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Ensuring better mental health for all

Against a backdrop of growing international momentum, the Academy recently attended the first Global Ministerial Mental Health Summit in London.

The event was titled “‘Equality for Mental Health in the 21st Century” to reflect the ambition to ensure mental health is treated with the same importance as physical health.

Research was recognised at the summit as central to the future of mental health, making up one of the six workstreams for the meeting.

Our recent GCRF workshop with the InterAcademy Partnership for Health on global mental health research in the SDGs era played a key role in framing this workstream.

A key point from the Academy’s workshop was that many research questions, goals and challenges identified by the 2011 Grand Challenges remain applicable today, seven years on. Four of the top five challenges are related to the goal of improving treatment and expanding access to care, and here we see the most progress. The top priority will now be to ensure the local adaptation, implementation and scale-up of evaluated psychosocial interventions.

However, during the summit it was clear that the focus should not entirely lie on mental illness but also on the prevention of mental illness and the promotion of good mental health. During the Academy’s workshop, participants recognised that further research is needed in this area to strengthen the evidence base.

The Summit brought together 586 political leaders, innovators, experts-by-experience and policy makers from 61 different countries. The Academy was happy to see that the UK continues to take a lead on this challenge with the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock MP, announcing an additional £30 million in global mental health spending.

Professor Vikram Patel FMedSci (chair of the Academy Mental Health workshop steering Committee, member of the expert panel of the Summit and Co-chair of the Global Mental Health Lancet Commission) highlighted the importance of research in shaping the future of mental health and the need for continued investment in mental health science. He said:

We need to address not just that the vast majority of people don’t receive access to care but the care is of poor quality. Discovery science allows us to further understand the causes and the mechanisms through which mental health can be promoted and new interventions discovered.”

The summit also saw the attendance of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who are advocates for raising awareness of mental health conditions and the importance of good mental health. The Duke and Duchess’ visit brought global attention to the summit, and it was fantastic to know that the royal couple were attending a meeting influenced by the Academy’s workshop.   

Lively discussions continued at the evening reception, held at the Tate Modern. Here we were treated to an amazing performance by Raw Sounds, who had written songs linked to their mental health experiences.

Following the launch of the Academy’s mental health report, the Academy will be exploring opportunities to host a follow-up meeting to move the mental health research agenda forward, involving social scientists in the discussion about improving mental health for all.

Furthermore, with the neurodevelopmental causes of diseases such as autism, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder increasingly being recognised, the Academy will be convening a two day scientific meeting on the 19 March 2019 to explore the key areas of neurodevelopment research with the aim of promoting discussion and collaboration between disciplines, career stages and sectors.

For more information about our GCRF work, visit

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