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Studying visual impairment and depression

22 September 2011

OPTOM PIC webCutting the cake at the DEPVIT launch are (left to right) Head of the School of Optometry and Vision Sciences Professor Tim Wess, Guide Dogs CEO Richard Leaman, DEPVIT team leader Dr Tom Margrain and DEPVIT co-ordinator Claire Nollett.

New research under way at Cardiff University’s School of Optometry and Vision Sciences could provide new hope for visually impaired people suffering from clinical depression.

The "Depression in Visual Impairment Trial" (DEPVIT) launched as part of the Welsh Eye Care Conference, will for the first time, establish depression screening as part of the Welsh Low Vision Service. The trial will evaluate two types of treatment – Problem Solving Therapy (a type of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and referral to the GP.

The DEPVIT study is being funded by the charity Guide Dogs and will be recruiting participants from sites in Wales as well as Guys and St Thomas’ NHS Trust in London.

The results of the trial will establish new evidence which could have a significant impact on the treatment path assigned to visually impaired patients. Claire Nollett, who is co-ordinating the study, said: "This study will have a profound effect on the delivery of rehabilitation services for people with a visual impairment."

Approximately one third of people with untreatable visual impairment who access rehabilitation services suffer from clinical depression. Claire Nollett added: "Depression is the leading cause of disability in the UK and can make the problems associated with visual impairment much worse, people feel unable to cope, become socially isolated and can lose their independence".

The study was launched at Cardiff University by Richard Leaman, CEO of Guide Dogs. Mr Leaman said: "We know from our own research that many people with low vision do not get out and about for a number of reasons, one of which is depression. We want to understand a lot more about the extent to which depression affects the mobility of people with sight loss. This research is highly important to Guide Dogs’ aims of improving the mobility and quality of life of all people with low vision."

The DEPVIT launch was part of the Wales Eye Conference which was opened by the Minister for Health and Social Services Lesley Griffiths AM. The Conference is held each year at the Cardiff School of Optometry and Visual Sciences, bringing together vision consultants, optometrists, social care staff and the third sector to share new ideas, challenges and break-through treatments. The event is organised by Wales Council for the Blind, on behalf of the Welsh Government