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Research

Adolescence, Mental Health and the Developing Mind

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.

The Adolescence, Mental Health and Developing Mind programme will support research that examines how mental health problems emerge, what makes some people more susceptible or resilient than others and how we can intervene early 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.

This £35m programme is being funded by the government’s Strategic Priorities Fund and delivered by the Medical Research Council with the Arts and Humanities Research Council and Economic and Social Research Council as part of UK Research and Innovation.

For any queries or for more information, please contact adolescentmentalhealth@mrc.ukri.org

Adolescence, Mental Health and the Developing Mind

Scoping and priorities

How to get involved

Calls for funding

Workshops

Governance

Useful links

Scoping and priorities

We will support a wide range of research through this programme, including understanding the factors that might influence mental health as well as exploring preventative strategies and novel intervention approaches. Some research challenges to be addressed may include:

  • Understanding the different factors that impact during adolescence and how they interact, including genes, environment and social interactions
  • Learning what mitigates risk and enables resilience
  • How to identify vulnerable young people early
  • Exploring new methods, resources and ways of working
  • Increasing the evidence base around what works well in schools for mental health support
  • Better understanding of online harms and how digital technology can be harnessed to promote positive mental wellbeing

The programme will run from 2019 - 2025 and is being delivered through four interlinked areas of activity:

  • Flagship research programmes

Multidisciplinary teams will address major research challenges, helping to identify what more effective prevention and intervention approaches for young people’s mental health might look like.

  • Methodological development

This workstream will generate and embed new research methods, tools, measures and resources in the field.

  • Community-building

This workstream will establish a UK-wide network of researchers and stakeholders, oriented to the challenge in question, creating and strengthening multidisciplinary research collaborations, and facilitating interactions with policy makers, health, social care and education sectors. Critically, the voice of young people will be central to these developments.

  • Stakeholder engagement and knowledge mobilisation

This workstream will accelerate implementation of research evidence into policy and practice by linking researchers, stakeholders and relevant knowledge mobilisation organisations.

Why Adolescence?

Adolescence is a critical, poorly understood period in the life course.

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.

Understanding what puts young people at risk, or enables resilience, during and before adolescence is needed to understand how some young people thrive despite exposure to adversity.

Effective early intervention for those in need will promote positive mental wellbeing and better management of mental health problems.

A multidisciplinary approach

A multidisciplinary approach, encompassing medicine, biology, social science, arts and humanities among others, is critical to address the complex research challenges in this space and bring about better interventions to promote good mental health.

Breaking down silos and facilitating the sharing of expertise and resources across disciplines will be an important component of the programme.
 

How to get involved

Investments will primarily be made through calls for funding or community building workshops. All opportunities will be announced on the MRC website.

MRC will be administering calls for funding on behalf of the three Councils; therefore, proposals do not necessarily need to fall within the remit of the MRC. 

Public Sector Research Establishments (PSRE’s) will be eligible to apply for funding through this programme. If PSREs wishing to apply have not previously applied for UKRI funding and are not currently designated IRO status they will be required to complete an eligibility form to ensure they have the required research capacity, systems and controls in place to manage the research and grant funding.

Collaborative funding proposals with non-academic partners (where the Principal Investigator is based at an eligible Research Organisation) will be welcomed through calls for this programme. Please get in touch with us to discuss how to go about this.

Current/recent calls for funding

Engagement Awards  (closed)
11 Awards were made as part of the Engagement Awards funding call in February 2020, to the total of £1.06M.
Summaries of the 11 projects awarded by UKRI are here (PDF, 872KB).

Research Programmes (open)

Workshops

There will be a number of workshops and webinars to share information about the programme, bring the community together and support calls for funding.

Workshops will be open to all those interested in attending, including academic researchers, third sector organisations, industry, patients and the public, unless otherwise stated in the call text.

Slides and/or videos from these events will added to the website once they have taken place.

If you would like to be kept informed about these events, please email adolescentmentalhealth@mrc.ukri.org

Governance

Programme Director

Professor Eamon McCrory

Professor Eamon McCrory, Chair of Developmental Neuroscience and Psychopathology at University College London, has been appointed as the Director for the Adolescence, Mental Health and the Developing Mind programme. Professor McCrory was selected after a competitive search led by the MRC. Young people with lived experience of mental health problems met with the final candidates and contributed their views to the decision-making process.

Eamon is Co-Director of the Developmental Risk and Resilience Unit at UCL and is internationally recognised for his research on the neuroscience of childhood adversity and mental health. Eamon is also a Consultant Clinical Psychologist, a member of the Executive team at the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families, Visiting Professor at the Child Study Centre, Yale, and Co-Founder and Co-Director of the UK Trauma Council. Eamon will conduct the role as a part-time secondment from UCL.

Commenting on his appointment in March 2020, Professor McCrory said “I’m genuinely excited at the prospect of leading the delivery of this ground-breaking UKRI programme. For the field of child and adolescent mental health it presents a very real opportunity to rethink how we work and what we can deliver. This will require fresh thinking, greater inter-disciplinary collaboration and new kinds of partnerships between researchers, clinicians, community services and young people.”

“Significant progress can only be made if we first establish a more granular understanding of the complex developmental interplay of biological, psychological, social and cultural factors that characterise this formative period.”

Research and Stakeholder Advisory Board

A Research and Stakeholder Advisory Board (RSAB) has been established to provide advice and guidance to the Programme. Members of the Board are listed below:

  • Professor Ed Bullmore (Chair), Professor of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge
  • Professor Ilina Singh, Professor of Neuroscience and Society, University of Oxford
  • Professor Chris Taylor, Professor of Social Sciences, Cardiff University
  • Professor Andrew McIntosh Professor of Biological Psychiatry, University of Edinburgh
  • Professor Terrie Moffitt, Professor of Social Behaviour and Development, King’s College London and Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, Duke University, USA
  • Dr Argyris Stringaris Chief, Mood Brain and Development Unit, National Institute for Mental Health, USA
  • Vanessa Pinfold, Co-founder and Research Director, McPin Foundation
  • Lisa Harker, Director, Nuffield Family Justice Observatory
  • Alaster Smith, Head of Research Knowledge and Engagement, Deputy Head of Social Research and Deputy Chief Scientific Advisor, Department for Education
  • Alison Tingle, Senior Research Liaison Manager, Department of Health and Social Care

A Young Person’s Advisory Group is in the process of being established, a member of whom will join the RSAB.

A number of other government departments, including devolved governments, have supported the development of this programme and remain engaged in its delivery.

Useful links

UKRI Mental Health research strategies and activities