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£35 million boost to adolescent mental health research


£35m boost to adolescent mental health research

A major new research UK Research and Innovation programme which will explore what makes teenagers more or less likely to develop mental health problems and how we might intervene early, has been announced by the government today.

The £35 million investment is the largest single programmatic investment in mental health ever made by UK research councils and will use research expertise from a variety of disciplines to look at how our biology, environment and upbringing, shape this critical development stage, and how we can better treat, manage and prevent mental health problems.

The funding is made available through the government’s Strategic Priorities Fund (SPF), a multimillion-pound programme that looks to drive high quality, multi-disciplinary research and is delivered by UK Research and Innovation.

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. It is also 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.

Research funded through this programme will look to examine how mental health problems emerge, what makes some people more susceptible or resilient than others and how we can intervene early, in schools, at a community level or through the use of technologies, 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.

Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom said:

“Our teenage years can be the most fantastic of our life. But there are those for whom the teenage years are the most difficult. We know that in the UK, three quarters of those that will experience mental health problems will do so before they turn 24. 

“The £35 million Government-backed research programme we are announcing today will look to better understand why so many teenagers face mental health problems, and how we can better support, detect and treat them”.

UK Research and Innovation Executive Chair for the Medical Research Council, Professor Fiona Watt, said:

“It’s clear that events in our teenage years have a major impact on lifelong mental health and wellbeing.  The current statistics are stark - 75 per cent of mental health problems emerge by the age of 24. Mental health problems are on the rise and suicide is a leading cause of death in young people.

“UK Research and Innovation is one of the top three funders of mental health research in the UK, and our researchers are making huge strides towards improving our understanding of mental health. This significant new investment will play a key role in unlocking the mysteries that surround how and why we develop mental health problems.”

Emma Thomas, Chief Executive of YoungMinds:

“This investment in research is hugely welcome. We know from young people we work with that the factors that can lead to poor mental health are often complex, but that difficult experiences at a young age – like bereavement, bullying or abuse – can have a huge impact. It’s really important that we have clear evidence about how the circumstances children grow up in affect their mental health, and about what forms of support make the most difference.

“While we undoubtedly need investment in NHS mental health services, we would also hope that this research would lead to further action across government and across society to address the crisis and make early support a priority.”

The SPF programme, Adolescence, Mental Health and the Developing Mind, will be jointly delivered by the Medical Research Council, the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Economic and Social Research Council.

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