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£8 million investment in new mental health research networks

6 Sep 2018

Eight new networks designed to broaden mental health research have been announced by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) today.

The networks cover a diverse range of topics, such as exploring the impact of loneliness and social isolation on mental health, improving the life expectancy of people with severe mental ill health and promoting young people's mental health in a digital world. They will bring together experts from different fields from the arts, humanities and sciences to build capacity and lay the foundations for new, multidisciplinary approaches to mental health research.

The networks represent a total £8 million investment of public money over four years from across the research councils and will embrace insight from charity workers, health professionals and people with lived experience of mental health issues. This complements the £44 million average funding dedicated to this area each year by the MRC and other research councils.

Professor Sir Mark Walport, Chief Executive of UK Research and Innovation, said:

“Mental ill health is the single largest cause of disability in the UK, and it is estimated that almost a quarter of the country’s population are affected by mental health issues each year.

“The UKRI Mental Health Networks will take a new approach to addressing this challenge by bringing together researchers across a wide range of disciplines with people who have experienced mental health issues, charities, health practitioners and other organisations. Through their work, the new networks will further our understanding about the causes, development and treatments of a wide range of mental health issues.” 

Dr Rachael Panizzo PhD, MRC Programme Manager for Mental Health and Addiction said:

“We know poor mental health is a complex problem and we want to look at all the factors involved.   UK research already explores some of the links between mental health and physical health, upbringing, relationships, and socioeconomic factors, but these new networks will strengthen research capacity in exciting and underexplored areas.  By working across Councils within UKRI we can broaden our scope, and create important new insights into mental health risk and prevention.”

Mental health research is a strategic priority for the MRC. Our global community of leading scientists is making huge strides in our understanding of mental health, progressing new treatments and ultimately uncovering paths to prevention of mental health problems.

The network funding call was the result of the Cross-disciplinary Mental Health Research Agenda 2017, developed jointly by the UK research councils, which pinpointed areas where researchers from different disciplinary backgrounds might work together to accelerate progress in mental health research.

The MRC became a constituent part of UKRI on 1 April 2018. UKRI is a new body which works in partnership with universities, research organisations, businesses, charities, and government to create the best possible environment for research and innovation to flourish.

Summaries of the new Mental Health Networks

MARCH: Social, Cultural and Community Assets for Mental Health

Community assets such as the arts, heritage sites, libraries, parks, allotments, volunteer associations and community groups can play a huge role in building resilient individuals and communities. The MARCH network will bring researchers together with policymakers, commissioners and third-sector organisations to further understand how these social, cultural and community assets can enhance public mental health and wellbeing, prevent mental illness and support those living with mental health conditions.

Led by: Dr Daisy Fancourt, UCL

Partners: Queen Mary University of London, Leeds Beckett University, University of Nottingham, University of Exeter, University of London, Beyond Skin, Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens, Coin Street Community Builders, Community Catalysts Ltd, Community Dance, The Conservation Volunteers, Crafts Council, Greenwich Leisure Ltd, The Heritage Lottery Fund, Historic England, Libraries Unlimited, Live Music Now, Museums Association, NCVO, National Trust, Royal Horticultural Society, Sing Up Foundation, The Reading Agency, The Wildlife Trusts (UK), Think Local Act Personal, Voluntary Arts, Youth Music, Youth Music Theatre UK, Arts Council England, Arts Council of Wales, Creative Scotland, Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Local Government Association, Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance, NESTA, Public Health England, Public Health Wales, Royal Society for Public Health, Social Prescribing Network, What Works Centre for Wellbeing, Action for Children, Action for Happiness, Age UK, MIND, MindOut, Mosaic Youth, Rastafari Movement UK, The Children’s Society, The Listening Place, Wonder Foundation, Natural England, The Eden Project, NHS Health Scotland, Mental Health Foundation.

Loneliness and Social Isolation in Mental Health

The negative effects of loneliness and social isolation on physical and mental health are increasingly recognised. People with mental health problems are at high risk of loneliness and social isolation. However, we do not have a good understanding of how some people with mental health problems come to be lonely, or how they feel about it. Reducing loneliness and social isolation may be a way to improve lives of people with mental health problems, or even of preventing these problems. Our network brings together experts and people with lived experience to research how to achieve this.

Led by: Professor Sonia Johnson, UCL

Partners: Middlesex University, Northumbria University, Royal College of Music, London School of Economics and Political Science, The Mental Elf, Public Health England, Campaign to End Loneliness, Association for Young People’s Health, Wellbeing Enterprises, Bromley by Bow Centre, Zinc.

