Woman staring outside a window

The world is witnessing a worrying rise in mental health disorders that are affecting both developed nations and low- and middle-income countries (LMIC). More young people, in particular, are experiencing emotional disorders such as anxiety and depression, and heightened levels of distress.

Despite growing mental health awareness, many experiencing mental ill-health do not receive the appropriate support. In LMICs, only 1 in 27 people can access adequate treatment for common mental illnesses, and this only rises to 1 in 5 in many high-income countries (WISH).  In the UK specifically, there is a growing strain on mental health services and traditional sources of support. Mental health problems continue to be a heavy burden on the world economy and communities, impacting day to day living and work productivity. 

Regardless of the increasing prevalence of mental ill-health, there are still knowledge gaps around who is experiencing mental ill-health and why, and how best to respond. Research and innovation in mental health should respond to the needs of the many people who aren’t currently accessing traditional services.

Support delivered digitally, for example, through a phone, has emerged as one potential solution to flexibly meet the growing mental health need and provide targeted support. In order to be effective, new innovations must be evidence-based, designed with those who will be using them, and properly evaluated for clinical impact. 

Solutions should also take into account the number of changing factors in our societies that may harm or support mental health. From recognising how the role of the workplace, to understanding the role of social media or how climate change affects mental health, this area requires broad thinking.

Using our expertise in digital health and data science, we’re looking at ways to help fill in these knowledge gaps and drive evidence-based innovation, so we can transform understanding and treatment of mental health disorders.

Our work   

We have a number of specialists skilled in areas such as data analytics, co-design, and patient and public engagement and involvement, who are building the evidence we need to underpin new strategies to better support mental health needs. It’s our goal to use these novel insights to develop and evaluate new digital innovations that could make a difference to people’s lives and alleviate the burden on health systems in the UK and beyond.   

Find out more about our work.     

Tab - Our work

Mental Health Innovations

We established a partnership with the digital mental health charity, Mental Health Innovations, to generate new insights into the UK’s mental health landscape. We’ll be learning from information generated by their 24/7 crisis text messaging service, Shout. The service allows anyone experiencing mental health difficulties or a personal crisis to text in to speak to one of their trained volunteers, who support texters to reach a calmer place and develop a plan to address their difficulties.

The collaboration provides us with an important opportunity to assess the impact of Shout, and learn directly from those who are experiencing a period of mental distress. We’ll be using the evidence generated to influence innovation in mental health and build the next generation of digital tools and services that are rooted in people’s needs.   

Consumer acceptability

The past five years have seen a dramatic rise in the availability of apps claiming to benefit mental health. Yet the apps with the strongest evidence base of reducing anxiety and depression are not best sellers in online app stores.  

Our work looks at what influences individuals to use personal health technologies. In particular, we’re seeking to identify the human factors that drive people to adopt digital technologies for mental health disorders, such as stress, anxiety and depression.

This work will be used to inform researchers about how best to design and build high-quality, evidence-based health apps. It also aims to provide important insight that could guide the development of new ways to help ensure that people use the best digital tools for their health needs. 

For more information, please contact Sarah P. Jones

Global mental health policy

Launched at 2018’s World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH), experts from our Centre advised on and helped deliver a report on anxiety and depression. The report outlines the global burden of these complex conditions and makes key recommendations to tackle them, focusing on prevention, awareness and integrated care.

This work aims to support policymakers around the world by highlighting successful evidence-based policies, practices and initiatives that could fill gaps in treatment and improve the quality of care. 

Crucially, the report advises that anxiety and depression be recognised as a public health priority which should be incorporated into universal health coverage programmes. Our team believe that using this focused approach can help reduce the risks of mental health disorders and promote better health and wellbeing.   

Read the full report presented at WISH 2018, Addressing Anxiety and Depression: A Whole System Approach here.