Biogen has announced the UK launch of a new digital self-help tool to support the mental health of people with multiple sclerosis.

The tool, named ACT MySelf, was developed by Biogen in collaboration with people living with MS, the MS Trust, a team of MS specialist nurses and an MS clinical psychologist, in response to UK research revealing the emotional pressure points experienced by people living with the disease.

Recent data from the NHS and the MS Trust suggest indicate that the number of people living with MS experiencing emotional pressure points – particularly at diagnosis and in early disease – is on the rise.

In 2019 alone, the NHS reported a 24.5% rise in anxiety disorders amongst people living with MS, while a recent survey published by the MS Trust showed that 72% of people living with MS report feeling anxious or depressed for more than several days a month.

“It is deeply concerning that so many people affected by MS are not receiving the emotional support they need. Living with a long-term condition like MS does not only mean facing physical challenges, it can mean overcoming mental challenges too, and we believe it is absolutely vital that the support and information is out there to help people with MS, and loved-ones, who are struggling with their mental health,” said David Martin, chief executive at the MS Trust and vice chair of the Neurological Alliance.

ACT MySelf leads people through exercises based on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), a psychological therapy used in the management of several conditions such as anxiety, depression and pain, and which has been shown to benefit people living with MS.

'The tool helps people to learn strategies to live life more in the present, with more focus on what’s important to them and less focus on painful thoughts, feelings and experiences', Biogen said.

“There is often limited resource within MS services dedicated to psychological or emotional support. We developed the ACT MySelf tool to help address this, as a widely available tool for those who do not require specialist intervention,” Carolyn Patterson, clinical psychologist, Ayrshire Central Hospital, NHS Ayrshire and Arran and one of the experts involved in developing ACT MySelf. “It’s an easy-to-use resource, incorporating simple exercises that those living with MS may benefit from to help them live a valued life.”

Currently more than 130,000 people live with MS in the UK.