Experts must work together to power mental health science

For mental health research to thrive, it needs diverse perspectives that explore how the brain, body and environment interact. From neuroscience and psychiatry to history, economics and lived experience – innovation is driven by researchers working together.

An illustration of three people carrying a giant lightbulb. They are working together to slot the lightbulb into place inside the outline of human head. The first person is a brown-haired, white woman with a ponytail and a dark blue jumper, she's using a wheelchair. The second is a white person with short brown hair in a white coat and yellow top. The third is a black man with dark hair in a grey top and light green trousers. Like the people, experts must work together to power mental health science.

An illustration of three people working together to install a large lightbulb inside the outline of a human head.


Wellcome / Jack Cole 

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Experts must work together to power mental health science
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Mental health research has seen remarkable advances in recent decades. We’ve improved understanding of mental health problems and progressed new interventions – from an app that could transform understanding and treatment of schizophrenia to the use of CBD to treat psychosis. 

However, while breakthroughs are coming, mental health science is yet to reach its full potential.  

Mental health research is often driven by speciality or ideology and can lack focus and coherence. As a result, it's not meeting the urgent needs of people with mental health challenges and innovation can be slow. For example, KarXT is the first new potential pharmacological treatment for schizophrenia in over 50 years. 

To make a real impact, we must break down research barriers, empower researchers across fields to work together, and foster collaboration that will lead to new ways to intervene earlier.

The challenge with current mental health research  

Mental health research is divided. Researchers often work within specialised areas, like psychiatry or neuroscience. This can limit knowledge sharing and create an incomplete understanding of the social, biological and psychological factors that influence mental health.  

Moreover, a lack of lived experience expertise adds to research silos. Lived experience is vital for developing relevant and meaningful mental health research. Without it, research may not focus on what’s most important to those affected.

The field also doesn’t have an agreed set of systems, tools and concepts. For example, there are over 280 different tools for measuring depression alone. This makes it hard to compare results across studies or combine findings into a coherent body of knowledge.  

Mental health research also lacks consistent focus. Some topics may receive a lot of attention and funding for a period, while others may be overlooked. This can direct resources away from important research questions and slow the search for new interventions.  

While mental health science has come a long way, what could be achieved if we remove these barriers – and what discoveries await?

Building a more ambitious field of mental health science  

We know mental health is influenced by biological, psychological and social factors. But we don’t know enough about how these factors interact.

By working with the research community and lived experience experts, we want to close this gap, break down silos and foster a more coherent, collaborative and focused field of mental health science.


​The complex problems in mental health today can’t be solved by one field or discipline alone. They need a transdisciplinary approach.  

We want to empower a diverse, international field that prioritises lived experiences. We support this through our Mental Health programme, shaped by our Field Building and Lived Experience teams

We fund people across fields, backgrounds and locations to work together, from cell to society-level. This includes biologists, data scientists, economists, historians, neuroscientists, psychiatrists, psychologists, social scientists and more – everyone could have a role to play.

We also work with organisations to support collaboration in the research we fund. For example, we are working with MQ Mental Health to fund researchers outside the field of mental health to bring fresh ideas and help drive breakthroughs in depression, anxiety and psychosis [PDF 1.28KB].  

By combining perspectives, transdisciplinary science, or ‘convergence science’, can help us generate more robust solutions.


For researchers to work together, they need consistent methods and measures. 

We want to create a shared understanding of concepts, definitions and metrics to improve communication and innovation in mental health.  

One way we’re supporting this is through the Common Measures in Mental Health Science project. Common measures are tools that the research community agrees to use to ensure they are measuring the same thing. The International Alliance of Mental Health Research Funders created a group of global funders and journals, co-chaired by Wellcome, to establish common measures in mental health science. This group has agreed on seven measures so far to improve how researchers communicate, compare and combine results across studies.  

We also promote the use of common metrics in the research we fund. For example, in our funding call on the impact of sleep on anxiety, depression and psychosis, we gathered a list of preferred measures for sleep and circadian science from researchers and encouraged the use of consistent measures across projects to help data sharing and analysis. 

We have also funded the History of Causes project, which explores the evolution of biological, psychological and social theories in mental health. This context is essential for developing a shared understanding of mental health, building on existing theories and creating new ones. 


A focused field is a productive field. That’s why we want to help researchers identify and pursue the most promising areas of mental health based on evidence and impact. 

In particular, we want to focus efforts on areas that will make the biggest difference in anxiety, depression and psychosis. 

One example of this work is The Global Alliance for Living Evidence on Anxiety, Depression and Psychosis (GALENOS) project. GALENOS creates 'living' systematic reviews on mental health research topics. These reviews are continuously updated with the latest evidence and embed lived experience throughout. This project aims to unite and focus research on anxiety, depression and psychosis to uncover opportunities for breakthroughs.

We’ve also commissioned a project using horizon scanning to look at ethical challenges in anxiety, depression and psychosis research and current and future trends in mental health research. The goal is to focus resources in mental health on areas with the greatest potential.

Creating lasting change in mental health science  

These are just some of the people and projects we're supporting to strengthen mental health research. But we know we don't have all the answers. 

We will continue to work with and listen to the research community to better understand the biggest gaps, barriers and opportunities in mental health science and facilitate change.  

However, to create a cultural shift, more collaboration is needed across organisations and sectors. 

We’re committed to furthering this work. For example:

But more action is needed to create lasting change.  

By working together and prioritising mental health on a global scale, we can create a more ambitious and responsive field that’s able to push the boundaries of mental health science.

“Twenty-first-century mental health science has incredible potential to transform lives for the better. Our job is to build and nurture the systems and resources that will allow it to fulfil this potential." 

Niall Boyce

Head of Field Building


Connect with Niall: