Can We Eliminate Depression? A Massive New Project Aims To Do Just That

As suicide rates reach new heights, researchers launch a quest to identify the genetic basis of the disorder.

By Linda Marsa|Wednesday, October 9, 2019
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Jonathan Flint grew up surrounded by the notion of suicide. The bookshelves in his childhood home in London were filled with tomes on the subject, as well as on bereavement and counseling. His mother was an early volunteer at one of the first suicide prevention hotlines, and the friends she brought home were involved, too. He even accompanied her one afternoon while he was a university student, and talked to anguished people who had lost all hope.  

Witnessing the devastation when one of his family members attempted to take their own life had a profound effect on him. Flint’s pursuit of psychiatry was a natural choice, he says now, but he also gravitated toward figuring out the underlying biological mechanisms that make us more prone to mental illness. 

Now, as a psychiatrist, he finds himself as one of the experts at the forefront of a massive scientific enterprise to uncover the genetic links to depression. UCLA’s Depression Grand Challenge aims to cut in half the severe psychological burdens of the disorder by 2050, and to eliminate it altogether by the end of this century.

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