Institute of Genetics and Cancer

NIMR Mental Health Research Framework published

Professor David Porteous talks about the newly published NIMR Mental Health Research Framework and what it means for research and public health: December 2017

NIMR Mental Health Research Framework news 2017

On Thursday 7th December, the Department of Health published their 10 year framework for mental health research ( Working Group member Prof David Porteous, CGEM comments on the importance of this publication.

Q: What is all about?

A: One in four of us will be affected by a mental health problem each year. For some it will be a single episode which will resolve itself, but for many it will be recurrent, severe and poorly treated. This report provides a collective view about what needs to be done to help the NHS better support and treat people with these illnesses.

Q: What are the key recommendations?

A: There are 10 key recommendations in all, but from our perspective the most relevant are: 

1. taking a life-course approach, recognising that often the causes of mental health problems start in childhood and adolescence, but may not come to the fore until adulthood or, as with dementia, in the twilight years,

2. involving patients and the public, recognising the needs of those affected and the wider effects on relatives, carers and society at large;

3. looking at the effects of physical illness on mental health and vice versa,

4. recognising the value of information technologies and data science, through social media, wearable sensors and the like, to help predict and monitor mental health problems and their response to treatment,

5. new research funding for discovery science leading to improved healthcare,

6. funding for novel research approaches and settings,

7. engagement with industry to re-invigorate R&D programmes and clinical trials that have shrunk dramatically in recent years, and

8. capacity building, recognising the need to draw in talent and new expertise from other more mature research areas.

Q: What role can CGEM and the IGMM play in responding to this?

A: The Psychiatric Genetics group in CGEM, and before that in the MRC Human Genetics Unit, has been actively involved in mental health research since the 1990’s and can count the seminal discovery of the DISC1 gene, the Generation Scotland: Scottish Family Health Study, in which we have made mental health a key priority research area, and the current Wellcome Trust Strategic Award ‘Stratifying Resilience and Depression Longitudinally’ as all highly relevant to this framework. So we are very well placed to play our part in meeting these ambitions. But there are also important new opportunities for us around data science, high dimensional phenotyping and human stem cell and gene edited models of mental disorders

Q: Why is this good news for the public?

A: For too long, mental health has been under resourced at every level, but with this report, the government recognises the need for progress, made possible by a number of exciting new research opportunities. This is very much in the public interest as it is more than likely that someone close to each and every one of us will be affected. As was done so successfully for cancer in the 1970’s, what we need now is research to meet the grand challenge of mental health. This framework sets out the challenge and how that challenge could be met.