UKRI announces £24 million investment into adolescent mental health

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has announced a major £24 million investment into improving the mental health and wellbeing of adolescents in the UK.

Seven newly funded and highly ambitious projects aim to generate a whole new understanding of the developing mind to enable young people to flourish.

Adolescence is a vulnerable stage of life for mental health when the brain is known to be highly sensitive to external influences.

Previous research has shown that 75% of mental health problems emerge before the age of 18 (Mental Health First Aid England). It is crucial we develop effective interventions that can be implemented at an early stage to help prevent or reduce mental health problems.

Susceptibility and resilience

The collective aim of these new projects is to better understand how and why mental health problems emerge and what makes some young people more susceptible or resilient than others. The projects include:

  • improving social media to create a positive environment for young people’s mental health
  • using creative arts and visual tools to both learn from and support young people.

This knowledge will be used to generate evidence that can lead to new approaches for improving adolescent:

  • wellbeing
  • educational attainment
  • sense of identity
  • social functioning.

The projects have been funded through the Strategic Priorities Fund, a UKRI cross-council initiative led by the Medical Research Council in collaboration with:

  • the Arts and Humanities Research Council.
  • the Economic and Social Research Council.

The aim of the initiative is to support multi and inter-disciplinary research and innovation that will address an area of strategic importance aligned with government policy and research priorities.

Rebecca, 24, has experienced mental health problems as a young person and was on the Young People’s Reviewer Panel, which helped to shape the call. She said:

I was really excited to be a part of the decision-making. It meant that I could actually see what people were trying to propose to help and as someone with lived experience of mental health, could suggest what I thought would and wouldn’t work.

Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, Chief Executive of UKRI, said:

It is abundantly clear that more work is urgently needed to find effective ways to support the mental health of young people at a crucial stage in their lives.

This portfolio of interdisciplinary projects will build the evidence and understanding that we need to combat debilitating mental illness in young people and allow them to fulfil their potential.

Science Minister Amanda Solloway said:

As we look to build back better from the pandemic, the health and happiness of children and young people across the UK is an absolute priority.

We are committed to investing in the mental health of adolescents, leveraging the world-class capabilities of UK researchers to deliver the very best outcomes for our young people.

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