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February 2009

Translating Scientific Opportunity Into Public Health Impact: A Strategic Plan for Research on Mental Illness

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliation: National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Bethesda, Maryland.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2009;66(2):128-133. doi:10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2008.540

Context  Research has transformed many areas of medicine, with profound effects on morbidity and mortality. Exciting advances in neuroscience and genomics have transformed research but have not yet been translated to public health impact in psychiatry. Current treatments are necessary but not sufficient for most patients.

Objectives  To improve outcomes we will need to (1) identify the neural circuitry of mental disorders, (2) detect the earliest manifestations of risk or illness even before cognition or behavior appear abnormal, (3) personalize care based on individual responses, and (4) implement broader use of effective psychosocial interventions.

Results  To address these objectives, NIMH, working with its many stakeholders, developed a strategic plan for research. The plan calls for research that will (1) define the pathophysiology of disorders from genes to behavior, (2) map the trajectory of illness to determine when, where, and how to intervene to preempt disability, (3) develop new interventions based on a personalized approach to the diverse needs and circumstances of people with mental illnesses, and (4) strengthen the public health impact of NIMH-supported research by focusing on dissemination science and disparities in care.

Conclusions  The NIMH is shifting its funding priorities to close the gap between basic biological knowledge and effective mental health care, paving the way for prevention, recovery, and cure.

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