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Global Ministerial Mental Health Summit 2018: The case for research

The first Global Ministerial Mental Health Summit is taking place this week - where political figures, experts and policy-makers from all over the world will come together with one common goal: better mental health for all.

Around 450 million people across the world are currently living with a diagnosed mental health condition – and the Summit will explore the critical role of research in taking mental health care to the next level. These two MQ-funded projects are being showcased as examples of innovative global research – work that can inspire worldwide changes in how we diagnose and treat mental illness.

1. Treating depression in rural communities

In Uganda, 350 million people are living with depression - and 7 out of 10 of those people are also living in poverty. But finding effective treatment for depression in rural northern Uganda is anything but easy. In fact, the vast majority of people with depression do not have access to services.

Dr Ethel Nakimuli-Mpungu, a psychiatrist based at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, is exploring an innovative way of getting vital help to these people. She’s training up health workers - who already visit rural communities to care for people with HIV and AIDS - to also identify the symptoms of depression and run psychotherapy sessions. These sessions are culturally sensitive and delivered to groups, giving people access to a support network for the first time. The programme is being continually reviewed and refined, to ensure the treatment is as effective as possible.

As Uganda continues to rebuild following years of conflict, this project is helping thousands of people living with depression to access treatment that would otherwise be unavailable. It could also lay the foundations for similarly innovative work in hard-to-reach communities elsewhere in Africa and across the world.

Watch Ethel talk more about the project here:

2. Identifying Depression Early in Adolescence (IDEA) 

Depression is a global health problem, affecting one in five people around the world at some point in their lives. For the majority of people, it starts early in life - however, we still can’t predict which young people are most at risk of depression. This is holding back efforts to intervene at an early stage.

A global team of scientists led by Dr Valeria Mondelli from Kings College London aims to change this with a ground-breaking project. They are analysing data about social and family environment, stressful experiences, brain images, and biology from a diverse set of studies of 10-24 year olds from the UK, Brazil, Nigeria, and Nepal. By identifying risk factors of depression – some of which are specific to certain groups of young people, and others that are universal - their unique work could lead to a screening tool for depression, tailored for young people across the world.

Understanding the factors putting young people at risk of depression is crucial if we are to intervene early and get children the support they need. And for culturally diverse countries like the United Kingdom, it’s a particularly important consideration to improve mental healthcare. 

The importance of research, discovery and innovation to tackle the challenge of mental health cannot be overstated. At MQ we aim to support the best and brightest minds - because if we want to solve the big questions, we can’t settle for less.

Last updated: 9 October 2018

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