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Transforming the understanding
and treatment of mental illnesses.

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About the Acting NIMH Director

Shelli Avenevoli, Ph.D., Deputy Director of NIMH

Shelli Avenevoli, Ph.D.

Shelli Avenevoli, Ph.D., is the Acting Director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the lead federal agency for research on mental disorders. She oversees an extensive research portfolio of basic and clinical research that seeks to transform the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses, paving the way for prevention, recovery, and cure.

Helping the public understand what we do and why we do it provides hope for a better future for those living with mental illnesses.

Dr. Avenevoli came to NIH in 2001, joining the NIMH Intramural Research Program as a staff scientist. She was a co-investigator on several studies, including the National Comorbidity Survey–Adolescent Study, which aimed to gather information about the prevalence and course of mental disorders in children and adolescents. She moved to NIMH’s extramural program in 2005, ultimately becoming chief of the Developmental Trajectories of Mental Disorders Branch. While there, she led the reorienting of NIMH’s pediatric translational research portfolio towards an emphasis on brain and behavioral development, trajectories of mental illnesses, and the identification of early biological or behavioral markers of risk and intervention. She developed several research programs focused on depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder in youth and chronic irritability in children.

Dr. Avenevoli was appointed deputy director of NIMH in 2017. In this role, she played a pivotal part in defining the institute's research priorities, policies, and strategic initiatives and oversaw various aspects of NIMH's operations, including the development and implementation of research programs on youth development, mental health, and suicide prevention.

Dr. Avenevoli contributed significantly to several large-scale NIH initiatives, including the NIMH Strategic Plan, Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study, HEALthy Brain and Child Development (HBCD) Study , Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) Study , All of Us Research Program , and NIH UNITE effort .

Following the departure of former Director Joshua A. Gordon, M.D., Ph.D. , in June 2024, Dr. Avenevoli was named Acting NIMH Director. She will continue to serve in this role while NIH conducts a national search for a replacement.