Why we must invest in mental health research
MQ Mental Health Research – one of Campbell Tickell’s charity partners for 2022 – funds scientific research into mental health conditions, supporting pioneering breakthroughs in this poorly understood field
INNOVATION & IMPROVEMENT
Philanthropy and partnerships manager, MQ Mental Health Research
For far too long, research into mental health conditions, treatments and interventions has been severely underfunded. In fact, just £9 per person affected is spent on mental health research, compared to £228 per person on cancer research.
This underfunding means we are far behind where we should be in terms of our understanding of our mental health. This is an issue that has now been brought into sharp focus by the Covid-19 pandemic.
What is MQ?
MQ Mental Health Research is working to change all of this. It is the only charity that exclusively invests into scientific research for different mental health conditions. Its aim is to better understand, effectively treat and, ultimately one day, prevent mental illnesses from occurring.
MQ supports research around the world and across disciplines. Psychology, Neuroscience, social science and big data are all needed if we are to find real solutions to some of the challenges faced by the one in four of us who experience a mental illness each year.
MQ was established in 2013 and has so far invested over £22 million to support world-class research – it has already had some pioneering breakthroughs.
Identifying depression in early adolescence
The IDEA project was a multi-national study spanning Brazil, Nepal, Nigeria and the UK. The study, which was run by MQ researcher Dr Valeria Mondelli, successfully developed a tool to predict which young people would go on to develop depression in later life.
This means that they can be given access to support and interventions before symptoms develop. This tool is ground-breaking and could help prevent millions of people from suffering if the tool is made available to every school and GP around the world.
Bullying and mental health
MQ researcher Dr Jean-Baptiste Pingault’s study examined the long-term impact of bullying. In a study conducted over a long period of time, which also incorporated genetic testing, he was able to prove the link between childhood bullying and adult mental health conditions.
His work has now resulted in new guidance being issued to schools throughout England and Wales so students can be better supported.
“MQ researcher, Dr Valeria Mondelli, successfully developed a tool to predict which young people would go on to develop depression in later life.”
Using big data for mental health research
The Adolescent Data Platform (ADP) was established at Swansea University by MQ researcher Professor Ann John. It used the routinely collected data from schools, GPs, the NHS, children’s services and local authorities, anonymised it, and then made it available for research.
This data was used to spot trends and identify health issues within adolescents in Wales. This study has already resulted in new guidance being issued to schools about self-harm in teenagers.
While the ADP was based in Wales, it was so successful that the Medical Research Council has now funded a new UK-wide project, also led by Ann, called Datamind. This builds on the success of the ADP and will also include the results from other research studies.
“In June 2021, 340,694 children were in contact with the Children and Adult Mental Health Service (CAMHS) – 51% more than pre-Covid times.”
Improving the delivery of mental health services
In June 2021, 340,694 children were in contact with the Children and Adult Mental Health Service (CAMHS) – 51% more than pre-Covid times. The service is overwhelmed which means that many young people cannot get the help they need due to long waiting lists and sparse resources.
Professor Kathryn Abel, from the University of Manchester, is working to change this. Her study, supported by MQ, is working to improve the referral process to CAMHS service, and provide better signposting to alternative services that might be more suitable for the one in five people who are turned away from CAMHS.
These are just some of the many studies that MQ supports. It is only through investment in research that we can truly understand the challenges we face, identify the roadblocks and together find effective solutions.