In response to increased public awareness of the need for more research, training, and services in the mental health field, Congress passed the epoch-making National Mental Health Act in 1946. This act authorized the Public Health Service to establish the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland. In 1949 the Institute opened its doors and became the headquarters for the federal government’s comprehensive program designed to (a) assist in the development of state and community mental health services; (b) support research into the causes, prevention, and treatment of mental illness; and (c) support the training of psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric social workers, psychiatric nurses, and other mental health workers. These functions are carried out by grants made to states and institutions and agencies within the states. Applications and grants are reviewed by the National Advisory Mental Health Council, consisting of twelve members from outside the federal government, all of whom are distinguished in medicine, science, education, or public affairs.The development of community services was greatly advanced by the Community Mental Health Centers Construction Act of 1963, whose objective was to provide comprehensive, co-ordinated mental health services within the communities themselves, and thus avoid removal of patients to isolated state institutions. Each state must submit a State Plan to the NIMH for review and approval before construction grants are approved. In addition, three other types of grants-in-aid are made to the states. First, formula grants, based on a formula determined by the state’s population, the extent of the problem, and the financial need. These grants are matched dollar for dollar by the state and allocated for distribution to local agencies which provide public mental health education, consultation services, rehabilitation services for former mental patients, and local clinics for prevention and treatment of alcoholism, drug addiction, and other problems. Second, project grants made to state and local agencies, hospitals, research facilities, educational institutions, and individuals to support the development of improved methods of diagnosis, care, treatment, and rehabilitation of the mentally ill, including such special areas as public education in mental health, aging, drug addiction, mental retardation, juvenile delinquency, and alcoholism—all with the ultimate aim of translating research findings into actual practice in community programs, as well as to stimulate governments, foundations, and research agencies to provide additional funds for similar activities. Third, professional and technical assistance to the states for the development of programs applying new research findings to everyday operations, primarily through demonstration projects, conferences, surveys, and consultation through the regional offices of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. In addition, the Institute has established the Hospital Improvement Project Grant Program to aid state mental hospitals and institutions for the retarded to update their standards and procedures, and to establish new services, such as special facilities for children and the aged.The NIMH is now an independent bureau in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. It is primarily a research facility, conducting research not only in its own laboratories but supporting research in medical schools, hospitals, clinics, universities, and other institutions. These projects cut across many fields of specialization and include, among many others, studies on biochemical factors in schizophrenia, the epidemiology of mental illness, the use of psychoactive drugs, the influence of parental attitudes on psychological development, the impact of community structure on individual behavior, and the psychological processes of learning, memory, and perception. The Institute also supports studies in social problem areas, such as aging, juvenile delinquency, and mental retardation.The training program of the NIMH awards funds to universities, hospitals, clinics, and schools of medicine, nursing, social work, and public health, to support training at the graduate level. Practically every medical school department of psychiatry in the country, and almost all the major graduate departments of psychology, social work, and nursing receive such grants, both to support teaching personnel and to provide traineeships. In addition, special grants have recently been made to support psychiatric training of general practitioners, graduate mental health research in the biological and social sciences, and for teaching undergraduate medical students in the field of human behavior. A variety of research fellowships are also available for the training of promising graduate students and for additional training of experienced scientists to help relieve the present manpower shortage in the mental health field. The NIMH also helps mental health agencies and institutions develop their own in-service programs designed to increase the effectiveness of members of the staff in hospitals, clinics, and training schools.

Cite this page: N., Sam M.S., "NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF MENTAL HEALTH (NIMII)," in, November 28, 2018, (accessed August 10, 2022).


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