Patient-Centered Research Seeks to Improve Conversations About Mental Illness

Despite the fact that mental illness affects one in every four Americans, more often than not it isn’t addressed in public discussions about health care. So, when is the right time to raise awareness and garner support for the 57 million Americans struggling with mental health issues? Today—right now.

Too many patients, families and even caregivers lack quality information to make a good decision about their health, especially when the situation involves mental illness. A new independent health research organization, the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), seeks to change that common problem. PCORI is designed to answer questions that matter most to patients and their caregivers.

According to PCORI Executive Director Joe Selby, MD, MPH, when patients have evidence they trust, they can make better decisions about their care and the outcomes most important to them.

“Our research begins by identifying with the community the areas where patients, caregivers and clinicians need more information,”says Selby. “For example, parents want to know which treatment options are safe and effective for young children with disruptive behavior disorders. We don’t have the answer, but that’s where PCORI can help. We can fund new studies to find the answers.”

PCORI is already examining questions in mental health research. Researchers in Arkansas are testing new ways to make mental health information available to underserved parts of the rural South. Investigators in Maryland strive to improve care for children with mental illness by providing families with a professional health partner who can answer ongoing questions about treatment, care and recovery.

On top of that, an Illinois project is performing a patient-centered quality assessment of psychiatric inpatient environments, and California researchers are evaluating how community engagement might address disparities in depression care outcomes. A study in Pennsylvania is also comparing two models that may improve care for adults with serious mental illness.

PCORI plans to fund a variety of other pertinent research projects, but “thoughtful public input” is highly encouraged.

“We are counting on the community to participate in our work and ensure we are providing patients with the answers and information they need,” says Selby.

To suggest a research question, or find other ways to get involved with PCORI, visit

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