In late March 2011, nearly 90 researchers, clinicians, and national, state, and territorial nonprofit mental health organizations met in Houston, Texas for the annual meeting of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Outreach Partnership Program. Outreach Partners representing nearly all 50 United States—some hailing from as far as Alaska and Hawaii—came together to learn more about the latest scientific research and best practices in the prevention, pre-emption, and treatment of mental disorders. The Outreach Partners had the opportunity to network with each other and to learn about potential collaborations.
The meeting offered 15 plenary sessions highlighting cutting-edge research on a variety of relevant topics, including the needs of returning veterans, how to understand and respond to suicide and suicide risk, depression during early childhood and adolescence, novel interventions for at-risk youth, and the role of culture and context in mental health. Networking opportunities included an afternoon poster session, two working lunches examining mental health disparities and opportunities for change, and three concurrent break-out sessions. These sessions allowed Outreach Partners to learn about best practices and lessons learned from others who have experience in areas such as military and veteran outreach, faith community outreach, and youth mental health issues.
Here is a sampling of what attending Outreach Partners had to say about these networking activities:
Dennis Pilgrim, Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium: “This being my first time at the meeting. I am absolutely impressed with the amount of research going on. A lot of it was relevant and the type of thing I want to pass on to my colleagues during the tele-behavioral health seminars I organize.”
Jacque Gray, Center for Rural Health at the University of North Dakota: “I was grateful for all of the opportunities to find out what was going on in other areas—especially those that might apply to our area that we didn’t know about before. There’s so much good, cutting-edge information here and I got a lot of ideas of how to take it back to North Dakota and get it out to the providers that need it.”
Melissa Pearson, Association for Children’s Mental Health in Michigan: “The big take-away for me was the need to partner, collaborate, and connect all the dots. There are a lot of people doing great things—but they may be targeting one area, we’re targeting another, and we could each fill some gaps. But if we don’t know what the other is doing, we can’t support each other.”
On the final day of the meeting, NIMH Director Thomas Insel, M.D., addressed the Outreach Partners, offering his insights on promising ongoing research projects, as well new initiatives in which NIMH is participating. Dr. Insel emphasized that the meeting was a chance for NIMH and its Outreach Partners to engage in much-needed dialogue. He stated that the meeting is an opportunity for NIMH to inform the Outreach Partners about the Institute’s most recent scientific efforts, and to connect them with researchers who may be recruiting for clinical trials or are interested in working jointly on dissemination efforts. Dr. Insel also stressed that the meeting “…gives us at the NIMH the opportunity to hear from across the 50 States what our partners are looking for in terms of research, what they are facing in their communities in terms of immediate needs, and also listening to their questions about what kinds of things they are hoping this research will be able to provide. Truly, it’s invaluable.”
by NIMH Outreach Partnership Program