In 2010, the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance and the University of Michigan Depression Center joined together to create a consumer clearinghouse for depression and bipolar research. The clearinghouse, now called WeSearchTogether.org provides researchers the opportunity to connect with people living with mood disorders who are considering participating in research and provides potential research participants with the opportunity to learn more about research, and to have a voice in the priorities, direction and evaluation of depression and bipolar research.
WeSearchTogether was developed to:
- Answer general questions about mental health research
- Provide information for individuals to make informed decisions about participating in research
- Offer opportunities for people living with mood disorders and their families to get involved in research
- Provide feedback to researchers on ways to best engage people living with mood disorders in research
- Create dialogues in community settings to help individuals learn more about research and the need for participants
WeSearchTogether.org promotes and encourages mental health reasearch. Active participation in mental health research addresses the behavioral health issues of providing more quality treatments as well as greater access to care. The originality of this resource comes through its tools that break down the barriers that prevent or deter individuals from considering research participation and helping researchers attract the best group of participants to inform their study’s objectives and goals.The site’s offerings maximize the opportunities for ease of access to information sharing, discussion starters, research participation, and relationship building between researchers and participants. The site also creates a safe environment that encourages participants to voice their questions and concerns so researchers can openly and honestly address them.
We encourage all researchers working in the field of mood disorders to utilize this program as it greatly reduces the need for Universities and the like to create individual research portals and increases the liklihood of particiapnts finding relevant studies to their interest. The resources, tools, and enrollment on WeSearchTogether.org are free and other organizations can link to the site directly to further promote engagement in mental health research to their networks. Some of the most powerful education resources on the site are video testimonials of past mental health research participants sharing their experience and how their involvement has helped improved their quality of life. Once individuals enroll on the site they can set preferences based on their research participation interest and comfort levels. The site will then send them research studies that fit within those specific parameters. This assists researchers in enrolling the best qualified participants for their studies.
DBSA and the University of Michigan Depression Center created and developed WeSearchTogether.org through the support of the National Institutes of Health and by the National Center for Research Resources. Presently, because of our strong commitment to advancing and promoting mental health research, DBSA is absorbing the annual maintaince costs for making this resource available. Through our promotions of the site we work to enroll and cultivate institutions that benefit from, focus on, as well as support mental health research as partners in its sustainability. Though this process takes time, DBSA is an experienced connector of stakeholders that include working groups of researchers, clinicians, academics, healthcare industry companies, payers, and representatives of other federal and local government agencies. We expect our efforts will yield additional partners in the support of this project.
Organizations can replicate the valuable components of WeSearchTogether.org that drive our objective to promote and encourage mental health reasearch. These components include, but are not limited to, video testimonials, thorough explainations of the research process, and best practices for researchers and participants. These components are best leveraged when they work together to promote connectivity and foster a relationship between the researchers and particpants. WeSearchTogether.org accomplishes this through comprehensive information sharing and creating a personalized experience for participants to explore participation in and benefits from mental health research. The site is designed to match participants with studies and researchers that fit their speicific needs and interests. This eliminates stress and decreases the time spent searching for and through studies to determine if they meet study requirements. Other organizations may replicate this feature through participant surveys then used to create a list of relevant studies known or on file with that organization.
Presently, DBSA tracks the number of participants and researchers engaged with the site. We also track the number of studies listed on the site, as well as the number of participants matched to each study. The site has seen good growth since it’s inception. With additional funding, we would like to launch an evaluation of the site to better understand improvements that could be made from both the researcher and potential participant’s perspective. To date we have received very positive ancedotal feedback on the user friendliness and usefulness of the site.