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Our mission is to prevent depression and enhance human potential across the lifespan through the therapeutic use of mindfulness.

Oxford skyline in autumn

Depression is a common disorder that has enormous medical, social, economic and personal costs. It often starts early in life and runs a recurrent course. Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) for Depression was first developed to help people at risk for depression learn lifelong skills to stay well. At least ten randomised controlled trials have demonstrated that it provides an acceptable and cost-effective approach to preventing depressive relapse over 60 weeks of follow up. In a subset of these studies MBCT provides an alternative to long-term antidepressant use. Further work has explored how it can best be integrated into healthcare systems to make it accessible to those who might benefit. The UK National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has recommended MBCT since 2004 and in 2017 NHS England mandated it as a treatment that should be available in all primary care mental health services.

Our primary research focus has moved to the primary prevention of depression. That is to say, can we work with young people at a key stage of life to learn skills that develop their resilience, and reduce the chance of depression developing in the first place. More than this, if these skills are taught universally can we support the mental health and well-being of the broader population. This project, MYRIAD, is funded by the Wellcome Trust (2014-2022).

Our group has also developed MBCT for a range of other clinical groups, people who are suicidal, who experience health anxiety and who have cardiovascular disease. We have also contributed to the development of mindfulness-based programs across the lifespan, for adults, for children and adolescents, and at different stages of life, such as the transition to becoming parents . We have also started to explore MBCT's acceptability and effectiveness in different settings, such as teachers working in schools and prisoners in the criminal justice system.

Throughout all our work we are interested in:

  • Theory: How does mindfulness alleviate distress, build resilience and enable flourishing?
  • Efficacy, effectiveness and cost-effectiveness: Is MBCT effective and cost-effective both in controlled trial and real-world conditions?
  • Implementation: How can it best be implemented / scaled up?
  • Lifespan: Can we consider how MBCT can play a role in primary prevention, inter-generational transmission,  secondary prevention and long-term recovery.

Depression prevention research is a relatively new but evolving field. An analogy with heart disease and cancer is instructive. Basic and applied science in the last fifty years have led to stepwise improvements in prevention, treatment and rehabilitation of heart disease and cancer. The same stepwise improvements are needed with depression in the next fifty years.  Our vision is:

  • A world without the devastating effects of depression
  • Where people live with understanding, compassion and responsiveness.

To maximise the Oxford Mindfulness Centre's impact, we work closely with the not-for-profit Oxford Mindfulness Foundation to offer MBCT training. Our intention is mentor centres of MBCT Training and Research excellence around the world. To date many hundreds of MBCT Teachers have been trained in Asia, Europe and South America. 

 

OMC Research Group

Selected publications



Related research themes