COVID-19 and Mental Health Highlight Notice Added to NIHR-UKRI Rapid Response

COVID-19 and Mental Health Highlight Notice Added to NIHR-UKRI Rapid Response

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) have launched a highlight notice as part of the organisations’ Rapid Response Rolling Call to COVID-19. The highlight notice invites proposals with potential for significant public mental health impact within 12 months, with a focus on preventative approaches and interventions.

Current research indicates that the pandemic will likely have negative effects on individual and population mental health. Concerns include the effects of social isolation on wellbeing; increased levels of anxiety and depression symptoms; the effect of the pandemic on particularly vulnerable groups, including frontline health and social care workers; and evidence that COVID-19 itself can cause acute neuropsychiatric syndromes as well as high levels of depression, anxiety and PTSD in recovering patients. Mental health research is therefore critical to better understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on psychological, psychiatric and social functioning, and how to effectively mitigate this impact.

The aim of this highlight notice is to reduce the emergence of new, and the exacerbation of existing, mental health problems, and to improve outcomes for people whose mental health has already been adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.  Proposals may take a whole population view and examine the impacts of COVID-19 on, for example, anxiety, depression, self-harm, suicide, addiction and eating disorders. Research is particularly encouraged that focuses on groups who may be more vulnerable, such as frontline health and social care staff and other groups of key workers, people with existing mental health problems, those who recover from COVID-19, people from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, and those experiencing social inequality such as lack of employment, housing or existing health inequalities.

Applicants should, where possible, take advantage of existing COVID-19 platform studies, cohorts and other longitudinal population studies with prospective mental health measures, data platforms and administrative data. If new data collection is required, either as part of a new or existing study, it must generate important information unavailable elsewhere. Collaboration across groups, sites and centres is encouraged to enhance representative population coverage and the range of data available to comprehensively address key questions.

Ambitious proposals aimed at developing a platform, or establishing consortia, to bring together the expertise of multiple groups, centres or disciplines to coordinate and address a number of these priority areas in parallel and accelerate opportunities for impact are welcomed. Collaboration with, and involvement of, people affected by the research – including patients, people with lived experience of mental health problems, carers and the public – will be imperative to bringing about real world impacts against these priority areas. Interdisciplinary research is welcomed, where appropriate.

The committee will look across the range of proposals to ensure there is no duplication and may request, where similar work is proposed, that academic groups or institutions join together to capitalise on the expertise and improve the scope and outcomes of the research.

This highlight notice will be supported through the joint UKRI-NIHR COVID-19 rapid response initiative rolling call. To enable simultaneous consideration of as many relevant applications as possible, it is strongly recommended that applications be submitted by 22 June 2020 (9:00). The aim is to notify applicants by mid-July.

More information about this research funding opportunity and the application process is available on the RESEARCHconnect funding information platform. RESEARCHconnect provides up-to-the minute content, insight and analysis on research funding news and policy. To find out more about how RESEARCHconnect can keep you in the know, and subscription fees, contact us today.