An interview with Sarah Markham, a participant on the RADAR-CNS MDD study

Please can you tell us about yourself and your involvement with the project?
I suffer from major depressive disorder and anxiety. I try to spend my time being as active as possible; both mentally and physically as I find this keeps me well and mitigates the worse of my symptoms. As well as being a mental health service user and member of the NIHR Maudsley BRC's Service User Advisory Group in London, I am also an academic mathematician and researcher, so usually I have a lot to keep my mind busy. I also love to run every day, which keeps the rest of me busy!

I am a member of the ongoing RADAR-CNS: Remote Assessment of Disease and Relapse – Central Nervous System research study. I keep my Fitbit and mobile phone charged to ensure my data is collected and submitted to the study. I do far more than 10,000 steps per day, in fact the number of steps I do daily has increased since the lockdown and I have had more time to exercise.

What interests me most about RADAR-CNS is developing a greater understanding regarding  associations between physical and psychological characteristics at the individual patient level.

What other areas of research are you most interested in?
I also have a diagnosis of Autistic spectrum disorders (ASD), and unsurprisingly am most interested in research into the aetiology of autism and why and how it presents differently in females as opposed to males.

How are you adapting to life in lockdown during the Covid-19 pandemic?
I miss not being able to go out with friends for a coffee or to the cinema. I also miss face to face work and other related meetings. I definitely feel much lonelier and look forward to when the anti-social distancing is over.

I am grateful that the English government now allows everyone to go outside for exercise an unlimited number of times everyday. I love getting out and about, especially when it is sunny. Running is a great way to spend your time when social-distancing restrictions are in place, and I try and run during the quieter times of the day to ensure I don't run into too many people.

Why do you think mental health research, and involving service users in shaping this research, is important?
Mental health research is essential to developing more effective and reliable treatments for mental health conditions. Service users have a wealth of experience and experiential learning with regard to the phenomena of mental disorder and are often best placed to inform and direct the design and implementation of such research.