Improving detection and treatment of depression in people with MS

Dr Lisa Grech

Monash University, VIC

| Better treatments | Social And Applied Research | Fellowship | 2021 | Investigator Led Research |


Previous studies have shown that the occurrence of depression in people with MS is up to 2-3 times higher than the general population. It is also known that depression in this group may be more challenging to treat effectively. Additionally, recent research has shown that depression in people living with MS may go undetected and be under-treated in the community.

In this study, Dr Lisa Grech hopes to build on her previous work funded by MS Australia, to better understand the current screening, monitoring and treatment of depression in people with MS and to more fully understand the characteristics of depressive symptoms in this population. Additionally, Dr Grech will assess whether a brief screening tool which may easily be incorporated into clinical visits, may assist healthcare professionals to better detect depression in people with MS. It is anticipated that outcomes from the study will then support clinicians to improve both the detection and management of depression in this population. This will ultimately lead to improved quality of life for people with MS.

Progress to Date

The study timelines have been affected significantly by the COVID-19 pandemic, however, measures are now in place to mitigate time loss and the project is still expected to be completed within the 3-year time frame.

Dr Grech has carried out interviews with MS specialist clinicians (including both neurologists and MS nurses) and people with MS. These interviews were designed to determine current practices and barriers in the assessment, treatment and follow-up of depression in MS clinics. The interview data has been analysed and the findings written up into two scientific manuscripts which are being submitted for publication. Some of the findings include, identifying difficulties with collaborative treatment and monitoring support from GPs, and that people with MS don’t often identify emotional difficulties as needing treatment or recognise that they can be treated. This can be a barrier in itself to providing support. Barriers and challenges were identified from both the perspective of healthcare professionals as well as from people with MS.

The next stages of the project through 2022/2023 involve continuing to improve the detection and treatment of MS with national validation of current practices, validation of a two-question verbal depression screening tool for clinical use, characterising the depression symptom profile of MS and developing practice recommendations and support for clinicians to improve identification and treatment of depression in MS.

We look forward to report further updates as this work hopefully makes its way into the scientific literature and clinical practice.

Updated: 31 March 2022

Updated: 19 January, 2021

Stages of the research process

Fundamental laboratory

Laboratory research that investigates scientific theories behind the possible causes, disease progression, ways to diagnose and better treat MS.

Lab to clinic timeline: 10+ years

Research that builds on fundamental scientific research to develop new therapies, medical procedures or diagnostics and advances it closer to the clinic.

Lab to clinic timeline: 5+ years
Clinical Studies
and Clinical Trials

Clinical research is the culmination of fundamental and translational research turning those research discoveries into treatments and interventions for people with MS.

Lab to clinic timeline: 1-5 years


Grant Awarded

  • Post-Doctoral Fellowship Grant

Total Funding

  • $165,000


  • 3 years

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Improving detection and treatment of depression in people with MS