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Scientific research could transform how we diagnose and treat mental illness

Joanne Hackett, Chief Commercial Officer of Genomics England, shares why she's investing in mental health research.

Could brain scans and blood tests one day help us understand the underlying causes of mental health? Would that greater understanding help us recognise the onset of mental illness much earlier? Could it lead to the delivery of personalised treatments? Could it even mean stopping mental illness before it gets started?

These are some of the questions I’ve been asking, and so have MQ.

There remains a lot of ignorance about mental illness in our society. From the devastating idea that a person concerned about their mental health is just seeking attention, to the lack of understanding given to staff in many workplaces, we are simply not educated enough on how to support those affected by mental illness.

I’ve seen this through the experience of a loved one and witness it playing out day to day in the workplace. I know how it can lead to the breakdown of families, difficulties experienced at work spilling in to the home and vice-versa. But everyone should have the opportunity to experience joy, love and beauty and we need to build a supportive society that enables them to do this. 

People who are struggling with mental health conditions themselves, or who are caring for others with mental illness, need our support and we need to get better at providing it. Mental health problems are on the increase, and if we don’t change our approach in the workplace, more people are going to suffer.

But part of that ignorance comes from a lack of medical research into mental illness. I want to change that. I want to see research that reveals what’s happening in the brain so we can diagnose earlier, and develop more effective treatments. 

That’s why I’m investing in mental health research.

You can invest in mental health research too.

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