The Center for Mental Health Research and Recovery (CMHRR) at Montana State University was founded in September of 2014 with the support of the Montana chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI Montana).  Matt Byerly, MD, a psychiatrist and a national leader in mental health research, became the Director of the Center in August of 2015.  The CMHRR was created to address the unique mental health challenges in Montana and similar rural states.  


Saving Lives and Helping Families through Science


The CMHRR will serve as an academic center of excellence, successfully addressing the mental health challenges of Montana and similar rural settings by partnering with the world’s preeminent mental health scientists to advance innovation and discovery related to mental illness prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.

The impact of mental illness in the US and Montana

Mental illness and its consequences in the US

  • Mental illnesses occur in 25% of the US population each year; 6% experience serious mental illness
  • Most mental disorders occur before age 50: 50% occur by age 14 and 75% by age 24
  • Costlier than all other US health problems combined, with $201 billion spent on health care each year
  • Suicide is a leading cause of death in US youth and young adults (ages 15-34), second only to accidents

Mental illness and its consequences in Montana

  • Highest suicide rate in the country, nearly twice the national rate, and the second leading cause of death in youth and adults (ages 10-44)
  • Large populations at high risk of mental illness and/or suicide including Native Americans and military veterans
  • 12% of all 7th-8th grade Montana youth report attempting suicide one or more times in the past year

What are the challenges to improving the mental health of Montanans? 

  • Care resources are focused on intervening in crisis rather than prevention and early treatment
  • There is a delay in years from onset of illness to initial diagnosis and treatment
  • Limited access to proven mental health treatments
  • Shortage of mental health clinical workforce
  • Higher rates of specific mental health disorders such as PTSD and TBI in particular populations, like military veterans
  • High prevalence of substance use/abuse, which is similar to the rest of the nation

What the Center seeks to do

Goal 1: Prevent mental illness and its consequences

Goal 2: Develop improved diagnostic methods

Goal 3: Identify and test innovative treatment approaches, especially those that fit the needs and resources of Montana and similar rural states

Goal 4: Address mental health workforce challenges to ensure that Montanans have timely access to high-quality mental health preventive and treatment approaches

How the Center will meet its goals

The Center will partner with the world’s preeminent mental health scientists to advance innovation and discovery related to mental illness prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. Areas of focus and related initial efforts include:

  1. Resiliency
    • Adapting and testing a promising youth mental health resiliency intervention (Youth Aware of Mental Health or “YAM”) from Europe to Montana. In collaboration with the US and European Union’s leading youth mental health resiliency experts, the Center is conducting the first test of YAM in the US.
  2. Precision Diagnosis and Treatment
    • Conducting mental health “biosignature” research to make diagnosing more objective and treatment more precise. Our collaborators include some of the nation’s leading mental health biosignature researchers.
  3. Access to Proven Treatments
    • Testing a next-generation, computerized (online) therapy for depression in rural communities.
    • Developing a mental health specialty focus within MSU Extension faculty to network evidence-based mental health educational interventions to rural communities in Montana.