COVID-19 Show message

Skip to content

2020 Spring Inside NIMH

Inside NIMH Spring Edition


Welcome to the latest edition of Inside NIMH! We publish Inside NIMH in conjunction with each meeting of the National Advisory Mental Health Council (NAMHC), which advises the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Director of NIMH on policies and activities relating to the conduct and support of mental health research, research training, and other programs of the Institute. Check out our website for regular updates on timely topics at NIMH. I hope you find this information interesting and helpful. Please let us know if you have questions or comments on this Spring 2020 edition.


Joshua A. Gordon, M.D., Ph.D.
Director, National Institute of Mental Health

If you wish to unsubscribe, subscribe, or change your e-mail address, please contact the NIMH Webmaster or visit the Inside NIMH subscription page.

I. NIMH Director’s Updates

As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to affect us all, individuals may be impacted in different ways. The Institute continues to monitor and respond to the situation, providing guidance to researchers, as well as resources for providers and individuals managing stress and mental illness. In this edition of Inside NIMH, we share updates on NIMH’s response to COVID-19, announce the release of the new NIMH Strategic Plan for Research, and note key developments across NIH.

News to Know

  • NIMH’s Response to COVID-19: NIMH is closely monitoring and responding to COVID-19 on several fronts. In a recent Director’s Message, I wrote about managing fear, anxiety, and stress during this time and provided some resources, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Stress and Coping webpage. NIMH staff have also developed health information resources, including a new Coping with COVID-19 shareables webpage featuring NIMH experts discussing coping strategies and the mental health impact of COVID-19 in news stories, radio interviews, and videos. Additionally, NIMH issued a Notice of Special Interest (NOT-MH-20-047) to highlight interest in research to strengthen the mental health response to COVID-19 and future public health emergencies. More information, including guidance for researchers, can be found on the NIH COVID-19 webpage.
  • NIMH Releases the New NIMH Strategic Plan for Research: On May 19th, the Institute published the new NIMH Strategic Plan for Research on the NIMH website. NIMH uses the Strategic Plan to communicate our priorities and help guide mental health research efforts funded by the Institute. NIMH developed the Plan with input from a variety of stakeholders. The Plan will be updated regularly to keep pace with ever-evolving scientific approaches and research priorities. Key research projects and findings from NIMH and NIMH-funded investigators that advance the Institute’s mission will be highlighted on the Research Progress page for each research Goal.
  • Outreach Spotlight: NIMH created and shared several education and outreach resources to support community efforts and raise awareness about mental health observances throughout the spring. For example, NIMH created a new infographic, Bipolar Disorder in Teens and Young Adults: Know the Signs, to support World Bipolar Day, and a new infographic, Let's Talk about Eating Disorders, to support Eating Disorders Awareness Week.
  • Addressing Black Youth Suicide: NIMH is engaging with the Congressional Black Caucus Emergency Taskforce on Youth Suicide and Mental Health and the Working Group that developed the recent report, Ring the Alarm: The Crisis of Black Youth Suicide in America, on the alarming rise in suicide and suicide-related behaviors among black youth. NIMH supports multiple studies aimed at optimizing suicide risk detection and intervention among black youth across the country and is committed to developing strategies to engage and care for this at-risk group. To further this objective, the NIMH Office for Disparities Research and Workforce Diversity (ODWD) and the Office of Behavioral Health Equity at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recently hosted a virtual panel discussion to discuss the Congressional Black Caucus report and formulate strategies to engage black youth and provide developmentally and culturally appropriate support and care. Additionally, I recently met with Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Emergency Taskforce on Black Youth Suicide and Mental Health, and Working Group members to discuss NIMH suicide prevention research.
  • National Advisory Mental Health Council (NAMHC) Workgroup Update: The NAMHC Drug Development Workgroup has been asked to examine current strategies that NIMH is using to foster mechanism-focused approaches to drug development for psychiatry. The Workgroup will advise the NAMHC on future directions in drug development for the treatment of mental disorders, and will focus on addressing a number of potential challenges, including what constitutes “target engagement” for medications, and how to revamp Fast Fail efforts to explore novel drugs. A NAMHC-approved report will be used to help guide NIMH’s future efforts in this area.
  • Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) Updates:  The IACC, which was reauthorized under the Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education, and Support (CARES) Act of 2019 , is in the process of having new members selected by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Once the new committee is appointed by the Secretary of HHS, the IACC will resume meetings. In April, a new Coronavirus Resources page with a focus on federal resources for people with autism and their families was added to the IACC website. The National Autism Coordinator and Office of Autism Research Coordination (OARC) recently co-sponsored a webinar series on transition aged youth on the autism spectrum addressing the topics of healthcare, transportation, and employment. See for updates on Autism Awareness Month and IACC activities.

