Grant round winners 2008

At least one in every eight people with epilepsy also has depression. Depression contributes to poor quality of life for people with epilepsy, yet epilepsy services at all levels (GPs, hospitals and specialist consultants) seem to rarely detect it. They tend to focus instead on seizure control and drug side effects.

However, there is some evidence that links having depression with having poor seizure control: the depression may increase a person’s likelihood of having seizures. This means that people with epilepsy who are also depressed may stand a better chance of becoming seizure-free if their depression is also detected and treated.

In a pilot study Identifying depression in people with epilepsy attending their general practitioners, Professor Mike Kerr, of the Welsh Centre for Learning Disabilities at Cardiff University, will investigate whether two short and specific questionnaires could help GPs and their teams detect depression in people with epilepsy. The study will test whether the questionnaires are quick and easy enough to be used as part of the normal appointment with a GP, and also whether they can accurately identify depression in a person with epilepsy. Epilepsy Research UK is providing £74,268 funding for the work over 24 months.

If the questionnaires work then screening for depression could become part of the standard services GPs provide for people with epilepsy in the NHS. Screening for depression is already part of standard treatment for diabetes and coronary heart disease in the UK.