“Affecting more than 350 million people, depression is ranked by the World Health Organization as the leading cause of disability worldwide. In extreme cases, depressed people kill themselves. Around a million people commit suicide every year, the majority due to unidentified or untreated depression.
Treatment for depression involves either medication or psychotherapy – and often a combination of both. Yet as things stand, as many as half of patients fail to recover on their first medication, and around a third find no lasting benefit from any medication or talking therapy currently available.
Far from being defeated by the emergence of depression as a more complex a disorder than first assumed, scientists say the renaissance in research is based in confidence that deeper knowledge will ensure new and better treatments can be found.
Roiser confesses to feeling “extremely excited and optimistic” about the future of treating mental illnesses.
“We’re in a movement away from the traditional psychological and biological explanations for depression – which look increasingly outdated and simplistic – and we’re in the middle of specifying these disorders in terms of their underlying brain circuits,” he said. “That’s a much better position than we were in 20 years ago.””
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