Stony Brook Researchers Receive Grant To Investigate Long-Term Recovery from Mental Illness

Roman Kotov, PhD, Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at Stony Brook University, was awarded a three-year, two million dollar grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) to conduct a twenty-year follow-up study of people who were first hospitalized with a severe mental illness in the early 1990s. Drs. Evelyn Bromet, Laura Fochtmann, Gabrielle Carlson, Mark Sedler and Greg Hajcak (from the Department of Psychology) are co-investigators. Drs. Marsha Tanenberg-Karant, Eduardo Constantino, and Joan Rubinstein will collaborate along with staff, graduate students and residents.

The study will answer important questions about how people with severe mental illness fare over time and what factors might affect their recovery. For more than twenty years, researchers in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science have been following the lives of participants in the Suffolk County Mental Health Project, who were recruited from all the psychiatric inpatient units in Suffolk County between 1989 and 1995. The project represents a partnership between the Department and facilities throughout the County, as well as a commitment on the part of participants and their families over two decades. The new grant will allow the project to expand its focus and continue beyond the twenty year mark. 

The Suffolk County Mental Health Project has always been unique in terms of its sample size, scope and rigor. Now it will become the first prospective epidemiological study in the United States to address questions about psychiatric recovery during the second decade of the illness.

In addition to reassessing the diagnoses and current status of 425 members of the original cohort, the researchers will conduct studies of genetic risk factors and neuropsychological functioning. They will compare their findings with a control group of demographically matched volunteers who will be recruited by the University’s Center for Survey Research.  

“The grant is good for our department and for the people of Suffolk County.” Dr. Kotov said. “Equally important, it is good for science. Because of the amazing work of so many people in our department and in the community we can now get an accurate picture of the challenges participants faced and how they managed. We will be able to answer questions about recovery from serious mental illness that are at the forefront of the mental health policy debate.”