The new networks will embrace a collaborative ethos, bringing together researchers from a wide range of disciplines, including health, medicine, biology, social sciences, humanities and environmental sciences. Many of the networks will also include insight from charity workers, health practitioners and people with lived experience of mental health issues.
The networks, which are supported with £8 million of funding and will be funded for four years (one for three), will progress mental health research into themes such as the profound health inequalities for people with severe mental ill health, social isolation, youth and student mental health, domestic and sexual violence, and the value of community assets.
The networks include the Transdisciplinary Research for the Improvement of Youth Mental Public Health (TRIUMPH) Network, led by the University of Glasgow’s Professor of Social Sciences and Health, Lisa McDaid, from the Institute of Health and Wellbeing’s MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit.
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.
Partners in the TRIUMPH Network include London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Queen’s University of Belfast, University of Edinburgh, Cardiff University, Glasgow School of Art and the Mental Health Foundation.
Professor McDaid said: “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.
“One in 10 children and young people experience mental health problems, yet we have few effective solutions for the improvement of youth mental public health. Treatment and care, when accessible, treats the problem, not the causes and we believe there is a different solution-focused approach – one that seeks to understand young people’s strengths, assets and resiliencies, which we can draw on to improve health.
“This is why young people will be at the centre of the TRIUMPH Network and by bringing them together with academics from across the clinical, social, arts and design sciences with practitioners and policy makers, we will work together to find bold solutions to prevent and reduce mental health problems.”
Professor Sir Mark Walport, UKRI chief executive, 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.”