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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 with mental illnesses (e.g., symptom relief, improved functioning, better quality of life); and, lead the way to prevention, recovery, and cure. Mental disorders contribute a substantial proportion of the global burden of disease. Limited understanding of the brain has hampered the development of effective treatments and preventive interventions. Although effective treatments exist, worldwide they are available to only a fraction of those who need them. 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. Thus, NIMH supports basic, translational, clinical, and services research to expand our understanding of the brain and behavior, the contexts in which risk and protective factors for mental illnesses occur, and avenues for delivering and improving care.

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. Most of these research grants are distributed across the NIMH divisions according to their focus in the following scientific areas:

The NIMH Global Mental Health Research Program within the Office for Research on Disparities and Global Mental Health (ORDGMH) focuses research investments on themes not captured elsewhere at NIMH, with emphasis in the following areas:

  • Equity in access to, quality of, and outcomes of mental health care worldwide;
  • Integration of mental health care into global health care platforms in low-resource settings (e.g., primary care, school health, chronic disease management, HIV/AIDs care, social services, etc.); and,
  • Research capacity building in low-resource settings (e.g., researcher training and mentoring, development of research infrastructure) 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.

The Program’s services and implementation research efforts are intended to assist providers, policymakers, and other stakeholders around the world in optimizing mental health care across the lifespan and across mental illnesses. 

To this end, NIMH encourages research that will substantially advance science, have broad public health impact (e.g., will generate results applicable to large numbers of individuals, multiple disorders, or across regions of the globe), 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 such as symptom relief, improved functioning, and better quality of life; identify mechanisms of patient-, provider-, organizational-, or system-level improvement; develop approaches for applying global mental health research findings in varied remote and low-resource settings; and, produce mental health care delivery models appropriate for diverse, low-resource care settings. 

Proposals should include plans to leverage existing research infrastructure and extend research networks whenever possible. Clinical trials supported under the Global Mental Health Program – including services research studies of mutable factors that affect accessibility, use, quality, and outcomes of mental health services globally – should follow NIMH’s new direction for clinical trials research.

The NIMH Global Mental Health Research Program also works closely with the Fogarty International Center and other NIH institutes to stimulate global research. Global health research initiatives in which NIMH participates include the following:

Program Chief

Beverly Pringle, Ph.D.
Global Mental Health Research Program
Office for Research on Disparities and Global Mental Health
6001 Executive Boulevard, Room 6219, Bethesda, MD 20892-9659