NIMH National Advisory Mental Health Council Discusses Updates and Upcoming Anniversary Celebration

October 5, 2022

The National Advisory Mental Health Council (NAMHC) met in September to hear updates on the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). The Council advises the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Director of NIMH on all policies and activities related to mental health research, research training, and other programs of the Institute.

While not yet officially confirmed, this was the first meeting for Dr. Velma McBride Murry of Vanderbilt University. Dr. Murry is a member of the FABBS Scientific Societies.  

NIMH Director, Dr. Josh Gordon, provided updates on legislative highlights, White House activities, and the federal budget. In recent years, in an effort to be transparent and evaluate their progress on increasing the diversity of NIMH-funded researchers, Dr. Gordon included an update on the demographic of the applications and awardees. Dr. Gordon also shared information about the 2022 winner of the James Jackson Memorial Award Lecture, Dr. Karen Lincoln, USC, presented the lecture “The Making of a Black Mental Health Scholar: From Humble Beginnings to the Top 2 percent.” Among staff updates, Dr. Christina Borba will serve as the director of the Office for Disparities Research and Workforce Diversity. Dr. Tonya Jo Hanson White has joined the Intramural Research Programs to lead the Section on Social and Cognitive Developmental Neuroscience.

Phyllis Ampofo, Legislative Director of NIMH, provided an update on plans for celebrating the 75th anniversary of NIMH. Events are being planned for the year spanning September 2023 -September 2024. Three symposiums will address NIMH + Science: Evolution; NIMH + Society: Inclusion; NIMH + The Future: Inspirations. Ms. Ampofo welcomes invitations for NIMH staff to attend scientific societies’ conferences and will have a mobile display.

Lauren Hill, Ph.D., Acting Director of Office for Disparities Research and Workforce Diversity (ODWD), and Shelli Avenevoli, Ph.D., Deputy Director of NIMH, reported on what NIMH learned from a series of listening sessions with extramural investigators of color. Dr. Hill shared summaries of the tone and themes of the sessions identifying four themes: Bias in Peer Review; Inequity in Access; The “Minority Tax”; and NIMH Priorities. When elaborating about the NIMH priorities, participants cited historical devaluation of community engagement in minoritized populations, and a preference for biological science over the social determinants of health, and a focus on illness and deficiencies rather that resilience and upstream systemic factors. Dr. Avenevoli identified specific ways that NIMH plans to address the issues raised including administrative supplements, targeted funding opportunities, adding language to the strategic plan, and a recommitment to supporting research in the mental health disparities portfolio.

Please see Inside NIMH for links to presentations and supporting documents. The videocast is available here.

FABBS is a co-chair of the Friends of NIMH. Our next membership meeting is on Wednesday, October 19 at 1:00 pm ET. Sarah Morris, Ph.D., Branch Chief in the NIMH Division of Translational Research, will be our guest speaker and provide a presentation on NIMH’s Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) Initiative: Foundations and Future, followed by time for Q and A. Please register for the meeting.