The new Institute’s mission is to unite researchers, from a range of relevant disciplines, behind the goal of improving the understanding of mental health and its disorders.
“Mental health is one of the biggest challenges facing our society today – each year, close to one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem,” said Professor Tony David, who joined UCL Psychiatry last year as inaugural Director of the UCL Institute of Mental Health.
“I’m thrilled to be working with colleagues from within UCL Brain Sciences and other faculties and from NHS providers to leverage our research expertise and develop new approaches to prevention, treatment and care that can improve the lives of people not only here in London, but across the globe.”
At the launch event, UCL staff and students, clinicians and people from the wider mental health community heard from some of UCL’s leading researchers in the field, including:
- Professor Ludvic Zrinzo (UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology) spoke about how neurosurgery for psychiatric disorders has progressed over the years, highlighting the evidence of how effective some surgical interventions can be, such as UCL-led findings into deep brain stimulation for severe obsessive-compulsive disorder.
- Professor Sir Michael Marmot, director of the UCL Institute of Health Equity, presented evidence on the strong links between social inequalities and mental health.
- Professor Sonia Johnson, director of the NIHR Mental Health Policy Research Unit at UCL, spoke about how academics can use their research findings to improve mental health service provision.
- Professor Essi Viding (UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience) discussed the development of psychopathology, the evidence of how behavioural problem in children can predict later anti-social behaviour, and how to foster resilience to mental health problems.
- Dr Daisy Fancourt (UCL Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care) spoke about the importance of being involvement in community groups, and how engagement in activities such as choirs can have a positive impact on mental health.
After a panel discussion on the opportunities and challenges in building a successful Institute of Mental Health, author Nathan Filer came to the stage for a conversation with Professor David about his experience of writing about people with mental illnesses.
The Institute has already begun work in fostering closer collaborations between UCL’s faculties.
Researchers from UCL Psychiatry, the UCL Institute of Education and the UCL Centre for Transport Studies are working together on a project addressing the role of the physical environment in the development of aggressive behaviour among children with neurodevelopmental disorders. Another project brings together researchers from the UCL Institute of Child Health, the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and UCL Psychiatry to better assess how people respond to cognitive behavioural therapy.
The Institute is also developing connections with colleagues across the globe. Last month, a UCL delegation hosted an IdeasLab at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Dalian, China, where researchers from UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, UCL Psychiatry and UCL Computer Sciences discussed research into electronic medical records for mental health, modelling the brain to inform diagnoses and treatment and developing resilience to mental health problems.
The Institute has also been involved in the development of the UCL Mental Health Strategy, which underpins the work of the Institute.
“After years of hard work with colleagues across UCL and with our NHS partners to plan the Institute’s formation, it has been very encouraging to see the beginnings of the important work needed to achieve the Institute’s ambitious goals,” said Professor Alan Thompson, Dean, UCL Faculty of Brain Sciences.
“The Institute will play a key role in raising the profile and impact of UCL’s exemplary mental health research, and, crucially, be a part of training the next generation of clinical academics.”
This communication was first published 17 July 2019 by University College London.