MRC Calls for Major Rethink on Mental Health Research

The Medical Research Council has called for a strategic rethink on the funding of mental health research in the UK following a major review reported in the Lancet last week. Mental health problems affect 16 million people in the UK at any one time and is estimated to cost at least £77 billion annually in England alone:

MRC Review of Mental Health Research

The report identifies four key themes where there are gaps in existing research. These are:

  • severe mental illness (primarily psychosis)
  • anxiety and depression (including bipolar disorder)
  • neurodevelopmental, learning and intellectual disabilities
  • pathways to mental wellbeing

The review also highlights the disparity between the burden of the disease and the level of funding for mental health research, and identifies several target areas for a future mental health investment strategy:

  • strengthen population-based research through:
    • the development of an NHS-based large-scale dataset and repository of biological and social factors for mental health research;
    • adding value to existing or planned cohorts;
  • promote experimental medicine and research into new treatments;
  • increase research capacity and innovation by:
    • exploiting the key scientific opportunities in this field and expand the foundations for new treatments and prevention through enhancing support for thematic multidisciplinary research groups;
    • enhancing research training and increasing critical mass by adding incentive for research careers in mental health research and encouraging broader, structured training programmes across all relevant disciplines and careers;
  • work with stakeholders to investigate how best to reduce stigma and to promote positive mental health and wellbeing at a population level throughout the life course.

Annex D of the review also has a useful summary of past and current funding opportunities in mental, both UK and EU-based.