide charity which works to reduce the suffering caused by mental ill health and to help people in the UK to lead mentally healthier lives.
This year’s event focuses on how physical activity and exercise can help improve and maintain mental health, and the charity is co-ordinating events across the UK from organised cycle rides to five-a-side football tournaments and Zumba classes.
The 2013 event is the 14th annual Mental Health Awareness Week event. Previous years’ events have looked at the impact of factors such as loneliness, friendship, fear and alcohol on mental health issues.
Mental Health Awareness Week 2013 runs from 13th – 19th May. Find out about events near you at the Mental Health Foundation website: www.mentalhealth.org.uk
Last week we recruited our 1000′th member into the Wales Mental Health Network. This is a great step forwards for the future of mental health research and we aim to keep up this good work. 1000 people do not recruit themselves to a project like this and this mile-tone could not have been reached with out the hard work of our field team.
As we’ve had a few new members join the team recently this seems like a great time to introduce them in their newest incarnation – here they are.
Researchers from the National Centre for Mental Health are part of the team that have made an important break through in mental health research. In a paper published in The Lancet, researchers have identified some of the same genetic factors that may be involved in five different disorders; autism spectrum disorder, attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder and schizophrenia. Of particular interest is the finding that genes related to calcium channels may be involved in the development of these disorders.
Prof. Nick Craddock talking on the BBC Today program explains why this is important;
“[this] signals the opening of a potential new era for psychiatry and for mental illness because this …furthering the understanding of biology is going to help put psychiatry on the same footing as things like cardiology and cancer where we have a much better understanding of the biological underpinnings of illness.’
He went on to say;
“This is a scientific method that helps understand what is going on in the brain, the chemicals, the brain systems that are important in illness, and there will be a lot of additional research needed to take that through to impacting on what we do in the clinic in diagnosing and treating people. But this is very much the start of a pathway that’s going to take perhaps ten or twenty years, maybe more, to really transform, to revolutionise the way psychiatry’s practiced, and ultimately the experience for patients.”
You can listen to the whole interview here;
Time to Change Wales, the first national campaign to end stigma and discrimination faced by people with mental health problems, has posted a series of blogs in which people talk about their experiences of having a mental health condition.
The fact that it’s sometimes difficult to talk about mental health problems can be one of the hardest parts of having a mental illness. To support people to talk about their mental health, people are posting blogs about their experiences of having a mental health problem on the Time to Change Wales website.
Here’s an excerpt from a blog by Llyr Huws Gruffyd AM, one of four Assembly Members, who has contributed:
Just talking about my illness helped lift some of the weight off my shoulders. But that talking was carefully restricted to the community mental health team and my wife. Even today most of my friends and family have no idea that I had been ill. Many will probably find out by reading this article. Most of all, my parents didn’t know either. It is this very article that has finally given me the courage to tell them about my illness. I don’t want them to be shocked, I don’t want them to be sad, and I certainly don’t want them to feel guilty in any way – I was ill, but now I’m better.
I want everyone to know that I am better because that will tell others with mental illness that they too can get better. I don’t want people to suffer in silence because they think it’s somehow unacceptable to be mentally ill. You’re not alone. One in four is a lot of people. It could be five or six players in your local rugby squad, 160 of the MP’s in Westminster or 15 out of our 60 Assembly Members in Cardiff Bay.
To read the blogs visit www.timetochangewales.org.uk/blog.
Mental Health Research Network Cymru (MHRNC) is holding its annual scientific conference at the Ramada Plaza Hotel in Wrexham on 7 March 2013. The theme for this year’s conference is ‘Mental Health and Well-Being in Times of Trouble’.
As part of the conference MHRNC are holding a peer reviewed poster competition aimed at mental health research based in Wales and you can submit your poster in either of two categories – ‘New Research Ideas’ or ‘Research Findings’.
MHRNC are also inviting people to submit their artwork on the theme of ‘Hope’. The top 12 pieces will be displayed at the conference, and judged, with the top three receiving prizes.
For more information about the conference, poster and art competitions and how to register visit www.mhrnc.org/conference.htm.
NCMH Director, Professor Nick Craddock met with David Sissling, Chief Executive of NHS Wales, to talk about National Centre for Mental Health (NCMH), its research and how it can best work with the NHS in Wales.
The NCMH is aiming to recruit 6000 people in Wales, who have experienced a mental health problem, to take part in research by joining the Wales Mental Health Network (WMHN). To help do this NCMH is working with NHS services and professionals throughout Wales, and asking them to talk to their patients about opportunities for being involved in its mental health research.
Professor Nick Craddock says: “To have David’s support is fantastic as the relationship between NHS services and research is vital. Patients who are willing and able to give their time to take part in mental health research are invaluable, as it’s only with their contribution and help that we can better understand the causes and triggers of mental illness. In turn the new knowledge we gain from research can help improve the diagnosis, treatment and support provided by mental health services in the future.
So far over 800 people have joined the WMHN, but we need more people to help us. NHS services and professionals play a key role in achieving this.”
