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New NIMH Strategic Plan Paves the Way for Advances in Mental Health Research

Strategic Plan will help guide mental health research and funding over the next five years

Press Release

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has released its Strategic Plan for Research. The new plan provides a framework for advancing research priorities that support the Institute’s mission: To transform the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses through basic and clinical research, paving the way for prevention, recovery, and cure.

“Mental illnesses are common in the United States, affecting tens of millions of people each year,” said NIMH Director Joshua Gordon, M.D., Ph.D. “Improving treatment for people with mental illnesses will depend on continued research to define the biological underpinnings of these disorders, as well as ongoing translational and clinical research to turn that knowledge into new or improved treatment options.”

Over the past five years, NIMH-supported research has revealed hundreds of places in the genome linked to mental illnesses; fostered the development of new tools and resources that have dramatically increased the ability to study the brain; played a role in the development of two novel antidepressants; and proved the utility of coordinated specialty care for first-episode psychosis—resulting in nationwide implementation through state-supported mental health clinics.

“Through this new plan, we aim to build on these advances, identify areas where NIMH-funded science may have the greatest impact, bridge research gaps, and support novel approaches that further accelerate mental health research,” added Dr. Gordon.

The new NIMH Strategic Plan for Research builds on the successes of previous NIMH strategic plans by providing a framework for scientific research and exploration and addressing new challenges in mental health.

The Strategic Plan outlines four high-level goals:

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

These four Goals form a broad roadmap for the Institute’s research priorities over the next five years, beginning with the fundamental science of the brain and behavior, and extending through evidence-based services that improve public health outcomes. The new Strategic Plan for Research retains the core elements of previous NIMH Strategic Plans. It has been revised, updated, and expanded in response to the many discoveries and changes in the field.

The Strategic Plan for Research will be updated regularly to keep pace with ever-evolving scientific approaches and research priorities that may lead to new discoveries. Key research projects and findings from NIMH and NIMH-funded investigators that advance the Institute’s mission will be highlighted on a Progress page for each goal.

NIMH developed the Strategic Plan with input from a variety of stakeholders, including NIMH leadership and staff, the National Advisory Mental Health Council, federal and private partners, as well as feedback from organizations, advocacy groups, and people with lived experiences and their families via a Request for Information seeking public comment.

“Over the last decade, we’ve seen incredible scientific advances that have rapidly transformed neuroscience and mental health care,” said Dr. Gordon. “While there is still more work to do and challenges ahead, the future is bright.”

The NIMH Strategic Plan for Research is available online at www.nimh.nih.gov/strategicplan.