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Case study: "You are providing a potential jar of magic."

The Genetic Links to Anxiety and Depression (GLAD) Study is open to anyone in the UK aged 16 and over who has experienced anxiety or depression.

Bernadette McKnight joined over 30,000 people in the UK by taking part in this NIHR study.

A mum-of-two from Greater Manchester has explained why she took part in the largest study of anxiety and depression ever undertaken. 

The Genetic Links to Anxiety and Depression (GLAD) Study is being led by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Mental Health BioResource and King’s College London. 

The study aims to help find effective treatments and improve the lives of people experiencing depression and anxiety, the most common mental health disorders worldwide. In the UK, one-in-three people will experience symptoms during their lifetime.

Bernadette McKnight, from Greater Manchester, has lived with both anxiety and depression for a number of years. She has experienced anxiety since age five, while her depression began in adult life following a period of being bullied in the workplace. 

Drawing on her own experiences, the 52-year-old is passionate about raising awareness of mental health struggles and is a trained mental health first aider. 

She wanted to be part of the GLAD study after speaking with local NIHR staff from Clinical Research Network Greater Manchester at the first Tameside Men's Mental Health and Wellbeing Conference earlier this year. 

In doing so, she has joined over 30,500 people in the UK to have participated in the study which involves completing a questionnaire and providing a saliva sample. The study is open to anyone aged 16 and over who is living in the UK and has experienced anxiety and/or depression during their life. 

By taking part, Bernadette and others are allowing researchers to analyse DNA from saliva samples with detailed information about their symptoms to advance research into finding more effective treatments. 

Bernadette, whose interest in the GLAD study was also piqued by the fact she has a family history of depression, said: “I’m really happy to support research and, just as I do when I donate blood, I put it on my Facebook page and tell people ‘if you can do it, do it, because it can make a difference’. It’s the same with this study.

“If you can spit in the pot and hand over that sample, it could make a world of difference and it just takes five minutes. 

“You are providing a potential jar of magic because research might unlock something that means that somebody like me in the future doesn’t have to go through the same things, or can handle them better, or there could be a quicker intervention.”

Bernadette, who recently set up business as a learning development and engagement consultant, says people have commented on how she “has it all together”. However, she is keen to stress how her demeanour does not always tell the full story and can sometimes mask “crippling” feelings of anxiety she may have felt earlier that same day. 

She is comfortable in sharing her experiences with depression and anxiety to help generate a positive conversation on the subject, and sharing details of the GLAD study is another way in which she has done this. 

“I use it as a tool to normalise it for other people so that they can identify their own issues and see that somebody else is going through the same thing and that it’s okay,” said Bernadette.  

“At the same time, I think when you talk about it, you have to be careful to not be blasé about it at all. There are times when I speak to people about how I couldn’t get out of bed because I just couldn’t, because the depression or anxiety was crippling. So when I do get the opportunity and I’m in the right frame of mind and I’m able to articulate it, then it’s important to share the story, and I hope by sharing this study other people will consider taking part, too.”