March 12-14, 2013
"We have to think about how to make sure the research that we do at NIMH really brings an impact to where it matters—in communities, " remarked NIMH Director Thomas Insel, M.D. to over 130 representatives of state and national organizations, researchers, and NIMH staff gathered for the 2013 annual meeting of the NIMH Outreach Partnership Program. Outreach Partners from each state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico and other participants came together to learn more about the latest scientific research and best practices in the prevention and treatment of mental disorders across the lifespan. The Partners also had the opportunity to share lessons learned with each other, and to discuss potential collaborations.
The Outreach Partnership Program is a nationwide initiative of NIMH’s Office of Constituency Relations and Public Liaison, and is designed to increase the public’s access to science-based mental health information, through partnerships with national and state nonprofit mental health organizations.
Dr. Insel opened the meeting with an update of key NIMH initiatives and highlighted activities in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy. He discussed how the White House’s response plan for reducing gun violence included a call to improve mental health services. Dr. Insel also detailed the mental health directives from Department of Health and Human Services Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius in response to the White House plan. This plan calls for a national dialogue to address negative attitudes towards mental illness and its treatment; the need for 5,000 new mental health workers focused on the needs of youth; and Project AWARE, an initiative to educate schools, parents, and communities about mental health issues facing children and adolescents. Dr. Insel also updated the Partners on NIMH activities to support the White House Executive Order to Improve Access to Mental Health Services for Veterans, Service Members, and Military Families.
Next, National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D. gave the keynote address, in which he highlighted pioneering discoveries, new innovative technologies, and NIH initiatives in neuroscience. "It’s an exhilarating time to be a biomedical researcher," he said. He talked about the progress in recent studies using induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells ) to model several neurological diseases, including schizophrenia. Dr. Collins also discussed current and future NIH efforts to map the structure and activity in the neural circuits of the brain, including the Human Connectome Project and the new NIH Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) project.
A special panel discussion, "How Sandy Hook Is Changing the Conversation," addressed issues related to mental illness and violent behavior, sparked by mass shootings such as occurred in Newtown, Connecticut. "Most violence has nothing to do with mental illness, and most mental illness has nothing to do with violence," commented Dr. Insel, who moderated the session. He suggested the mental health community "use this as a teachable moment."
Dr. Insel was joined by several NIMH grantees with expertise in areas such as mental illness and violence, involuntary commitment, and early identification in primary care settings. Further, Partners described efforts to help communities cope with such traumatic events. "We have spent a considerable amount of time on decoupling the actual act that occurred at Sandy Hook from someone who has a mental illness," commented Kate Mattias, Executive Director of the Connecticut Outreach Partner, National Alliance on Mental Illness Connecticut.
Other highlights of the meeting included sessions for Partners to share their experiences and outreach strategies in critical public health areas like suicide prevention. Over 30 non-profit national and state mental health organizations shared their success stories and lessons learned in the Partner Sharing Session, a cornerstone of the Program’s meeting. As one Partner stated, "It was great to learn about what other agencies are doing and discussing with them similar challenges we face, and hearing feedback and suggestions as to what works."
Partners and NIMH staff led discussions in Roundtable sessions on a range of issues, including bullying, multicultural outreach, mental health needs of Servicemembers and Veterans, Youth Mental Health First Aid, peer support, suicide prevention, perinatal mental health, and youth empowerment.
During the course of the meeting, Partners learned about groundbreaking research being conducted by NIMH intramural scientists , such as fast-acting medications that can lift depression in hours, as well as studies that are advancing the understanding of child and adolescent mood and anxiety disorders, postpartum mood and anxiety disorders, and teen brain development. Partners also heard the latest news about the Army Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Servicemembers (STARRS) project, an NIMH-Army collaboration, and to look into the future of diagnosis with talks about the forthcoming update to the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) and NIMH’s Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) project.
In the closing plenary session, NIMH grantees described interventions to improve the health and longevity of individuals with serious mental illness (SMI) and other chronic conditions. Participants heard an overview of system-level interventions that are being implemented across the country, such as behavioral health homes and peer-support models. They also learned about how the New York State Office of Mental Health is using population-based data to implement initiatives to integrate health services for individuals with SMI. In addition, an NIMH grantee described a promising intervention to promote weight loss for participants in psychiatric rehabilitation outpatient programs.
As one Partner commented, "The information presented is essential for our constituents. They are people living with mental illnesses and their families, and they are desperate for information in regards to current research and techniques that can help them and future generations."
Keynote Address by NIH Director Francis Collins
Dave Pilon, Executive Director of Mental Health America of Los Angeles, comments during session on improving health among individuals with serious mental illness.
NIMH Director Thomas Insel engages in dialogue with Outreach Partners
Jay Giedd, NIMH Division of Intramural Research Programs Child Psychiatry Branch, responds to questions from participants.
Outreach Partner comments during panel discussion on mental illness and violent behaviors.
Kate Mattias, Executive Director of NAMI Connecticut, comments during Sandy Hook panel discussion
Participants describe outreach programs during Partner Sharing Session.
Georgia Outreach Partner leads roundtable discussion on perinatal mood disorders.