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£35 million boost to adolescent mental health research

7 Oct 2019

A major mental health research programme, led by the MRC, has been announced today, to explore what makes teenagers more or less likely to develop mental health problems and how we might intervene early.

With funding from the government’s Strategic Priorities Fund the MRC will work with the Arts and Humanities Research Council and Economic and Social Research Council as part of UK Research and Innovation, in the largest single programmatic investment in mental health ever made by UK research councils. It will use research expertise from a variety of disciplines to look at how our biology, environment and upbringing shape this critical development stage, and how we can better treat, manage and prevent mental health problems.

Adolescence is a time of rapid growth, learning and brain development, when our interactions with the world are changing hugely in the transition to adulthood. It is a crucial time when it comes to mental health. Three quarters of mental health problems emerge before the age of 24. Around one in eight children have a diagnosable mental health problem, with overall rates continuing to rise.

This programme of research will study how mental health problems emerge, what makes people more susceptible or resilient than others and how we can intervene early, in schools, at a community level or through the use of technologies, to promote positive mental health and wellbeing.

Working with policy makers and people affected by these issues, including young people, parents and teachers, will be an important part of this programme, and a critical component to bringing about real-world changes from this research.

Professor Fiona Watt, Executive Chair for the Medical Research Council, said:

“It’s clear that events in our teenage years have a major impact on lifelong mental health and wellbeing.  The current statistics are stark - 75 per cent of mental health problems emerge by the age of 24. Mental health problems are on the rise and suicide is a leading cause of death in young people.

“UK Research and Innovation is one of the top three funders of mental health research in the UK, and our researchers are making huge strides towards improving our understanding of mental health. This significant new investment will play a key role in unlocking the mysteries that surround how and why we develop mental health problems.”

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