Adult 18+

Help develop and test a new medication intervention for people experiencing depression in bipolar

Depression • Medication

What’s the project?

ASCEnD is a clinical study, led by Newcastle University, aiming to understand whether the combination of the antipsychotic aripiprazole with the antidepressant sertraline improves symptoms of depression in adults with bipolar. The study will take place over four years at sites across England.

Depression is common in bipolar but current recommended treatments can only be prescribed by psychiatrists in secondary care, and are often poorly tolerated. This means many people with bipolar cannot access these medications and, if they do, they may experience unpleasant side effects. Therefore, additional treatment options are needed.

Sertraline is a common medication that is given to people experiencing depression. Aripiprazole is an antipsychotic that helps ‘boost’ the effects of sertraline. Both of these medications can be prescribed by GPs, but we don’t know whether they are useful to people experiencing depression in bipolar.

The ASCEnD study will see whether, in comparison to quetiapine (a current treatment for bipolar depression), the combination of sertraline and aripiprazole is safe and effective in treating depression in adults with bipolar.

If this is demonstrated, sertraline and aripiprazole may emerge as a new treatment for bipolar depression that can be started by GPs, thereby reducing delays to treatment.

Find out more

We are looking for people with experience of bipolar (including people with a diagnosis of bipolar and their carers) to form a group called a Lived Experience Advisory Panel (LEAP).

We are also looking for a wider network of people who could be involved on a more ‘as and when’ basis with the study. These people would form an ‘Involvement Network’.

Mental health problems and experiences affect everyone, but involvement in research does not always reflect this. Therefore, we actively seeking applications for the LEAP and Involvement Network from Black, Asian and Minority ethnic groups.

We would especially like to hear from those who have gone through difficult life experiences (for example, seldom-heard groups and low-income backgrounds). We would also like to hear from people
who have not had the opportunity to be involved in research before.

Both groups will help make sure the ASCEnD study remains relevant and appropriate to people experiencing depression in bipolar.

The LEAP will be expected to attend meetings, both face-to-face and online. We will try to help in case anyone does not have a suitable computer/phone to take part in online meetings.

Meetings will take place between two and three times a year and involve giving opinions on the study, its methods and progress. There will also be some tasks between meetings.

The ‘Involvement Network’ will not be invited to attend meetings but will be asked to respond to occasional email requests for advice. This may involve giving feedback on a summary document or contributing to the ethics application for the study, for example.


For the LEAP, we are looking for people from the Newcastle-upon-Tyne area, because in-person meetings will be based in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. However, the exact location of the meetings will vary.

Some travel will therefore be needed.
For the involvement network, individuals can be based anywhere in England.

Payment of £100 will be offered to LEAP members for attending in-person and online meetings.

All reasonable travel expenses for in-person meetings will be covered.

Payment will also be offered to LEAP and involvement network members for tasks distributed by email.

To apply, please complete the following application form and email it to John Gibson at [email protected] by Wednesday 18th October 2023.

If you are not able to fill out the application form or if you have any questions, please get in contact with John by email or phone 07497 302 647.

Wednesday 18th October 2023

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