Mental and Behavioral Health

From the stigma of mental illness to the lack of evidence-based treatments, patients and families face significant barriers to accessing quality mental health care. The need to improve our approach to mental and behavioral health is made more urgent by the prevalence and burdensome nature of mental health conditions.

Topic Spotlight

1 in 5

About 1 in 5 American adults lived with a mental illness in 2019. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)


Poor mental health is estimated to cost the world economy approximately $6 trillion by 2030. (The Lancet-Global Health)


PCORI supports 167 comparative clinical effectiveness research studies related to mental and behavioral health. (As of April 2024)

2023 PCORI Annual Meeting Breakout Session Spotlight

Mental Health Disorders in the Perinatal Period: Underdiagnosed and Undertreated

Read more about this session.

Improving Mental Health for People With IDD Through Patient-Centered Research

Read more about this session.

An Overview of PCORI's Investment and Stakeholder Engagement in PTSD

Read more about this session.

Study Results that Support Better-Informed Decisions

ELEKT-D Study: Ketamine as Effective as ECT for Treating Major Depression

An estimated one in three people with clinical depression do not respond to antidepressants, limiting their treatment option to electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), which has been linked to physical and mental side effects and social stigma.

However, the PCORI-funded ELEKT-D study team reported that patients with nonpsychotic, treatment-resistant depression who received ketamine intravenously fared just as well those who received ECT. In the clinical trial, 55 percent of those receiving ketamine and 41 percent of those receiving ECT reported at least a 50 percent improvement in their depressive symptoms. The findings were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Just as Safe, Effective as Common Medication for Anxiety Disorders

Adults with anxiety disorders can experience comparable relief from either meditation or a commonly prescribed medication, according to findings from a PCORI-funded study published in JAMA Psychiatry.

For the study, lead researcher Elizabeth Hoge, MD, at Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC), and her team compared how patients fared if they either took the drug escitalopram or participated in weekly mindfulness meditation classes with a trained instructor for eight weeks. More than 200 patients in Massachusetts, New York, and Washington, DC, participated in the study.

At the end of the eight weeks, both groups reported about a 20 percent reduction in the severity of their symptoms. The findings of the study provide people living with anxiety disorders information that can help them choose among options to find relief.

Matching Patients with Therapists Improves Mental Health Care

Matching patients seeking mental health care with therapists who have a good track record of treating the patients' particular needs and concerns resulted in better outcomes than not matching patients, according to findings from a PCORI-funded study published in JAMA Psychiatry.

Therapists tend to have areas of greatest experience and skill, according to the research team at University of Massachusetts Amherst. Matched patients had larger reductions in both specific and general mental health symptoms and impaired functioning and reported feeling less distressed. The match system used in the study required minimal disruption within the mental health care system in which it was tested.

Comparing Ways to Address Worry among Older Adults

As reported in Depression and Anxiety, a PCORI-funded research team at Wake Forest University found that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and yoga were both effective at reducing worry and anxiety in older adults, while CBT improved sleep more than yoga.

In its study, the research team assigned half of the older adults to CBT or yoga by chance; the other half chose between CBT and yoga. These results held regardless of whether the participants chose their treatment or were assigned treatment at random.

Consequences of Changing, Adding Medications for People With Schizophrenia

This study reviewed how different drug combinations work for people with schizophrenia, who often take several medications to treat different symptoms of their disease. Through a review of 81,921 Medicaid records, the researchers found that people already taking an antipsychotic drug had different benefits and negative outcomes when they used another antipsychotic or added an antidepressant, anti-anxiety medication or mood stabilizer.

These results, published in JAMA Psychiatry, can help people with schizophrenia and their doctors when they consider adding medicines to patients’ treatment plans.

PCORI Stories

Enhancing the Delivery of Mental Health Services to Children in Underserved Areas

While many individuals have come to rely on telehealth services as a way to receive mental health care during the COVID-19 pandemic, children in lower-income families have experienced barriers to mental health care access that existed prior to the pandemic, and in many ways were exacerbated by it.

This PCORI Story highlights findings from a PCORI-funded study in Seattle that was designed to address these parents’ concerns using telehealth platforms and the community partnerships that came out of it.

Read the Story

Database Identifies Emerging Technologies, Innovations

PCORI’s Horizon Scanning Database offers healthcare decision makers findings about advancements in six key areas of interest: Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, COVID-19, mental and behavioral health, and rare diseases. This database can be used by patients, care partners, and others to track advancements in care options.

View the Database

Evidence Updates from PCORI-Funded Studies

More Study Results that Support Better-Informed Decisions

Mental and Behavioral Health Study Spotlights