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UK Research and Innovation has announced £7 million in funding to establish a research theme in Population Mental Health, as part of a new national research network Population Health Improvement UK (PHI-UK) where Ulster University will lead on Northern Ireland research.

Population Mental Health is one of four initial research themes in the network. These themes are operationalised through investments in research clusters that bring together universities, government organisations, voluntary organisations and community partnerships, across the UK.

Ulster University will partner with King’s College London (Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience), and THRIVE London who are co-directors of this interdisciplinary research cluster which aims to understand, identify, and affect real-world policy change, to better address population-based improvement of mental health in the UK.

The other three themes in PHI-UK are Healthy Urban Places, Commercial Determinants of Health & Equity, and Enhancing Policy Modelling.

Meeting three key challenges

Research in the PHI-UK Population Mental Health theme is underpinned by three challenge areas: children and young people’s mental health, prevention of suicide and self-harm, and multiple long-term health conditions, with a central focus on tackling mental health inequalities.

The theme will broker exciting new collaborations across the country, including teams from University College London, Swansea University, Ulster University, Forward Thinking Birmingham, and Middlesex University.

Beyond academia, it will build partnerships across government, public sector agencies, voluntary organisations, and people with lived experience. It will inform meaningful, practical changes which will have broad scale benefits in future policy making and the lives of those living with mental health problems at local, regional and national levels.

Professor Gerard Leavey, Director Bamford Centre for Mental Health & Wellbeing
at Ulster University and Co-Investigator will lead mental health research specifically in Northern Ireland as part of the research network, working in collaboration with the Public Health Agency, including community and voluntary sector organisations to better understand the determinants of severe mental illness and to prevent long-term physical illnesses in this population.

Professor Gerard Leavey said:

“We are delighted to contribute to this ambitious and imaginative project that brings together academics, communities, public health agencies, and experts by experience in order to improve mental health and prevent mental illness. We look forward to working with colleagues across the UK to achieve this.”

Connections and partnerships

The aim of Population Health Improvement UK is to find innovative and inclusive ways to improve the health of people, places and communities and reduce health inequalities through the development and evaluation of long-lasting and environmentally sustainable interventions.

Principal Investigator and theme Director Dr Jayati Das-Munshi, from the IoPPN and the ESRC Centre for Society and Mental Health, King’s College London said:

“This is an exciting initiative to tackle a growing need to address public mental health challenges facing the UK today. We will strengthen our partnerships across local government, public health, voluntary organisations and universities across the UK. We will work with our stakeholders and people with lived experience, to harness large-scale data, to understand which population interventions hold the greatest promise, leading to good mental health for all.”

Dan Barrett, Co-Investigator and Director of Thrive LDN said:

“This collaboration has the potential to make long lasting improvements to how people, organisations, academics and systems work together to improve mental health. People with lived experience of mental health should be front and centre when it comes to developing solutions and interventions to ensure we see genuine improvements.”

“Thrive LDN exists because our communities are working with the system to improve the mental health of individuals. We should continue to celebrate and highlight the work they’re doing to support themselves and to build strength and resilience for the future. We know this is not unique to London, so the opportunity to work at a national level, combining our rich expertise with our lived experience is a privilege and one we must use to make real and lasting improvements in mental health.”

The project has strong links to national bodies (Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID), Association of Directors of Public Health (ADPH), The Mental Health Foundation, Centre for Mental Health, NHS Race and Health Observatory) across England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, ensuring integrated cross-national and regional policy impact of the research.

For more information, visit  UK Research and Innovation