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Birkbeck part of network examining student mental health

Creative writing lecturer Toby Litt leads for the College in a wide-ranging £8 million project.

Birkbeck is among the institutions and organisations which have come together to form a series of networks across the UK conducting research into mental health issues.

The £8 million project will see eight networks undertake work over the next four years, funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the Government’s Industrial Strategy, looking into a range of health aspects.

The lead collaborator at Birkbeck is Toby Litt from the Department of English and Humanities who is working with SMARtEN (Student Mental Health Research Network) alongside teams from the National Centre for Social Research, NHS England, Universities UK, King’s College London and others.

They will be gathering data on the mental wellbeing of students which will feed into the formulation of a strategic response to concerns about a rise in mental health problems and provide greater support. They will recruit a student-led research team to identify key research questions and the network will run workshops, events and student-led conferences, as well as working with institutions across the higher education sector in an effort to improve student mental health.  

Areas being tackled by the other networks will examine issues such as social isolation; domestic and sexual violence; the association of poor physical and mental health; and the value of culture and community in alleviating mental health problems. Charities, universities and organisations such as Disney, the BBC, Instagram and Instagram are among those involved in the various projects.

Professor Sir Mark Walport, Chief Executive of UK Research and Innovation, said: “Mental ill health is the single largest cause of disability in the UK, and it is estimated that almost a quarter of the country’s population are affected by mental health issues each year. Through their work, the new Networks will further our understanding about the causes, development and treatments of a wide range of mental health issues.” 

Business Secretary Greg Clark said: “These new Mental Health networks are another step forward in bringing leading public and private organisations together to better understand the causes, develop new treatments and tackle social isolation.”

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