NewsUSA) - Mental illness affects one in four Americans, yet it's often absent from public conversations about health care. Now is the time to raise awareness and build support for the 57 million Americans struggling with mental health issues. Many patients, families and caregivers do not have the information they need to make the best decision for their particular situation, including when that situation involves mental illness. The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) is working to change that. PCORI is a new, independent health research organization created to answer questions that matter most to patients. "When patients have evidence they trust, they can make better decisions about their care and the outcomes most important to them," says PCORI Executive Director Joe Selby, MD, MPH. "Our research begins by identifying with the community the areas where patients, caregivers and clinicians need more information," he says. "For example, parents want to know which treatment options are safe and effective for young children with disruptive behavior disorders. We don't have the answer, but that's where PCORI can help. We can fund new studies to find the answers." PCORI has already started examining mental health questions through research funded in the past year. Researchers in Arkansas, for example, are testing innovative ways to deliver mental health information to underserved areas of the rural South. In Maryland, investigators hope to improve care for children with mental illness by providing families with a professional health partner who can answer ongoing treatment questions. An Illinois project is undertaking a patient-centered quality assessment of psychiatric inpatient environments. California researchers are looking at how community engagement might address disparities in depression care outcomes. And a Pennsylvania study is looking at two models for improving care for adults with serious mental illness. PCORI is funding many more research projects in the coming year, and it is looking to the public for guidance on what questions need to be studied. "We are counting on the community to participate in our work and ensure we are providing patients with the answers and information they need," says Selby. "Whether it focuses on mental health or any other health condition, thoughtful public input is the key to our success." To suggest a question for PCORI to study, or explore other ways to get involved in PCORI, visit www.pcori.org/get-involved/.