Til Wykes on the Declaration on Mental Health Research

Til WykesLast Wednesday was the launch of the Declaration on Mental Health Research. This initiative is aimed at drawing attention to the imbalance of resources devoted to research on mental illnesses as compared to other disabling conditions (see http://www.researchmentalhealth.org.uk/). Mental health problems account for 15% of disability and yet only receive 5% of the research resources, so we need to triple the investment from about £74m per year to £200m. I expect readers of this blog are thinking that we can’t afford it … but the economic, social and human costs of mental ill health is £100 billion a year and proper research into mental health could help to shrink this total, as well as improving the lives of individuals and their families. A recent report by the Academy of Medical Sciences also concluded that for every £1 we invest in mental health research we get back each year, in perpetuity, 37p. That means after three years it will have paid for itself.

Getting back to the initiative and the launch – It was started by a partnership of the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London and the Mental Health Foundation. But they have been joined by leading scientists not just in the field of mental health, universities around the UK as well as NHS Trusts. The BBC Today programme reported the story and The Times published a letter. The website now has more than 1000 signatures and this is without trying to get publicity – so we clearly have supporters. The launch took place at a prestigious address, 11 Downing St, all because the wife of the Chancellor, Maggie Darling, generously gave her time and much encouragement for a mental health focussed event. It was very successful in bringing together service users, clinical academics, funders, health care providers and politicians. We even had a sprinkling of celebrities (special thanks to Ruby Wax).

This is only the beginning and having started we do need to finish (as Maggie charmingly put it). We have printed the t-shirt and walked around a bit but more research can only happen with commitment from across the board, not just government. Some funders like the Medical Research Council are now on the record about the need for increased funding. Universities have to play their part in supporting bright young researchers. Funders who already support mental health research, like National Institute for Health Research, need to continue doing so and charities need to make a bigger contribution.

To show your support of the declaration and help reach the target of 10,000 sign ups, visit http://www.researchmentalhealth.org.uk/

Til Wykes is Professor of Clinical Psychology and Rehabilitation at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London. She works on developing and evaluating novel psychological treatments for schizophrenia and is Co-Director of the Service User Research Enterprise (SURE) that employs people with an acknowledged mental health problem to carry out research.