The Medical Research Council has launched a mental health strategy to drive forward science in the field.
While continuing to support mental health research through grants and fellowships, the new strategy aims to focus research in a number of vital areas.
Dr Rob Buckle, Chief Science Officer at the MRC, said: “With a significant financial commitment to ensure the UK is at the forefront of new discovery science in mental health, this rebooted strategy sets out how we will further accelerate our understanding of mental illness with the long-term aim of developing new treatments for the prevention of, and early interventions for, mental disorders.”
Mental health issues – such as anxiety and depression – are estimated to affect approximately one in six people at any time in the UK and cost the UK economy an estimated £70-100 billion annually. The MRC will work with other Research Councils, the Department of Health, charities, industry and people with experience of mental illness to concentrate efforts in what they see as key areas.
One such area will be improving the ability to gather data from patients and the NHS. Their goal is to stimulate better use of information about mental health in existing UK population studies, and to inspire new studies with patients, people at risk, and healthy volunteers, powered with new technology. There will be extra support for researchers to engage with the new Health Data Research UK – a national institute set up to develop new methods in data science.
The strategy will also focus on the interactions between biology, environment, culture, cognition and childhood thought to contribute to mental health disorders using a new investment – £20m over five years – in global mental health.
“In research terms, five years may not seem a long time,” said Dr Buckle. “But since the MRC launched its strategy for mental health research in 2012 there have been a number of advances in understanding the biological, environmental and psychological factors that influence the development and impact of mental illness.”