27 February 2024

Bipolar UK, the UK’s only national charity dedicated to the supporting people affected by bipolar, has joined a new £4.3million Mental Health Platform Research Hub launched today which is set to advance understanding around the diagnosis and treatment of severe mental illness (SMI) including bipolar.  

The South Wales and South-West England (SW²) Hub will bring together an interdisciplinary network of world-leading researchers, from the GW4 Alliance universities of Cardiff, Bath, Bristol and Exeter, alongside Swansea University, Adferiad Recovery, Bipolar UK, and people with lived experience, to accelerate research into, and treatments for, severe mental illnesses 

Currently, over 1 million people live with bipolar in the UK. It is thought that fewer than half are diagnosed, partly due to lack of awareness of the condition, where symptoms can be often overlooked or misdiagnosed.  

One of the biggest issues faced by the bipolar community is the 9.5-year average delay to diagnosis, leaving many without the life-changing medication and support they need. 

Dr Tania Gergel, Director of Research, Bipolar UK, said: “We are incredibly excited about being part of the SW² Hub, which is by far Bipolar UK's largest and most significant research involvement role to date.  

“The Hub will be a major element in establishing and developing Bipolar UK's Research division, as well as a huge step forward for lived experience involvement in research and coproduction in general.” 

The SW² Hub has been awarded a £4.3million grant from UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) and the Medical Research Council (MRC). 

Professor James Walters, director, Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics at Cardiff University, and SW² Principal Investigator, said: “The SW² Hub will provide unrivalled opportunities for researchers across South Wales and the South West of England to conduct vital research into crucial areas of mental health science.  

Collaborating alongside Swansea University and the GW4 Alliance institutions, along with teams in Bipolar UK and Adferiad Recovery, will allow us to harness the collective expertise of our regions to advance our understanding of severe mental illness.” 

The SW² Hub team will look to improve the lives of people with psychotic disorders, by combining and analysing data acquired at scale, with machine learning and clustering approaches, to advance knowledge of the causes behind the development of SMIs 

Bipolar UK CEO, Simon Kitchen, added: “The Bipolar Commission, which we’ve presented to government, paints a shocking picture for the bipolar community, with nearly a whole decade of diagnosis delays, and care pathways that routinely aren’t fit for purpose.  

“It is collaborative research projects like SW² that allow us to combine our knowledge and data with others to help bring about real change – something the bipolar community in the UK desperately needs.” 

The SW² Hub will form part of a new £22.5m mental health platform, established by UKRI to address the particular challenges of SMI. The platform will bring together researchers from a wide range of medical and non-medical disciplines and institutions. 

It aims to bring them together to focus their efforts on generating an in-depth understanding of those who experience SMI’s to help discover new approaches for diagnosis, treatment and support. 

This initiative is supported by funding from the Securing Better Health, Ageing and Wellbeing programme, one of five UKRI-wide initiatives aiming to harness the full power of the UK’s research and innovation system to tackle large-scale, complex challenges. 

Last updated: 28 February 2024