Northern Centre for Mood Disorders undertaking studies linked to depression

Posted: 09/03/21

A North East research centre is undertaking a number of studies linked to depression as statistics show the pandemic has had a negative impact on people’s mental health.

The studies, by the Northern Centre of Mood Disorders (NCMD), will look to find alternative treatment options for those struggling with their mental health and are currently recruiting participants.

A collaboration between Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW) and Newcastle University, NCMD is a centre of excellence in the study of mood disorders and their treatment.

The pandemic has affected all of us in one way or another. Data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) suggests that the rate of people with moderate to severe symptoms of depression has nearly doubled to just under 20%. There are many factors that may be driving this increase including feelings of stress, boredom and loneliness, or being worried about the future.

Hamish McAllister-Williams, Professor of Affective Disorders at Newcastle University and CNTW, and lead of NCMD, said: “In the face of this increase in depression in the community it appears that the number of referrals and people accessing mental health services are, if anything, lower than before the pandemic. This is despite mental health services remaining ‘open for business’, albeit with some services being provided in a different way.

“Given everything that’s happening it’s all the more important that new and improved treatments for depression are developed.”

The NCMD is currently running a number of ongoing treatment studies offering people who are struggling with their mental health the opportunity to receive treatment they would not normally be able to access.

Studies include:

  • Testing the effectiveness of a new approach for difficult-to-treat depression using pulses of magnetic stimulation applied to the scalp
  • Examining whether a single dose of psilocybin (found in ‘magic mushrooms’) can help treat depression
  • Study of a drug previously used to treat Parkinson’s disease (pramipexole) to treat depression in people suffering from bipolar disorder

The centre is currently recruiting participants for all studies. Some are open for people to self-refer to and others need a referral from a GP or psychiatrist to take part.

Professor McAllister-Williams added: “Depression is a devastating illness to suffer from. The Covid-19 pandemic has unfortunately had a terrible negative impact on people’s mental health, leading to some struggling even more.

“We do have a lot of treatments for depression including talking therapies and medication. However, we need new options for those individuals who find that treatment doesn’t suit them or whose depression does not respond well to existing options.

“We are fortunate in Newcastle to be at the forefront of research into treatments offering new hope. We welcome people getting in touch about the opportunities there may be for them to take part in a study, which may help them directly but will also help us gain greater knowledge of potential new and exciting treatment options.”

CNTW is a leading provider of mental health and disability services in the North East and north Cumbria.

Further information about the studies can be found at