Violence, Abuse and Mental Health: Opportunities for Change

People with mental health problems are more likely to have been victims of domestic or sexual violence, and/or witnessed or experienced violence or abuse as a child. This network will bring together experts on violence, abuse and mental health to investigate the impact of domestic and sexual violence and abuse on mental health and wellbeing, and evaluate potential interventions.

Led by: Professor Louise Howard, King’s College London

Partners: Lancaster University, University of Warwick, UCL, St George’s University of London, University of Oxford, The McPin Foundation, The Lancet Psychiatry, Cambridge University Press.

Transdisciplinary Research for the Improvement of Youth Mental Public Health (TRIUMPH) Network

In today’s society young people face extraordinary pressures to maintain their mental health. They live in an ever-changing environment, driven by changes in technology, communications and the media. These changes have coincided with an increase in mental health problems amongst young people, especially girls. In this network academics will work with young people, health practitioners, policymakers and voluntary organisations to find new ways to improve mental health and wellbeing, especially among vulnerable and disadvantaged populations.

Led by: Professor Lisa McDaid, University of Glasgow

Partners: London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Queen’s University of Belfast, University of Edinburgh, Cardiff University, University of Oxford, Glasgow School of Art, Mental Health Foundation.

SMARtEN: Student Mental Health Research Network

There is increasing concern for the mental health of university students. The number of students seeking help for mental health problems has increased dramatically, as have the number of students with mental health problems dropping out of university. Some reports suggest that the mental wellbeing of university students may be among the lowest in the population. However a lack of strong data in this sector presents a barrier to implementing an evidence based strategic response to concerns. The aim of this network is to address this gap, and change the higher education experience to support strong mental wellbeing for all students.

Led by: Dr Nicola Byrom, King’s College London

Partners: National Centre for Social Research, University of Oxford, Behavioural Insights Team, The McPin Foundation, University of Warwick, Northumbria University, Birkbeck College, The Office of Health Economics, Student Minds, City, University of London, Charlie Waller Memorial Trust, AMOSSHE, Universities UK, NHS England.

The Nurture Network: Promoting Young People's Mental Health in a Digital World

How do we equip parents, teachers, practitioners, policy makers and young people with the information, support and resources they need to promote positive mental health in our modern digital age? This multidisciplinary e-Nurture network will explore how the digital environment has changed the ways in which children experience and interact with their family, school and peers, and what effect this has on their mental health.

Led by: Professor Gordon Harold, University of Sussex

Partners: University of Nottingham, University of Exeter, King’s College London, London School of Economics and Political Science, 5Rights, Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health, Barnardos, BBC, CCIS, Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition, Ditch the Label, Facebook UK, Instagram, Internet Matters Ltd, Internet Watch Foundation, Mumsnet, NIHR MindTech HTC, NSPCC, PSHE Association, ParentZone, Place2Be, Save the Children, Snap Group Ltd, The Diana Award, The Walt Disney Company, UK Safer Internet Centre, UKIE, Yoti Ltd.

Emerging Minds: Action for Child Mental Health

Approximately one in ten children and young people have a diagnosable mental health problem. Research has shown that there are clear indicators that predict the emergence of these conditions in children, but despite this only a small minority of children receive effective support. This network will bring together academics from health research, arts, design, humanities and physical science disciplines in order to establish the best ways of helping children, young people and families benefit from mental health research.

Led by: Professor Cathy Creswell, University of Reading

Partners: The University of Manchester, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Swansea University, University of Bath, University of Leeds, University of Nottingham, Newcastle University, University of Reading, Mental Health Museum.

Improving Health and Reducing Health Inequalities for People with Severe Mental Illness: the 'Closing the Gap' Network+

Life expectancy is reduced by 20 to 25 years among people with severe mental ill health. This profound health inequality is mostly due to physical health problems such as heart disease, diabetes or cancers associated with lifestyle factors. Rates of smoking and obesity are also much higher in this population, housing is often poor, and people do not benefit from the opportunities offered by exercise and interaction with the natural environment. This network will facilitate interdisciplinary research to understand and close this mortality gap.

Led by: Professor Simon Gilbody, University of York

Partners: Keele University, Mental Health Foundation, Digital Creativity Labs, Mental Health Foundation, Natural England, Wildlife Trust, Groundwork Trust.


  • Categories: Research
  • Health categories: Mental Health
  • Locations: Other
  • Type: News article