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Transforming the understanding
and treatment of mental illnesses.

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Digital Global Mental Health Program


This program supports research on the development, testing, implementation, and cost effectiveness of digital mental health technology that are appropriate for low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). It supports highly innovative digital mental health technology research for prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and management of mental disorders. This program is interested in research that tests generalizable principles or approaches in the use of technology in LMICs, encourages research on known challenges with uptake and sustainability of digital health technology-based approaches, and addresses ethical considerations associated with the use of digital technologies for research and clinical purposes. NIMH encourages applicants to use existing hardware/software and data from existing commercial and open source digital health applications and online platforms, where appropriate. This program also supports strategies aimed at building and/or strengthening research capacity for leveraging digital technologies to address the global mental health burden. Collaborative research partnerships with social and behavioral scientists, technology developers, engineers, health systems specialists, data scientists, designers, diverse end-users, ethicists, patient advocates, and key stakeholders are highly encouraged. Researchers are encouraged to review NOT-MH-18-031  and the NIMH Advisory Council Report Opportunities and Challenges of Developing Information Technologies on Behavioral and Social Science Clinical Research, a report that summarizes the state of the science, research priorities, and potential research pathways.

The goal of this program is to substantially improve mental health outcomes in LMICs through innovative digital mental health technologies that improve the detection, assessment, prevention, and treatment of mental illnesses, and that improve the delivery, management, and scalability of mental health care.

Areas of Emphasis:

  • Studies that develop, test, and optimize the efficacy or effectiveness of digital mental health technologies designed to improve screening, assessment, treatment uptake, and/or management of mental illness.
  • Studies that develop, test, and optimize the efficacy or effectiveness of new or emerging digital mental health technologies, platforms, systems, and analytics (e.g. machine learning algorithms, reinforcement learning algorithms, artificial intelligence, etc.) to improve diagnosis, treatment, response. and adherence.
  • Studies that harness social media to increase the signal to noise ratio (screening, data mining, and tracking for mental illness), facilitate and improve self-care, peer support, or follow-up care related to mental health.
  • Studies that improve digital and health literacy skills to enhance the effective use of digital health technologies to drive engagement and improve mental health outcomes.
  • Research projects that develop and/or test the effectiveness of models for supporting providers, community health workers, non-specialists, and/or health systems in using digital mental health technologies to enhance the monitoring, delivery, or quality of mental health care.
  • Studies that develop and test the promotion and monitoring of digital health skill acquisition among patients and/or providers in order to enhance or sustain therapeutic benefit.
  • Studies that enhance data capture, visualization, real-time assessment, and prediction in at-risk and psychiatric populations, including but not limited to those with suicidal thoughts and behavior.
  • Research projects that develop and/or test models and interventions to measure engagement with digital mental health technologies, implement strategies to increase engagement as needed, and/or determine which if any components of the digital mental health technology lead to behavior change.
  • Research leveraging digital mental health technologies, citizen science, and other participatory approaches, including “gamification or serious games” that enhance access, engagement, collect, and analyze data measuring behavior change and improvements in mental health outcomes.
  • Research that uses digital mental health technologies to rapidly assess psychiatric needs at the population level.
  • Research leveraging AI, and/or other novel computational and statistical approaches to improve prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of mental health along a treatment trajectory and continuum of care.
  • Studies that focus on the Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications (ELSI) issues that can occur in the development and deployment of digital mental health technologies for mental health.
  • Research projects that investigate costs – including cost utility, cost-benefit, cost effectiveness, affordability, and budget impact – patient and human resource impacts of innovative digital technology interventions for the prevention and treatment of mental health disorders in low-resource settings.


Mesfin Bekalu, Ph.D. 
6001 Executive Boulevard