Improving access to effective treatments for depression

Mood disorders research at the University of Exeter has brought about improvements in the national depression treatment policy, and underpinned a psychological therapy programme leading to treatment for more than one million people with a recovery rate in excess of 45 per cent.

Work from David Richards, Professor of Health Services Research, has improved the evidence for, and the accessibility of, low-cost evidence-based treatments. He and his team have also provided leadership in translational implementation programmes from this research to train the next generation of NHS clinicians.

Depression is both a serious and common mental health problem. The World Health Organisation has highlighted that depression affects more people worldwide than any other mental disorder, at around 350 million people of all ages worldwide.

As a long-term and relapsing condition, depression is expected to be the second largest cause of global disability by 2020. There are considerable economic costs brought about through health and welfare costs, as well as lost productivity – the total is estimated at £7.5 billion in the UK alone.

Mood Disorders Centre

The Mood Disorders Centre (MDC), a partnership between the University of Exeter and the NHS, is leading the way to address these challenges.

Its ambition is to develop new knowledge into mood disorders, translate this knowledge into more effective psychological interventions, improve the accessibility of evidence-based treatments, and provide innovative programmes training the next generation of clinical researchers and practitioners.

Having grown in size considerably in recent years, the MDC has been at the forefront of developing enhanced treatment for depression. This has been carried out by both understanding the mechanisms that underpin the illness, and subsequently translating these understandings into innovative care practices.

Innovations in treatment

The MDC research has also led directly to innovations in treatment that address key priorities in treating mood disorders – such as tackling treatment-resistant depression, preventing relapse and increasing access – as well as improving the health and quality-of-life of patients.

These innovations are implemented worldwide, providing more treatment options for patients, and informing service and training provision through:

  • wide distribution and sharing of the findings
  • the contribution of evidence that influences national policy
  • influencing local, national and international service provision
  • influencing the nature and content of national therapy provision and training
  • raising public knowledge and awareness of mental health issues and their treatment

More than 2,400 Devon patients have already benefited from receiving treatments from the MDC, with many describing these interventions as ‘life-changing’.

Ed Watkins, Professor of Applied Clinical Psychology and Director of the MDC, said: “Common mental health disorders are a major global health challenge. The Mood Disorders Centre seeks to address this challenge by bringing together world-class clinical training and research to develop understanding into mood disorders, translate that understanding into new approaches to treatment and make these new treatments widely accessible and available to patients in a cost-effective way.

“We are grateful to the Wellcome Trust for funding the Sir Henry Wellcome Building for Mood Disorders Research, housing what we believe to be amongst the best facilities for psychological treatment research anywhere in the world.”

(Scroller image of women talking courtesy of Shutterstock)