Mental Health

Mental health is an important research and teaching theme at The Open University. In terms of teaching The Open University offers a range of modules and qualifications designed to lift the lid on this complex, fast moving and sometimes controversial area. Undergraduate students can study particular modules, such as “Mental Health and Community” (K240) which explores many aspects of supporting people with mental health problems in the community and “Approaches to Mental Health” (K314) which explores the various approaches to supporting mental wellbeing.  Students can also study mental health-related topics at post-graduate level, and this includes undertaking doctoral projects in the field.

Current research covers a range of mental health topics including: dementia; diabetes and depression; computerised therapies; adolescent mental health; suicide; and mental health workforce challenges.

The Mental Health group held an inaugural Open University-wide sandpit event in 2016 to help build research networks and capacity across the university. From this, the group has developed several projects, on both individual and collaborative levels.

Group Members Include:

Current News

New tools to identify issues in maternal mental health

A new website which gives access to tools to help health workers identify difficulties in mothers’ relationships with their infants is being launched on World Maternal Mental Health Day (6 May 2020).

Designed and led by John Oates, Professor of Developmental Psychology in the OU’s Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies, who conducted the research on which the tools are based, the website offers simple questionnaires and guidance for their use by health workers to spot difficulties and to support work with women to overcome them.

“Low mood and worry are affecting most of us in this COVID-19 crisis, said Professor Oates. For mothers with infants this can add to their usual concerns, and helping to protect the vital bonding during this time is crucial”

The Mother Object Relations Scales (MORS) website provides a validated and easy-to-use way of assessing mother-infant relating  in primary care, and tracking response to therapy.

The questionnaire asks questions about how a woman views her baby and their behaviour.

“Our research is showing that anxiety or depression can lead to mothers seeing their babies in less positive ways, sometimes feeling that they are too demanding, feeling annoyed with them or feeling distant from them, said Professor Oates. There is evidence that this can be associated with later difficulties for child development.

A positive research finding from a recent study shows that good social support can reduce these difficulties, so partners and other family members should realise how important their support is, not just for now, but for the future of their children.”


For more information about the Mental Health Research Group please email

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