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Minority Mental Health Research Program

The NIMH Strategic Plan for Research designates mental health disparities as a cross-cutting research theme. The 2010 United States Census data demonstrated increasing diversification of the U.S. population, with notable growth in racial and ethnic minority groups. The 2012 National Healthcare Disparities Report noted that “health care quality and access are suboptimal, especially for minority and low-income groups [and while] overall quality is improving, access is getting worse, and disparities are not changing.” Similarly, disparities in mental health care across race and ethnicity, geographic regions, and socioeconomic domains continue. Compared with the majority population, members of racial and ethnic minority groups in the U.S. are less likely to have access to mental health services,1 less likely to use community mental health services,2 more likely to use inpatient hospitalization and emergency rooms,3 and more likely to receive lower quality care.4 A growing evidence base points to opportunities for bringing to scale successful interventions that increase quality and access to mental health care for underserved populations. Questions remain regarding individual-, community-, provider-, and health system-related mechanisms underlying disparities in mental health and mental health service use.

Minority Mental Health Research Program Functions

The primary functions of the NIMH Minority Mental Health Research Program are to:

  • Oversee and coordinate NIMH efforts related to minority mental health research.
  • Identify opportunities and gaps in mental health research activities.
  • Work closely with other NIH Institutes and Centers and other Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) offices and agencies to stimulate minority mental health research.
  • Establish and maintain research partnerships across federal agencies to increase capacity and public health impact of scientific research to reduce mental health disparities.
  • Educate partners and researchers about areas of minority mental health research relevant to their respective mission and/or portfolio.

Program Priorities

The goals of the Minority Mental Health Research Program are to:

  • Foster inclusive research across the NIMH Strategic Objectives through the recruitment and participation of diverse racial and ethnic groups.
  • Increase the understanding of mechanisms underlying racial/ethnic disparities and differences in mental health.
  • Scale up evidence-based interventions to ensure quality and equity in mental health care regardless of race or ethnic background.

The minority mental health research portfolio at NIMH is distributed across the NIMH Divisions and Offices according to their focus in the scientific areas of services and interventions research, translational research, neuroscience and behavioral research, HIV/AIDS research, and on populations of high need.

For More Information

Program Chief

Ishmael (Ish) Amarreh, Ph.D., MPA
Minority Mental Health Research Program
Office for Disparities Research and Workforce Diversity
6001 Executive Boulevard, Room 7210


1 Wang, P. B., P., Olfson, M., Pincus, H. A., Wells, K. B., & Kessler, R. C. (2005). Failure and delay in initial treatment contact after first onset of mental disorders in the national comorbidity survey replication. Archives of General Psychiatry, 62(6), 603-613.

2 Dobalian, A., & Rivers, P.A. (2008). Racial and ethnic disparities in the use of mental health services. The Journal of Behavioral Health Services and Research, 35, 128-141.

3 Samnaliev, M., McGovern, M. P. , & Clark, R. E. (2009). Racial/Ethnic disparities in mental health treatment in six Medicaid programs. Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, 20(1), 165-176.

4 Alegría, M., Chatterji, P., Wells, K., Cao, Z., Chen, C., Takeuchi, D., et al. (2008). Disparity in depression treatment among racial and ethnic minority populations in the United States. Psychiatric Services, 59(11), 1264-1272.