In response to COVID-19 and the severe underfunding of mental health research in the U.S., the Institute for Mental Health Research (IMHR) is awarding two grants that will enable immediate and continued research into the pandemic’s effect on mental health. Awardees are Arizona scientists Athena Aktipis, PhD and Michelle “Lani” Shiota, PhD. Money for the awards comes from IMHR’s COVID-19 Mental Health Research Impact Fund, which has a goal of $1 million raised in 2020.
IMHR is calling attention to the significant deficiency in funding for mental health research in America, and acting as a model for the nation to address this urgent need that has only intensified in 2020 due to the pandemic. While billions of dollars have poured into cancer research, only a fraction of this amount has been spent on mental health research, though it is impossible to overstate the economic, social and personal toll of mental illness. This dearth of funding impacts society as a whole, but also affects scientists pursuing careers in brain and behavior research. IMHR grants support young, innovative scientists living and working in Arizona, and bolster the local economy.
The first grant recipient is Dr. Athena Aktipis, an assistant professor at ASU, Co-Director of The Human Generosity Project, and Founder and Director of the Cooperation and Conflict Lab. She will be using the grant to further her current research on cooperation, interdependence and psychological wellbeing. Dr. Aktipis is paving the way for novel solutions to address the current mental health crisis. “This IMHR grant will allow us to look at important questions about human behavior and wellbeing during this difficult and challenging time,” said Aktipis, who will present her research findings in an IMHR-hosted webinar on September 9, 2020.
The second grant recipient is Dr. Michelle “Lani” Shiota who is an associate professor of social psychology at ASU known for her innovative studies on emotion. She will use IMHR funds to support her research project titled An Emotion Regulation “Toolkit” for Coping with Coronavirus-Related Stress. Shiota commented, “I’m honored and grateful to IMHR for this support and will use it to expand our existing work on mental health stressors during the pandemic.” She will provide insight on her research as well during a second webinar hosted by IMHR on October 16, 2020.
As a 501(c)3 nonprofit established in 2001, IMHR is uniquely positioned to partner with all Arizona institutions and facilitate a wide range of mental health research. Having funded nearly $2 million to 50 Arizona mental health research projects, the impact of IMHR’s funding in Arizona goes beyond the initial grant dollars. Researchers funded by IMHR grants were able to leverage the seed money for more significant dollars from prestigious national funding sources such as the National Institute for Mental Health. For every $1 of IMHR funding, an additional $10 was secured, resulting in approximately $20 million of accompanying research dollars invested statewide. IMHR is currently seeking contributions from individuals, businesses and foundations.