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Local researcher contributes to world‑wide study to improve the lives of people with depression

Posted by Christena Copeland, DMRF on February 15, 2022 in News

Canadian Research Chair in Early Intervention in Psychiatry, Dr. Rudolf Uher, is the only Canadian commissioner to contribute to a Lancet-World Psychiatric Association Commission on depression. This study, entitled Time for United Action on Depression, was released worldwide late Tuesday, February 15. The Lancet is a family of medical journals that are among the world's oldest and best-known.

The Commission recommends a whole-of-society response to reducing the global burden of depression. The report cites timely identification of depression risk, early interventions aimed at interrupting an emerging episode, and person-centered treatment as key to changing the outcomes of this condition. The report also discusses how depression can be prevented and treated if we move beyond a one-size-fits-all approach, recognizing depression as a central yet neglected global health problem.

Dr. Uher was a key contributor to this internationally acclaimed study. Hailing from the Czech Republic, Dr Uher now proudly calls Nova Scotia home. He is a researcher and professor at Dalhousie University, and a practicing psychiatrist, who treats people living with depression and bipolar disorder at the Mood Disorders Clinic.

“There has been a lot of negative messaging about depression and its treatments," explains Dr. Uher. “The Commission brings solid science-based consensus on how to tackle the leading cause of distress and disability on a global scale. The Commission will mobilize resources to make effective treatments available to people living with depression and those at risk, early enough to make a difference in their lives.”

Locally, Nova Scotians report one of the highest lifetime prevalence rates of mental health disorders in Canada (41.7 percent in Nova Scotia compared to 33.1 percent nationally). 16 percent of Nova Scotians have reported high levels of depression in 2021. Mental illness affects not only the lives of those experiencing it, but also the lives of the people they touch including family members, colleagues, and friends.

“Since 2015, Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation donors have come together to contribute close to $1 million to Dr. Uher’s ground-breaking work in mental health,” says Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation CEO, Joanne Bath. “Philanthropy can play a significant role in changing the face of health and bolstering research like Dr. Uher’s. Our Foundation has made a pointed effort to support his critical work by educating our donors about the life-changing impact health research can have for those living with a severe mental illness like depression. Since Dr. Uher came to this region, donors from near and far have enthusiastically raised their hands, eager to support research projects that change the face of mental illness.”

One such project led by Dr. Uher is Families Overcoming Risks and Building Opportunities for Well-being (FORBOW), a longitudinal study that is the first of its kind in the world. FORBOW aims to stop the cycle of children of affected parents developing mental illness. Approximately 600 youth and their families have participated in this study over the last eight years. This project, coupled with Dr. Uher’s work with the Commission, will bring opportunities, faster, to those living with severe depression.

“By recommending early interventions, involvement of families, and personalized treatments, the Commission enables changes that can have positive impact within a few years. The generous philanthropic support through DMRF helps us put Nova Scotia on the cutting edge of this global development.” says Dr. Uher.