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Why is mental health research so important?

world mental health day banner

On World Mental Health Day, Alan Beattie, a Clinical Studies Officer at Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, explores just why mental health research is so important in this blog post.

“We often hear people say that mental health research is so important.  Well, I know that. But why? Research gives us a better understanding of chronic mental health conditions, what causes them and what may help in the treatment of them. It helps us then develop new methods of treatment and without new methods of treatment we would have less choice. Choice is important.

“I, like many of you, use NHS services. So I’m sure, like me, you would want to be able to choose a treatment for a condition that had the best balance of efficacy, cost and comfort. This can be a major contributor to improved health outcomes, we are all more likely to start or continue a course of treatment that we have had a say in choosing.

“I became a researcher because I wanted my efforts to contribute in a wider sense than they had previously as a mental health worker, working on a 1-1 basis. While this is true and I’ve had the pleasure of working on some large clinical trial on areas I’m personally very interested in, I still see the benefit research has had at an individual level.

“I witness regularly a positive change in the patients I meet and complete research measures with. My patients often describe a sense of accomplishment, autonomy and an improved sense of self-worth through research participation. Often the patients I meet are surprised that they are being asked to help in research.

“Some of my participants in research have gone on to support promotion. They’ve participated in short films, given interviews and have cited research participation as a prompt to change in their lives.

“Our participants have the lived experience that makes them the experts in their own lives. Through this expertise they contribute the vital data that we as researchers need. In gathering this data I’ve always been respected and felt valued by my patients, in turn I am grateful for their efforts and commitment to support the work we do.

“I consider myself to be very fortunate to be working with our patients, they are at the heart of everything that we do.”

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care.