Multidisciplinary mental health research
We aren’t going to achieve the next mental health breakthrough by working in isolation. By bringing people together from different disciplines we’ll tap into the creativity and diversity of ideas we need to find answers and better understand mental health. Multidisciplinary mental health research (also known as interdisciplinary research) is researching mental health across multiple different disciplines – not just psychology and psychiatry.
Multidisciplinary research isn’t just the latest hot topic in mental health research, it has become a necessity for securing funding from many funders. However, learning how to do it well can be quite a challenge.
The UKRI mental health research networks have been bringing people together from multiple disciplines since they were founded in 2018. We hope this summary can give you a flavour of the variety of disciplines that can play their part in mental health research, or inspire your next multidisciplinary mental health research study.
Here we’ve highlighted one (of many) great examples of interdisciplinary research, projects and special interest groups from each of the eight networks. As there were so many brilliant examples, it was hard to pick just one per network, so we’ve included links to a few more below if you want to find out more.
Closing The Gap
One of the key research themes for the Closing The Gap network was harnessing green and blue spaces to improve the physical health of people with Severe Mental Illness (SMI). Closing the Gap created multidisciplinary mental health research by bringing together psychologists, geographers and health scientists to improve our understanding of the impact of nature-based interventions on the physical health of people with SMI. Watch Closing The Gap’s Research Sofa episode on this topic here.
Emerging Mind’s special interest group The Social Photography Research Group brings together historians, photographers, psychologists and young people.
They work with young people to explore the relationship between social photography and self-presentation and identity. They also co-produce with young people historically-focused engagement activities to help them feel empowered to discuss the potential challenges and benefits of social media and photographic content.
This study is an eNurture plus-project that brings together researchers in computer science, psychology and neuroscience.
TangToys allows young children to communicate their feelings through play, using sensors so children can communicate digitally and express emotions with each other in real time and the development of peer support groups.
LSIMHRN researchers are working in a team that includes epidemiologists, psychologists, and spatial scientists to link specific national place-based indicators (e.g., distance from home to the high street; access to public spaces; access to community resources; population density) to a rich set of socio-demographic and mental health variables in the longitudinal Millennium Cohort Study database. This fine-grained national linkage of geo-spatial factors to individual-level cohort study data will allow the team to deliver new insights into how place-related factors impact on loneliness, social isolation, and mental health.
This work builds upon A Systematic Review of Studies Describing the Effectiveness, Acceptability, and Potential Harms of Place-Based Interventions to Address Loneliness and Mental Health Problems. You can hear more about their work by listening to this presentation from Anne-Katherine Fett.
Developing guidelines for involving people experiencing mental ill health in heritage projects
When you think of mental health research, heritage projects might not be the first thing that spring to mind. However, this project draws upon the idea that active participation in heritage projects can boost wellbeing.
This MARCH plus-funded project created guidelines for best practices for involving people with mental ill health in heritage projects. This team brought together psychologists, archaeologists, sociologists, social researchers, numerous heritage partners, and – of course- people with personal experience of mental health problems. Find out more here
This project explored expressions of belonging amongst Black and minority ethnic PhD students. It was carried out by Dr Kavita Ramakrishnan, Dr Esther Priyadharshini and Farhana Ghaffar, an interdisciplinary team across geography and education, based at the University of East Anglia. Drawing upon co-production, the researchers worked together with a group of doctoral students as partners to create a print and online version of a zine. Comprised of two volumes, the zine used a flip format to explore students’ current experiences as well as ways of creating inclusive futures.
Creating the zine involved creative/arts-based methods, written expression and collaborative discussions. The zine was launched at a public event for a range of stakeholders, which emphasised conversation and connection rather than purely dissemination. The project was supported by a multidisciplinary advisory board. This included post-graduate researchers and key stakeholders from across the university representing different academic and student support backgrounds. Moving forward, the project is prioritising co-authorship with student partners.
A key piece of work from the TRIUMPH network was their Priority Areas for Research to Improve Youth Public Mental Health. The network ran agenda-setting workshops before funding their studies. These workshops brought together people from a variety of disciplines and backgrounds including mental health, youth work, public health, psychology, psychiatry, education, and social policy. The network pooled the combined personal expertise of young people and professional expertise of people from relevant fields to identify priorities for research.
The authors of the Lancet Psychiatry Commission on Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) and Mental Health are a group of internationally renowned experts in IPV and mental health, including those with lived experience. The group, led by VAMHN, included psychologists, sociologists, geographers, sexual and reproductive health researchers, psychiatrists, and neuroscientists.
Want to find out more? Catch up on our webinar on this topic, hosted by Professor Kam Bhui