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Mental Illness

Volume 951: debated on Tuesday 13 June 1978

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asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what research is currently being undertaken into the prevention of mental illness.

The Medical Research Council supports a wide range of research in the field of mental illness, including work which is immediately relevant to prevention, for example, on methods for the pre-natal diagnosis of genetically determined diseases.Research on phenylketonuria, which is caused by an inherited enzyme deficiency, and which usually leads to mental retardation, has led to the establishment of a national screening service for the condition. Full details of all affected children are kept on a register at the Institute of Child Health in London, jointly supported by the Council and the Department of Health and Social Security. Since 1973, about 99 per cent. of all children born in England, Wales and Scotland have been screened for phenylketonuria in the neonatal period, and treatment has prevented some 850 cases of gross mental defect.Other MRC work with a bearing on prevention includes a study of the influence of social and environmental factors on schizophrenia; a trial of lithium therapy to prevent the recurrence of chronic depression; and a survey, which is being carried out by the Council on behalf of the Department of Trade, designed to establish whether there is any link between psychiatric morbidity and aircraft noise.I understand from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services that some of the projects financed by his Department are concerned partly with the prevention of mental illness, in particular a study beginning shortly to evaluate a walk-in counselling service for adolescents.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what research is currently being undertaken into (a) the use of electro-convulsive therapy and (b) phychosurgery in the treatment of mental illness.

Studies on electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) form part of the research programme of the Medical Research Council's clinical phychiatry unit at Chichester and of the division of psychiatry at the Council's Clinical Research Centre at Harrow. The Chichester unit is investigating whether ECT treatment results in changes in cognitive function, while at the clinical research centre the aim of the study is to evaluate the role of the convulsion in ECT.The Council also gives grant support to the university department of psychiatry at Edinburgh for a study of the effects of ECT on psychological aspects of cerebral function. The Council is not currently supporting any research on psychosurgery in the treatment of mental illness.I understand from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services that his Department expects shortly to receive a request to support a survey of the extent and methods of administration of electroconvulsive therapy.