Children and Young People’s Mental Health Project – The Story So Far

Published: 28 September 2020


An invitation to the 2018 Mental Health Science Meeting of the charity MQ, where the Under-Secretary of State for Health announced the winner of the i4i Challenge Call 7, identified a strong focus on child and adolescent mental health research. As a result, the Children and Young People Mental Health Special Project was born, with a plan to bring together the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) community with interest in this area to collaborate on developing research proposals to address this important area. Shortly afterwards, the then Prime Minister, Theresa May, announced funding to focus on this area.

Engagement with some key NIHR researchers, particularly in the newly emerging Mental Health Translational Research Collaboration, as well as with other funders (Wellcome and UKRI) encouraged us to pursue this. During this stakeholder engagement, we met and talked with Vanessa Pinfold (McPin Foundation) and became aware of the James Lind Alliance (JLA) Mental Health in Children and Young People Priority Setting Partnership (PSP) they were sponsoring and were invited to the final priority setting workshop and then the launch of the “Right People, Right Questions: Research priorities for young people’s mental health” report in November 2018.   The Special Project then pivoted to focus on encouraging the research community to respond to this JLA PSP.

Vanessa Pinfold, Co-founder and Research Director of McPin Foundation said:
“It’s been such a positive result for our PSP, to have the NIHR special project so interested in our top research priorities for children and young people’s mental health and committed to build upon them. I remember early on speaking to a knowledgeable stakeholder who said there was no guarantee any funder would respond to PSP findings which was a bit disheartening but that has not been our experience. There has been a lot of interest. And through the NIHR special project we will soon see research questions generated by academics that directly address our Right People Right Question areas. For our young people’s advisory group, who steered our PSP and continue to shape McPin’s research, this is particularly important. We want research to shape services and develop new interventions, to benefit young people and their families. This takes us one step closer to doing so.”

Project Plan

The focus of the Mental Health in Children and Young People JLA PSP was on interventions and services and so the top 25 questions are not conventional research questions which can be easily pushed out to researchers to answer. As the purpose of this project is to enable researchers and funders to collaborate to respond to the PSP questions, the project first needed a method to identify an appropriate set of research questions.

The Child Health and Nutrition Research Initiative (CHNRI) method has been adapted for this process and a member of the Project Steering Team (Parisa Mansoori) has experience of using this approach.

In short, the method involves:

  • Identifying and asking the appropriate research community for relevant research questions
  • Working with funders of research to develop criteria to prioritise and shortlist
  • Bringing funders and researchers together to collaborate to deliver the research
  • Inviting stakeholders from the wider society (patients and the public) to collectively assign a weight to the scoring criteria.

Project Progress

Through the NIHR Centre for Business Intelligence, the team identified a list of 65 NIHR funded researchers in the area of mental health. This was also cross-checked with UKRI (MRC) Network+ with a Children and Young People mental health theme.

At this point, Oxentia were brought in to support the delivery of the project during the more intense phase of the project, including developing, managing and analysing the survey and assessing the questions.

Other key stakeholders with a wider range of disciplines in their networks (including education and other non-clinical disciplines) notably MQ and McPin, were approached to identify potential researchers to complement the NIHR list.

The resultant list of researchers was invited to sign up to be involved in the survey to generate research questions and 79 people signed up.

The survey closed on Friday 18th September 2020.

In parallel, a set of criteria to score the questions against was validated with a range of funding/supporting stakeholders.

Next Steps

Once a list of research questions is compiled after collecting the proposed research questions by the research community, these will be disseminated back to the researchers for scoring against a pre-defined set of criteria The researchers will independently score all the research questions based on which the questions will be ranked and the top priorities will be identified. This is expected to be in early to mid November 2020.

The project will hold an event/events as part of that process where we will provide opportunities for researchers to collaborate on writing applications for funding to deliver the research. There is also an intention to investigate an industry collaboration/matchmaking event as part of this process.

Amongst funders, NIHR is clearly a focus and we will work with the research funding programmes and theme scoping team to see if one or more of these questions could form the basis for a commissioned call.

Who is involved?

NIHR Central Commissioning Facility (CCF) Sponsor (Senior Leadership Team): Matt Hallsworth

Steering Team: Matt Hallsworth (Head of External Relations, NIHR Office for Clinical Research Infrastructre), Ian Newington (Head of Special Projects, CCF), Parisa Mansoori (Mental Health TRC, Operations Manager), Jennie Hejdenberg (Senior Programme Manager, NIHR Research for Patient Benefit).

Project Lead: Sultana Choudhry (Senior Programme Manager, CCF)

Oxentia (CRO): Richard Johnson, Lauren Sosdian and Britta Wyatt

Project Working Group – an informal group of CCF staff volunteering their time to assist

More JLA news