Mental Health and Wellbeing

Companies that don’t do enough to support employee mental health risk seeing their overall productivity drop by a quarter.[1]

Our pioneering academic expertise in collaboration with industry leadership seeks to promote the wellbeing and effectiveness of individuals, families, groups, organisations and civil society within the workplace and beyond to prevent widespread mental health crises and long-term risks to business.

A man on sofa head in hand in depressed pose

Over three-quarters (almost 79%) of businesses have seen an increase in requests for mental health support in the wake of COVID-19, according to a report released by Unmind and the Reward & Employee Benefits Association (REBA).

Employers have a responsibility to ensure their working environment and practices do not adversely affect workers' lives and opportunities. We are working with the corporate and public sector to support employee’s mental and physical health by applying robust and evidence based research to industry challenges. 

A closer look in to how the West Midlands region fared with treating mental health in a study led by Health Services Management Centre at the University of Birmingham in partnership with the Centre for Mental Health for the West Midlands Combined Authority in 2017 found that poor mental health costs the NHS more than £3000 per person per year.

The Institute for Mental Health (IMH) is leading on supporting the NHS in a variety of ways including working with the teams at University Hospitals Birmingham (UHB), and Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust to provide a psychological support service to NHS staff working acutely with those with COVID-19 and staffing a crisis and triage service in UHB for clinicians who may experience acute mental health distress.  We are also partnering locally and nationally to examine the impact of COVID-19 on long-term health outcomes, and differential impact on BAME communities.  We have a strong partnership with schools in the city and are developing this to support children, their families, and teachers, as pupils return and reintegrate.

Professor Matthew Broome

Director of the Institute for Mental Health

“At the IMH, we have a long-standing interest in the relationship between social media and health. We are studying how COVID-19 is discussed on-line, and the connections with both physical activity and with discussions of self-harm. With colleagues across campus, we are developing work around trust and perception of scientific expertise in its relation to mental health and risk-taking. Existing collaborations, including our work with the Midlands Engine, is examining the mental health consequences of home working and social distances in the workplace, and the impact of COVID-19 on mental health advocacy. We have been working with colleagues at Birmingham Health Partners to support content for the new website Mental health and wellbeing during COVID-19.”


Dr Jack Rogers in the Institute for Mental Health has secured a grant from the ESRC IAA Urgency Fund to develop guidelines to help young people engage safely in online gaming during COVID-19. These evidence-based guidelines will help better equip young people during COVID-19 and beyond to engage with online gaming safely and effectively, maximising opportunities for using gaming to enhance their mental wellbeing. 

The University of Birmingham's Centre for Applied Psychology is exploring how we can assist industry in designing, implementing and evaluating their health and wellbeing strategies. We have been in discussion with multiple large corporations with a view to developing strategies to engage and empower their workforce in adopting positive behavioural change in the areas of healthy eating, mental health, physical wellness and safety. 

Launched in 2019, a partnership between University of Birmingham, Birmingham Children’s Hospital and HSBC UK as founding donor will explore the links to understand the relationship between predictors and incidents of bullying in Birmingham. It will also uncover the scale of the problem in the city and identify the ‘hidden’ communities of children who are affected, making it a first crucial step to help the NHS predict future demand.

The Sprint Project:

sprint project

Academic staff in our School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences have been working for over six years with St Basils and the corporate sector on the My Strengths Training for Life (MST4Life) initiative.

The project uses a distinctly strengths-based approach informed by clinical and sports psychology to support young people to achieve their goals. Aimed at helping homeless young people, many of whom have complex needs and are at risk of isolation, social disadvantage and poor mental health. Find out more about the project here.

Professor Steven Marwaha is leading on The Mental Health and Productivity Pilot (MHPP) set up with a fund of £6.8 million over three years to support employers in the Midlands Engine region understand more about the positive impact of mental health on productivity. Working with partners across the Midlands including SMEs, MHPP recommends existing resources that help to improve workplace mental health, for both large and small employers from different sectors to co-create and pilot new mental health and wellbeing interventions. Professor Marwaha is also co-investigator on a recently approved UKRI funded study on the 'Impact of COVID-19 on Staff Mental Health and Well-Being in SMEs: Strategies and Interventions to Support Workforce and Boost Productivity in the UK'.

A rapid investigation in to young people’s use of social media during the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact of COVID-19 on self-harm and suicide discussions online is being led by Dr Anna Lavis in the Institute of Applied Health research. A crucial part of assessing the impact of COVID-19 on the mental health of UK young people is to look at social media use as it offers understandings of why, and importantly when, suicidal acts and self-injurious behaviour may rise, showing their complex relationships with the current situation. The Samaritans have shown interest in supporting the study and there will be involvement from with Department of Health and Social Care as well as the tech industry to share findings.

In Birmingham Business School, the Wellbeing in the Workplace workstream within the Work Inclusivity Research Centre (WIRC) aims to enhance workplace wellbeing through increasing our understanding of the impacts of our jobs on wellbeing. Our research is contributing to this important field of research through academic publications, parliamentary briefs including informing the recent debate on well-being in the House of Lords, engagement with businesses and our own research-informed blogs.

Our work extends to developing frameworks and tools to inform organisational well-being strategy and practice. Our recent focus has been responding to the unprecedented changes to working routines arising from the COVID-19 pandemic which have significant implications for well-being at work, permeating into all aspects of our working lives including through the rapid expansion of remote working which poses very real challenges for our well-being, but also a range of potential benefits.

For example research conducted by Dr Eric Shiu at the University of Birmingham, soon to be published in the Journal of Business Research, finds that for companies more involved in social media technologies and their concomitant platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, and LinkedIn for forming closed-loop social media networks with their suppliers, the performance of the new products they developed and launched would be significantly better than other companies which are less involved in the use of these technologies.

The central focus of the Business School’s research is in emphasising the longer term learning derived from the current changes observed, embedding the well-being agenda centrally in the future of work.  

Contact the University of Birmingham’s business engagement team with your business challenges so we can match our research insights and expert analysis to issues affecting you 

[1] Report commissioned by the Midland Productivity Pilot and conducted by the Enterprise Research Centre.

Facilities available

The Centre for Applied Psychology houses numerous facilities including laboratories specially equipped for work in human brain sciences, psychophysiology, cognition and speech production, visual and auditory perception, food and nutritional psychology, psychopharmacology, social psychology, child development, clinical and forensic psychology.

Through interdisciplinary research the Institute for Mental Health works to improve outcomes and care for young people with mental health problems - working together to understand the causes of poor mental health, prevent mental health problems from developing, and respond to established illness by developing new treatments and services.

From high performance scanners to the sleep laboratory the Centre for Human Brain Health is an interdisciplinary brain research facility dedicated to the study of what makes a brain healthy. With access to a large and diverse local population, the Centre is excellently placed to take fundamental insights into the human brain and use them to provide a better understanding of neurological and psychiatric disorders, including psychosis, ADHD, stroke and epilepsy.