START in mental health

What are effective methods to recruit research participants into mental health trials?

We have been funded by the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Trainees Coordinating Centre through a Doctoral Research Fellowship to explore effective recruitment strategies for mental health trials.  

Mental illness is common, and has significant negative impact on the life of the person experiencing mental illness, as well as for society. There is a need to develop new, effective treatments for mental health problems. However, the development of these interventions is often slowed by inadequate recruitment of research participants, which is a concern for both scientists and policy makers.  

There are significant problems recruiting participants into mental health trials; perhaps more so than in some other disease areas. Many strategies to improve recruitment are tried by researchers without knowing whether they will increase participant recruitment. There is therefore a very clear need for evidence-based recruitment strategies to enable mental health trials to recruit sufficient participants on time and within budget.  

Using the Medical Research Council's Complex Interventions Framework, the project aims to develop effective recruitment strategies for mental health trials by:

• Reviewing and surveying the existing evidence
• Interviewing researchers, patients and stakeholders
• Testing a new recruitment strategy in an exploratory trial nested in ongoing mental health trials  

For further information, see: Contacts