Coronavirus (COVID-19): Mental Health Research Advisory Group - terms of reference

Terms of reference for the Mental Health Research Advisory Group.


The mental health impacts are an important part of the public health challenge posed by COVID-19. There is an anticipated rise in worry, anxiety and distress for a range of reasons linked to the COVID pandemic: financial worries, job / redundancy worries, business uncertainty, bereavement and the isolation created by social distancing and self-isolation requirements. We know from the emerging evidence that there is an urgent need for interventions to support people’s mental health and evidence based approaches to adapting existing interventions.

The Scottish Government’s Directorate of Mental Health is keen to better align national mental health strategy and policy with research. This continues to be the aim within the new COVID-19 landscape.

The Scottish Government established, as a PfG commitment, a Scottish mental health policy and research forum. The work of this group is now refocused around the effects of COVID-19. Instead of the planned thematic explorations of different topic areas and research in mental health involving various people, the proposed Research Advisory Group will have tighter remit. It will act as a central coordinating point for translating COVID-19 mental health research findings into   advice to Government.

Aims and scope

The primary purpose of the Advisory Group is knowledge exchange to inform the development of the Scottish Government’s Mental Health policy response to COVID-19. This will be achieved by bringing together policy officers with relevant researchers, scientists and other stakeholders, to share their expertise on the mental health effects of the COVID-19 outbreak on people in Scotland (further details on specific issues for consideration to be informed by the Advisory Group)

The types of stakeholder who may engage with the Advisory Group include the Scottish Government and other policy makers, Scottish Higher Education Institutions, health and social services, third sector organisations and charities, businesses and the entrepreneurial sector, and people with lived experience.

Membership to the Advisory Group will be regularly reviewed and updated accordingly to reflect the changing landscape as we move through the recovery and renewal phases of the pandemic.

The Advisory Group will endeavor not duplicate work in existing, topic specific, mental health research advisory groups and will seek to engage with those groups as appropriate to promote a collaborative approach. Members to the Advisory Group will be instrumental to making connection to the wider academic community through their networks.   

The Advisory Group will take a broad view of mental health, acknowledging that mental health is more than just the absence of mental illness, and that multiple social, psychological, and biological factors determine a person’s mental health at any point of time.

Advisory Group and activities

The Advisory Group will plan its own programme of work. It will:

  • develop processes to stay informed of current research activity in relation to COVID-19 and mental health, and using research findings to inform policy development.
  • agree the process for engaging with stakeholders
  • agree the process for determining outcomes of Advisory Group meetings and sharing outputs
  • consider other forms of engagement and activities
  • agree the process for reviewing Advisory Group activities

The Advisory Group will be chaired by the Director of the NRS Mental Health Network. The Chair’s role is to:

  • co-ordinate and schedule Advisory Group meetings
  • circulate agenda and any relevant papers to Advisory Group members one week in advance of meetings
  • circulate a note of key points arising within 2 weeks of an Advisory Group meeting
  • ensure that there is transparent information about the Group’s Remit and activities

The Directorate for Mental Health will arrange and host meetings.

The Executive will normally meet on a six weekly basis with timings to be kept under review. Members may be invited to contribute to discussions via email at other times, if required.

Membership of the Executive will include representatives from the Directorate of Mental Health, Scottish Government Health and Social Care Analysis Division (HSCA), Chief Scientist Office (CSO), NRSMHN, Mental Health Foundation and Public Health Scotland (PHS). Members can send a substitute from their organisation if they are unable to attend a meeting.


The Advisory Group will be accountable to Ministers through the Deputy Directors for Mental Health and the Chief Scientist.

The Advisory Group will prepare updates and reports as necessary which will be presented to Ministers, the Deputy Directors for Mental Health and, the Chief Scientist as appropriate.

Advisory Group membership (April 2020)

Representative Organisation Role
Andrew Gumley     Director of NRS Mental Health Network
Professor Glasgow University
Research expertise
Alan McNair Chief Scientist Office Research expertise
Anne Armstrong SG – Mental Health Nursing Advisor Policy expertise
Carol Brown/Alix Rosenberg SG – Health and Social Care Analysis Research and policy expertise
Dr John Mitchell SG – Principal Medical Officer MH Directorate Policy expertise
Emma Hogg Public Health Scotland Research expertise
Innes Fyfe SG – Directorate for Mental Health Policy expertise
Jessica Galway SG – Directorate for Mental Health Policy expertise and secretariat 
Lee Knifton Mental Health Foundation Third Sector representation  
Lucy Mulveagh Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland Third Sector Representation 
Neil Quinn University of Strathclyde Research expertise
Professor Matthias Schwannauer University of Edinburgh Children and Young People’s mental health research expertise.
Professor Steve Platt National Suicide Prevention Leadership Group – Academic Advisory Group Suicide prevention research expertise
Professor Rory O’Connor National Suicide Prevention Leadership Group – Academic Advisory Group Suicide prevention research expertise
Sarah Martin  SG – Directorate for Mental Health Statistician, MH policy link, survey expertise
Stephen Mcleod SG- Directorate for Mental Health Policy expertise, Children and Young People’s mental health

Reporting and erviewing 

The Advisory Group’s Terms of Reference, minutes and papers will be published on the NRS Mental Health Network and/or Scottish Government website.

Funding and resources

The Advisory Group and its Executive will not commission research, award research monies, nor decide on these. The Advisory Group will not hold a contract manager role for any research the Scottish Government is involved in. Advisory Group members may be involved in this separately through other roles and appropriate processes will be followed to ensure that there are no conflicts of interest.

There is no dedicated funding for Advisory Group activities. The Directorate for Mental Health will fund meetings.


There is no fixed period for the Advisory Group. Activities and impact will be reviewed on a six monthly basis.

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