£24 million for adolescent mental health projects

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) will invest £24 million in funding across seven adolescent mental health projects.

All focused on “improving the mental health and wellbeing of adolescents in the UK”, the seven projects also aim to “generate a whole new understanding of the developing mind”.

UKRI states that adolescence is a “vulnerable stage of life for mental health”, when the brain is “known to be highly sensitive to external influences”, and cites research from Mental Health First Aid England that shows 75 per cent of mental health problems emerge before the age of 18.

The research projects chosen to receive the investment are:

  • Adolescent mental health and development in the digital world – researchers working with young people and digital technology to create a safer online environment.
  • Eating disorders: delineating illness and recovery trajectories to inform personalised prevention and early intervention in young people (EDIFY) – exploring the experiences of people with eating disorders and how they develop, as well as using theatre and comedy to increase public understanding.
  • ATTUNE: understanding mechanisms and mental health impacts of adverse childhood experiences to co-design preventative arts and digital interventions – an investigation into how childhood experiences affect adolescents’ mental health and development of new approaches to prevention and care.
  • Developing and evaluating a stepped change whole-university approach for student wellbeing and mental health – working with students and university leaders to develop more compassionate campuses, digital self-monitoring and mental health literacy courses, as part of university-wide approaches.
  • RE-STAR: regulating emotions, strengthening adolescent resilience –  bringing together a range of experts with the aim of helping young people with neuroatypicalities, such as ADHD and ASD, to reduce their chances of developing depression. 
  • Developing a school-based, transdiagnostic, preventative intervention for adolescent mental health – investigation into connections between adolescent social relationships and the processing of emotions. 
  • The shaping of mental health and the mechanisms leading to (un)successful transitions for care-experienced young people – investigating the factors that influence the mental health and wellbeing of care-experienced young people.

The seven selected projects focus on a range of themes – from improving social media, through to utilising creative arts, writing, and digital and visual tools, such as podcasts, short films, infographics, music and games technology.

The collective aim of the projects and investment, UKRI adds, is to “better understand how and why mental health problems emerge” and what makes some more susceptible or resilient than others. The work will be used to inform approaches on everything from wellbeing and identity through to educational attainment.

Funded through the Strategic Priorities Fund, which is led by the Medical Research Council, it is a collaboration between a number of bodies, including the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Economic and Social Research Council.