UCLA has initiated a research program devoted to the prevention and treatment of depression.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, nearly one-third of adolescents show symptoms of depression. In recent years, the cultural conversation about mental health — and depression in particular — has become louder, thanks in part to more frequent portrayals of depression in pop culture, as well as increased discussion of mental healthcare among politicians and policymakers. But while awareness about depression might be on the rise, meaningful understanding of and effective, accessible treatment for depression still seem so far away.
Because of this, UCLA has selected depression as the focus of its most recent Grand Challenge — a research initiative first started by the Gates Foundation that aims to find solutions to major public crises concerning public health, the environment, urban development, and more. Each challenge combines interdisciplinary resources to assemble teams of skilled researchers with diverse specialties that approach the issue from every angle.
The immense, multifaceted effort will hinge on the findings of a vast new study led by Jonathan Flint — the largest study of its kind in history — designed to uncover new insights into the origins, diagnostic methods, and treatment of depression.
General misconceptions and a widespread lack of understanding present major obstacles for those suffering from depression — and those who want to help them. And while individuals of any age, gender, race, or socioeconomic background can be at risk for depression, teens are often misdiagnosed by parents, friends, and teachers who write off depressive symptoms as moodiness or the side effects of hormonal changes.
This is why UCLA’s work is so crucial. The Grand Challenge aims to develop creative means to enhance public awareness about depression, help people understand the condition, recognize its symptoms, and reduce the barriers to treatment. Additional efforts will educate communities on how to recognize those at risk for depression and help them obtain the necessary tools and treatment.
The ultimate goal of UCLA’s Grand Challenge is to “eliminate the burden of depression by gaining a better understanding of the disease while developing more effective prevention techniques and treatments.” For the millions of teens and other individuals suffering from depression, the research generated by UCLA’s latest Grand Challenge could lead us closer to improved, more accessible treatment options — and ultimately, a brighter future.