Beyond the academic sphere: A European Perspective – by Ben Ainsworth

Earlier this week, I was invited to meet some local politicians to discuss the research that we are doing through EUSARNAD, along with Professor David Baldwin. It’s always interesting to be asked to discuss my research with people who are outside the usual ‘catchment area’ (which normally consists of other researchers in the mental health field, and those unlucky enough to be cornered in the kitchen at parties), and I jumped at the chance to talk to Catherine Bearder and Jackie Porter about our recent efforts in anxiety research.

Professor Baldwin, Catherine Bearder and I were able to have a good discussion about the contributions the EU has made to funding psychiatric research

Professor Baldwin, Catherine Bearder and I were able to have a good discussion about the contributions the EU has made to funding psychiatric research

Catherine is a Member of the European Parliament for the South East England, and Jackie is a prospective MP for Winchester and Chandler’s Ford – for those of you who aren’t entirely familiar with British geography, both represent people between London and Southampton, and were genuinely interested in the ways that EUSARNAD researchers are trying to improve and inform mental health care.

After telling Catherine and Jackie about my personal experience of spending time at the Cape Universities Brain Imaging Unit in South Africa, we discussed the importance of the scheme in terms of both ‘tooling up’ researchers who want to expand their horizons into new research methodologies and encouraging the collaboration and networking between young researchers that’s very likely to form foundations for the important research of the future. Being involved in the European Parliament, Catherine was understandably pleased when we spoke about the subsequent collaborative research I completed at the Leiden University Medical Centre (which came about off some informal discussions I had on the very first day of my EUSARNAD programme trip to Cape Town!).


Jackie Porter, Alarcos Cieza, David Baldwin and Catherine Bearder are clearly all much more adept at smiling for the camera than me!

We were also joined in the meeting by Professor Alarcos Cieza, who spoke about the MARATONE project (that’s “Mental Health Training Through Research Network in Europe”). MARATONE is an exciting research project that builds on the idea of ‘horizontal epidemiology’ – basically, the idea that we can study symptoms that are common to more than one mental health disorder as important psycho-social factors in themselves, rather than studying them individually under the label of a specific mental disorder. MARATONE also provides opportunities for junior researchers, and similar to EUSARNAD recognises the need for high-level training and collaborative efforts across multiple institutions. It’s an important and worthy cause, and is clearly something that Professor Cieza is very passionate about.

In psychiatric science, you can sometimes forget that the research we are doing is for the benefit of patients  (in my case, patients with anxiety) and will eventually help them to access better psychiatric treatment. In order to do that, the research has to go beyond the academic sphere, and it’s certainly very encouraging to know that Jackie Porter and Catherine Bearder are taking an interest.

– Ben