Launching in January 2023, Nature Mental Health will be the multidisciplinary nexus of high quality, high-impact research and commentary on mental health and disorders of mental health. The journal seeks to bring together innovative investigation of the neurobiological and psychological factors that underpin psychiatric disorders with contemporary work examining the effects of public health crises.
In this blog post, Chief Editor, Rebecca Cooney, explains how the journal will meet the community’s needs.
Why a new journal on mental health and why now? Our daily lives are replete with reminders and prompts of how salient mental health is. Moving outside of our internal milieu, how we interact with others and how others interact with us, the experience and quality of our physical surroundings, where we live, and the resources that we have access to–the social determinants of health–are crucial factors that interface with our neurobiology and contribute to our overall mental health. Mental health is as foundational as physical health and its continuum is intrinsic to the human condition. Mental health research, like many areas of science, has sought over the last several decades to increasingly refine and specialize. For example, traditionally, psychiatry journals have focused on publishing work on the neurobiological basis of disorders of mental health and psychology journals have held more cognitive and affective investigations of psychopathology.
But there has been a multidisciplinary call to action to integrate the broader forces of social determinants within research frameworks. Nature Mental Health is a reflection of that step change and is, in essence, the first journal of its kind attempting to represent high-quality, high-impact research across fields, not only psychiatry and psychology, but epidemiology, health economics, and public policy.
My research background is in mental health, specifically depression and anxiety disorders, and the opportunity to re-engage with research that is studying some of the questions that first ignited my passion for science has been very exciting. But, importantly, all of the work that I have been privileged to handle over my last 13 years as a professional editor serves as fortification. Working knowledge drawn from the landscape of a science and medical editing career, from environmental economics to cardiovascular disease in women to health inequities perpetuated against people of color, adds nuance and depth to envisioning what a journal devoted to research on mental health could and should be. And to be able to do that under the auspice of the Nature Portfolio is really thrilling.
The Nature Mental Health ethos is one of inclusivity. This is operationalized in both the range of representation we hope to achieve in the journal by including research across the lifespan, highlighting underrepresented groups, and featuring globally understudied and underserved regions, but also by actively engaging with researchers from around the world. Following the lead of many of the Nature Portfolio journals, our team is distributed with editors located in New York, Berlin, and London, but also with roots in Latin America and Scandinavia, which gives us a great level of geographic flexibility to attend scientific conferences and meetings. We believe that the quality and impact of research is a reflection of inclusivity efforts.
A second interpretation of inclusivity is in the multidisciplinary interest of Nature Mental Health. As a way to push the science of mental health further, bringing together strands of research that may not always be featured alongside each other is an editorial value that readers expect from Nature. Research that revolves around improving mental health is always in need of hope and inspiration, and we wish to provide the support, for example, to bring an evidence-based intervention to scale or to demonstrate efficacy in a different age group or cultural context. We want to showcase the breadth and depth of work that is underway looking at the continuum of mental health and its disorders, which can mean preclinical work that has clear translational value and that generates new areas of exploration, neuropharmacology to identify drug targets for different disorders and diseases, imaging work that helps us to visualize differences between groups and to identify regions of interest, clinical treatment paradigms, epidemiology and economics to establish the burden and cost of disease, and bold agendas for advocates and policymakers.
We have been so fortunate to connect as a team united around the idea of improving the experience of publishing–not only authors, but for reviewers and readers, and for those who hope to be authors one day. Not only do we hope that interactions with our team are pleasant and constructive, but that they result in better publications. Nature Mental Health papers are rigorously peer-reviewed, but also handled with the utmost editorial care to help authors frame their work in the clearest and most powerful way possible. We also don’t consider publication the end of our interaction with authors or the lifecycle of a paper. We hope to help authors maximize the impact of their work through social media, interviews with the editorial team, and other media coverage. We are all part of the publishing ecosystem and reinforcing the bonds among researchers and with editors is vital. Through our outreach programs, including author workshops, symposia, meetings, and lab visits, Nature Mental Health will strive to be focused on service to the academic community around the world.
It may sound cliche, but research on mental health is indeed at an inflection point. One very high-profile example from earlier this year demonstrated the persistence and massive efforts of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium leading to a major breakthrough. After years of smaller genome-wide association studies (GWAS), which identified hundreds of loci associated with schizophrenia, work published in Nature in April 2022 using GWAS and whole-exome sequencing, reduced the number of candidate genes conferring risk to just 10. Clearly, this is an area where continued efforts will be focused but also that brings the potential for better understanding the genetic risk component and biological targets in schizophrenia. But it is also a much-needed “win” for the broader field of genomic and genetic work.
Another area that is in desperate need of a win is the fight against opioid deaths, but it also speaks to how inescapable the social determinants of health can be. Medication for opioid use disorder (MOUD) has been available for decades in the US (methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone), yet despite an abundance of research suggesting that MOUD can be initiated in multiple settings including emergency departments, there are still daunting barriers to access ranging from stigma or lack of provider education to whether a setting is federally funded. As deaths from opioid overdose in the US have surpassed 100,000 in 2021, this will continue to be an area where even incremental policy progress will have outsized effects. Nature Mental Health plans to track these developments closely.
Nature Mental Health is now open for submissions. If you’re interested in submitting a paper, please read the submission guidelines here. Don’t miss out on the first published articles – register to receive e-alerts here.