Updates and Announcements from NIH

  • NIH-Wide Initiatives
    • Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative®: As the BRAIN Initiative begins to transition its focus from tool and technology development to clinical application, NIH reflected on the many accomplishments of BRAIN Initiative-funded research and set its sights on new challenges and opportunities. On March 11, 2020, a number of BRAIN Initiative-funded investigators and invited speakers had opportunities to present and discuss the newest advances in neuroscience at the LabRoots’ 8th Annual Neuroscience Virtual Conference. Presenters discussed topics on Cell Type Diversity, Tool Development, Advancing Human Neuroscience, Early Career BRAIN Scientists, and Understanding Circuits and Behavior.
    • Helping to End Addiction Long-term (HEAL) Initiative: On March 18, 2020, NIH hosted a meeting with the HEAL Initiative Multi-Disciplinary Working Group (MDWG) to discuss HEAL research and facilitate the exchange of scientific information about HEAL projects. The MDWG includes experts in pain and addiction research from across the scientific and advocacy communities, and convenes regularly to ensure broad engagement with the Initiative’s research aims and plans.

Budget Overview

  • Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 Budget: On December 20, 2019, President Trump signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2020 (Public Law No. 116-94) providing funds through September 30, 2020. The law provides $2.038 billion to NIMH (amount includes 21st Century Cures funding), representing a 9 percent increase over the FY 2020 appropriation. NIMH anticipates awarding more than 600 new and competing research project grants (RPGs) in FY 2020, with an estimated success rate of 25 percent, as shown in Figure 1 below.

    NIMH Applications, Awards, and Success Rates for Research Project Grants
    Fiscal Year Applications Direct Awards Cures Awards Success Rate
    2014 2830 548 0 19
    2015 2480 507 0 20
    2016 2568 587 0 23
    2017 2735 571 0 21
    2018 2701 589 23 23
    2019 2632 638 15 25
    2020 Est 2746 654 19 25
  • Although NIMH does not have a specific pay line, the Institute expects to support most of the applications that have an impact score up to the 10th percentile, many between the 10th and 20th percentiles, and some beyond the 20th percentile. Funding decisions are based on factors such as the Institute’s Strategic Plan for Research, programmatic portfolio consideration, and availability of funds. Moreover, the Institute will give special consideration to certain applications in accordance with the NIH Next Generation Researchers Initiative (NGRI).
    NIMH Budget in Appropriated Dollars and Constant 2000 Dollars
    Appropriation (excluding Cures) Appropriation in 2000 Dollars
    2000 973.146 973.146
    2001 1106.536 1071.187
    2002 1248.093 1169.722
    2003 1341.014 1213.587
    2004 1381.774 1205.736
    2005 1411.933 1185.502
    2006 1403.515 1126.417
    2007 1404.494 1086.229
    2008 1411.968 1042.812
    2009 1450.491 1041.271
    2010 1489.372 1037.167
    2011 1476.293 999.521
    2012 1480.265 989.482
    2013 1403.005 920.607
    2014 1446.172 929.416
    2015 1433.603 902.773
    2016 1548.390 954.030
    2017 1604.658 963.759
    2018 1711.434 1000.839
    2019 1814.185 1032.547
    2020 1972.966 1094.876
  • Figure 2 shows the NIMH budget in appropriated (current) versus constant (FY 2000) dollars. Constant dollars are “inflation adjusted” for variations in the purchasing power of the dollar over time. Dollar amounts are adjusted based on the Biomedical Research and Development Price Index (BRDPI). The annual change in BRDPI indicates how much the NIH budget must change to maintain purchasing power similar to FY 2000.
  • Outlook for FY 2021: In August 2019, the President signed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019 establishing discretionary funding limits for defense and non-defense spending.  In February 2020, the President submitted the FY 2021 budget request to Congress. The request for NIH is $38 billion, a decrease of $4 billion from the FY 2020 appropriated level including 21st Century Cures funding. The request for NIMH is $1.845 billion, a decrease of $200 million from the FY 2020 appropriated level including 21st Century Cures funding.  House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees have postponed hearings until a later date.

NIMH Staff News and Awards

  • NIMH Staff News
    • Armin Raznahan, M.D., Ph.D., Chief of the Developmental Neurogenomics Unit in the NIMH IRP was awarded tenure. Dr. Raznahan’s research combines neuroimaging, genomic, and bioinformatic techniques to better understand the architecture of human brain development in health, and in neurogenetic disorders that increase risk for psychiatric symptoms.