To make the greatest difference, funders need to know how much money is spent on mental health research and where that funding goes. Curating this essential data is an integral aspect of our work.

Background

In November 2020, we released the first comprehensive global analysis of the distribution of mental health research funding. We analysed over 75,000 grants from 350 funders to show how much is spent on mental health research, in which areas, and by whom.  

This work was sponsored by the European Commission, Healthy Brains Global Initiative, Graham Boeckh Foundation, MQ Foundation, Mental Health Research Canada, Society for Mental Health Research, and Wellcome.

The report builds on three earlier studies produced in partnership with RAND Europe. These papers are available on the Publications section of our website. 

What we found

The report, entitled The Inequities of Mental Health Research Funding, identified five major inequities in mental health research funding:

  • Most mental health research funding is awarded by and spent in high-income countries.
  • Research into mental health is underfunded compared to other (physical) diseases.
  • Specific fields of mental health research – notably self-harm and suicide, eating, conduct, obsessive-compulsive and personality disorders – are relatively underfunded compared to other fields such as substance use and dependence, and depression.  
  • The majority of mental health research investment is on basic research, rather than clinical and applied research.
  • The young are not the focus of mental health research investments, despite anticipated long-term benefits of intervening at this age. 

Impact

Three years on, the report has been cited over 50 times and used to develop mental health research strategies and support new investments by private and public bodies including: 

  • The WHO Department of Mental Health and Substance Use to inform their mental health strategy.
  • The Department of Health in Australia to help develop the Australian National Mental Health Research Strategy.
  • The European Commission Program Committee to hold a special session with all member countries on applying the findings in the EU context.  
  • The American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy to make a case for improved research funding practice in the US.  
  • The Countdown Global Mental Health project to help advocate for new policies with focus on the mental health of children and their caregivers.
  • Healthy Brains Global Initiative to inform their funding strategy and priority setting. 

Academic publications

The report was accompanied by a health policy paper in The Lancet Psychiatry, which explains the methodology in more detail and points to the importance of future work.  

The Lancet Psychiatry also published a comment piece from Professor Vikram Patel: Mental health research funding: too little, too inequitable, too skewed