Major grant awarded for new mental health research centre in London

SOAS University of London anthropologists have secured a Research England grant worth nearly £8 million to help reshape mental health care in London and globally. 

The team led by Professor David Mosse and Dr Nikita Simpson will develop wide-ranging research partnerships to understand and address inequalities in access to mental health care, challenges in provision, and deficits in the experience and overall outcomes of care. 

They will promote the use of anthropology’s distinctive methods and theoretical approaches – an academic discipline involving the study of human societies and cultures – in tackling some of the most difficult issues related to mental health and inequality. 

SOAS will create the Centre for Anthropology and Mental Health Research in Action (CAMHRA) - the first discipline-specific anthropology and mental health centre in the world. The Centre will produce distinctive research knowledge and practical partnerships, supporting important innovation in mental health care. 

The funding comes from Research England’s Expanding Excellence in England Fund which identifies research units recognised as excellent and having the potential to grow. Funding will run for five years, commencing from the 2024-2025 academic year. 

Anthropology offers relevant nuanced, relational and cultural knowledge through its uniquely participatory methods.

The proposed Centre capitalises on collaboration between SOAS anthropologists and healthcare providers built over five years, with unique buy-in from the NHS, public health and other bodies achieved through psychiatric and Covid-related projects.  

Crucial to the Centre is a partnership with Thrive LDN, a public mental health partnership of London’s NHS Trusts, councils, other statutory bodies, voluntary and community groups, led by the Mayor of London and London Health Board partners.   

New opportunities will also be created for doctoral research in this field, and expanding intake on the recently launched MA Medical Anthropology and Mental Health.

Centre Director Professor David Mosse, one of the UK’s leading anthropologists, said:  

“Mental healthcare is often poorly adapted to the diverse cultural worlds and needs of those who seek it. Inequalities in access, experience and outcomes persist, while pressures on staff lead to high turnover and burn out. Such issues are particularly acute in London, where overstretched mental health systems struggle to meet the complex and intersectional needs of an unequal urban population. 

“To address these issues, new knowledge is needed about how to reshape mental health systems to cater to diverse needs and support the wellbeing and retention of staff. Anthropology offers relevant nuanced, relational and cultural knowledge through its uniquely participatory methods.” 

Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange Professor Laura Hammond said: 

“SOAS’s already world-leading Anthropology Department has recently built a cutting-edge research group focused on psychological anthropology and mental health. This grant demonstrates our unique ability, as a small, specialist institution, to uphold our core commitment to justice, diversity, equality through our work to find solutions to some of our most pressing challenges of today.”

Further information

  • The Centre will be globally oriented and locally connected and seek to catalyse growth in the use of anthropological methods and expertise in mental healthcare. It will attract scholars, practitioners and people with lived experience to a range of research positions and projects with the aim of establishing itself as a home for cutting-edge anthropological research, education, and public engagement in mental health. 
  • The Centre will recruit to new academic and professional posts for collaborative research, education and training, and policy/public engagement. This expands the group of SOAS anthropologists currently specialising in varied dimensions of mental health internationally including Professor David Mosse, Dr Nikita Simpson, Dr Orkideh Behrouzan, Dr Naomi Leite and Dr Fabio Gygi. 
  • Research England is investing £156 million to support 18 universities across England to expand small but outstanding research units.

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