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The exciting emergence of mental health science

I recently had the privilege of sitting in on talks by some of the brightest young researchers at work in the field of mental health today. The speakers were engaging, informative and yes, inspiring  – but probably not for the reasons you might expect. 

At MQ’s first-ever Annual Science Meeting, we learnt about cutting-edge techniques and important new findings from across neuroscience, psychology and the social sciences. And it was inspiring to see research progress offering real hope for new approaches to anxiety disorders, schizophrenia and OCD.

But, what was most notable was something more subtle, but hugely significant for the future of mental health research. Each of the presenters made a point of talking to – and with – colleagues from other disciplines about their work. And judging by the volume of conversation during the break, the interdisciplinary discussion was continuing among the participants well into the night. 

We invited our leading early-career, mental health investigators in the UK to join us at our Annual Science Meeting and the response was tremendous. Over 70 scientists participated, and clearly relished the notion of disciplines coming together to talk about solving complex issues in mental illness.

This is important. No research should take place in a silo. We won’t address the major issues in mental health with one lab alone.

One attendee noted: “It doesn’t happen often that you go to a conference where everyone has the same goal and works towards it with so much dedication and motivation….” Researchers across different fields united by the same goal. This is what mental health science is about.

As we work on building this connectedness amongst scientists, it is clear that we are filling an important need in the mental health community.

Last week, we opened our third call for applications for the MQ Fellows Award, one of the many early career-funding opportunities in the UK, but the only one dedicated to the topic of mental health. We expect to make four awards this year  – this programme is highly competitive. Of course this is not the message anyone wants to hear, particularly with such a large pool of talent out there. But we aim to support mental health research across disciplines and we’re looking to find and fund the very best.

We look forward to seeing the community of mental health investigators grow – and hope to see even more participants in our Annual Science Meeting next year. We are determined to grow the pot of funds supporting the MQ Fellows programme, as we begin our efforts to secure sustainable, long-term investment from the general public.

We’re committed to building this long-overdue public support for mental health research and advancing these exciting opportunities in mental health science. It is through sharing results, ideas, and expertise that we can ensure that research in the end benefits everyone affected by mental illness. That’s what MQ is here for.

Last updated: 2 June 2016

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