The Academy and MQ have endorsed the mental health and neuroscience research priorities in response to the coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19) that were developed by an expert group convened by the two organisations.
Coronavirus, mental health and neuroscience
The Academy of Medical Sciences and MQ rapidly convened a multi-disciplinary expert group, including experts with lived experience, to develop mental health and neuroscience research priorities to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic (see 'Expert group' tab).
The expert group explored the psychological, social and neuroscience impacts of COVID-19, and set out the immediate priorities and longer-term strategies for mental health science research in a Position Paper published on 15 April 2020 in The Lancet Psychiatry. In a joint statement with MQ, the Academy has endorsed the research priorities set out in this Paper. The statement and a summary of the Paper can be downloaded from the right hand side of this page.
The priorities were informed by surveys of members of the public with and without lived experience of a mental health issue (see 'Public and mental health community input' tab). A summary report of the survey findings can be found on the right hand side of this page.
The COVID-19 pandemic is having a profound effect on all aspects of society, including mental health as well as physical health. Mental health science must therefore be central to the international response to the current pandemic, especially given the potential for long-term impacts on individual and population mental health.
The Paper calls for UK research funding agencies to establish a high-level co-ordination group to ensure that these research priorities are addressed, and to allow new ones to be identified over time. Such priorities include:
- Systematic collection of high-quality data on the mental health and psychological impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic across vulnerable groups and the whole population.
- Research into how mental health consequences for vulnerable groups can be mitigated under pandemic conditions, as well as into the impact of repeated media consumption and health messaging around COVID-19.
- Rapid discovery, evaluation and refinement of research-driven interventions to address the psychological, social and neuroscientific aspects of this pandemic.
Rising to this challenge will require integration across disciplines and sectors, together with people with lived experience, while maintaining high-quality research standards and collaborating internationally. New funding will be required to meet these priorities, and can be efficiently leveraged by the UK’s world-leading infrastructure.
On 25 March 2020, Professor Sir Robert Lechler, President of the Academy of Medical Sciences, and Dr Helen Munn, CEO of MQ, wrote to UK funders and related groups calling for the establishment of a high level co-ordination group to ensure that the mental health and neuroscience research priorities are addressed as swiftly as possible, and that a firm base is established for the necessary long term studies.
The following public and mental health community input informed the development of the mental health science research priorities.
An online survey, promoted to MQ’s supporter network, collected data on people’s two biggest concerns about the mental health and wellbeing implications of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as coping strategies. In total, 2,198 people completed the survey, submitting 4,350 concerns about the mental health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and 1,987 responses about what has helped to maintain mental health and wellbeing during the pandemic.
Two questions were asked on Ipsos MORI’s online Omnibus survey to collect data on people’s concerns about the effect of COVID-19 on mental wellbeing and what is helping people’s mental wellbeing. In total, 1,099 interviews were completed with adults aged between 16 and 75 years from a representative sample by gender, age, and region across England, Wales, and Scotland.
Three representatives with lived experience provided input as part of the expert group. The manuscript was also peer-reviewed by a reviewer with lived experience of a mental health issue.
A summary report of the findings of both surveys and further methodological details can be found on the right hand side of this page.
An expert group was convened to represent a broad range of neuroscience and mental health expertise, including lived experience representation. The core co-ordinating group included:
- Professor Ed Bullmore FMedSci, Head of Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge
- Professor Emily Holmes, Professor, Department of Psychology, Uppsala University; Professor, Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinksa Institutet
- Professor Matthew Hotopf FMedSci, Vice Dean of Research at the Institute of Psychiatry Psychology and Neuroscience; Director of the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust National Institute of Health Research Biomedical Research Centre, King's College London
- Professor Rory O’Connor, Professor of Health Psychology, University of Glasgow
- Professor Hugh Perry FMedSci, UK Dementia Research Institute Honorary Consultant & Theme Lead (Neuroinflammation), University College London
- Professor Irene Tracey FMedsci, Nuffield Chair in Anaesthetic Science, University of Oxford
The wider expert group included:
- Professor Louise Arseneault FMedSci, Professor of Developmental Psychology, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King's College London and Mental Health Leadership Fellow, UKRI Economic and Social Research Council.
- Professor Clive Ballard, Pro-Vice Chancellor and Executive Dean, University of Exeter
- Professor Helen Christensen, Director and Chief Scientist, Black Dog Institute, Sydney, Australia
- Professor Roxane Cohen Silver, Professor of Psychological Science, Medicine, and Public Health, University of California, Irvine, USA
- Professor Ian Everall, Executive Dean of the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King's College London
- Professor Tamsin Ford, Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University of Cambridge
- Professor Ann John, Professor in Public Health and Psychiatry, Swansea University Medical School
- Dr Thomas Kabir, Head of Public Involvement, The McPin Foundation
- Ms Kate King MBE, Adviser on lived experience, The Mental Health Act Review 2018
- Professor Ira Madan, Consultant occupational physician at Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Trust; Reader in Occupational Health, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust and King’s College London
- Professor Susan Michie FMedSci, Professor of Heath Psychology; Director of Centre for Behaviour Change, University College London
- Professor Andrew Przybylski, Director of Research of the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford
- Professor Roz Shafran, Professor of Translational Psychology, UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health
- Dr Angela Sweeney, NIHR postdoctoral research fellow in the Population Health Research Institute, St George's University of London
- Professor Sir Simon Wessely FMedSci, Professor of Psychological Medicine, King’s College London
- Professor Carol Worthman, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Anthropology, Emory University, USA
- Professor Lucy Yardley, Professor of Health Psychology, University of Southampton and University of Bristol
- Katherine Cowan, independent qualitative researcher, Katherine Cowan Consulting Limited
Following publication of The Lancet Psychiatry paper, ‘Multidisciplinary research priorities for the COVID-19 pandemic: a call for action for mental health science’ in April 2020, the Academy is convening jointly with MQ two workshops to take forward some of the mental health science research priorities it identified:
- The first workshop will focus on coordinating the collection of high-quality data on the mental, cognitive and neurological health impacts of COVID-19. See event page for further information.
- The second will focus on digital and remote mental health interventions in relation to COVID-19. See event page for further information.
Both workshops will aim to bring together leading experts across the UK to explore coordinated and collaborative approaches to tackling these important priorities.
Reports of the meetings will be published in due course.
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