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Mental Health


We fund mental health research projects through our funding programmes, and support training and career development for researchers in the specialty. 

We deliver mental health research funded by the NIHR, the life sciences industry and non-commercial organisations such as charities, supporting the set up and delivery of this research in the NHS and in public health and social care settings. Our research infrastructure also supports research funded by these partners, offering expertise, collaborations and facilities.

We also provide opportunities for people affected by mental health problems and their families and carers to influence and take part in research.


The NIHR supports patients and the public to participate in high quality research taking place in health and care settings across England, advancing knowledge and improving care.

NIHR Clinical Research Network

The NIHR Clinical Research Network (CRN) includes 30 specialty groups, who coordinate and support the delivery of high quality research by therapy area. Some of this research is funded by the NIHR, but most of it is funded by non-commercial organisations, such as charities or universities, and the life sciences industry.

We provide researchers with the practical support they need to make research happen through our Study Support Service. This service supports the set up and delivery of clinical research in the NHS and in other health and care settings.

We have a tailored Study Support Service offer for non-commercial organisations, as well as a tailored offer for the life sciences industry.

Supporting mental health research

The CRN mental health specialty delivers commercial and non-commercial mental health research. Expertise within the CRN mental health specialty group spans primary and secondary care, with participants recruited from a multitude of settings, including hospitals, community and social care, and prisons.

We recruit people for studies across all mental health problems: depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, addictions, eating disorder and self-harm, as well as healthy participants.

The specialty leads research in both the NHS and social care settings involving service users in project development and research design as well as project participation. This is highly valuable for industry partners especially in relation to design and delivery of clinical trials.

In 2019/20, 70,767 participants were recruited across 327 studies in mental health research. For the eight year running, over 80% of non-commercial mental health studies have been delivered on time and to target.

Who we are

Our experts in the CRN mental health specialty group can advise on delivering your mental health study in the NHS and in particular geographic regions.

Professor Kathryn Abel is the CRN National Specialty Lead for Mental Health. Read Professor Abel’s full biography

Professor Abel is supported by local specialty leads in each of the 15 NIHR Local Clinical Research Networks.

Our collaborators and stakeholders

The CRN mental health specialty group has developed close links with key stakeholders and clinical researchers to input into the delivery of studies and influence the mental health research agenda.

We have established a longstanding partnership with The McPin Foundation and MQ: Transforming Mental Health to recognise service user and carer involvement in mental health research studies. For example, we collaborated with these two partners to run an award scheme to recognise mental health research studies on the CRN portfolio that had excellent service user and carer involvement in all stages of the research process.

The award provided an opportunity to spread good practice in the area, celebrate excellence and promote patient and carer involvement activities that research studies can implement to improve the quality and relevance of their research.

We also collaborate with the Scottish Mental Health Research Network (SMHRN) and Health and Care Research Wales on delivery of mental health research.


Our funding programmes fund high quality research in mental health that benefits the NHS, public health and social care. We also provide career development funding awards for mental health researchers - see the careers tab for more information.

Our funding programmes

Our commissioned research programmes often seek research proposals on mental health.

Most of our funding programmes also run funding calls open to research proposals on any topic (researcher-led calls), including research proposals in mental health.

In 2017, we ran a themed call for research on promotion of good mental health and the prevention or treatment of mental ill health. NIHR themed calls are funding opportunities focusing on a particular research topic, in which all our funding programmes participate.

The HTA funding programmes are working with the National Specialty Lead for Mental Health and a number of our local Mental Health Specialty Leads to identify research questions for potential future commissioned calls.

Got an idea for research in mental health? The NIHR Research Design Service can help you turn it into a funding application, offering advice on research design, research methods, identifying funding sources, and involving patients and the public.

Our research units

NIHR Policy Research Units (PRUs) undertake research to inform government and arms-length bodies making policy decisions about health and social care. The units create a critical mass of experts for research in priority areas for health and social care policy.

The following PRU undertakes mental health research:

Our research schools

The NIHR School for Public Health Research (SPHR) undertakes research into public health, with an emphasis on what works practically, can be applied across the country and better meets the needs of policy makers, practitioners and the public.

NIHR SPHR undertakes research on public mental health.

Our portfolio of mental health research

You can search and view all the mental health research we’ve funded on NIHR Funding and Awards.

In addition, a number of our research programmes publish comprehensive accounts of our mental health research in the NIHR Journals Library.


The NIHR attracts, trains and supports the best researchers in mental health to tackle the complex health and care challenges of the future.

Our investment in people sustains excellent research capacity and expertise throughout clinical and non-clinical academic career pathways and provides high quality learning and development opportunities for the delivery workforce in our infrastructure.

Funding mental health research careers

The NIHR Academy is responsible for the development and coordination of NIHR academic training, career development and research capacity development.

There is a wide range of NIHR training and career development awards available at different career stages, from pre-doctoral through to Research Professorships. These awards comprise both personal awards, which can be applied for directly with the NIHR, and institutional awards which should be applied for through the host institution.

