Increased Investment in mental health research falls a long way short of what is needed

25 April 2017

Last week, the Medical Research Council (MRC) set out a timely strategy to focus more attention on mental ill health, but it doesn’t come close to rectifying decades of underfunding.

Jenny Edwards CBE, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation said:

“The huge lack of investment in research to prevent and treat mental health problems is a deep disappointment, something the MRC had the opportunity to address last week in their long awaited statement. We now live longer healthier lives thanks to research into preventing physical health problems. If we are to lead truly healthy lives, the same approach must be taken in mental health.

“When it comes to research, there is wide gulf between the funds made available for physical health and those for mental health. Underlined by the fact that in recent years mental ill-health has only received 3% of the MRC's research spend*. This is despite mental ill-health representing 23% of the disease burden – compared to 16% for cancer.

“It is time for this historic underfunding to be rectified, with a focus on finding and addressing the sources of mental ill-health be they medical or social. I am calling on the MRC to look again at its strategy and dramatically raise its spending on mental health research. The funds provided must reflect the impact mental health problems have on people and more widely society and the economy. In announcing the strategy the MRC have recognised there is a problem, but failed to deliver an equitable solution.

“The establishment of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) to co-ordinate and oversee UK scientific research provides a fresh start, an opportunity for the research community to break this pattern of neglect. We hope that it will help to ring in an era of parity for research focused on the social determinants of mental health and effective, non-medical responses to them.”

* Reported spend of £25.2m in 2015/16 on mental health research against total research budget of £927.8m in 2015/16