UK Research and Innovation launches new Mental Health Networks

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Eight new Mental Health Networks have been announced by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) to bring researchers, charities and other organisations together to address important mental health research questions.
The new Networks, which are supported with £8 million of funding will embrace a collaborative ethos, bringing together researchers from a wide range of disciplines, including health, medicine, biology, social sciences, humanities and environmental sciences. Many of the networks will also include insight from charity workers, health practitioners and people with lived experience of mental health issues.
The Networks will progress mental health research into themes such as the profound health inequalities for people with severe mental ill health, social isolation, youth and student mental health, domestic and sexual violence, and the value of community assets.

Professor Sir Mark Walport, Chief Executive of UK Research and Innovation, said: “Mental ill health is the single largest cause of disability in the UK, and it is estimated that almost a quarter of the country’s population are affected by mental health issues each year.
“The UKRI Mental Health Networks will take a new approach to addressing this challenge by bringing together researchers across a wide range of disciplines with people who have experienced mental health issues, charities, health practitioners and other organisations. Through their work, the new Networks will further our understanding about the causes, development and treatments of a wide range of mental health issues.” 

Beyond Skin are one of the founding community engagement partners on one of the eight networks, MARCH.

Artwork produced by participant at Beyond Skin #ArtsDialogue workshop, Action Trauma Summit.

The ‘MARCH’ Network proposes that Assets for Resilient Communities lie at the centre of Mental Health (M-ARC-H) and is dedicated to advancing research into the impact of these assets in enhancing public mental health and wellbeing, preventing mental illness and supporting those living with mental health conditions. Specifically, MARCH focuses on social, cultural and community assets including the arts, culture, heritage, libraries, parks, community gardens, allotments, volunteer associations, social clubs and community groups, of which there are an estimated 1 million in the UK.
The network is led by Dr Daisy Fancourt (Principal Investigator, UCL), Prof Kamaldeep Bhui (Co-Investigator, Queen Mary University of London), Prof Helen Chatterjee (Co-I, UCL), Prof Paul Crawford (Co-I, University of Nottingham), Prof Geoffrey Crossick (Co-I, School of Advanced Study, University of London), Prof Tia DeNora (Co-I, University of Exeter) and Prof Jane South (Co-I, Leeds Beckett University). MARCH is funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) as part of the 2018 Cross-Council Mental Health Network Plus call. The network consists of over 100 founding partners, including a Disciplinary Expert Group of researchers from across the UK, a Policy Group of major national policy bodies, a Patient Public Involvement Group of national mental health charities, and a Community Engagement Group of national organisations representing community assets.
Community assets such as the arts, heritage sites, libraries, parks, allotments, volunteer associations and community groups can play a huge role in building resilient individuals and communities. The MARCH network will bring researchers together with policymakers, commissioners and third-sector organisations to further understand how these social, cultural and community assets can enhance public mental health and wellbeing, prevent mental illness and support those living with mental health conditions.

Beyond Skin & our #ArtsDialogue partners are leading on collaborative Innovations providing creative solutions to issues around mental health in conflict and post conflict environments. ArtsDialogue Sensory Peace consists of a large diverse team of arts therapists; refugee aid workers; sound & music in healing specialists and peacebuilding professionals.

Some of the people in the team...

Shelley Deane from the Brehon Advisory, working mostly in the Middle East with Refugees, was the brains behind the successful #TraumaTeddy initiative. Ami Yares & Janelle Junkin from BuildaBridge Philadelphia who specialise in Art therapies and working with victims of abuse. The Music Project Sri Lanka using El Sistema Orchestra model as a healing tool for children. The revolutionary Dementia MindHarp technology developed by Mark Smulian at Lydian StreamEscuelaz de Paz Colombia - healing of post conflict memories through Arts and reconciliation with the land. Tessa Ann developer of Sound & Healing Spa.  Andrea Walker, youth4peace ambassador, filmmaker having also studied BA (Hons) Mixed Media Fine Art at the University of Westminster specializing in the philosophical analysis of the nature of knowledge and how it relates to such concepts as truth, belief, and justification.

Sensory Peace webpage

The other seven networks are:

Loneliness and social isolation in mental health
Led by: Professor Sonia Johnson, UCL
Partners: University of Birmingham, Northumbria University, Royal College of Music, London School of Economics and Political Science, The Mental Elf, Public Health England, Campaign to End Loneliness, Association for Young People’s Health, Wellbeing Enterprises, Bromley by Bow Centre, Zinc

Violence, Abuse and Mental Health: Opportunities for Change
Led by: Professor Louise Howard and Dr Sian Oram, King’s College London
Partners: Lancaster University, Newcastle University, University of Warwick, UCL, St George’s University of London, University of Oxford, The McPin Foundation, The Lancet Psychiatry, Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences
People with mental health problems are more likely to have been victims of domestic or sexual violence, and/or witnessed or experienced violence or abuse as a child. This network will bring together experts on violence, abuse and mental health to investigate the impact of domestic and sexual violence and abuse on mental health and wellbeing, and evaluate potential interventions.

