MQ: Transforming Mental HealthFinding answers to how to prevent depression occurring or reoccurring is the public’s top priority for future research into the condition, a consultation has found.

These new findings are part of an extensive 2-year consultation set up by mental health research charity MQ: Transforming Mental Health, which involved more than 3,000 people affected by depression and set out the top 10 ‘unanswered questions’ for depression research, as agreed by people affected by the condition and healthcare professionals. Participant responses were systematically analysed by researchers at Swansea University and prioritised by their peers.

Depression is one of the most common mental health conditions, affecting 1 in 10 people each year in the UK. Despite the numbers affected, little is known about the condition or how best to treat or prevent it.

The top 10 priorities are:

1. What are the most effective ways to prevent occurrence and recurrence of depression?

2. What are the best early interventions (treatments and therapies) for depression? And how early should they be used in order to result in the best patient outcomes?

3. What are the best ways to train healthcare professionals to recognise and understand depression?

4. What is the impact on a child of having a parent with depression and can a parent prevent their child from also developing depression?

5. What are the best ways to inform people with depression about treatment options and their effectiveness in order to empower them and help them self-manage?

6. What are the barriers and enablers for people accessing care/treatment when they are depressed, including when feeling suicidal, and how can these be addressed?

7. Does depression impact employment? How can discrimination and stigma of depression in the workplace be overcome, and how can employers and colleagues be informed about depression?

8. What are the best ways to help friends and family members support people with depression?

9. Are educational programmes on depression effective in schools for reducing stigma?

10. What is the impact of wait times for services for people with depression?

These findings contrast significantly with the current picture of mental health research funding where, on average, only 4% of UK research on depression is spent directly on prevention of any kind. An MQ: Transforming Mental Health analysis published last year showed that majority of depression research is spent on underpinning biological research.

Cynthia Joyce, chief executive of MQ: Transforming Mental Health, said: “With over 6 million people in the UK living with depression, we desperately need to improve our understanding of the condition, to develop more effective treatments and strategies for prevention. These results provide researchers for the first time with a clear picture of the issues that matter most to people affected by depression.  Through exploring these new perspectives, the research community will undoubtedly discover new approaches to improving treatments and care.”

Nigel Campbell from Rethink Mental Illness added: “This new initiative will help raise the right questions but we want to see future funding available to find the right answers. We would like to see much more funding for research into better treatments and diagnosis – not just for depression but across all mental health conditions. Poor mental health carries an economic and social cost of over £100 billion, yet currently it only gets 5.5% of the UK health research budget. This has to change, and the one in four people who experience some sort mental health problem every year expect it to."

The Depression: Asking the Right Questions project was initiated by MQ: Transforming Mental Health in partnership with more than 30 organisations and charities. It has been independently overseen by the James Lind Alliance, a non-profit making initiative, hosted by the National Institute for Health Research.