Academics in mental health are desperately needed to help solve the increasing levels of mental health problems in the population.

Our Mental Health Incubator has been created to increase capacity in mental health research. The incubator, led by a steering group formed of NIHR mental health research professors and leaders from across NIHR infrastructure, will showcase mental health research and careers and share training opportunities for those interested in mental health research.

Supporting the mental health delivery workforce


The NIHR invests significantly in people, centres of excellence, collaborations, services and facilities to support health and care research in England. Collectively these form the world-class NIHR infrastructure.

This national research infrastructure is available to use by UKRI, research charities and the life sciences industry as well as NIHR researchers.

NIHR Biomedical Research Centres

NIHR Biomedical Research Centres (BRCs) are collaborations between world-leading universities and NHS organisations that bring together academics and clinicians to translate lab-based scientific breakthroughs into potential new treatments, diagnostics and medical technologies.

The following BRCs undertake research in mental health:

NIHR Applied Research Collaborations

NIHR Applied Research Collaborations (ARCs) support applied health and care research that responds to, and meets, the needs of local populations and local health and care systems.

The following ARCs undertake research in mental health: 

The ARCs work together nationally on a number of research areas, led by specific ARCs. The NIHR ARC South London and the NIHR ARC East of England lead the national ARC effort on mental health research. 

NIHR Medtech and In vitro diagnostics Co-operatives

NIHR Medtech and In vitro diagnostics Co-operatives (MICs) build expertise and capacity in the NHS to develop new medical technologies and provide evidence on commercially-supplied in vitro diagnostic tests.

The following MICs undertake research in mental health:

NIHR Mental Health Translational Research Collaboration

The NIHR Mental Health Translational Research Collaboration (TRC) is a national network of centres of excellence in mental health translational and clinical research that facilitates collaboration with charities and industry partners.

NIHR Clinical Research Network

The NIHR Clinical Research Network (CRN) supports set up and delivery of clinical research in the NHS and in other health and care settings. Find out more on the delivery tab.


The NIHR funds and supports world-class experts in mental health. Find out more about collaborating with our experts.

In addition, our experts can advise on delivering your mental health study in the NHS or in other health and social care settings. Get our expert advice on delivering your research.

National Specialty Lead

Professor Kathryn Abel is the CRN National Specialty Lead for Mental Health.

Professor Abel is Professor of Psychological Medicine and Reproductive Psychiatry & Honorary Consultant Psychiatrist at the University of Manchester. She trained in Oxford and London and undertook her psychiatry training at the Institute of Psychiatry from 1991-2001.

She is an expert on women’s mental health focussing on maternal condition and its effects on offspring outcomes, gender sensitive service development, and reproductive psychiatry involving mothers, maternal mental illness and their children.


Children and Young Persons (CYP) Mental Health Champions

Many LCRNs have CYP Mental Health Champions embedded in local trusts and services. The aim of these roles is to develop working relationships with local organisations who deliver care to children and young people with mental health problems and increase opportunities for services providers and patients to get involved in research.  Our Champions also help support the delivery of the local CYP Mental Health research portfolio; offering advice and guidance to researchers and health and care professionals. For information and to get in contact with a local CYP Mental Health Champion please visit the relevant LCRN contact us pages.

Research Professors

The NIHR Research Professorship is the flagship personal funding award for the NIHR. The scheme funds research leaders of the future to promote effective translation of research.

Prof Emsley’s research will produce new ideas for designing and analysing trials in mental health, and consult widely with clinicians, patients and the public to work out how they can best be used in the future.

Prof Cipriani’s research aims to develop a bespoke internet-based clinical decision aid to help doctors and patients choose the best antidepressant for each individual.

Prof Freeman has been developing a new targeted psychological intervention for overcoming persecutory delusions. The new treatment will be evaluated in a randomised controlled trial.

Chair of NIHR Mental Health Translational Research Collaboration

Professor John Geddes is the Chair of the NIHR Mental Health Translational Research Collaboration.

Public Involvement

We engage with and involve patients, carers, service users and members of the public in order to improve t reach, quality and impact of research in mental health.

Have your say in research

We involve patients, carers, service users and members of the public in our national research funding and support activities, including in mental health.

The researchers we fund also involve patients in planning and delivering their mental health research.

Involvement opportunities across the NIHR

Our local Clinical Research Networks involve people in mental health research taking place in your local area.

The NIHR Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre, which has a focus on mental health and technology, offers opportunities for members of the public, carers and patients to work alongside its research teams as research volunteers.

A number of our Applied Research Collaborations offer opportunities for patients, carers and members of the public to get involved in mental health research:

Take part in research

Be Part of Research is an online service that lists opportunities to take part in mental health research across the UK.

Research on mental health and COVID-19

The NIHR Mental Health Translational Research Collaboration is collating a national register of research studies on mental health and COVID-19.

Find out more