Pedro Morgado, a psychiatrist and researcher at Minho University, received this Tuesday the FLAD Science Award Mental Health from the Luso-American Development Foundation (FLAD). In a ceremony held in the auditorium of the Foundation, which was attended by the Ministers of Health and of Science and Higher Education, the president of FLAD reinforced the commitment to Mental Health, in an extended form, and that this award will continue.

FLAD presented this Tuesday the Science Award Mental Health to the researcher Pedro Morgado, winner of the 1st edition with an innovative project to improve the diagnosis, treatment prediction and efficacy in obsessive-compulsive disease, reinforcing its commitment to the future, not only in supporting clinical research.

At an official ceremony held at FLAD’s auditorium in Lisbon, the president of FLAD, Rita Faden, left the assurance that the Foundation will continue to focus on supporting clinical research, but also that, conscious of the importance of Mental Health, other initiatives will be developed to inform society and bring awareness to the central role that Mental Health plays in our lives.

“This award also represents FLAD’s commitment to Mental health. This is the first edition of many that we hope for in the future. In the future, we hope to support other initiatives and other research projects in this area, but we also want to work and think about Mental Health from a broader perspective and not just in regard to research. We all have a role to play.” – Rita Faden

The ceremony was attended by the Minister of Health, Marta Temido, who supported the launch of this initiative since day one. Marta Temido left a thank you to FLAD for the work developed in this area and the desire that the results of Pedro Morgado’s work will translate into improving the quality of life of people affected by this disease.

“The most recent reality has changed and today we are all more aware of what is the very fine line on which we are all faced with mental illness. (…) Today we celebrate the scientific merit, the will to do more and to do better, but also the outcomes of the collaboration of almost 40 years of cooperation between Portugal and the United States through this institution gives us so much prestige, which is FLAD. Many congratulations to the award winner, many successes, we hope with anticipation that the results of this work will also translate into an impact on the lives of patients, because they are our reason for being.” – Marta Temido

The ceremony also brought together the members of the jury of the award for a debate on the future of Mental Health in our country. The conversation with Miguel Xavier, Director of the Portuguese National Mental Health Program, Catarina Resende Oliveira, President of the Agência de Investigação Clínica e Inovação Biomédica, and Margaret Lanca, Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, was moderated by the deputy director of the journal Observador, Sara Antunes de Oliveira.

The members of the jury talked about the stigma that still exists, and continues to be spread culturally and socially, in relation to the mentally ill, but also to Mental Health professionals, agreeing that there is a need to continue working on the recognition that the pandemic has brought us to the importance of these issues.

“Mental Health has become an issue because it has entered our homes. I think what is the awareness of this problem is here to stay. (…) We cannot look at the pandemic as the only crisis we have experienced in our lives. We experienced an economic crisis seven or eight years ago. The only difference is that it didn’t enter our homes, unlike this one. We will be so much better in the future in terms of post-COVID assistance if we work as a team. We need to work together.” – Miguel Xavier

“It is unquestionable that health is one of the main factors of social and economic stability, in any country, in any society. In particular, Mental Health is especially remarkable and we have experienced this with this pandemic, which it is hard for me to say this, but it opened our understanding to things that we might not have looked at in the same way. It didn’t touch us that much. It was easier to let it be.” – Catarina Resende Oliveira

“This conversation should happen at all levels of society and not just in the health system. I’m hoping that’s the case. I think the discussion is intensifying.” – Margaret Lanca

Pedro Morgado, a researcher at Minho University and psychiatrist at Braga’s Hospital, presented the winning project to the guests, explaining the importance of the funding obtained for the development of a clinical trial for the use of a new drug, something unusual in Portugal.

The researcher also stressed the importance of the award for society, noting that mental illnesses have a very high cost in the lives of patients and their families, and that this work of recognition must be continued.

“This award makes sense because psychiatric diseases are highly prevalent, have a huge cost to society, inhibit people from enjoying their lives adequately, and above all because they do not yet have the necessary attention from society.” – Pedro Morgado

The award was presented by FLAD’s administrator, Elsa Henriques, who explained the importance of choosing a clinical research-oriented award in the area of Mental Health, an area still undeveloped, and reinforced the Foundation’s commitment to the award and the promotion of this topic.

“This is an award in the area of mental health, not mental illness, because it connects prevention, diagnosis, and the various lines and perspectives of possible therapies. It is important to realize that it is an award that we tried to direct to a slightly more weak area in Portugal, the research closest to application. This is a first edition.” – Elsa Henriques

The closing session was in charge of Manuel Heitor, Minister of Science, Technology and Higher Education, who thanked the Foundation and researchers, recognizing that there is still a long way to go, but very optimistic that this path will be made.

” [. Saúde Mental é] an area where we all know we have a long journey to go. But that we all want and must make this collective journey. I thank FLAD for this opportunity, I’m sure this award will pay off. And also those who will now have to do the clinical investigation. Pedro mentioned, very well, the generosity of patients. I would also mention the generosity of researchers in dedicating themselves to this field. This joint generosity, certainly also allied to FLAD, is what will make this area emerge and grow in Portugal as we all want.” – Manuel Heitor