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UK Mental Health Research Funding: Where next?

MQ has just published the second ‘UK Mental Health Research Funding’ report, which sets out the latest data on exactly how much money has been invested in mental health research – and where it’s spent. 

We asked some of the leading voices in UK mental health research one question: what needs to happen next? 

Professor Chris Whitty, NIHR lead and Chief Scientific Advisor to the Department of Health and Social Care: 

"As leader of the NIHR - the nation’s largest funder of mental health research - I welcome MQ's call for broad, sustained investment. NIHR is building partnerships across government, the funding community, researchers and the voluntary sector, in order to deliver the Government’s ambition of parity between mental and physical health."   

Dr Andrew Welchman, Head of Neuroscience & Mental Health at Wellcome Trust: 

“As this report shows, too many people are still left without effective treatments and we need to invest to meet this challenge. The increased focus on mental health by the public and politicians is great progress, but talking alone is not enough. We need to develop and improve treatments and get these to the people who need them.

“Science is essential to advancing mental health, which is why Wellcome is committing £200 million for mental health research over the next five years to drive the field forward. To take on this huge challenge, we need broad expertise, with researchers from different backgrounds and experiences, and different countries, working alongside individual’s with personal experience, governments, businesses and wider society.”

Dr Vanessa Pinfold, Chair of the Alliance of Mental Health Research funders and co-founder of the McPin Foundation:

“Tracking mental health funding levels across institutions and different topic areas is vital to ensure the scarce resources available to mental health research can be appropriately targeted to make the biggest difference in people’s lives. I welcome a future vision focused on a multi-disciplinary approach to mental health research, and in particular the inclusion of lived experience expertise.”

Dr Sophie Dix, Director of Research at MQ:

“We need research to work for people living with a mental illness. This report shows there’s a lot of work to be done to see real progress. We need more funding, of course, but we also need funding to be used more effectively.

"The need for charities like MQ to not only raise important funds, but also work collaboratively is clear. It’s vital we come together and ensure that all research being funded has a pathway to reach those affected. Research can transform what it means to experience mental illness, starting now and for every generation to come. It’s time to make this happen.” 

Dr Sarah Carr, Senior Fellow in Mental Health Policy, Institute for Mental Health, University of Birmingham:

"I think that one of the issues is that there isn't a coherent narrative on mental health research for the public, which conveys biopsychosocial understandings rather than disease models. The distribution of what little funding there is demonstrates this. Mental health is complex and the research needs to be multi-facted. We need to invest in research into social factors such as poverty, trauma and discrimination, finding out how we live with mental distress and harnessing experiential knowledge."

Professor Louise Arseneault, ESRC Mental Health Leadership Fellow:

“Greater mental health awareness may generate greater public and philanthropic donations, but we need a framework around whether this is on an institutional, charity or funder level.

"We can support a loud and bold mental health awareness campaign that not only appeals to the general population but goes deep to reach the most disadvantaged and vulnerable groups of people who need knowledge and education about mental health. It is also our responsibility, as a community of mental health researchers, to propose the best and the most innovative research projects that are at the forefront of science.”

André Tomlin, researcher and founder of the Mental Elf:

“We need more research funding, and we need it targeted in areas where there is the most inequality, discrimination and stigma. But let’s not ignore a more fundamental problem: it still takes 17 years for new research to reach frontline practice. Disseminating and implementing new evidence in practice must be our real priority if we are to see genuine improvements in patient care.”

Click here to read the full UK Mental Health Research Funding 2014-2017 report, or the methodology paper in The Lancet Psychiatry.

Last updated: 28 February 2019

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