The World Health Organisation recognises World Mental Health Day every year on 10th October, with the aim of raising awareness of the importance of mental health issues. This year's theme, set by the World Federation for Mental Health, is 'Make mental health and wellbeing for all a global priority'.
The NIHR BioResource is proud to support World Mental Health Day and use the day to highlight the important progress being made by our team across the country to understanding the links between our genes, the environment and mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression and eating disorders. We believe that, along with support for those currently living with one of these conditions, it is vital that we strive to improve early diagnosis and preventative measures for generations to come.
Mental Health BioResource
Our Mental Health BioResource focuses on recruiting volunteer participants experiencing mental health conditions, as well as healthy controls, into two main cohorts or studies. These are the Eating Disorders Genetics Initiative UK (EDGI UK) and Genetic Links To Anxiety And Depression (GLAD) Study. Both are designed to make it as easy as possible for someone to join, allowing any member of the public who matches the eligibility criteria to take part from the comfort of their homes. Participants can sign up on the respective study websites. There is an initial 30 minute questionnaire to be completed online, followed by the donation of a saliva sample using a saliva kit sent to participants in the post.
From the information gathered from the online questionnaire and analysis of DNA extracted from the saliva sample, the research teams are able to look at any patterns they can identify to determine why some people develop a condition and others do not.
To date, EDGI UK has more than 10,000 consented volunteers, with more than 7,000 having returned their health and lifestyle questionnaires and 4,320 having returned their saliva sample, thereby considered fully enrolled in EDGI UK.
More than 54,000 people aged 16+ in the UK who have experienced anxiety or depression have consented to take part in GLAD. We have 45,000 completed health and lifestyle questionnaires and of those, more than 31,000 have returned a saliva sample.
Speaking this World Mental Health Day about the role of volunteers in GLAD and EDGI, Professor Gerome Breen, Chief Investigator of the Mental Health BioResource said:
“Our goal is to enable research that gives people and clinicians the tools they need to improve mental health.
"The NIHR Mental Health BioResource seeks to achieve a better future for everyone affected by depression, anxiety and eating disorders.”
The importance of genetic research in improving treatment outcomes for eating disorders
Recent studies led by Karolinska Institutet, UNC CEED, and King’s College London have identified differences between the DNA of people with and without (typical) anorexia nervosa, which suggests that genetics might be a promising tool to make finer distinctions among individuals with eating disorders to tailor treatment approaches toward each individual or groups of individuals.
Read the full article, posted by EDGI UK, here.
Data from EDGI UK and GLAD used in Cambridge University study
The COVID-19 Psychiatry and Neurological Genetics (COPING) study, recently published by Cambridge University, looked at depression, anxiety and PTSD symptoms before and during the pandemic in the UK.
Over 34,000 individuals aged 16 or above completed online questionnaires in April/May 2020, of which one third had prior diagnoses of depression or anxiety and had completed pre-pandemic mental health assessments.
The results showed 55% reporting worsening mental health since the beginning of the pandemic on a global change rating. Across both prospective and retrospective measures of symptom change, worsening depression, anxiety and PTSD symptoms were associated with prior mental health diagnoses, female gender, young age and unemployed/student status.
Read the full study here.
Take part in research
Both EDGI UK and GLAD are always looking for new volunteers to join the study. It is so important to have as many people as possible taking part, as each person provides more clues to the genetic patterns behind these conditions. Every person who joins can play an important role in our efforts to understand the links between genes, the environment, physical and mental health, and disease. Anyone who joins one of these studies may also be invited to take part in studies relating to a wide variety of health conditions, not just mental health.