Spending on mental health research needs to be doubled or tripled in the UK in order to ease the enormous burden of psychiatric and behavioural disorders on society, according to a group of scientists.
The amount invested in furthering understanding of mental illness and improving diagnostic procedures and treatments should be raised from around £115 million a year to at least £300 million, say the experts in a new report.
Both public and private sectors - the Government, industry and charities - were urged to contribute much more than they do at present to avoid the huge long-term cost of inaction.
Scientists taking part in the Roamer (Roadmap for Mental Health Research in Europe) project set out six research priorities that stood to make the biggest impact on mental health services in the next five to 10 years.
They pointed out that mental and behavioural disorders caused at least 12% of all disability in the UK, costing the country £105 billion per year, yet received only 5.5% of total health care research funding.
Joint Roamer lead Professor Til Wykes, from King’s College London, said: "European governments should sit up and listen. Mental health disorders represent the greatest health burden in Europe but countries spend a fraction of what is needed on mental health research.
“The impact of mental disorders is rising - now we have the science to bridge these gaps, funding mental health research will benefit everyone in the long run - in health and well-being, as well as financially.”
The Roamer roadmap, published in the journal Lancet Psychiatry, highlights the importance of identifying the risks and protective factors affecting mental health in young people, focusing on the causes of mental disorders, and setting up international collaborations for mental health research.
Other priorities were developing new and better mental health interventions, reducing stigma and empowering carers, and conducting research into health and social care systems.
The call was backed by Cynthia Joyce, chief executive of the charity MQ: Transforming Mental Health, which was set up two years ago to raise awareness of gaps in mental health research funding.
Speaking at a briefing in London, she said public donations in support of mental health research were tiny. For every £1 the Government spent on mental health research, the general public contributed just a third of a penny. In comparison, people donated £2.75 for every £1 of Government money spent on cancer research.