Mental Disorder Epidemiology Research Program

The Mental Disorder Epidemiology Research Program (MDERP) is focused on understanding the distributions, determinants, and consequences of mental disorders. Our program views mental illness as a chronic illness that can be addressed through prevention, intervention, treatment, and management. Striking disparities exist in prevalence, access, and use of mental health services, and health and wellbeing outcomes for those with mental illness. Results from our research can be used to inform policy and practice that will promote and support mental health and wellbeing. We have three primary areas of research:

  1. Access and use of health and mental health services for people with mental disorders
  2. Premature and excess mortality in people with mental disorders
  3. Discrimination due to mental disorders in the workplace and healthcare settings as contributors to poor health and quality of life,

Recent publications

  1. Johnson PJ, *Mentzer K, Jou J, Upchurch D. (2022). Unmet healthcare needs among midlife adults with mental distress and multiple chronic conditions. Aging and Mental Health, 26(4):775-783.
  2. Johnson PJ, Jou J Upchurch D. (2020). Psychological Distress and Access to Care among Midlife Women. Journal of Aging and Health, 32(5-6):317-327 
  3. Johnson PJ, Jou J Upchurch D. (2019). Healthcare Disparities among US Women of Reproductive Age by Level of Psychological Distress. Journal of Women’s Health, 28(9):1286-1294.


Principal Investigator

Pamela Jo Johnson, MPH, PhD 

Associate Professor & Chair
Department of Public Health, NDSU

Affiliated Faculty and Collaborators
Leslie Laam, PhD

Assistant Professor of Practice
Department of Public Health, NDSU

Center for Biobehavioral Research, Sanford Research

Rick Jansen, PhD, MS

Associate Professor
NDSU Department of Public Health

Steve Wonderlich, PhD

Adjunct Professor
Department of Public Health, NDSU

Vice President for Research
Sanford Research

Center for Biobehavioral Research, Sanford Research
Sanford Eating Disorder and Weight Management Center

Judy Jou, PhD

Assistant Professor
Department of Health Science at California State University, Long Beach


Dawn Upchurch, PhD LAc

Professor & Vice Chair
Department of Community Health Sciences, UCLA

Graduate Assistants
Natalee Lamberty

MPH Student

I am a graduate student currently located in New Jersey. I am a mom to two wonderful children. I am interested in participating in mental health research as this is a very personal topic to me. As someone who has observed the long-term effects of mental health firsthand, I want to do what I can to help break the stigma in the mental health community. I believe that early intervention with mental health disorders can lead to the best results for a healthy and stable outcome. 

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