In November of last year we shared the UK Government’s announcement of a new ‘Vaccine Task force style approach’ to tackle a range of health challenges including mental health. Today, more detail has been announced of exactly what this means for mental health research.
£42.7 million for mental health research to develop new treatments, improve diagnosis and increase use of innovative technology
The ‘Mental Health Mission’ aims to accelerate research across the UK and attract private investment to potentially benefit millions of people
Funding will be spread across the UK including two demonstrator sites in Birmingham and Liverpool who will develop novel ways of working which can be rolled out to other sites in the future.
“We are delighted to be working together to make the new Mental Health Mission a truly revolutionary force behind mental health research.”
Say the new joint mission chairs Professors Kathryn Abel and Husseini Manji.
“We want the Mission to create tangible differences to the lives of patients, both in the UK and internationally. Between us, we bring a wealth of experience in mental health research and innovation, and a commitment to genuine collaboration with patients, industry and healthcare staff.
Bringing together the public sector, patients and industry as equal partners, the Mission will work with the Office for Life Sciences and the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) to support the NHS and NIHR to capitalise on its size and scope, and on the depth of its data resources. Alongside additional investment in mental health research and infrastructure, the Mission will foster a step change in the way we think about mental health, mental illness and its treatment. This will support development of the critically needed treatments across the spectrum of mental illness.
We want the UK to be the most attractive place to conduct robust, high impact mental health research, ensuring people have access to the best, and newest, treatments. We are confident that the Mission will be unique in its ability to convene and challenge national partners to make this happen.”
This £42.7 million investment into mental health research will be delivered through a National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) network of investigators. The aim will be to accelerate research into different mental health conditions, including those impacting children, and to work closely with the life sciences sector to encourage private investment.
The UK Government want to build on the COVID-19 Vaccine model which led to one of the most successful vaccine roll outs in the world. They hope that this new investment will, improve the speed and accuracy of diagnosis and increase the use of technology to free up clinician time.
This funding supports the UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s five key priorities by putting patients at the centre of the NHS and ensuring innovation is at the heart of the government’s plans.
Accelerating research across the UK
Research in Liverpool will include the development of a mental health avatar – or interactive digital twin – which is a computerised representation of someone’s health and can suggest beneficial new treatment and resources for people to look after their mental health. The avatar will adapt to variations in an individual’s behaviour and lifestyle which aren’t necessarily captured in clinical diagnoses but are key to identifying new treatments and ways to optimise their care, creating an interactive form of health care. People will also be given the opportunity to take part in ground-breaking trials of new therapies for mood disorders. The research will specifically investigate child mental health to develop wellbeing apps, games and parenting support services to help diagnose mental health problems early.
In Birmingham, research will focus on increasing recruitment to new studies to test and validate novel treatments for mental health conditions, including neurostimulation therapies which trigger cells in the brain to improve symptoms of depression, as well as working with people to comprehensively understand difficult to treat depression, for example. There are also plans to train and support a network of researchers and NHS staff to build capacity in the Midlands.
By investing outside of the Southeast and the ‘golden triangle’, the government will encourage world-leading staff and researchers to work in new areas and encourage additional private investment to benefit patients.
MQ ambassador Robert Westhead, who works at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust and with the Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre said:
“We are on the cusp of a real breakthrough in the development of effective new treatments for mental illness because of a leap forward in brain science and genetics in recent decades.
“This huge investment brings this prospect much, much closer. When I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder 30 years ago this was a distant dream and science had no answers to mental illness. This is no longer the case and should give real hope to patients around the world.
“I myself am benefiting from a novel treatment that’s transformed my life the last four years after nearly 30 years of unremitting severe mental illness. This gives me real confidence that we will soon see life changing new diagnostics and treatments for many people affected by mental illness.”
Introducing the Mission Chairs
MQ is delighted to congratulate Professor Husseini Manji from Oxford University and Professor Kathryn Abel of Manchester University for their appointments to lead the mental health mission.
Professor Husseini Manji, M.D., FRCP is a visiting professor in neuropsychiatry at Duke University and at Oxford University. He was previously the Director of the USA NIH Mood and Anxiety Disorders Programme (the largest Programme of its kind in the world). Dr. Manji has helped to discover, develop, and launch several new medications for serious neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders, including the first medication in Neuroscience granted FDA “Breakthrough designation”
Last year Husseini spoke at the MQ Science Festival about the shared social responsibility we have to improve mental health. More recently he contributed towards an article jointly written by MQ about digital therapeutics and how they can be helpful if properly regulated and implemented.
Professor Kathryn Abel is a professor of Psychological Medicine at the University of Manchester and is the founder and Director of the Centre for Women’s Health (CWMH). Additionally she is the Director of the CAMHS Digital research Unit in Greater Manchester.
Kathryn is the lead on the EN-CAMHS project. Enhancing Children and Adolescent Mental health Service Referrals, EN-CAMHS, is a project working to improve the referral process into CAMHS by identifying the barriers and challenges for referrals and exploring digital solutions to these problems.
“A huge congratulations is in order for Professors Abel and Manji. We look forward to continuing to work with them to improve mental health outcomes in the UK and around the world.”
Said Lea Milligan. CEO of MQ Mental Health Research.
“This new investment into some of the country’s greatest health challenges is precisely what’s needed to ensure the most vulnerable in society are supported.
My hope is that this targeted investment into Mental Health Research puts the voice of people with lived experience of mental health at the core, catalyses partnership with new industries and technologies and ultimately gets new evidence led interventions into the hands of the frontline services and NHS staff.
I am deeply encouraged by the work The Office for Life Sciences has done to listen to people from across the spectrum of mental health research and the public; responding with a focused and timely investment to transform the future of mental health through research.”