Help Us Make a Distinctly Welsh Contribution to the Debate around Mental Health Issues and Its Stigmas; A Nationwide Search Has Been Launched to Recruit 6,000 Volunteers for Wales' Largest Mental Health Research Project. Health Editor Madeleine Brindley Spoke to Professor Nick Craddock about What the Work Will Achieve

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), April 16, 2012 | Go to article overview

Help Us Make a Distinctly Welsh Contribution to the Debate around Mental Health Issues and Its Stigmas; A Nationwide Search Has Been Launched to Recruit 6,000 Volunteers for Wales' Largest Mental Health Research Project. Health Editor Madeleine Brindley Spoke to Professor Nick Craddock about What the Work Will Achieve


Byline: Madeleine Brindley

THIRTY years ago, cancer was known as the C-word. It was spoken about in hushed tones, or spoken around by people too embarrassed to mention it by name.

Today, mental illness is spoken about in similar hushed terms - it is alluded to when someone you know is sick; it is ridiculed when someone famous or someone you don't know is diagnosed.

Boxer Frank Bruno was "bonkers" while 80s popstar Adam Ant was described as "nutty" by former Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher. Other anonymous people suffering from mental ill health are "mad", "psycho" or simply plain "crazy".

The advent of intense research into cancer transformed the disease from a taboo subject to one we're more willing to discuss. Leading mental health researcher Professor Nick Craddock believes the same could be true for mental illness.

"If we went back 30 or more years, little was known about cancer; there was a huge amount of stigma and not many good treatments," he said.

"The reason there has been so many big changes is not only that a lot of money has been put in to it, but an awful lot of people with cancer have felt it was important to make things different for the future and have signed up to be involved in research studies and drug trials.

"It is now pretty normal that people with cancer go into some sort of research because they want to make things better for the future.

"We want to make the way people think about mental ill health change - these are devastating illnesses and problems that aren't very well understood or treated."

Prof Craddock, who is the director of the new National Centre for Mental Health in Wales, added: "Thirty years ago we had fantastic scientific tools available to tackle what was going on in cancer. As a consequence of that, a lot has been found out about the genetics, environmental factors and treatments, which has made an immense difference in public understanding and perception. "The brain is the most complicated part of our body and mental illness deals with the most complex functions of the brain.

"But we have absolutely fantastic molecular biological methods that can look at the brain and how it works; we have fantastic psychological methods and the imaging techniques that are becoming available are quite remarkable.

"We now have the scientific tools available to make the same advances we saw in cancer with mental ill health over the next 30 years.

"The science is one thing, but we need people to come forward and volunteer and be determined to help move that science forward and make a difference for patients and their families in the future."

Prof Craddock, who has been at the forefront of research into bipolar disorder, is now leading an ambitious drive to recruit 6,000 volunteers to take part in the largest research projects into serious mental health disorders in Wales.

The research will focus on schizophrenia, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

All the new work will be done under the umbrella of the National Centre for Mental Health and funded by the National Institute for Social Care and Health Research - the NHS' research and development fund.

"For some years we've been doing some quite big studies into diseases such as Alzheimer's schizophrenia, ADHD and bipolar in Cardiff, which have been funded by organisations like the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Wellcome Trust," Prof Craddock said.

"Many of these studies have been aimed at a better understanding of the causes and triggers of the illnesses and laying down knowledge that leads to a better approach for diagnosis and treatment.

"Some years ago, the NHS in England set up biomedical research centres, which got huge amounts of funding to ensure the NHS was fully involved and integrated to help cutting edge research. …

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Help Us Make a Distinctly Welsh Contribution to the Debate around Mental Health Issues and Its Stigmas; A Nationwide Search Has Been Launched to Recruit 6,000 Volunteers for Wales' Largest Mental Health Research Project. Health Editor Madeleine Brindley Spoke to Professor Nick Craddock about What the Work Will Achieve
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