UCL News


UCL mental health researchers to benefit from multi-million pound investment

12 September 2018

Two UCL researchers were successful in securing funding from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), following their recent announcement to invest £8 million in new mental health research networks.

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Professor Sonia Johnson and Dr Daisy Fancourt will join six other networks designed to broaden mental health research, and will each receive £1.25 million over four years from across the research councils.

UKRI's new funding scheme aims to bring researchers, charities and other organisations together to address important mental health research questions. The networks cover a diverse range of topics, such as exploring the impact of loneliness and social isolation on mental health, improving the life expectancy of people with severe mental ill health and promoting young people's mental health in a digital world.

Professor Sonia Johnson from the Division of Psychiatry, UCL, who will lead the Loneliness and Social Isolation in Mental Health network together with Dr Alexandra Pitman from the same Division, said the funding recognises the importance of taking mental health research to new heights.

"We are delighted that our network was chosen to be a part of this new funding scheme. We aim to bring together experts, key community organisations and people with lived experience to investigate loneliness and social isolation in mental health," said Professor Johnson.

"People with mental health problems are at high risk of loneliness and social isolation. However, we do not have a good understanding of how some people with mental health problems come to be lonely, or how they feel about it.

"Reducing loneliness and social isolation may be a way to improve lives of people with mental health problems, or even of preventing these problems," she said. 

Dr Daisy Fancourt, UCL Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care (Faculty of Population Health Sciences) will benefit from the UKRI investment, for her work with the MARCH: Social, Cultural and Community Assets for Mental Health network.

Her research is specifically focusing on social, cultural and community assets which include the arts, culture, heritage, libraries, parks, community gardens, allotments, care farms, leisure centres, volunteer associations, social clubs and community groups.

"There are over 1 million of these assets in the UK and over the past decade there has been a surge in cross-disciplinary research into the impact of these assets on mental health. However, despite this progress, research in this area is still in its infancy compared to research into other areas of mental health," said Dr Fancourt in a recent blog.

Professor Alan Thompson, Dean of the Faculty of Brain Sciences praised the two researchers and their teams for being awarded the grant. "This is a wonderful achievement - it underlines UCL's major contribution to mental health and aligns perfectly with its recently developed mental health strategy.

"The networks will be a key component of UCL's leadership role as exemplified by the new Institute of Mental Health, led by Professor Tony David."