12 July 2013 10:10

Actor and TV presenter Stephen Fry has endorsed the work at Lancaster University’s ground-breaking mental health centre, which celebrated its fifth anniversary this week.

Centre directors and staff  at the internationally-renowned Spectrum Centre for Mental Health were delighted to read the tweet from the star, who has bipolar disorder, which read: “Happy birthday @Spectrumcentre – great work over last 5yrs on psychological therapies for people living with bipolar disorder – keep it up!”

The success theme continued throughout the day during a special conference to mark the anniversary when guest speaker Professor Richard Bentall, Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Liverpool, said Spectrum had, in a very short period of time, established itself as a centre of excellence, not just nationally, but throughout the world.

“It has become renowned for research that incorporates user perspective and it has become a centre envied by other UK universities,” he added. “And I am sure it will achieve even more in the future.”

He was sure that the significant work and research being undertaken by Spectrum’s co-directors Professor Steve Jones and Dr Fiona Lobban, who also addressed the conference, would lead to very promising advances for service users in the future.

Earlier Dean of the Faculty of Health and Medicine, Professor Tony Gatrell, launched the conference and gave the opening address in which he said the Spectrum Centre, which had crafted an international reputation for its specialist bipolar work, would become a jewel in the crown for both Faculty and University.

Spectrum Centre ‘User Researcher’ Rita Long, supported by two members of the centre’s Advisory Panel Barry King and Mark Holden, also addressed the conference on the benefits of working closely with people with 'lived' experiences of bipolar disorder and their carers.

The Spectrum Centre is the only academic institution chosen by the Government earlier this year to help improve psychological therapies for people who experience severe mental health problems.

Using the anniversary as a springboard for action, the pioneering centre, which has become a beacon for good practice and high quality research, launched a major campaign to bring mental health issues to the forefront by presenting a brand new mission statement.

The major thrust of the statement seeks national commitment to ensure people with severe mental illnesses are able to access the psychological therapies they need.

The 60 guests at the conference were encouraged to add their weight and signatures to the statement, which will then be bound and presented online.

The Spectrum Centre for Mental Health Research, established in 2008, became part of the Faculty of Health and Medicine. It obtains significant grant funding and works collaboratively with third sector organisations and service users, regionally and nationally.

Over the last 5 years the centre has:

  • Expanded from 3 to more than 30 full time staff members.
  • Established an Advisory Panel which acts as a test bed for opinion on all matters, initiatives and outputs.
  • Conducted translational research into the understanding and psychological treatment of bipolar disorder and other related conditions.
  • Led an online distance learning PhD in Mental Health. The programme, which has an international focus, includes mental health professionals working across the public, private and voluntary sector, including managers, clinicians, and educators.
  • Informed national policy. Professor Steven Jones has taken a lead role in re-writing the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence guidance for psychological interventions for people with Bipolar Disorder.
  • Worked jointly and forged links with colleagues at local and UK-wide NHS Trusts and brought together academic, research and NHS staff.