Paul Burstow writes … Depression touches all of our lives

Depression #5 (staring at the park)Depression affects as many as 1 in 4 of us in our lifetimes, 1 in 10 adults at any one time. So the truth is, it affects all of us – whether we have experienced depression ourselves, or as partners, parents, children, siblings, friends and colleagues of those who have, and may well still suffer. The misery that it brings is cruel and pernicious – we know it shatters lives. But despite the fact that depression touches all of our lives, it is still far too poorly understood.

As Minister for Mental Health, I awarded government funding to the Time to Change campaign to challenge the stigma of mental ill health and I’m pleased to say that the funding has continued throughout this parliament, and should, in my view, continue in the next. It has been very successful and has helped change mindsets in a range of fields. Celebrities and politicians have been brave enough to talk publicly about their own experiences of depression, and it has helped.

And there is an emerging a new focus on well-being. Last week, I launched a mental health report with CentreForum which explicitly calls on the government to make happiness a priority in policy making and recommends action to improve well-being across communities, schools and workplaces and build resilience.

Things are beginning to move in the right direction. But while we have shifted a little and become more honest about depression, we still don’t really know enough about it, we don’t understand why different therapies and different medications work for different people. And fundamentally, we can’t truly understand what it feels like for anyone else, whether sufferer or carer, and what the most important issues are to them.

That’s why MQ, the new mental health research charity, are asking for your thoughts on what questions research on depression needs to answer. They want to hear from people who have, or have recovered from depression, from carers, friends and family of people affected by depression, and from health and social care professionals who work with them. They want to hear from experts by experience where the money and energy needs to be spent to make sure that the right research questions are prioritised.

We all know that we need to build resilience against depression and sharpen the tools available to us to help people at the first signs of depression and help them recover quicker. Please lend your help to guide the research agenda so that we can all reach this goal quicker.

* Paul Burstow is Liberal Democrat candidate for Sutton and Cheam and was the MP until the dissolution of Parliament on 30th March.

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  • Richard Dean 22nd Jul '14 - 5:38pm

    How is the effectiveness of things like “Time to Change” evaluated?

  • Eddie Sammon 22nd Jul '14 - 9:26pm

    Survey completed. It only took 5 minutes. However, giving money to these charities is not always the best way to help depression and we have to be weary of false experts who think we can create a happier society by throwing lots of money at mental health.

    Best wishes

  • Will you PLEASE stop mentioning ‘happiness’ in the same breath as depression.

    Depression is an ILLNESS.

    It has NOTHING to do with happiness.

    One can be unhappy for all sorts of reasons: if one has been bereaved, perhaps, or if one’s life is not going the way it should.

    These are NOT depression and they do NOT need to be ‘treated’ and crucially they are none of the government’s business

    It it the government’s job to ensue the health of its population, and this means treating illnesses, like depression.

    But it is NOT the government’s job to make its population happy, or to check up on their happiness, or otherwise to poke its nose into their happiness or lack of it.

    It bears saying again: depression is NOT unhappiness, and unhappiness is NOT depression.

    Depression is an illness and treatment must be made available for those who suffer from it.

    Unhappiness is NOT an illness.

  • What Dave said

  • James Moore 25th Jul '14 - 5:01pm

    I’m so very proud that you and Norman Lamb have done so much work on this subject, Paul. Makes being in Government worthwhile.

  • happy countries tend to be healthier, fewer problems with addiction or teenage pregnancy, fewer people on sickness benefits, higher democratic engagement etc

    Those are things which are up to the citizens’ free will, though. The government shouldn’t be attempting to influence them: it should be keeping its citizens safe and prosperous. If the citizens then decide to make themselves miserable by stuffing their faces or drinking like fish, that is their prerogative. It’s none of the government’s business.

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