The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is the lead Federal agency for research on mental illnesses. The mission of the NIMH is to transform the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses through basic and clinical research, paving the way for prevention, recovery, and cure.
The urgency of this mission arises from the public health burden. According to recent estimates, mental illnesses account for 21.3 percent of all years lived with disability in the United States. An estimated 9.6 million American adults suffer from a serious mental illness (SMI) in which the ability to function in daily life is significantly impaired. Those with SMI die 10 years earlier than individuals in the general population, on average. Furthermore, over 41,149 Americans die each year from suicide, more than twice the annual mortality from homicide or AIDS. Beyond the morbidity and mortality, a conservative estimate places the direct and indirect financial costs associated with mental illnesses in the United States at well over $300 billion annually. Mental illnesses rank as the third most costly medical conditions in terms of overall health care expenditure, behind heart conditions and traumatic injury.