Our history

We have spent over 70 years as a UK charity working at the forefront of mental health.

Our timeline below takes you on a journey through our history and the biggest changes we have achieved with your support.

1949: We are founded

After the Second World War and the foundation of the NHS, Derek Richter establishes the Mental Health Research Fund to address the clear imbalance in physical and mental health funding.

A keen scientist, Derek sets up a wartime research laboratory to treat shellshock in soldiers. He is particularly interested in how your experiences (such as serving in a war) and the environment you live in can shape your mental health.

This approach still informs our research to this very day.

I am getting tired of this perpetual fight to get small sums of research, when our colleagues working in cancer and TB are almost embarrassed by the money being thrust at them.’’  - Derek Richter

Derek Richter

1952: Tackling stigma

We host our first major conference in Oxford bringing together a range of perspectives on mental health. In the 50s, mental health is still extremely stigmatised and people with mental health problems were thought of as 'defective' and sent off to asylums. We actively tackle the problematic thinking around this.

A building

1960: Influencing government

The Fund starts to use outcomes of its research to influence government health and social policies.

The measure of the Foundation's achievement is that for millions of ordinary people the fear, stigma and suffering associated with mental illness is now a thing of the past. - Sir David Plaistow

1973: Mental Health Foundation is formed

The Fund merges with the Mental Health Trust to create the Mental Health Foundation and grows to include departments for grant-making, policy influencing and fundraising.

Old MHF logo

1989: Working with service users

The Foundation puts people with lived experience of mental health problems at the heart of our work. This includes setting up membership organisations and publishing reports working with service users in equal partnership for the first time.

Hands coming together

Our aim is not only to add to the total sum of research, but also to serve as an advisory body concerned with developing the field on a much wider scale -

Ian Henderson, Chairman of the Mental Health Research Fund

1994: Pioneering new research methods

The Foundation conducts the first major piece of social research at a time when laboratory-based research still dominates. We use this research to address mental health problems in the community rather than clinical settings such as hospitals.

Bright futures cartoon illustration

1998/99: Focus on young people

The Foundation innovates digital approaches to research young people’s mental health and pioneers evidence reviews for public mental health.

Girl and boy talking

2001: We launch Mental Health Awareness Week

The Foundation launches Mental Health Awareness Week with its first theme ‘Friendship and Mental Health’. It brings awareness and action at scale and grows to be the biggest annual mental health campaign in the world.

Celebration hands in the air

2007: Mental health and the arts

The Foundation launches the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival - it is the largest of its kind in the world and it is replicated internationally.

Man at a festival

2015: Focus on prevention

The Foundation focuses on prevention as the only reasonable answer to the scale of today’s mental health challenge.

Man holding MHF prevention sign

18 July 2019: We turn 70!

We're celebrating the past but looking forward to the next 70 years and the change we can achieve together.

MHF 70 years celebration

Support us

As we reflect on our achievements over the past 70 years, one thing is clear - our work is not yet done. We know that 50% of mental health problems are established before the age of 14, and that suicide is the leading cause of death for men under 50 in the UK. 

We need your support to continue making a difference.

Donate now