New partnership launches to better understand and support mental health


A person using a smartphone

A new partnership is set to transform understanding of mental health in the UK and support the growing number of people with mental health problems.

The College’s Institute of Global Health Innovation (IGHI) is collaborating with the digital charity Mental Health Innovations (MHI), together hoping to provide unparalleled insights into mental health in the UK and develop innovative new ways to meet individuals’ needs.

The exciting partnership was announced last week as Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, with support of the Royal Foundation, launched ‘Shout,’ MHI’s new 24/7 digital crisis text line service supporting people in crisis.

By learning from information generated by Shout, the IGHI-led research will build a clearer picture of the state of mental health today.

The hope is that this novel insight will not only help improve the Shout service, but also create the evidence we urgently need to underpin new strategies and digital tools to help the rising number of people experiencing mental ill health in the UK and beyond.

“The prevalence of mental health is increasing and we need to be creative in the way we deliver services in the future,” said Professor Ara Darzi, director of IGHI. “The rapid growth of digital innovations in health is opening up a host of new opportunities to respond to this challenge.

“The exciting partnership between the Institute of Global Health Innovation and Mental Health Innovations provides a unique opportunity to identify trends and harness the power of these digital tools to help shape the provision of these critical services.”

The scale of the issue

It’s estimated that 1 in 4 adults in England will experience a mental health problem in any given year, while the national rates of severe symptoms of mental illness are rising.

This growing need is a huge burden on society, with mental illness the leading cause of life years lost to disability worldwide. And while we know that the situation is worsening, we don’t fully understand the consequences this will have for the broader community and health services. We also know that many people are currently going under the radar and are missed by traditional avenues of support.

Digital tools like Shout are seen as a promising way forward, offering the capacity to meet these increasing demands at scale, with the flexibility to tailor services to the needs of different populations. Developing such innovations could therefore transform access to care by opening up services to people who have struggled to reach them in the past.

Yet despite their potential, we don’t currently have the evidence base to build them.

This new partnership has been established in response to these issues.

Driving positive change

By joining forces, the IGHI-MHI collaboration hopes to start filling in the grey areas that have been holding back progress for mental health. The combination of Imperial’s expertise in research and innovation with the knowledge of a charity working on the frontline for mental health support presents a unique opportunity to build the next generation of tools and services that are not only rooted in people’s present and changing needs, but can be evaluated to ensure they are addressing them.

“While we know more people are experiencing mental ill-health, we understand relatively little about who and why, and how we can best respond,” said Dr Emma Lawrance, Mental Health Innovations Fellow and research lead at IGHI.

“The MHI-IGHI collaboration uniquely connects the knowledge within the mental health charity sector with Imperial’s expertise, so we can learn directly from those in crisis and transform this evidence into impactful innovation and societal change. This partnership is an incredibly exciting and game-changing opportunity for the UK mental health sector.”


Justine Alford

Justine Alford
Institute of Global Health Innovation

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