Groundbreaking new report recommends genetic testing for certain mental illnesses

Press release, Scotland news
19 October 2023

A groundbreaking new report has recommended genetic testing for certain mental illnesses.

It also recommends further research into other mental illnesses which might be appropriate for genetic testing - but so far - there is not a sufficient evidence base for.

The study published by the Royal College of Psychiatrists reviewed all the evidence currently available to determine how DNA can influence a person’s susceptibility to mental ill-health.

A successful pilot service has been running in Wales since 2021 in partnership with Cardiff University which aims to offer patients and families access to counselling and where appropriate genetic testing for mental illnesses.

A genetic test involves pinpointing changes in their DNA code that can influence a person’s susceptibility to mental health conditions.

Medical specialists have often believed that a person’s life experiences and environment have the greatest influence on whether someone is susceptible to a mental health disorder, but evidence suggests that alterations in someone’s DNA can also play a part.

Now the RCPsych report has recommended that genetic testing should be available to patients for conditions including dementia, schizophrenia and intellectual disabilities.

Report authors hope their research will provide an opportunity for conversations about genetic risk for patients and families and that testing may be available across the UK in the future.

Dr Jana De Villiers, Chair of the Intellectual Disability Faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Scotland and one of the authors of the report, said:

“We’ve known for quite some time that certain genetic alterations can carry considerable risk of psychiatric disorders.

“This report is groundbreaking in that we’ve provided summaries of the current evidence base for genetic testing across a range of mental health conditions and recommend that services could be rolled out across the UK in the future.

“It is important people can benefit from the opportunities genetic testing provides for.  

“People who work in mental health need to be aware of these exciting developments as they are relevant when it comes to really making a real difference to the care and treatment of our patients.”

View the report

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