The NCMH wants to work with partners throughout Wales to encourage and support people to take part in its research. If you’re a patient, carer, health professional or member of a related voluntary organisation, and have ideas about how we can reach more people who would be interested in participating in research, or if you would like to volunteer to take part, please contact us on 029 2074 4392 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Researchers at Cardiff University have helped discover a rare genetic mutation which increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
The research team has been working on an international study into Alzheimer’s disease with researchers from across the world, led by UCL’s Institute of Neurology. They have discovered that an error on a gene in the immune system called TREM2 can increase a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. While this mutation is extremely rare, affecting just 0.3% of the population, it increases the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease by roughly three-fold – more than any of the genes that have been linked to the disease in the last 20 years.
This discovery provides valuable new information about the potential causes of Alzheimer’s disease and could help to develop new treatments for the condition in the future. Funders for the study included Alzheimer’s Research UK, the Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust.
Professor Julie Williams from Cardiff University, and member of the research team says: “It’s another step forward. This research builds on earlier findings which implicates the immune system as playing a role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. What’s especially exciting, is now we know what the error is in this specific gene, it provides us with an obvious target for future therapies and preventions.”
Mind Cymru is celebrating the success of the Mental Health First Aid (Wales) course, as the number of people trained reached 10,000 in November 2012.
This means that 10,000 people are able to provide initial help to anyone experiencing a mental health problem at home, at work or out and about in the community in everyday life, making a real difference to the people of Wales.
People often feel unsure what to do when they think that someone might have a mental health problem and worry about saying something wrong. Mental Health First Aid (Wales) trains people in how to spot the signs that someone may be experiencing a mental health problem and how to provide initial help and support.
The course focuses on practical skills, developing people’s confidence to ask someone about their mental health and what to do next. Research carried out last year by the University of Glamorgan found that 96% of people felt confident or better prepared to help a person experiencing a mental health problem after the course.
The Mental Health First Aid (Wales) scheme is supported by Welsh Government who are keen to see many more people trained across Wales. The course supports a number of priority areas for the Welsh Government, including improving health at work.
Mental Health First Aid (Wales) Project Manager, Claire Foster, said: “We’re delighted that Wales now has 10,000 Mental Health First Aiders able to provide initial help and support to anyone they think might be experiencing a mental health problem.
“Mental health problems, especially stress, anxiety and depression, are incredibly common. We know that one in four people will experience a mental health problem in any one year. The good news is that people can and do recover from mental health problems but the earlier people get help the better. Mental Health First Aid can be a vital part of this. It’s a course that anyone can do and it focuses on the practical skills and information that people need.
“Our Mental Health First Aiders come from all sections of the community – from voluntary groups to those working with young people, from faith groups to the police and GP receptionists. Businesses like Airbus and Tata Steel have also trained employees and are already seeing the benefits.
“We’d like to thank every one of the 10,000 people who have trained so far and also to congratulate our Mental Health First Aid instructors who are doing such a great job. We hope they go on to train another 10,000 people in the coming years!”
For more information on Mental Health First Aid (Wales) and to find out about courses available in your area, visit www.mhfa-wales.org.uk.
Professor Nick Craddock, Director of the NCMH, has spoken of his support: “This a very welcome initiative. It is important that those in severe mental distress get the same recognition and help from others as is usual for those in severe physical distress.”
In October Ed Miliband, Leader of the Labour Party (UK), described mental illness as the biggest “unaddressed challenge of our age” and spoke of the need to overcome prejudice and unspoken discrimination.
In his speech, given at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, he spoke about the need for change:
“A change of culture has happened with illnesses that have previously been taboo: from cancer to Aids”.
“But it hasn’t yet happened as much as it needs to with mental health.”
He also spoke of the need for “a commitment to parity of esteem between mental and physical health”.
To read more about the speech visit: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-20117661.
Professor Nick Craddock, Director of the NCMH says: “This is an important speech. It is excellent to see politicians addressing the fundamental importance of mental health.”
Professors Mike Owen and Mick O’Donovan from the MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics and National Centre for Mental Health (NCMH) have been awarded the Lieber Prize in New York, in recognition of their ‘outstanding’ work into the causes, prevention, and treatment of schizophrenia.
Their research has helped identify the first robustly supported susceptibility genes for schizophrenia and identified likely disease mechanisms.
Professor Owen said: “It’s a great honour for us to receive The Lieber Prize. The success of our research has only been possible because of an outstanding team of colleagues and the many researchers who have worked with us on a day-to-day basis for more than 20 years to tackle this dreadful disease.
“The development of new therapies for severe disorders such as schizophrenia continues to be hampered by our lack of understanding of disease mechanisms.
“Given recent advances in genomics and neuroscience, there has never been a better time to tackle these conditions. This prize will help us and our teams at Cardiff University to continue to gain new understanding and work to relieve the burden of mental illness to society.”
Professor O’Donovan added: “Central to the progress our own laboratories have made in uncovering some of the first clear causal factors in this disorder, has been the willingness of researchers across the globe to share data with us to help us test promising leads emerging from our work in enormous studies, for which we are both grateful.
“This sort of collaborative spirit has transformed our own work and along with recent technology developments, is finally unlocking the promise of genetics as a tool for casting light on the biological origins of schizophrenia as well as other psychiatric diseases”.
To read the full story click on: http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/news/articles/outstanding-research-rewarded-9624.html.
The NCMH is researching a range of mental health conditions, including schizophrenia. If you are interested in volunteering to take part in research, please click on Take Part to find out more.