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.
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Adolescence, Mental Health and the Developing Mind
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
COVID-19 rapid knowledge mobilisation (closed)
Two awards commenced in September 2020 to support the rapid mobilisation of research to address the wellbeing and mental health needs of adolescents during the COVID-19 pandemic, to the total of £400k. Co-production is the central aspect of both awards, with young people involved in all stages of the projects, including the design and development of engaging and accessible multimedia resources.
Summaries of the 2 projects awarded by UKRI are here (PDF, 86KB).
Research Programmes (open to shortlisted applicants only)
This £24M call will support a range of substantive flagship programmes, each of up to 4-year duration and up to £4M.
National and international experts from across medicine, biology, psychology, social sciences, arts and humanities disciplines as well as representatives from key stakeholders (policy makers, health, social care and education sectors) and young people have been convened to sit on the Experts Panel for this call.
A list of members of the Expert Review panel is here (PDF, 111KB).
Methodology Call (due to launch Summer 2021)
A call focused on developing and embedding new research methods, tools, measures and resources to advance the overall field of adolescent mental health research.
Adolescence, Mental Health and the Developing Mind Workshop – November 2019
An introductory workshop to communicate the scope and ambitions of the initiative and to encourage networking and learning across key groups of participants, including policy makers, health, social care and education sectors, young people and those with lived experience of mental health problems.
Methodology Scoping Workshop – November 2020
An online workshop to explore the challenges and opportunities for new research methods, tools, approaches, measures and resources in the field of adolescent mental health. The outputs of the workshop will contribute to the development of the methodology funding call.
An Introductory message for the Workshop from Professor Eamon McCrory, Programme Director can be found here.
There will be a number of further 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 continue to be added to the website once they have taken place.
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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
- Representative of the programmes Young Person’s Advisory Group (below).
A number of other government departments, including devolved governments, have supported the development of this programme and remain engaged in its delivery.
Young Person’s Advisory Group
A Young Person’s Advisory Group (YPAG) has been established to ensure that the direct experience of young people living with mental health issues is at the centre of the programme. The YPAG provide guidance and advice as part of the programme’s governance structure, help shape the involvement of young people on our funding panels and assessment processes and co-facilitate training as part of this.
Involvement of Young People
Beyond the YPAG, a wide group of young people are involved in the programme. This includes young people helping us to review proposals, sit on funding panels, participate in interviews and contribute to scoping workshops.
It is so important that young people are involved in research programmes like this. It is easy for researchers to forget what is happening on the ground and the realities of those who are going through mental health difficulties. By having young people as part of the programme, it can steer the direction of the conversation and highlight what is most important and relevant to them. Researchers need to listen to and understand the voice of young people - they deserve a place in the discussion!
Lucy, 20, member of the Engagement Awards Young People’s Reviewer Panel