Coronavirus, mental health and neuroscience

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.

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.

Access the Position Paper published in The Lancet Psychiatry, entitled Multidisciplinary research priorities for the COVID-19 pandemic: a call for action for mental health science’

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