Monday, 30 March 2020
New research will look at how digital technology can be used to help support young people with mental health problems, including those emerging during the COVID-19 pandemic, thanks to government funding.
There is a youth mental health crisis in the UK, with 1.25 million (25%) of 17-19-year-olds experiencing significant levels of depression or anxiety; yet less than a third of these young people receive any treatment.
Academic-led digital interventions exist but few, if any, have been implemented in real-world settings. Meanwhile, there are thousands of mental health and wellbeing apps, but the vast majority have no evidence-base and some may be harmful.
This crisis coincides with a new 'digital environment', where being online and using social media has become integral to young people's lives. However, social media platforms are not designed to meet the mental health needs of young people.
Now, new research will address this problem, thanks to funding from the Adolescence, Mental Health and Developing Mind programme – a £35m initiative funded by the government’s Strategic Priorities Fund and delivered by the Medical Research Council (MRC) with the Arts and Humanities Research Council and Economic and Social Research Council as part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).
The collaborative research, which will be led by Professor Chris Hollis from the School of Medicine and Director of MindTech with Professor Ellen Townsend from the School of Psychology at the University of Nottingham, will look at how digital technology could potentially transform adolescent mental health and wellbeing and provide a safe, and supportive, digital environment to tackle the growing crisis of unmet need arising from mental health disorders in young people (covering the definition of adolescence from age 10 up to the age of 25).
The project will address two key challenges:
- Harnessing digital technologies to identify those young people at risk of mental health problems and developing personalised digital interventions that bridge the adolescent mental health treatment gap.
- Understanding how the digital environment influences, and is influenced by, adolescent mental health problems, brain and cognitive development and what factors promote resilience.
The team’s engagement activities will bring together a diverse range of researchers and stakeholders to address pressing societal, public policy and research questions concerning how the new 'digital environment' affects, and can better support, young people's mental health.
Professor Hollis said: “We are hugely excited to receive this prestigious UKRI/MRC Engagement Award for Adolescence, Mental Health and the Developing Mind. As we know, 75% of mental health problems emerge before age 18, and 1 in 8 children and adolescents have a mental disorder. Furthermore, rates of mental health disorder in adolescence are continuing to rise.
“The overarching aim of our research is to harness the benefits of digital technology to tackle the mental health crisis in adolescence, while at the same time providing a better understanding, and mitigating of the risks, of the digital world and social media for young people’s mental health. This award allows us to bring together an outstanding interdisciplinary team of researchers from the leading national and international centres to work with young people, clinicians and the digital technology industry to tackle these critical issues for healthcare and society.”
The research partners are: The Samaritans, XenZone Ltd, Kings College London (Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience), Auckland University New Zealand, University College London, University of Oxford, University of Bath, London School of Economics and Political Science, The McPin Foundation, The Anna Freud Centre (National Schools in Mind Network), Department of Health and Social Care, Department for Culture, Media and Sport, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), NHS England, Public Health England, NHSX and Local Authorities.
More information is available from Professor Chris Hollis Psychiatry and Director, NIHR MindTech MIC, Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences at email@example.com
Notes to editors:
About the University of Nottingham
Ranked 32 in Europe and 16th in the UK by the QS World University Rankings: Europe 2024, the University of Nottingham is a founding member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience, and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our students. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia - part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement.
Nottingham was crowned Sports University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2024 – the third time it has been given the honour since 2018 – and by the Daily Mail University Guide 2024.
The university is among the best universities in the UK for the strength of our research, positioned seventh for research power in the UK according to REF 2021. The birthplace of discoveries such as MRI and ibuprofen, our innovations transform lives and tackle global problems such as sustainable food supplies, ending modern slavery, developing greener transport, and reducing reliance on fossil fuels.
The university is a major employer and industry partner - locally and globally - and our graduates are the second most targeted by the UK's top employers, according to The Graduate Market in 2022 report by High Fliers Research.
We lead the Universities for Nottingham initiative, in partnership with Nottingham Trent University, a pioneering collaboration between the city’s two world-class institutions to improve levels of prosperity, opportunity, sustainability, health and wellbeing for residents in the city and region we are proud to call home.