70 years of the Mental Health Foundation

We have spent the last 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.

Photo of our founder, Derek Richter

‘’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

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.

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.

"[Our] outlook is … not wedded to any particular approach to this many-sided subject.",

Derek Richter

1960: Influencing government

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

"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

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.

Our first 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.

"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

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.


A front cover of one of our influential reports


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.

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.

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.

2015: Focus on prevention

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

18 July 2019: We turn 70!

Join in our birthday celebrations by sharing the picture below on social media!

Want to find out more? Then check out the long-read version of our history here.

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.

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