Menarche Menstruation Menopause and Mental Health (4M), a consortium facilitating interdisciplinary research at the intersection of menstrual and mental health, has continued to go from strength to strength, following on from its establishment in 2021, thanks to a GW4 Building Communities Generator Award.
The group, led by Dr Gemma Sharp at the University of Exeter, was set up in recognition of the fact that mental and menstrual health form a close relationships that is under-appreciated in scientific research, clinical practice and social policy. Whilst this association is extremely complex, involving interactions between biology, psychology and social, political and structural influences on health and wellbeing, research in these areas has traditionally been siloed*. The Menarche, Menstruation, Menopause and Mental Health (4M) consortium was subsequently designed to facilitate interdisciplinary research, which recognises a more holistic and comprehensive approach, that considers the complex, interweaving nature of menstrual and mental health.
4M’s overarching vision is a world in which menstrual experiences, including events around menarche and menopause, do not adversely affect mental health and social wellbeing. The consortium’s approach is to introduce and connect academic researchers from across multiple disciplines, including early career researchers (ECRs), who the group supports to develop and sustain careers in this interdisciplinary field. 4M also builds collaborations with non-academic stakeholders to help ensure the research is useful and can be effectively applied to improve experiences for people who menstruate.
The initial GW4 Generator Award enabled the group, who were previously known as the GW4 Menstrual and Mental Health Research Community, to hold three workshops and a writing retreat, bringing together GW4 researchers and external stakeholders to identify shared research interests and prioritise their research questions. The workshops included researchers from disciplines including psychology, medicine, sociology, policy studies and epidemiology, and established connections with over 20 stakeholder organisations, including the mental health charity MIND, the UK Health Security Agency, and the UNFPA.
In December 2022, 4M were also awarded a GW4 Development Award, which enabled the group to employ a part-time research assistant to support their activities. This enhanced capacity enabled them to open up 4M membership to researchers outside of the GW4 universities of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter. The community also held monthly online seminars will allowed them to bring in more stakeholders and widen the reach of the network.
Since its formation in 2021, the consortium has achieved a number of notable successes, including:
- An increase in membership to over 150 academics, across more than 50 institutions and 13 countries.
- The publication of a paper, providing a comprehensive source of information about 4M for researchers and stakeholders who may be interested in joining or working with the consortium.
- The establishment of a dedicated 4M website and active social media (X and LinkedIn) and YouTube channels.
- Multiple successful collaborative grant applications, including a recent award from the MRC for over £800,000 to Anna Murray at the University of Exeter as PI.
4M Conference 2024
In addition to these outcomes, from 20-21st June 2024, 4M will be hosting its first conference in Exeter, giving attendees an opportunity to present their research and meet collaborators, and stakeholders, working in menarche, menstruation, menopause and mental health. The theme of the conference is Menstrual and Mental Health in Society.
Registration and calls for abstracts will open in January 2024, with an anticipated abstract closing date in April 2024.
You can find out more information about the conference on 4M’s website.
Building Communities Generator Fund Award – Applications Open!
Inspired by the success of the 4M consortium?
The GW4 Generator Fund is an open research call offering up to £20K to support collaborative research and innovation communities across the four GW4 universities of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter. Now in its fifth year, this initiative supports both the creation of new GW4 communities and the development of the strongest ideas emerging from our existing communities. See the latest communities that have received funding here.
Applications across all areas of research and innovation are invited. Applications from Early Career Research (ECR) communities are particularly welcome and supported. Generator funding can be used as a stand-alone award or, in conjunction with other sources of funding. Communities are encouraged to use the scheme as a step towards applying for external funding.
Find out more about this year's Generator Fund, via our Generator Fund webpages. The deadline for applications is 5th February 2024.