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Our vision is to develop research to promote and sustain good mental health in communities.

We bring together a unique mix of disciplines and expertise to conduct innovative social science research on the impact of rapid social change in mental health.

Our Centre will improve our understanding of the complex interrelationships between society and mental health, create platforms enabling new collaborations between disciplines and with societal partners, and work closely with users, communities, practitioners, and policy makers to design and assess novel evidence-based strategies for prevention and intervention. 

In realising this vision, we aim to shift public debate about mental health away from a focus on individualised interventions, towards social practices and policies that promote and sustain good mental health in communities.

This Centre is a collaboration between the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, and the Faculty of Social Science and Public Policy, in partnership with the University of Manchester (UK), University College London (UK), Mannheim University (Germany), McGill University (Canada), and Indiana University (USA), and with community organisations, user groups, and charities. 

It is central to our ethos that research and other outputs are co-produced with mental health service users and affected communities and groups.  

Our aims

  • Ensure that the impact of social context is central to how we think about, and understand, mental health

  • Produce innovative research that underpins and informs new initiatives

  • Work entirely in partnership with affected communities and groups

  • Train the next generation of world leading researchers

  • Uncover knowledge that will underpin new policies. We want to help support communities that have generated neighbourhood-level practices to promote resilience and mental wellbeing

How we see things

In high-income countries, mental health problems have become more common in recent decades, particularly among adolescents and marginalised groups and communities. These trends occur against a background of multiple rapid and far-reaching changes that have transformed many aspects of personal, social, and economic life, including the nature of childhood and families, interpersonal relationships (especially with the emergence and rapid expansion of social media), education and training, neighbourhoods and communities, work and employment, and welfare policies.

What we know and what we don’t know

  • Many of the factors that promote mental health or lead to poor mental health are intrinsically social. They lie in our societies, schools, workplaces, communities, and the way we live our lives. But we don’t know how these different dimensions actually affect mental health, and this hampers our ability to develop effective policies.

  • The impact of inequalities and difficult experiences on mental health differ by social group and vary geographically. To date, these aspects have not been given as much attention as they need to understand their impact on mental health. Because of this, we don’t know enough about how to reduce inequalities in mental health.

  • The path to good mental health for all lies in the way our society is organised. Social, employment and welfare policies need to be shaped in the light of an understanding of their effect on mental health.

  • We are living through a period of rapid and far-reaching change in our environments and social lives. We are seeing significant developments in technology and changes in education, work and welfare policies. Through understanding the impact of these changes we can decide how, and by what means, their effects on mental health might be minimised.

Researchers in our Centre work in partnership with those groups most affected to bring these issues to the fore, in order to ensure that Governments and policy makers recognise that there are social dimensions to mental health problems. It is through changes in social and welfare policies, and addressing the root causes, that we will have far-reaching positive effects on mental health.

The COVID 19 Pandemic is amplifying and exacerbating these social determinants of mental distress, and our immediate priority is to focus on these.