Transdisciplinary Research for the Improvement of Youth Mental Public Health (TRIUMPH) Network
Led by: Professor Lisa McDaid, University of Glasgow
Partners: London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Queen’s University of Belfast, University of Edinburgh, Cardiff University, The Glasgow School of Art, Mental Health Foundation
In today’s society young people face extraordinary pressures to maintain their mental health. They live in an ever-changing environment, driven by changes in technology, communications and the media. These changes have coincided with an increase in mental health problems amongst young people, especially girls. In this network academics will work with young people, health practitioners, policymakers and voluntary organisations to find new ways to improve mental health and wellbeing, especially among vulnerable and disadvantaged populations.

SMARtEN: Student Mental Health Research Network
Led by: Dr Nicola Byrom, King’s College London
Partners: National Centre for Social Research, University of Oxford, Behavioural Insights Team, The McPin Foundation, University of Warwick, Northumbria University, Birkbeck College, The Office of Health Economics, Student Minds, City, University of London, Charlie Waller Memorial Trust, AMOSSHE, Universities UK, NHS England
There is increasing concern for the mental health of university students. The number of students seeking help for mental health problems has increased dramatically, as have the number of students with mental health problems dropping out of university. Some reports suggest that the mental wellbeing of university students may be among the lowest in the population. However a lack of strong data in this sector presents a barrier to implementing an evidence based strategic response to concerns. The aim of this network is to address this gap, and change the higher education experience to support strong mental wellbeing for all students.

The Nurture Network: Promoting Young People's Mental Health in a Digital World
Led by: Professor Gordon Harold, University of Sussex
Partners: University of Nottingham, University of Exeter, King’s College London, London School of Economics and Political Science, 5Rights, Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health, Barnardos, BBC, CCIS, Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition, Ditch the Label, Facebook UK, Instagram, Internet Matters Ltd, Internet Watch Foundation, Mumsnet, NIHR MindTech HTC, NSPCC, PSHE Association, ParentZone, Place2Be, Save the Children, Snap Group Ltd, The Diana Award, The Walt Disney Company, UK Safer Internet Centre, UKIE, Yoti Ltd
How do we equip parents, teachers, practitioners, policy makers and young people with the information, support and resources they need to promote positive mental health in our modern digital age? This multidisciplinary e-Nurture network will explore how the digital environment has changed the ways in which children experience and interact with their family, school and peers, and what effect this has on their mental health.

Emerging Minds: Action for Child Mental Health
Led by: Professor Cathy Creswell, University of Reading
Partners: The University of Manchester, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Swansea University, University of Bath, University of Leeds, University of Nottingham, Newcastle University, University of Reading, Mental Health Museum, YoungMinds, The Centre for Mental Health, MQ, The NSPCC, The Mental Elf
Approximately one in ten children and young people have a diagnosable mental health problem.  Research has shown that there are clear indicators that predict the emergence of these conditions in children, but despite this only a small minority of children receive effective support. This network will bring together academics from health research, arts, design, humanities and physical science disciplines in order to establish the best ways of helping children, young people and families benefit from mental health research.

The 'Closing the Gap' Network+
Led by: Professor Simon Gilbody, University of York
Partners: Hull York Medical School, the York Mental Health and Addictions Research Group (MHARG), Keele University, Mental Health Foundation, The Equality Trust (TET), Centre for Reviews and Dissemination, The Centre for Health Economics, the York Department of Theatre Film and Television, York Environment Department, Digital Creativity Labs, Natural England, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, Groundwork Trust, Tees Esk and Wear Valleys (TEWV) NHS Trust, N8 Research Partnership, The Cochrane Collaboration, The Campbell Collaboration.
Life expectancy is reduced by 20 to 25 years among people with severe mental ill health. This profound health inequality is mostly due to physical health problems such as heart disease, diabetes or cancers associated with lifestyle factors.  Rates of smoking and obesity are also much higher in this population, housing is often poor, and people do not benefit from the opportunities offered by exercise and interaction with the natural environment. This network will facilitate interdisciplinary research to understand and close this mortality gap.

For further information contact the UKRI communications team at