Do you value your Mental Elf?


This is our 1,000th Mental Elf blog and so I thought now would be a good time to reflect on what we have achieved since starting this website in the Spring of 2011.

Today’s blog will:

Keeping up to date with the Mental Elf

We have always been clear about our aims and objectives; to help busy health and social care professionals keep up to date with reliable mental health research.

For the last three and a bit years we’ve done this by publishing five blogs each week that highlight evidence-based research that we think is interesting and relevant.

It’s never been harder to keep up to date with the best available evidence. Sure, we have the technology, but there’s a mountain of guidelines, policy documents and research papers published every week and people just don’t have the time to read it all and decide what’s relevant to them. What’s more, many professionals don’t have the critical appraisal skills to work out if relevant evidence is reliable.

Our followers seem to like our brief, readable blogs with clinical commentaries, written by our ever-growing team of expert bloggers. So we’ve expanded beyond mental health into lots of different areas:

The woodland is filling up nicely, with elves covering learning disabilities, social care, child health, commissioning and much more.

The woodland is filling up nicely, with elves covering learning disabilities, social care, child health, commissioning and much more.

Subject coverage

We have tried to feature evidence that is relevant to UK mental health practice in our blogs so far and looking back we can see the most popular mental health conditions have been:


The Social Care Elf website is now live. Do drop by & say hello!

  1. Depression
  2. Substance misuse
  3. Schizophrenia
  4. Anxiety disorders
  5. Psychosis
  6. Dementia
  7. Suicide and self-harm
  8. Bipolar disorder
  9. ADHD
  10. PTSD

What’s missing from this list? What mental health conditions would you like to see covered in our top ten?

We prioritise high quality study designs and you can see this looking at the most popular publication types that we have included:

  1. Systematic review
  2. Meta-analysis
  3. Randomised controlled trials
  4. Cohort studies
  5. Guidelines

The interventions we primarily cover are the usual suspects:

  1. Psychotherapies
  2. Antidepressants
  3. Antipsychotics
  4. Exercise
  5. Mood stabilisers

What would you like to see featured more often on the site? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Our contributors

By far the most pleasing aspect of running this website has been the way in which other health professionals, researchers, students, librarians and service users have come together to contribute their blogs. I invited others to start writing early in 2013 and since then we have built up a dedicated team of expert elves from all over the world. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to this team of intrepid and dedicated people, who all give up their time for free, safe in the knowledge that the Great Elf Mother is smiling down on them.

Special mention has to go to two teams of people who have contributed a huge number of blogs between them:

  1. Marcus Munafò and colleagues (Suzi, Amy, Olivia, Helen, Meg and Sally) at the University of Bristol Tobacco and Alcohol Research Group
  2. Matt Field and his colleagues (Paul, Andy and Abi) at the University of Liverpool Addiction Research Group

But everyone who has contributed has been brilliant. We now have 85 bloggers from 10 different countries and we still welcome contributions from people with the right combination of skills and expertise. Find out more and get involved yourself.

Have we got the right mix of people blogging on the website? Would you like to see more contributions from a particular group?

Have we got the right mix of people blogging on the website? Would you like to see more contributions from a particular group?

Our audience

But of course it’s you, dear readers, who mean the world to us elves. It’s getting chilly now in the woodland and the campfire isn’t always roaring, but our cockles are warmed every time we think of your delighted faces; opening a new blog and eagerly reading about new and valuable research.

We are expecting somewhere in the region of half a million page views in 2014, which is double what we had in 2013. Our Twitter following has recently passed 22,000 and we are steadily building an audience on Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn as well. Our free monthly email newsletter is also a popular way of keeping up to date.

It makes it all worthwhile when we meet new readers and get positive feedback from mental health experts, professionals and service users alike. Thank you all for your continued interest in what we do and please keep sending constructive comments so we can improve the service.

Our most popular blogs

We are always evaluating what we do and trying to build on what works well. Popular blogs are those that bring in lots of readers, but more than that, those that succeed in getting people to engage with the evidence. That might mean taking on-board some new knowledge and using it in practice, it might mean participating in an organised discussion (a tweet chat or webinar) and sometimes it’s simply an evidence bun-fight where researchers, practitioners, clinicians and the rest of us get together online for some bare-fisted debating.

Here are some of the blogs we’ve published in recent months that we think have been especially engaging:

What should we be doing to make our blogs more engaging?

What should we be doing to make our blogs more engaging?

Our plans for 2015 and beyond

We will be launching the National Elf Service next year, which will bring together all eleven existing elves into one wonderful website. We are really excited about all the new features and functionality that the new site will bring.

When you join the National Elf Service you will become an elf and start playing a game that will incentivise you to:

  • Keep up to date with the latest evidence-based research,
  • Connect with colleagues and experts in your field, and
  • Track your learning and contribute to your continuing professional development.

We’ll be announcing more details about Elf Notes, Badgers, Campfires and Elf Professors before too long. The wait is almost over ;-)

Please vote for us now!

Finally, we are delighted to announce that we have been nominated for the UK Blog Awards. Please take a minute to show your appreciation for all the hard work that has gone into making this site what it is, by voting for us:

Vote for the Mental Elf now

Vote for the Mental Elf in the UK Blog Awards now!

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Andre Tomlin

André Tomlin is an Information Scientist with 20 years experience working in evidence-based healthcare. He's worked in the NHS, for Oxford University and since 2002 as Managing Director of Minervation Ltd, a consultancy company who do clever digital stuff for charities, universities and the public sector. Most recently André has been the driving force behind the Mental Elf and the National Elf Service; an innovative digital platform that helps professionals keep up to date with simple, clear and engaging summaries of evidence-based research. André is a Trustee at the Centre for Mental Health and an Honorary Research Fellow at University College London Division of Psychiatry. He lives in Bristol, surrounded by dogs, elflings and lots of woodland!

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