Bipolar disorder is a major global healthcare crisis, causing untold levels of distress and costing lives daily. For too long this crisis has gone unacknowledged. Lack of progress in understanding and addressing bipolar disorder means that too many people worldwide are left in a painfully dark limbo, in search of a meaningful diagnosis and for effective treatments that work for them. Hope for prevention remains a distant dream.
This has drastic consequences – rates of suicide are up to 20 to 30 times higher in people with bipolar disorder than the general public. And life expectancy is as much as 15 years less – largely due to poor clinical management of physical health.
As organisations and individuals committed to bipolar research, we are calling time on this.
For the first time in two decades, leading UK research funders are bringing together international experts to provide leadership to bipolar disorder research. This is taking place alongside the largest UK survey to understand patient priorities. Together, these offer us a chance to truly build momentum for advances.
We need a radical shift in our understanding, to put bipolar and other chronic mental health conditions on a par with conditions like cancer and heart disease – where science has been put to work to transform care, improve treatments and save lives.
We can achieve this. But to drive the levels of research investment necessary, we also need the support of governments, politicians, and the public to enhance understanding, raise awareness and bring greater funding.
With research comes knowledge. And with knowledge comes hope. Now is the time to demand better for everyone living with bipolar disorder.
This letter was first posted on ‘The Guardian’ on 9 November 2015.
Cynthia Joyce Chief executive, MQ: Transforming Mental Health; John Isaacs Head of neuroscience and mental health, Wellcome Trust; Suzanne Hudson Chief executive, Bipolar UK; Professor Simon Wessely President, Royal College of Psychiatrists; Professor John Geddes Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford; Ian Goodyer Professor of child and adolescent psychiatry, University of Cambridge; David Miklowitz Professor of psychiatry, UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior; Professor Allan Young Chair of mood disorders, King’s College London; Mark S Bauer Professor of psychiatry, Harvard Medical School; Michael Bauer Professor of psychiatry, University Hospital Carl Gustav Carus, Dresden, Germany; Gerome Breen Reader, MRC Social Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Research Centre, Institute of Psychiatry Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London; Dr Rachel Churchill Reader in psychiatric epidemiology, University of Bristol
Ellen Frank Distinguished emeritus professor of psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine; Mary Fristad Professor and vice-chair, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health, Ohio State University; Guy Goodwin Professor of psychiatry, University of Oxford; Paul Harrison Professor of psychiatry, University Oxford; Dr Joseph Hayes MRC fellow and psychiatrist, University College London; Lisa Jones Professor of psychological medicine, University of Worcester; Professor Steven H Jones Spectrum Centre for Mental Health Research, DHR, faculty of health and medicine, Lancaster University; Sidney Kennedy Professor of psychiatry, University of Toronto; Professor Lars Vedel Kessing Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen
David Kupfer Distinguished emeritus professor of psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh; Anne Lingford-Hughes Professor of addiction biology, Imperial College London; Mikael Landén Professor of psychiatry, University of Gothenburg; Charles Large Chief executive officer, Autifony Therapeutics; Terry Lyons Professor of mathematics, University of Oxford; Mark Matthews Research associate, Information Science, Cornell University; Hannah McMahon Research assistant and study coordinator; Richard Morriss Professor of psychiatry and community mental health, University of Nottingham
Andrew Alan Nierenberg Director, bipolar clinic and research programme, Massachusetts general hospital; Anna Christina Nobre Chair in translational cognitive neuroscience, University of Oxford
Dr Oliver Robinson Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London; Dr Kate Saunders Department of psychiatry, University of Oxford; Matthias Schwannauer Professor of clinical psychology, University of Edinburgh; Martina Di Simplico Career development fellow, MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge; Daniel J Smith Professor of psychiatry, University of Glasgow
Dr Argyris Stringaris Head of the Mood and Development Lab, Kings College London; Trisha Suppes Professor, Department of psychiatry and behavioural sciences, Stanford University School of Medicine; Dr Elizabeth Tunbridge Department of psychiatry, University of Oxford; Eduard Vieta Professor of psychiatry, University of Barcelona; Eric Youngstrom Professor of psychology and neuroscience, and psychiatry, University of North Carolina