National Institute of Mental Health

National Institute of Mental Health

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is the lead federal agency for research on mental disorders. NIMH is one of the 27 Institutes and Centers that make up the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the largest biomedical research agency in the world. NIH is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is the lead Federal agency for research on mental illnesses. The mission of the NIMH is to transform the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses through basic and clinical research, paving the way for prevention, recovery, and cure.

The urgency of this mission arises from the public health burden. According to recent estimates, mental illnesses account for 21.3 percent of all years lived with disability in the United States. An estimated 9.6 million American adults suffer from a serious mental illness (SMI) in which the ability to function in daily life is significantly impaired. Those with SMI die 10 years earlier than individuals in the general population, on average. Furthermore, over 41,149 Americans die each year from suicide, more than twice the annual mortality from homicide or AIDS. Beyond the morbidity and mortality, a conservative estimate places the direct and indirect financial costs associated with mental illnesses in the United States at well over $300 billion annually. Mental illnesses rank as the third most costly medical conditions in terms of overall health care expenditure, behind heart conditions and traumatic injury.

This public health burden demands that we harness scientific knowledge and tools to achieve better understanding, treatment, and ultimately, prevention of these disabling conditions. We must do better. To fulfill its mission, the NIMH:

  • Supports and conducts research on mental illnesses and the underlying basic science of brain and behavior.
  • Supports the training of scientists to carry out basic and clinical mental health research.
  • Communicates with scientists, patients, providers, and the general public about the science of mental illnesses.

Fundamental to our mission is the proposition that mental illnesses are brain disorders expressed as complex cognitive, emotional, and social behavioral syndromes. Progress depends on advances in basic behavioral science and fundamental neuroscience, in addition to clinical science.