5 April

Our MQ webinar tells City participants why mental health research is so vital

We were thrilled to host our first Lunch & Learn webinar at the end of March, which introduced our new charity partner MQ Mental Health Research, the UK’s leading mental health research charity. The one-hour session was hosted by MQ Mental Health Research CEO, Lea Milligan who shared insights into MQ’s approach to research which focuses on four key pillars: growing talent, investing in impact, challenging inequality and engaging people. Generating impact for the 1 in 4 that will be affected by a mental illness at some point in their lives, he spoke about how research might seem intangible but drives breakthroughs in treatments and influences policy for impactful change.

1 in 4 that will be affected by a mental illness at some point in their lives

Lea finished his introduction by sharing some tangible examples including a study which helped to treat PTSD in frontline healthcare workers. With a 90% recovery rate, this six-week course of treatment including talking therapy was developed using research funded by MQ and ‘highlights how a small investment in a focused discipline can make a huge difference’. He also talked the audience through a policy change around fortifying bread with folic acid after they were able to link an increase in consumption of folic acid during pregnancy with changes in children’s brain development for the first time; and how a MQ funded study helped to develop a tool to highlight children most at risk of mental illness and clinical depression in the future.

A small investment in a focused discipline can make a huge difference

Lea then welcomed Dr Ruchika Gajwani, Clinical Psychologist and an MQ Mental Health Research Fellow to speak about her current project working on a new intervention for young people living with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and wider mental illness issues. She touched on clinical trials and how we engage people outside of a clinical setting, warped perceptions of illnesses like BPD, why prevention is so much better than cure when it comes to mental illnesses and how stigma can cause sufferers to get stuck in the system without treatment. 

Lea asked Dr Ruchika a few questions to help us understand why 450 million people are living with mental illness worldwide:

Are we just not resilient enough? What needs to change? 

 “Having a more joined up approach with mental illness has a lot of work to do – we have to create a dialogue and there has to be greater focus. In the UN Sustainable Development Goals, mental health isn’t even a feature, it’s an adjunct with wellbeing and that really is depressing. If you are someone in a low-income family, all you are thinking about is food, family and survival. Mental health is not even a concept for many people around the world and to see a phycologist is expensive. We need to engage those affected by mental illnesses in other ways. Like the third sector, we need to bring it into communities and look at early intervention (aged 0-5). We need a different pronged approach and we need funding. There is wellbeing within all of us and that deserves attention but mental illness needs the more of a focus.

There is wellbeing within all of us and that deserves attention but mental illness needs the more of a focus

How can research like yours make a difference? 

“Research works on mechanisms to really understand what is happening with mental illness cause and prevention. We carry out complex clinical trials – with multi agency teams – before we do the scientific trials, and we have conversations first to get people at the heart of this work. We bring in academic social workers, psychiatrists and people with lived experience to develop a shared language. Context is so important to shaping our clinical research and intervention and treatment can hopefully happen alongside trials – for example I’ve been talking to a third sector colleague counsellors who have seen a high rise in self harm in young people. We don’t have to wait, we have to support each system so that we can prevent and intervene as we go along.”

Context is so important to shaping our clinical research

To end the lunch and learn session, Lea shared information on how people can support MQ Mental Health Research by participating in research trials. MQ’s participate platform links volunteers with researchers who need participants for their studies. These include a range of time commitments starting from as little as 30 minutes, and are both in-person and online. Current subjects include ‘can apps improve wellbeing and mental health in the workplace?’, ‘the impact of diet on brain and behavior’ and ‘researching attribution in depression’.

We ended the one-hour webinar on a final question for Lea… 

How does MQ determine which areas to focus on when mental health and mental illness is so broad?

The breadth is huge and this is not just London or the UK, its worldwide. Depression is on track to be the leading cause of disease, so at MQ we have a global focus on how we try to solve some of these problems. We have a Science Counsel of 21 globally distributed members who are leaders and experts in their fields and help to determine our focus. Currently we are looking at the pandemic and its global affect plus the causes suicide and underlying health conditions which cause those with mental health illness to have a decreased mortality rate of 15 years. In the UK, our partnership with The Lord Mayor’s Appeal will enable new research to investigate the impact of the cost of living crisis on the nation’s mental health. It will also help to develop new recommendations on how we can support the most vulnerable in society. Following from our research priorities that highlight suicide prevention and mental health inequalities, we plan to use evidence to ensure that poor mental health resulting from the cost of living crisis receives a supportive response from the UK and the City. 

Find out more about MQ Mental Health Research here

Watch the one-hour Lunch & Learn Webinar here

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