The last couple of weeks have seen a flurry of activity in two pieces of work that connect us to the world of mental health, working as partners on James Lind Alliance (JLA) projects to identify the research that matters to patients, carers and clinicians.
In bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, in which mood swings dramatically from high to low, we are working with colleagues at the Department of Psychiatry, the Oxford Cognitive Health and Neuroscience Clinical Trials Unit, and Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.
The project is in its early stages, with the steering group and its all important patient and carer members currently being gathered. The first full meeting is set for July.
I am also on the steering group of the depression priority setting partnership (PSP), which launched its survey on May 14th (www.depressionarq.org). In a bold move, this group has moved away from the traditional “JLA PSP” title, calling the partnership “Depression: asking the right questions.” Sitting on the steering groups for both these PSPs should mean we can make links between two areas of mental illness and get the best outcomes in terms of research priorities.
The last mental health JLA PSP, in schizophrenia, led to an article in Nature setting out how it achieved a new set of priorities for research, and, a year later, a letter in Nature which reported “We are pleased to report evidence of a sea-change in how medical research is supported in the United Kingdom”.
It went on to set out that NIHR was funding research into four of the top 10 questions identified by the JLA method. This “proof of the pudding” of JLA activity is hugely rewarding, and we will be working in Oxford to help ensure it happens more often.
It gives meaning to the whole process because it leads to better research for better patient care.
It’s been twenty years since I first worked in mental health, and I do despair that we still don’t think about it quite as we do physical illness. Haven’t quite, as a society, got our heads round the fact that it’s nobody’s fault. That it just is. For one in four of us in any one year.
How good to be helping move the research agenda towards what matters to those affected.
Stop press: Ruby Wax, the comical, hugely successful TV personality and passionate advocate for ending the stigma of mental illness in conversation with the acclaimed British neurobiologist, Colin Blakemore in Oxford on June 4th.