Last September we launched a £10m mental health initiative, inviting research organisations to send in proposals for novel and outstanding research with the potential to make advances in the understanding and treatment of mental health. From 26 applications, five were shortlisted, and following a rigorous review by an international panel of mental health experts, we are delighted to announce that Cardiff University have received the award.

The Wolfson Centre for Young People’s Mental Health, based at Cardiff University, will be a dedicated interdisciplinary research centre focusing on reducing anxiety and depression in young people. Cardiff University experts will work in partnership with Swansea University, Welsh Government, NHS Wales, University Health Boards and schools across Wales.

Paul Ramsbottom, Chief Executive of the Wolfson Foundation said: “There is still much to understand about the causes, prevention and treatment of mental health, and it is an area that has traditionally been underfunded in the UK. By launching this initiative and making this award, we want to make a statement about the importance of young people’s mental health – and of supporting high quality research into the subject.

Our expert, international panel rated the proposal from Cardiff extremely highly. The research expertise that has been assembled is impressive, ranging from genetics to epidemiology. The Centre will build excellent links to schools and health services across Wales, and the research will be informed by the experiences of young people – all based on a dataset that gives Wales a distinct advantage in research in this area. It is a true privilege for the Wolfson Foundation to be involved.”

Welcoming the investment, Cardiff University’s Professor Frances Rice, who will co-direct the new centre alongside Professor Stephan Collishaw, said: “We know that 75% of young people with an anxiety disorder or depression go unrecognised and receive no intervention. The impact on the young person, their families and their life chances can be devastating.

That’s why we are delighted, following a rigorous selection process, that the Wolfson Foundation has chosen to make such a substantial investment to establish the Wolfson Centre for Young People’s Mental Health.  For the first time we will be able to bring together experts in child and adolescent psychiatry, genetics, social science, and public health in Wales to shine a light on adolescent mental health and develop much needed new interventions.”

The Wolfson Centre will focus on five scientific areas:

  • It will examine longitudinal data that track children over time to better understand how anxiety and depression develop.

 

  • It will consider the role genetic and environmental factors play in anxiety and depression in young people.

 

  • It will develop a new intervention to support young people and families where a parent suffers from depression.

 

  • It will look at the role schools play in promoting positive mental health in youngsters.

 

  • Working jointly with experts from Swansea University, it will use information uniquely available in Wales to better understand long-term outcomes of those young people who experience anxiety and depression.

All the Wolfson Centre’s scientific findings will be developed in partnership with young people, practitioners and policy makers and the information generated will be used to shape public health and school policies with the aim of helping promote better mental health in young people.

Co-director Professor Stephan Collishaw added: “Wales is a living lab of some 1.3m young people. We are already a global leader in mental health research and genetics with unique connections at other universities, Welsh Government, the NHS and schools.

This major investment from the Wolfson Foundation will allow us not only to understand the causes of anxiety and depression but help create early interventions to ensure that young people get the right help, advice and support they need.”

The Wolfson Centre will work with leading experts in the field from around the globe and will develop the next generation of youth mental health experts.

As well as academic leads for each area of research, ten Wolfson Future Leaders Postdoctoral Fellows will be appointed.

There are also plans for a number of Wolfson PhD students as well as an annual adolescent mental health summer school which will provide training in adolescent mental health research to fellows, students and practitioners at the early stages of their professional training.

(Photo: Professor Frances Rice & Professor Stephan Collishaw, Cardiff University)