Advancing mental health crisis solutions

How Stanford Medicine is transforming the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness

Given the dire state of mental health and of mental health care in our country, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. The crisis is well-documented, and the situation, especially for teens and children, people of color,  LGBTQ+ individuals, and non-English speakers, is untenable.

Yet, I believe there is reason to hope. As you’ll find in this issue, we’re seeing promising results and progress in medical research, patient care and education. Stanford Medicine teams bring together experts from diverse disciplines — from psychology and psychiatry to bioinformatics and bioengineering — to advance our fundamental understanding of how the human brain functions and what leads to emotional, social and behavioral problems.

The Stanford Center for Precision Mental Health and Wellness has been at the forefront of this work since it launched in 2018. Its faculty and researchers are transforming the way we detect, define, diagnose and tailor treatments for mental disorders.

The diversity of projects underway across Stanford Medicine is breathtaking. Research seeking to better understand how the brain works using AI-powered imaging techniques, optogenetics (which was founded here at Stanford), and lab-grown clumps of brain tissue known as organoids. Treatments that explore the efficacy of magnetic currents and of psychedelic drugs. Studies linking brain function with the gut microbiome.

The Human Neural Circuitry program, which opened late last year, combines high-touch care and high-tech tools in an inpatient research center to study conditions such as depression and obsessive-compulsive behavior and discover how to better treat them.

Stanford Medicine faculty are leading efforts to address the mental health crisis affecting our young people. The Stanford Parenting Center opened in early 2020 to ensure that parents had easy access to evidence-based mental health information to support their children. It now offers a wide variety of resources online and through webinars and virtual classes. And a suicide prevention toolkit co-authored by Stanford Medicine mental health experts is being used nationwide.

Finally, and possibly most importantly, society today recognizes that mental health is an integral facet of public health — and that a mental health crisis needs to be acted on with the same urgency as any other public health crisis. We are recognizing that we must develop the skills and habits to support our own resiliency and mental fitness.

Across any number of metrics — from the growing percentage of Americans seeking information about it online to the heartening increase of related telehealth visits — we are beginning to give our mental health the attention it deserves.


Lloyd Minor, MD
Carl and Elizabeth Naumann Dean of Stanford School of Medicine
Vice President for Medical Affairs at Stanford University
Professor of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery