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Press Releases

Child Mind Institute Researchers Receive Prestigious Award from National Institute for Mental Health

December 17, 2020

Team is recognized with the 2020 NIMH Director’s Award for the development of CRISIS, an innovative COVID mood study

New York, NY – Researchers from the Child Mind Institute are part of a team that has been recognized by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) with a prestigious Director’s Award for their development of Coronavirus Health Impact Survey (CRISIS), a mood survey in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The award was presented today by NIMH Leadership during the 2020 NIMH Virtual Director’s Award Ceremony.

Through CRISIS, the Child Mind Institute team is studying the risk factors for negative mental health outcomes – as well markers for increased resilience — during the pandemic for children and adults, to inform more effective interventions for the remainder of the pandemic and future crises. In a preliminary study, the researchers used CRISIS to gather data from 5,646 participants in the U.S. and the U.K. Their findings suggest that pre-existing mood states, perceived COVID risk, and lifestyle changes are strongly associated with negative mood states during the pandemic in adults, parents, and children.

“This is an impressive and well-deserved honor for our research team, whose development of the CRISIS survey is already yielding important insights,” said Child Mind Institute President Harold S. Koplewicz, MD. “It’s critical that even as we help young people navigate the unprecedented challenges this pandemic is posing, we also learn how we can give them better tools to handle crises – both individual and collective — moving forward.”

The research team being recognized includes the primary creators of the CRISIS, which included Kathleen Ries Merikangas, Ph.D. (Distinguished Investigator at the NIMH and co-chair of the Child Mind Institute’s Scientific Research Council), Michael P. Milham MD, PhD (Vice President of Research and Phyllis Green and Randolph Cowen Scholar at the Child Mind Institute) and Argyris Stringaris, MD, PhD, FRCPsych (Senior Investigator, NIMH) and their NIMH research teams including Ioanna Douka, MD (Special Volunteer), Julia Dunn (Post bac trainee), Diana Lopez (Post bac trainee), Dylan Nielsen (Staff Scientist) and Diana Paksarian, PhD (Research Fellow) along with members of the Child Mind Institute team that supported its evaluation including: Aki Nikolaidis, PhD (Research Scientist), Lindsay Alexander (Research Operations Manager), Jacob DeRosa (Research Site Supervisor), Irene Droney (Research Projects Coordinator) and Minji Kang (Clinical Data Analyst).

Aside from funding from the NIMH Intramural Research Program, funding for follow up of the CRISIS Survey has been generously supported by a grant from Morgan Stanley. The Child Mind Institute is a founding member of the Morgan Stanley Alliance for Children’s Mental Health.

Additional Child Mind Institute Research During the Coronavirus Pandemic
A key learning from prior crises is the need for qualitative data for research. During the pandemic, Child Mind Institute researchers created, a website where people log their experiences of the pandemic as audio, video, or text. Users may choose to save their narratives privately or share them publicly, and optionally contribute their data for scientific research. CrisisLogger uses novel technology to capture critical qualitative information and key themes in participants’ fears, frustrations and hopes during the pandemic, a breakthrough for researchers across disciplines.
Dr. Adriana Di Martino, Research Director of the Child Mind Institute Autism Center, has developed CRISIS AFAR, an adaptation of CRISIS tailored to Autism and other neuro-developmental disorders. The survey studies changes in behavior and mental health, as well as service gaps for individuals with autism and neuro-developmental disorders, such as speech and language services, physical therapy, and social skill building. Dr. Di Martino has launched an international research consortium to gather data using CRISIS AFAR. Preliminary results show that COVID-19 restrictions and related financial burdens have reduced access to critical autism services for approximately 20% of children surveyed.
Additionally, the Child Mind Institute, in collaboration with California Partners Project, conducted a study about problematic internet usage (PIU) in young people during the coronavirus crisis, examining the effects of increased reliance on digital technologies and virtual learning among children with or at risk for developing unhealthy behaviors around internet use, such as excessive gaming and social media use.
About the Child Mind Institute
The Child Mind Institute is an independent, national nonprofit dedicated to transforming the lives of children and families struggling with mental health and learning disorders. Our teams work every day to deliver the highest standards of care, advance the science of the developing brain, and empower parents, professionals and policymakers to support children when and where they need it most. Together with our supporters, we’re helping children reach their full potential in school and in life. We share all of our resources freely and do not accept any funding from the pharmaceutical industry. Learn more at