Priority setting in mental health research: a scoping review of participatory methods

E. Güell, C. Benito-Amat, J. Molas-Gallart
Mental Health & Prevention


Since mental disorders represent a significant burden of disease, prevention programs are critical. Participatory methods have the potential to improve the value of health research by increasing our understanding of user needs. We present a scoping review of participatory methods in mental health research priority setting for the period 2010-2020. The objective is to analyse participatory methods spread and characteristics and its use for mental disorders prevention.

Material and Method

After applying controlled terms of search, we selected peer-reviewed documents using MEDLINE/PubMed, PsycINFO, the Core Collection of the Web of Science and Scopus. We initially identified 330 documents from which we selected 74 articles. We noted and classified the stakeholder groups, the participatory methods applied and the mental health research priorities.


We identify regional differences in applying participatory methods in mental health research prioritisation; the majority of studies are led by the UK, USA, Australia and The Netherlands. We identified differences among stakeholder groups priorities: when research beneficiaries participate in priority setting, research focuses on therapy, standards, education and psychology of mental disorders; on the other hand, when participation is limited to scientists, therapy, diagnosis, methods and standards receive more attention.

Discussion and Conclusions

We categorised ten participatory methods, twenty-three mental health research priorities and five stakeholder groups. We conclude there is a change in the prioritisation of mental disorders research that opens the way to participatory methods combining a participatory strategy with other sources. Interventions focused on mental disorders prevention could benefit from a participatory mixed approach.