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Strategic Planning Process

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) updates its Strategic Plan for Research every five years to keep pace with scientific advancements and the changing landscape of the mental health field. NIMH uses the Strategic Plan to communicate our priorities and help guide future mental health research efforts at the Institute. The new 2020 Plan retains core elements of previous NIMH Strategic Plans, and has been revised, updated, and expanded in response to the many discoveries and changes in the field over the past five years.

We began by updating the Institute’s four overarching Goals (referred to as Strategic Objectives in the 2015 Strategic Plan for Research). To accomplish this, we sought input from NIMH leadership, subject matter experts, and other staff to identify knowledge gaps and opportunities for research advancement. The four Goals are intended to be broad and capture the diversity of topics the Institute must focus on to achieve its mission. The Goals successively build in scale from basic neuroscience and behavioral science to research on delivery of mental health services. These four Goals are:

  1. Define the Brain Mechanisms Underlying Complex Behaviors
  2. Examine Mental Illness Trajectories Across the Lifespan
  3. Strive for Prevention and Cures
  4. Strengthen the Public Health Impact of NIMH-Supported Research

Updating the Plan was an iterative process, with opportunities for NIMH staff, advisory boards, and the public to contribute. NIMH presented a framework for the 2020 Plan to the Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee (ISMICC), and cross-walked the Institute’s priorities with ISMICC focus areas and recommendations. The framework was also presented to the National Advisory Mental Health Council (NAMHC) and a draft Plan was reviewed by the NAMHC members. We incorporated their feedback and a revised draft Plan was published for public comment; members of the scientific community, professional societies, advocacy organizations, and the general public were invited to share feedback via a Request for Information (RFI) published in the NIH Guide and in the Federal Register. Comments were submitted via a web-based RFI input tool, email, or mail from December 2, 2019 to January 15, 2020. The Institute received robust feedback from our many stakeholders, including researchers, mental health advocates, and individuals with lived experience. After reviewing comments and making numerous edits, the final Plan was presented to the NAMHC and published on the NIMH website.

The NIMH Strategic Plan for Research is a living document, which means it is updated regularly to keep pace with ever-evolving scientific approaches and research priorities that can lead to new discovery. On the Progress pages, we highlight key contributions of NIMH and NIMH-funded investigators in advancing research toward achieving the Institute’s mission.

The NIMH Strategic Plan for Research is the product of many authors. We would like to thank everyone who took the time to review and provide feedback and input on the many draft Plans. We look forward to your continued involvement as we support research to transform the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses to pave the way for prevention, recovery, and cure.