A psychologist at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne has been awarded an incubator grant by MS Research Australia to identify ways to better detect and treat depression in people with multiple sclerosis (MS).
The grant given to Lisa Grech, PhD, with the School of Health Sciences at Swinburne, is worth almost AU$25,000 (about $17,000). It is one of 19 new projects supported through awards announced by the group in January, and worth a total of AU$2.4 million.
Studies have shown that depression is two to three times more prevalent among MS patients than the general population. A recent study also found that depression, along with fatigue, can be a more powerful influence on overall health-related quality of life for these people than is physical impairment.
Still, a large number of patients with this comorbidity go undetected and untreated.
“Up to 36 per cent of people with MS and depression are undiagnosed, only 46 per cent are referred for treatments when significant depressive symptoms are identified, and up to 65 per cent … receiving treatment still report moderate-to-severe depressive symptoms,”Grech said in a press release.
“There is a real need for better treatments and detection processes, and this grant will help fund the research to identify these processes.”
Grech, also a research fellow at the School of Health Sciences at Swinburne, will focus her work on two areas.
First, she will assess how depression is evaluated and managed at MS specialist clinics. Second, she will examine existing barriers to assessing and treating depression for both healthcare professionals and MS patients.
“This study is an important step towards improving detection, treatment, and monitoring of clinically significant depressive symptoms through MS specialist healthcare providers,” Grech said.
To that end, she and her team will interview neurologists, nurses, and patients to answer research questions.
In previous work, Grech looked at ways to improve the health outcomes of MS patients based on the perspectives of healthcare practitioners and people with MS. She is currently also researching whether antidepressants can be neuroprotective for patients.
“Australia is home to exceptional talents in the area of MS research, and we are excited to see the results of Dr Grech’s efforts in the coming years” said Matthew Miles, CEO of MS Research Australia. “Her findings will contribute to our understanding of MS, and the various ways we can better manage the symptoms of the disease.”
The group estimates that more than 25,600 people in Australia have MS, and roughly 10 people in that country are diagnosed with this disease every week.
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