Mental health problems are the single largest cause of disability in the UK and put people at increased risk of physical illness, social exclusion, and a shortened life expectancy. These problems represent an ever-increasing challenge to health and social care, and to the wellbeing of our local population. The NIHR has now awarded PenARC £750,000 to grow high-quality mental health research in the South West and help tackle this challenge.
This funding has been awarded as part of the new £30 million Mental Health Research Initiative launched by the NIHR and Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to help tackle the existing gap between local needs and mental health research activity.
The initiative invited ARCs to submit detailed applications to develop local capability and capacity for mental health research whilst ensuring the research takes place within the communities which will benefit most. PenARC worked in close collaboration with the South West AHSN, the University of Exeter, University of Plymouth, partners from across the NHS, local authorities, and public health to submit an application that was inclusive of the needs of the local population and healthcare systems supporting them. In response, the NIHR has now awarded PenARC £750,000, the maximum funding available.
This funding will be used to grow research across the South West region (Cornwall, Devon and south Somerset), where, despite areas of affluence, there are significant areas of severe deprivation, particularly in coastal towns and cities, and in rural areas. Cornwall and Plymouth include some of the poorest areas in the UK, whilst Torbay and West Somerset were both cited in the Chief Medical Officer’s 2021 report on health in coastal communities as examples of areas with poor health outcomes. Reflecting this, many mental health outcomes in the South West are poorer than the national average.
PenARC Director, Professor Stuart Logan said: “This funding offers a fantastic opportunity for us to do research which improves local health and care services, and ultimately improves lives. Mental health difficulties are extremely common and cause an enormous burden for many people. This is a welcome opportunity to focus our attention on meeting their needs.
“This funding also represents the culmination of years of work from our team and close collaboration with our partners across healthcare services, the universities and third sector, who have come together to contribute to this important piece of work. Thank you to everyone who has been involved in this process and we look forward to continuing to work closely with you as this important work progresses.”
You can read more about our current portfolio of mental health research here.