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Mental Health

Mental ill health is acknowledged to be one of the most significant challenges that societies currently face. In the UK, it accounts for over 20% of the overall disease burden - more than either cancer or heart disease - and is one of the leading reasons for taking sick leave from employment. In 2015 alone, for example, 17.6 million working days were lost to mental ill health in the UK making it a serious economic as well as a social concern. Globally, the World Health Organisation projects that by 2030 mental health problems (particularly depression) will be the leading cause of mortality and morbidity.  

The Research Councils have a collective interest in mental health research, and in August 2017 launched a cross-disciplinary agenda to highlight opportunities for working in this area between disciplines and across the councils’ individual remits called Widening cross-disciplinary research for mental health (PDF, 219KB). AHRC fully supports this agenda and will work, both independently and with the other research councils, to ensure that mental health research remains part of our broader strategies.

“The arts and humanities offer a breadth of perspectives, skills and techniques that can reveal a deeper understanding of the causes and experiences of mental illness, and can help to better comprehend both social connectedness and fragmentation for the communities that face it.”

said Professor Martin Halliwell, University of Leicester and member of AHRC Science in Culture Advisory Group.

How has the AHRC supported research in Mental Health?

How can the arts and humanities contribute to this research agenda? Past projects have come from areas as diverse as the creative arts, design, law, ethics and history, as well as a range of interdisciplinary approaches, and originated as a variety of responsive mode schemes and targeted calls.

AHRC invested over £10 million into mental health research between 2010 and 2017, and you can read a selection of case studies from work we have supported in our booklet Exploring Mental Health and Wellbeing: The Role of Arts and Humanities Research (PDF, 20MB). We have also published an interview with Dr Daisy Fancourt, discussing how music can affect our mental health.

Associated image copyright: 16:9clue on Flickr by CC 2.0