We all have mental health, just like we all have physical health. But how interconnected are the two?
In this podcast, the connection between this topic and our two guests is clear.
For Dr Rona Strawbridge, an MQ researcher, her studies of diabetes, obesity and heart disease led to an interest in their relationship to mental health. It was the early mortality rates that grabbed her attention.
“I was honestly shocked when I saw the life expectancy difference between individuals with and without mental illness. The fact that a lot of that was driven by heart disease was surprising. We have so many preventions for heart disease. Why is it not working well for those with mental illness?”
Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes aged just 1 year old, our other guest Manveer Sahota has experienced mental illness since a major hypoglycaemic attack, aged 16, on a train in India.
“I thought I was going to die, I really did,” Manveer recalls. “The anxiety attacks started soon after that… It was horrific. I went to the point of being agoraphobic. My world turned upside down because of that one traumatic incident.”
Thanks to MQ’s work and Dr Rona’s enthusiasm for genetic data in the field is boundless, as her excitement for early findings shows.
“It’s not that you have a physical condition and it causes a mental condition or the other way around. It really does seem to go in both directions!” She explains. “The fact that there is a strong link suggests there is something underlying both diseases.” “One theory I have is if your blood vessels aren’t functioning well, that’s going to affect how well your heart is working. Also, the small blood vessels in your brain are not going to work optimally. One mechanism can affect both the brain and the rest of the body.”
Bidirectionality is an area MQ strives to fund more research within. And to prove Rona’s theory, more study is also necessary.
Having previously worked with small data sets which she describes as “the old fashioned version”, the potential of Big Data banks excites Rona.
“For the first time we have a dataset that is big enough… with enough information about both mental illness and physical illness. Having a huge dataset with everything you would want to know about a huge number of people has been a massive step forward in what we can do.”
MQ is a part of that massive step forward. We are co-funding The DATAMIND hub which will index, curate and continually catalogue relevant data from around the UK.
With researchers like Dr Rona Strawbridge, experts by lived experience like Manveer and supporters like you, MQ can connect us all with real progress and actual change.
You can donate to MQ now here
If you have been affected by any of the themes we have spoken about in today’s episode you can speak to the Samaritans anytime by calling 116-123.
You can download the Hub of Hope app to access mental health support in your area any time.
If you would like to receive support for diabetes please visit Diabetes UK
If you would like to receive support for obesity please visit ObesityUK
If you would like to receive support for heart disease please visit BHF