NIMH Strategic Plan to guide mental health research, funding for five years

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A new five-year research plan could pave the way for advances in prevention, recovery, and a cure for some mental health issues, officials said Wednesday.

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) released its Strategic Plan for Research, which provides a framework for research priorities while supporting the institute’s mission of transforming the understanding and treatment of mental illness.

The new NIMH Strategic Plan will provide a framework for scientific research while addressing rising challenges in mental health. Those goals include defining the mechanisms underlying complex behavior, examining mental illness across a patient’s lifespan, striving for prevention and cures, and strengthening the impact of NIMH-supported research.

“Mental illnesses are common in the United States, affecting tens of millions of people each year,” said NIMH Director Joshua Gordon. “Improving treatment for people with mental illnesses will depend on continued research to define the biological underpinnings of these disorders, as well as ongoing translational and clinical research to turn that knowledge into new or improved treatment options.”

NIMH-backed research has found links within the genome to mental illnesses, has led to the development of new tools and resources to study the brain, has played a role in the development of two new antidepressants and has proven the need for coordinated specialty care for first-episode psychosis which resulted in the nationwide implementation of the practice through state-supported mental health clinics.

“Through this new plan, we aim to build on these advances, identify areas where NIMH-funded science may have the greatest impact, bridge research gaps, and support novel approaches that further accelerate mental health research,” Gordon said.

The plan was developed using input from stakeholders, NIMH leadership and staff, the National Advisory Mental Health Council, federal and private partners, as well as feedback from public comment periods.

“Over the last decade, we’ve seen incredible scientific advances that have rapidly transformed neuroscience and mental health care,” Gordon said. “While there is still more work to do and challenges ahead, the future is bright.”

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