Feb 10

Time to step up mental health research

Mental health research is an easy target for cuts when budgets are tight.

Yet without research and developing our understanding about how our minds work, we won’t be able to make the much needed breakthroughs that offer the chance to prevent future generations developing mental health problems in the first place, or getting the early help they need to make the quickest possible recovery.Luciana Berger MQ

There have been impressive advances in the treatment of mental illnesses in recent years. There have been improvements in psychiatry and in medicines, as well as in public attitudes towards mental health; but there is so much that we still need to understand.

Further research is vital and could help us better understand the link between hormones and anxiety disorders, or the link between folic acid and schizophrenia, or the connections between serotonin and depression, or how our brain patterns may create the conditions for obsessive-compulsive disorder.

One in four of us will develop a mental health problem in any given year. That’s around 15 million people.

The UK only spends around £115 million on mental health research each year – which equates to £8 per person effected by mental illness, or just 5.8 per cent of the total spent on UK medical research. In fact, we spend 22 times more on research into cancer than on mental illness.

The amount we spend on mental health research is too low given the scale of the challenges we face.

That is why I am backing the MQ campaign to demand more funding for research, especially into mental illness in young people.

The MQ campaign is eye-catching: ‘it’s time to give a XXXX about mental illness’, with celebrities such as Mel C, boxer Nicola Adams, and actor Gillian Anderson signing up.

The message is to swear to take on mental illness in children and adolescents – with the double meaning that the state of mental health services makes you want to swear, and that we should all solemnly swear to tackle mental illness.

The potential of research is vast. Mental health problems start early, with three quarters of mental illness in adults starting before the age of 18. As many as three children in every classroom have a diagnosable mental health condition.

Very few treatments exist specifically for children or teenagers. Our lack of awareness and knowledge mean that it can take as much as ten years to get the right support for many young people.

Well planned and well-funded mental health research could make all the difference.

You can find out more about the work MQ is doing and the campaign by clicking here.