Underfunded and Unattractive: Mental Health Research in Decline

It’s barely a secret that mental health research needs a boost. There are numerous campaigns ongoing to end the stigma but the public donations toward research is very low in comparison to other, physical, health needs.

There is an argument that psychological treatments are perceived as less scientific which can leave researchers struggling to secure government funding in neuroscience. This said though, mental health still tops the list of public interest in research.

Two particular charities that do provide funding for research into mental health are Mental Health Research UK and MQ: Transforming Mental Health. Mental Health Research UK provides scholarships and funding for PhD students whilst MQ provide funding for postdoctoral fellows across the academic spectrum.

Mental Health Research UK report that for every £1 government spend on research only a third of a penny goes to mental health research. This is in spite of the £105bn social economic cost of mental health in England.

There are so few avenues to receive funding for research in this area that it is beginning to deter talented scientists pursuing a career in mental health research. This provides a catch 22 situation where science is unable to develop because of the lack of researchers but the funding is not given to an unknown area where progress cannot be predicted.

It is harder to define mental health problems and the outcomes and therefore becomes harder to show how the money has been spent, particularly hard to show the public where there money has gone.

But this circle has resulted in some therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy not benefiting from advances in neuroscience and vice versa, neuroscience is not fully aware of the potential of these treatments.

On the counter argument is Robin Buckle, director of science programmes at the Medical Research Council, says that the reward rate between mental health research and in other areas is relatively similar, but the applications from psychiatry perspectives are much lower. This seems to go back to that catch 22 situation.

MQ, notable researchers in psychology and mental health care, are calling all related disciplines to join forces and work closely together under ‘mental health science’. MQ believe we are at the tipping point with more and more people talking about mental health than ever and now is the best opportunity to make a case for research.