Find a Mental health Study in your area

You can find out more about Mental health studies in your area through the UK Clinical Trials Gateway.

Working with the Life Sciences

The NIHR Clinical Research Network Mental Health has been enormously successful in integrating clinical research into NHS clinical service provision, and both developing and delivering a large practice changing portfolio of clinical trials.

Read our Mental Health Specialty Profile to find out more. 

Our Studies

As the most integrated clinical research system in the world, the NIHR supports research studies through our funding programmes, training and supporting health researchers, and providing world-class research facilities. We also support dialogue between the life sciences industry and charities to benefit all, and facilitate the involvement of patients and the public to make research more effective.

Last year (2017/2018) the NIHR supported 425 studies on mental health. The NIHR supported these studies through our funding programmes and our research schools and units. We also support mental health research through our research infrastructure and our training and career development awards for researchers.

Mental Health

Collaborative care for older people with depression

Depression is common amongst the over 65 age group, with around 22 percent of men and 27 percent of women affected. Yet it often goes unrecognised and untreated in primary care.

Despite the prevalence, prior to the CASPER trial there was little evidence to guide the primary care management of depressive symptoms and the prevention of more severe disorders in the over 65s age group.

The CASPER trial set out to evaluate whether the addition of a collaborative care intervention could prevent more severe depression in older people and help to reduce depressive symptoms in those with lower severity disorders. The team developed a collaborative care approach including behavioural activation - specifically aimed at older people with depressive symptoms - which could be delivered in conjunction with usual care provided by a GP.

The researchers found that those in the treatment group who received the collaborative care intervention were less likely to be severely depressed after a year than those in the control group, with a statistically significant benefit in terms of depression severity after just four months. Approximately half the number of people in the treatment group went on to develop clinical levels of depression than the control group - halving the rate of clinical depression onset.

Read more in our CASPER impact case study.

CBT for people with health anxiety

Health anxiety is an under-recognised but frequent cause of distress for patients that has only recently been recognised as a potentially treatable mental health condition.

The cognitive behaviour therapy for health anxiety in medical patients (CHAMP) randomised controlled trial examined the effectiveness of a modified form of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for people with severe health anxiety - against a control group who continued to receive standard care from their outpatient clinics.

The study, funded by the NIHR Health Technology Assessment (HTA) Programme, recruited patients from six hospital sites across London, Middlesex and Nottinghamshire. The NIHR Clinical Research Network (CRN) provided four research assistants during the recruitment phase of the study and support from the NIHR CRN Mental Health Specialty.

The research found that CBT was a highly effective treatment for pathological health anxiety with lasting benefit over 5 years. It also improved generalised anxiety and depressive symptoms more than standard care.

Read more in our CHAMP impact case study.

Addressing the mental health mortality gap

Researchers at the NIHR Maudsley Biomedical Research Centre sought to establish whether the mortality gap between people with severe mental illness and the general population has reduced in recent years.

The researchers used the Clinical Record Interactive Search (CRIS) database developed by the BRC, which provides information from anonymised electronic patient records that can be used to identify patterns in mental health treatment and service use.

They found over a three year period people with severe mental illness had a mortality risk two times higher than people without severe mental illness. This increased to a four-fold higher risk of mortality for people with substance use disorders. This mortality gap represents around 12 life years lost in severe mental illness and 14 life years lost in substance use disorders.

Read more on the NIHR website.

Reducing the effects of financial hardship on depression and anxiety

Economic recession leads to more unemployment, debt, depression and suicide. Researchers at the NIHR Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (CLAHRC) West did an analysis of studies where some kind of support or help was given to people in this situation. The help could be advice on managing debt, applying for jobs, going for interviews, or knowing which benefits to claim, or therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy.

Their systematic review found that job clubs appear to be effective in reducing depression in people who lose their jobs, particularly those at high risk of depression. Evidence for other forms of support is limited.

Read more in our CLAHRC BITE.

Improving care in people who who self-harm

Over 30% of people who commit suicide have previously been in contact with health services following self-harm, and over 20% of people who self-harm repeat their action within 12 months. Although previous self-harm is one of the strongest risk factors for suicide, unemployment and easy access to high lethality suicide methods are the most potent influences on suicide rates.

Researchers funded by NIHR Programme Grants for Applied Research collected evidence to inform the National Suicide Prevention Strategy. As well as a reduction in suicide rates, the team were looking to use their findings to improve the care of people who self-harm in England, addressing the variation across hospitals.

The team identified patterns in access to medications and suicide levels, such as a reduction in pack sizes of paracetamol being followed by a 43% reduction of deaths over the next 11 years. They found that the withdrawal of co-proxamol from use in the UK resulted in approximately 600 fewer deaths than predicted between 2005 and 2010, based on previous trends.

Read more in the Pictures of Health series.

Virtual reality for mental health

In 2017 the NIHR 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.

Our panel selected one novel application that 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 this project to make virtual reality treatment available in NHS mental health services.

Involving carers in mental health planning

Enhancing the Quality for user Involvement Care Planning in Mental Health Services (EQUIP) research project, funded by the NIHR Programme Grants for Applied Research (PGfAR) Programme, is examining ways to improve use and carer involvement in care planning in mental health services.

Their qualitative study, led by a researcher who was a carer herself, has developed the understanding of the potential role of carers within the care planning process within mental health services, along with the facilitators and barriers to achieving optimal involvement.

An animation based on their 2015 paper in BMC Psychiatry was winner of the video category in the 2017 NIHR Let’s Get Digital competition.

Read more about the EQUIP research project on the NIHR website.