Introduction to mental health science

This module introduces mental health science from biological, psychological and social science perspectives whilst developing your postgraduate study skills. The module enables you to develop and apply these skills within the context of the topics. Focusing on stress, anxiety and depression, you’ll broaden your knowledge and understanding of these affective disorders; recognise different lines of evidence; appreciate the uncertainty, ambiguity and limits of current knowledge; discuss contemporary issues; and evaluate, synthesise and communicate your understanding of these mental health science topics.

Vocational relevance

The module is good preparation for further research in mental health science. It will develop skills and knowledge that are relevant to employment within the health sector, life sciences, medical and related fields, and will inform and strengthen professional practice.


S826 is a compulsory module in our:

S826 is an optional module in our:


Module code


  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
Study level
Across the UK, there are two parallel frameworks for higher education qualifications, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). These define a hierarchy of levels and describe the achievement expected at each level. The information provided shows how OU postgraduate modules correspond to these frameworks.
OU Postgraduate
Study method
Distance learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements

Find out more about entry requirements.

What you will study

Mental health conditions directly affect about a quarter of the population in any one year. Depression and anxiety are the most widespread conditions, and often co-occur. Understanding how these conditions develop, their onset, diagnosis, causes and treatments will lead to better interventions, management and support for affected individuals and their families. Designed as the first stage in the MSc in Mental Health Science (F78), this module will enable you to broaden your knowledge and understanding of key topics in mental health science.

Focusing on stress, anxiety and depression, the module draws on biological, psychological and social sciences to investigate these key topics, through a collection of guided readings consisting of core materials (review articles, research papers), wraparound text, and commentaries centred around diagnosis, causes and interventions. You will be guided in your online studies, week-by-week via the study guide. The materials in each block follow a common structural plan, coherent framework and formative assessment.

Block 1 will introduce you to fundamental postgraduate study skills, and an overview of research methods, with content that focuses on affective disorders, and makes use of core resources provided within the module. You will also be guided in understanding critical appraisal techniques to evaluate clinical and scientific research papers. You will have the opportunity to apply these skills (which include sourcing and evaluating materials, scientific writing and communication), by presenting an online poster, for evaluation by your fellow students, and as part of the formal assessment process. You will develop your study and research skills further in Blocks 2 and 3, applying these to examine key topics in greater depth.

Block 2 will focus on Stress and Anxiety and Block 3 on Depression, with the emphasis in core readings and commentaries addressing diagnosis, causes and interventions. You will undertake independent study of these areas and gain further understanding of contemporary issues in mental health science by searching for, reading and evaluating materials (review articles, primary and secondary research papers) beyond those provided on the module.

The module website will be the key hub for all your study resources, including sections on the latest developments, links to relevant materials, forums and RSS feeds to target journals that are available through the OU Library, representing research at the forefront of each discipline and allowing you to engage with the very latest findings. Tutor group and module-wide forums and wikis will enable you to discuss aspects of the key topics in mental health science, along with the latest developments in the field with your fellow students. A targeted selection of ‘live’ sessions and recorded presentations, linked to assignments, will supplement and support the learning outcomes for the module, providing you with an enhanced online learning experience.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

Throughout your module studies, you’ll get help and support from your assigned module tutor. They’ll help you by:

  • Marking your assignments (TMAs) and providing detailed feedback for you to improve.
  • Guiding you to additional learning resources.
  • Providing individual guidance, whether that’s for general study skills or specific module content.
  • Facilitating online discussions between your fellow students, in the dedicated module and tutor group forums.

Module tutors also run online tutorials throughout the module. Where possible, recordings of online tutorials will be made available to students. While these tutorials won’t be compulsory for you to complete the module, you’re strongly encouraged to take part. If you want to participate, you’ll likely need a headset with a microphone.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box.

You will be taking part in group activities using a variety of communication methods, including scheduled online forums, wikis and online tools for peer feedback. Some group work is linked to the assessment for this course and must be completed between certain dates.

Course work includes

3 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment

Future availability

Introduction to mental health science (S826) starts once a year – in January.

This page describes the module that will start in January 2025.

We expect it to start for the last time in January 2028.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

Entry requirements

You may register for this module before providing evidence you meet the entry requirements; however, your place is not guaranteed until you provide this.

You must have either:

  • a UK honours degree (or equivalent) in a science-related subject – including psychological sciences, health science, mental health nursing, medicine, or a BPS-accredited psychology degree. Ideally, your degree included the study of FHEQ level 5 and 6 neuroscience or biological/cognitive psychology
  • evidence of other study or experience you believe equips you to take this qualification.

If you have questions about your suitability, contact the MSc Admissions Panel.

We recommend you have:

Our free course, Succeeding in postgraduate study, helps you develop the skills and confidence to manage the requirements and demands of postgraduate study.

Preparatory work

In addition to the set books, we recommend the following free OpenLearn units – Introduction to mental health science. These are not obligatory but would support your studies on this module and the mental health science programme.


Start End England fee Register
25 Jan 2025 Oct 2025 £3150.00

Registration closes 09/01/25 (places subject to availability)

This module is expected to start for the last time in February 2028.

Future availability

Introduction to mental health science (S826) starts once a year – in January.

This page describes the module that will start in January 2025.

We expect it to start for the last time in January 2028.

Additional costs

Study costs

There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as set books, a computer and internet access.

Ways to pay for this module

We know there’s a lot to think about when choosing to study, not least how much it’s going to cost and how you can pay.

That’s why we keep our fees as low as possible and offer a range of flexible payment and funding options, including a postgraduate loan, if you study this module as part of an eligible qualification. To find out more, see Fees and funding.

Study materials

What's included

With the exception of two set books which you will need to purchase separately (please refer below), all study materials are available online, and are provided through the module website. These include a week-by-week planner and study guide, a guide to the module, core and supplementary reading materials, commentaries, a range of audiovisual resources, live online sessions, online tutor support, online forums and access to scientific journals, ebooks and databases through The Open University Library.

Computing requirements

You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11) or macOS Ventura or higher.

Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop, as described above.

Materials to buy

Set books

  • Carlson, N.R. & Birkett, M.A. Physiology of Behavior (13th edn) Pearson Education £57.99 - ISBN 9781292430287
  • Cromby, J., Harper, D. & Reavey, P. Psychology, Mental Health and Distress Palgrave Macmillan £50.99 - ISBN 9780230549562

If you have a disability

Some online components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader. Where possible, alternative formats of module materials will be made available on the module website.

Due to our use of external websites and third party content, we cannot guarantee the accessibility of all components of the module.

This module has no printed study materials. It is delivered entirely online (i.e. content is displayed on a computer screen or on mobile devices, although there is the option to download some of the content as Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) files for printing). Consequently time spent using a computer and the internet will be extensive. Parts of the module can be successfully studied using mobile devices, such as tablets.

The module makes extensive use of electronic library resources and uses real-time (synchronous) as well as asynchronous online discussions and an interactive whiteboard space. If you use assistive technology or have a hearing or speech impairment and have concerns about accessing this type of virtual environment and materials you can visit the system provider's website for information and contact The Open University to discuss further, before registering. Written transcripts of audiovisual components will be made available where they exist (some external resources, such as videos on YouTube, may not have transcripts). Adobe PDF versions of most journal articles are available through the OU library as well as HTML full text. Some Adobe PDF components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader, and scientific notification may be particularly difficult to read in this way. You will be required to access literature resources electronically. If you use a screen reader to access material on screen, you should check that it is compatible with The Open University Library's electronic databases and resources before you start the module.

To find out more about what kind of support and adjustments might be available, contact us or visit our disability support pages.

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