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Global Mental Health Research Program


NIMH encourages scientific innovation around the globe to transform the understanding of mental illnesses; provide tangible benefits for people at risk for or suffering from mental illness; and lead the way to prevention, recovery, and cure. Mental disorders constitute a substantial portion of the global burden of disease and they often co-occur with other illnesses, leading to greater suffering and negative economic impacts from diminished productivity and increased health expenditures. Effective interventions exist, but they are available to only a fraction of those who need them worldwide. Limited understanding of the brain and how environmental factors affect brain function across the lifespan has hampered development of new treatment and preventive interventions. Unequal distribution of mental health care providers and researchers across countries and regions globally contributes to disparities in accessibility, quality, and outcomes of mental health care.

To address these challenges, NIMH supports basic, translational, clinical, and services research to expand understanding of the brain and behavior, the contexts in which risk and protective factors for mental illnesses occur, and avenues for delivering and improving prevention and treatment. Global mental health research at NIMH includes direct grants to foreign institutions and foreign components of grants made to domestic institutions in high-, middle-, and low-income countries.

Priority Areas

The NIMH Global Mental Health Research Program focuses investments on research in the following areas:

  • Equity in access to, quality of, and outcomes of mental health services worldwide;
  • Integration of prevention and treatment interventions for mental illnesses into health care and other service delivery platforms in low-resource settings (e.g., primary care, school health, HIV/AIDs care, social services, etc.); and,
  • Research capacity building in low-resource settings to develop a multidisciplinary mental health research workforce worldwide and to build sustainable regional bases for further research, networking, and evidence-based mental health policy development.

NIMH encourages research that will substantially advance science, have broad public health impact, and focus on mental health issues of high importance to low-resource settings globally. Such studies may include, but are not limited to, those designed to improve meaningful outcomes at the individual level (e.g., symptom relief, improved functioning, better quality of life) or at the organizational or system levels; identify mechanisms of patient-, provider-, organizational-, or system-level improvement; and produce models for delivering prevention and treatment interventions that are appropriate for diverse, low-resource settings.

The NIMH Global Mental Health Research Program also collaborates with the Fogarty International Center and other NIH institutes to stimulate global research through initiatives such as:

The NIMH Global Mental Health Research Program co-convenes an annual Global Mental Health Workshop with Grand Challenges Canada, bringing global mental health researchers, innovators, and other stakeholders together to discuss exciting new research findings and strategic opportunities for addressing the six priority areas identified in the Grand Challenges in Global Mental Health initiative.

Program Chief

Makeda J. Williams, Ph.D., M.P.H
Global Mental Health Research Program
Office for Research on Disparities and Global Mental Health
6001 Executive Boulevard, Room 7211, Bethesda, MD 20892-9659