NIHR mental health challenge

Mental health stats

*Figures from MQ Transforming Mental Health 2017

Finding technological solutions for people living with mental health conditions

Mental illness inflicts a heavy toll on affected individuals, carers and society as a whole.

Last year we challenged research teams comprised of clinicians, academics and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), to develop innovative technological solutions that could influence the patient care pathway, and improve patient outcomes.

In November 2017, our panel selected one novel application, which could transform the lives of people living with mental health conditions, as the winner of the NIHR i4i Mental Health 2017 Challenge Awards. Professor Daniel Freeman and his team were awarded £4 million which will enable state-of-the-art psychological therapy to be delivered via virtual reality (VR) in the NHS to benefit patients with psychosis. Find out more about the project in this Video courtesy of BBC South Today:

Following the success of the 2017 competition the NIHR i4i Challenge Awards launched for a second time on 1 Feb 2018 seeking technology based applications, supporting aspirations as set out in the Five Year Forward View For Mental Health and the Framework for Mental Health Research in the United Kingdom

The NIHR is taking the opportunity during this call to highlight some key NIHR projects that are already leading the way in the field of mental health research. We will also be highlighting the challenges in this field, and the gaps that we hope future technology in mental health research could bridge, hearing from academic and industry experts in the process.

Follow the hashtag #NIHRChallenge to join our conversation and keep up to date with the research we are profiling and competition progress. You can visit the competition page for more information about the Challenge Awards.

Hear more about the call from Martin Hunt, i4i Programme Director in this podcast from The Mental Elf:

Alongside the 2018 Challenge, the NIHR has also opened a Themed Call ‘Promotion of good mental health and the prevention or treatment of mental ill health’ across the whole life course. Proposals are invited for clinical and applied health research that evaluate healthcare interventions, health services, social care or public health measures operating at either the individual, or the population level. Find out more about the Themed Call and how to apply.

Below, you'll find features relating to some of the NIHR research that has focused on mental health to date. 

Martin Hunt

Calling all medtech visionaries


Insight from i4i Programme Director, Martin Hunt, on the 2017 i4i Challenge Award in mental health.

Pictures of health

Improving care, reducing harm


Assessing self-harm and suicide in England to inform the National Suicide Prevention Strategy.

ERP online

Online tool for bipolar disorder


Is digital the future of relapse prevention in bipolar disorder?

Prof. Matthew Hotopf

Bringing informatics to the bedside


Professor Matthew Hotopf, NIHR Maudsley Biomedical Research Centre Director, explores the potential of informatics and 'big data' in mental health research; a field that could benefit from i4i Challenge Award funding.

BRC sign

Using big data in mental health research

Find out about the mental health database of unrivalled depth and breadth and the research it's helping.

Dr Claire Hill

Tackling child anxiety one click at a time

With NIHR Professorship funding Dr Hill and team are developing an online intervention for young people with anxiety. Find out how they plan to translate into clinical practice.

Children running

Putting ADHD to the Qb(Test)


The AQUA trial set out to put computer based QbTest through its paces asking whether its use could accelerate time to diagnosis of ADHD.

ProReal programme

NIHR MindTech : ProReal’s ‘guide through the labyrinth’

 Andrew Jackson, CEO of ProReal Ltd explains how the NIHR MindTech Healthcare Technology Co-operative has helped his company to develop its virtual reality tool to aid mental health.

Daniel Freeman

Virtual benefits for the real world


2017 i4i Challenge Award winner, Daniel Freeman, introduces state-of-the-art virtual reality technology to help patients with psychosis face their fears.