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Public, NIMH Discuss Mental Health Research Priorities

Representatives of mental health patient and family organizations recently met with senior staff of the National Institute on Mental Health in an all-day meeting to conduct a dialogue about mental health research priorities. The NIMH Alliance for Research Progress meeting presented an opportunity for NIMH staff to hear directly from these representatives about their views regarding the direction of future research. One attendee said, "We have all too long done business as usual. Business as usual is not going to get us to cures for our disorders."

NIH director Dr. Elias Zerhouni gave the keynote address and led a discussion with attendees about NIH activities, including multi-institute initiatives such as the NIH roadmap, the public trust initiative, and the neuroscience blueprint. He told participants, "There is a scientific imperative to have a better understanding and communication with you, and there is obviously a right-thing-to-do imperative. We are funded by taxpayers dollars, and we need to make sure that whatever we do responds to taxpayer needs and that we do this in a transparent fashion that inspires trust and confidence." NINDS director Dr. Story C. Landis and NINR director Dr. Patricia Grady also participated.

NIH director Dr. Elias Zerhouni (l) at the NIMH Alliance meeting with NIMH director Dr. Thomas Insel

NIMH director Dr. Thomas Insel chaired the meeting and explained his views on current and future research directions, and his recent actions to implement his vision, including a reorganization of the institute. He also described recent research accomplishments by NIMH-supported scientists. The rest of the morning session was devoted to group discussions to give advocates a chance to express their views on mental health issues. NIMH received additional input through afternoon breakout sessions devoted to discussions of public trust, science-to-service and the next generation of NIMH clinical trials.

Describing the future of clinical trials, Insel told attendees, "Dr. Zerhouni has really developed this concept of communities in research, which would be that you could have thousands of partnerships, with everyone from docs in private practice to community health clinics, to HMOs across the country, in which there would be an effort to involve patients from across the medical spectrum in clinical trials. Every patient would become a participant."

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