News & Latest 14.05.2021

Four goals set to future-proof mental health

ARC EoE Director Professor Peter Jones joins UK experts in setting key mental health research targets to address health challenges over the next decade, published in the Journal of Mental Health for Mental Health Awareness Week.

The ambitious shared goals aim to speed up the implementation of mental health research, providing clear direction and focus for researchers and funders to improve understanding and treatment of mental health. The research co-authors call to reduce mental illness in children and young people, investigate the links between physical and mental health, find more new mental health treatments and increase choice and access to care in hospitals and communities.

"It’s been a pleasure supporting the development of these important mental health research goals. Involving a wide range of stakeholders, they provide us all with focus, direction and challenge.

The goals will galvanise mental health science while holding it to account."


Professor Peter Jones, ARC EoE Director

The treatment of mental illness currently brings substantial costs to not only the NHS, but also to individuals and wider society, and the need for innovation to improve mental health has never been greater. In a bid to catalyse this innovation, the researchers have set out four ambitious targets to promote cross-sector partnerships and track impact:

  • Halve the number of children and young people experiencing persistent mental health problems
  • Improve our understanding of the links between physical and mental health, and eliminate the mortality gap
  • Increase the number of new and improved treatments, interventions and supports for mental health problems
  • Improve the availability of choices and access to mental health care, treatment and support in hospital and community settings

Professor Dame Til Wykes, Corresponding author from King’s College London’s Institute for Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) said: “The four goals that we have set out are in response to this problem, providing a roadmap forwards for all researchers, funders, and policymakers. We have undoubtedly set ourselves a high bar, but they have been designed to give us all a clear sense of purpose.”

The research is timely, as the British Medical Association has recently warned that the mental health consequences of Covid will be “considerable”.  At least 1 in 6 adults in the UK are likely to experience mental health difficulties in any given week.

Professor Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer and co-lead of the National Institute for Health Research said: “Few could disagree that mental health research is crucial in driving innovation in current mental health care and in bringing hope for the future. Working with clinicians, academics, major mental health research funders, mental health research charities and representatives from service users groups, as well as representatives from Public Health England and NHS England has been key to identifying those areas of most concern and transforming them into four distinct research goals which the mental health community can sign up to.”

The four goals were produced following a consultation process organised by the Department of Health and Social Care and convened by the Chief Medical Officer. Views from service users and service user organisations helped to shape them, and the research was supported by the National Institute for Health Research Clinical Research Network.

The published paper Shared goals for mental health research: what, why and when for the 2020s by Til Wykes, Andy Bell, Sarah Carr, Tina Coldham, Simon Gilbody, Matthew Hotopf, Sonia Johnson, Thomas Kabir, Vanessa Pinfold, Angela Sweeney, Peter B. Jones, Cathy Creswellis (available here: DOI10.1080/09638237.2021.1898552) in the Journal of Mental Health.