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Depression Grand Challenge

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Diana King


This guide is designed to support student engagement and research for the UCLA Depression Grand Challenge.

What is the UCLA Depression Grand Challenge?

The UCLA Depression Grand Challenge (DGC) aims to cut the burden of depression in half by 2050, and to eliminate it by the end of the century.

The DGC is catalyzing major research efforts across four components:

  • New diagnostic and treatment methods within the UCLA Health system that will more thoroughly and accurately screen and treat depression, including plans to establish a new and innovative treatment center.

  • Funding and conducting discovery neuroscience to enhance our understanding of the brain as well as to reveal the origins and genetic bases of depression.

  • A focus on understanding and eliminating the stigma associated with depression.

  • The final effort and centerpiece of the DGC is a genetic study of 100,000 subjects to help uncover the biological, cognitive, social, and environmental factors that interact in depressed people. A study of this size is unprecedented and will yield some illuminating information about the disease that will help inform lab research and benefit sufferers worldwide. This is the largest-ever genetic study for a single disorder.

Conceived in 2012 through the brainstorming efforts of more than 30 UCLA faculty members, the DGC team now comprises more than 100 researchers from more than 25 academic departments. This multifaceted approach to research will help determine who is vulnerable for depression and help create new treatments.

Additionally, this extraordinary effort is expected to help place depression front and center on the national and international research agendas and to improve the lives of hundreds of millions of people.

Why Depression?

Depression is the number one cause of misery worldwide, affecting 350 million people across the globe. By 2030, depression will be the single largest contributor to the global disease burden.

Depression affects nearly everyone. Either you have suffered yourself, or you know someone who has.  Depression is the strongest risk factor for suicide, which in 2010 caused more deaths than war, natural disaster, and murder. 22 veterans die by suicide every day.

Science has declared depression an illness, yet it seems that many members of the public still do not recognize depression to be a “real” disease. This societal stigma worsens the problem. Illnesses of the mind often have no visible symptoms, and thus many of those affected hide their suffering, feel ashamed to seek treatment, or are simply expected to “snap out of it.”

Despite depression’s enormous human and economic costs, investment in research related to depression lags far behind that of many other diseases. This lackluster level of interest is not without consequence—despite quantum leaps forward in technology and medicine over the last 25 years, during the same timeframe there have been no significant advances in the treatment of depression.

For these reasons, and many others, UCLA has decided to lead the world by launching the Depression Grand Challenge.


UCLA is home to luminaries in all fields relevant to solving the depression challenge, including neuroscience, behavioral science, genetics, economics, public health, engineering, business, medicine, public policy and the humanities, storytelling and the arts. In addition, we have been at the forefront of brain science for decades. By applying many diverse perspectives and approaches to the study of depression, we expect to ultimately have the most comprehensive picture of the human brain to date.

General Books on Depression

General Information about Depression