Doubling of funding awarded for mental health research projects to €7 million

Minister for Mental Health and Older People Mary Butler has announced a doubling in funding for mental health research, compared with the average level of comparable funding over the last five years.

Funding of €7 million will support the advancement of mental health research projects through the Health Research Board (HRB), under the national mental health policy Sharing the Vision and aligned with the Department of Health Statement of Research Priorities. This funding was allocated during 2023, with further funding rounds specific to mental health research, and aligned to Sharing the Vision, to take place over the lifetime of the policy (2020-2030).

The funded research projects will generate important and actionable evidence to support mental health improvements in areas such as:

  • improving recovery for people affected by psychotic disorders
  • the effective use of social media to access mental health information
  • how to reduce rates and improve the experience of involuntary care for young people in the Irish mental health service
  • why people with diabetes in Ireland appear to be more likely to experience depression compared with other EU countries

Globally, it has long been recognised that mental health research is underfunded compared to other (physical) disease areas in the context of disease burden, and the majority of mental health research investment tends to be in basic research rather than spanning the full spectrum of mental health.

This €7 million of funding reflects the government’s continued and enhanced investment in mental health research in Ireland. Funded projects by the HRB include investigator-led research projects and fellowships, as well as two larger awards through a new HRB Applied Programme Grants scheme where mental health has been identified as a thematic priority.

Importantly, the increased investment spans a range of applied research topics in clinical, population health and health services research, reflective of the scope of Sharing the Vision and adding to the evidence basis for future service improvements.

Minister for Mental Health and Older People Mary Butler said:

“We know that one in four people in the world will be affected by a severe mental health difficulty at some point in their life and this research will support our understanding of what interventions or strategies will work, where and for whom.

“It is vital that the mental health service improvements we are making are validated with a range of evidence-based research projects across all areas of mental health care. This €7 million in government funding will be used to improve the level of data and knowledge available to enable us to improve outcomes for those affected by mental health difficulties in this country. The research will include evidence of best practice in the provision of mental health services and will facilitate targeted improvements in services over the lifetime of Sharing the Vision.

“I would like to congratulate the recipients of the funding awards and wish them and their colleagues the very best with their important and necessary work.”

Dr Mairéad O’Driscoll, Chief Executive at the HRB, said:

“In 2023 we were able to increase our investment in mental health research as a result of dedicated and sustained funding being made available by the Department of Health under Sharing the Vision.

“The HRB will continue to support high-quality, collaborative and applied mental health research to drive positive change and outcomes for health and social care, society and the economy. As a member of the International Alliance of Mental Health Research Funders, we will collaborate with international partners to ensure that mental health research in Ireland is conducted in line with best practice globally.”

Last year under recommendation 93 of the national mental health policy, Sharing the Vision – A Mental Health Policy for Everyone (2020-2030), the HRB established a National Mental Health Research Expert Group to provide independent advice and guidance to inform the development of a national mental health research strategy. The Expert Group met four times in 2023 and will continue to meet monthly, with a plan to publish the strategy in 2024.

Further information can be found on the HRB website regarding development of the National Mental Health Research Strategy.

Details of recipients of HRB funding in mental health in 2023 are as follows:

  • Professor David Cotter, Royal College of Surgeons (RCSI) in Ireland, VISTA: VISion To Action for promoting mental health and recovery. An Implementation Science approach to “Sharing the Vision” – Ireland’s national mental health policy, Award value €2.5 million
  • Associate Professor Brian O’Donoghue, University College Dublin (UCD), Achieving recovery in psychotic disorders with comprehensive clinical guidelines, Award value €2.5 million
  • Dr Caroline Daly, University College Cork (UCC), RESTRICT – REducing intentional overdose: a mixed methods STudy of means RestrICTion interventions, Award value €0.29 million
  • Dr Isabela Troya, University College Cork (UCC), Revisiting suicide prevention in later life: human-centred approaches in an ageing Ireland, Award value €0.27 million
  • Dr John Kelly, Trinity College Dublin (TCD), A randomised controlled pilot trial of psilocybin with psychological support for cocaine use disorder, Award value €0.41 million
  • Dr Sonya Deschenes, University College Dublin (UCD), Diabetes and depression comorbidity in Ireland and Internationally: an investigation of longitudinal associations and multilevel predictors of comorbidity in Europe, Award value €0.24 million
  • Professor Dara Cannon, University of Galway (UCG), Reward-stress interactions as neural substrate for resilience and vulnerability in mental health: A translational large-scale project (RESIST-D), Award value €0.37 million
  • Professor Matthew Campbell, Trinity College Dublin (TCD), Dysfunction of the Blood-Brain Barrier in schizophrenia: molecular underpinnings of vulnerability or resilience (B3phrenia), Award value €0.37 million

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