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We need to increase mental health research in young people

Around one in four people in the UK experience a mental health condition each year. Currently, up to two-thirds of those affected are going without treatment. We lack the tools to diagnose many mental illnesses quickly or effectively enough, and treatments do not work well enough for too many people.

These are challenges that will be all too familiar for many working in pharmacy — whether in drug development or on the front line in patient-facing roles.

New figures from mental health charity MQ, published on World Mental Health Day (10 October 2016), show the huge shortfall in research. Just £8 is invested on research per person affected by a mental health condition each year. This is more than 20 times less than cancer and 10 times less than dementia.

We are committed to tackling this head on. In October 2016, we announced our new research programme to tackle where many mental illnesses begin: in young people. Around 75% of mental illnesses start before people turn 18 years, with consequences that are often lifelong. If we put science to work, we can change the trajectory of mental illness in all young people.

To make this a reality we need to secure widespread public support for research and long-term commitment to sustainable funding. This is what has delivered the unimaginable breakthroughs in other areas of health such as cancer and HIV.

Therefore we have launched our major new public campaign to put young people’s mental health on the agenda. Readers can “swear to tackle mental illness” (see or read our manifesto for young people’s mental health (see We hope pharmacists will pledge their support, joining researchers, politicians and the public in calling for much-needed progress in tackling mental health through research. More information is available at

Sophie Dix

Director of Research

MQ: Transforming Mental Health

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2016.20201828

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