More Dollars Dedicated for Serious Mental Illness Research is Needed

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Association For The Chronically Mentally Ill (ACMI) believes there is sea change going on around mental illness and what has worked and what has areas for improvement.  Among the most promising changes is that SAMSHA and mental health “think tanks” as well as community-based organizations like ACMI are discussing the need for additional research on biomedical aspects of serious mental illness rather than just focusing on “stigma” or general mental health or “wellness.” Not enough research dollars are targeted to investigate the root causes of mental illness and effective treatment modalities from medication to effective interventions in housing and social supports. People living with serious mental illness like schizo-affective disorder are trying to survive this devastating biological brain illness. Often without adequate support.

ACMI is encouraged by the proceedings of the White House Mental Health Summit (Dec 2019) which will provide additional funding dollars designated towards research on Mental Illness research.

 Some advocates believe that  “mental health problems tend to be under-researched, undertreated, and over-stigmatized.

We need to start focusing on treatment over punishment. Research that will lead to better treatment and outcomes – measured by changes in jail and prison incarceration rates, number and length of hospitalizations, and treatment compliance over a sustained period of time. Mental health treatments remain largely inaccessible to many, especially those from lower socio-economic or disadvantaged groups. These families often lack advocates for their ill family member and can not afford private attorneys to make the system “bend” to become more patient-focused. One estimate by the Epidemiologic Catchment Area Survey reported that 40 percent of adults with severe mental illness did not receive any psychiatric care within a one-year period. Many individuals will continue to suffer from serious mental illness until we can reduce barriers to treatment access. This is a tragedy — and a likely reason for the recent tragedies in which untreated individuals living with serious mental illness engaged in acts of violence against others in the community. The National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH), the nation’s largest funder of mental health research, has seen flat budgets since 2003, and currently funds less than 20 percent of the proposed research trials it receives. This tight funding environment discourages new researchers from entering the mental health arena and slows research progress.

Stigma is important in the general conversation to ensure parents, teachers, physicians and other primary caregivers identify the early signs of mental illness; most are present before the late teenage years.

But, importantly, in Thomas R. Insel, M.D. director of National Institute of Mental Illness directors’ message he indicates the real need for basic research.

This is promising!

If we want to offer the most effective mental health treatments, we need cutting-edge research to test those treatments and understand how they work.

We think it is beneficial for all families to submit comments asking for more research dollars target research for serious mental illness.

CALL TO ACTION!

You can submit feedback online via the NIMH request for information page, or mail your comments to:

NIMH Strategic Planning Team
6001 Executive Boulevard, Room 6200, MSC 9663
Bethesda, MD 20892-9663

From the Treatment Advocacy Center- (December 18, 2019) The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has a history of failing to prioritize serious mental illness in its research. Unfortunately, their recently-released five-year strategic plan draft signals their intention to continue to ignore those with the most impairing disorders.

Despite seeking public comment, the NIMH’s plan, even by the standards of federal reports, is almost unreadable. While the issues are complicated, the explanation of why they are vital shouldn’t be. However, it is not written in a way that is easy to understand or make sense of. For example, Strategy 3.3.C on page 28 reads “Enhancing the practical relevance of effectiveness research via deployment focused, hybrid effectiveness-implementation studies.”

Spearheaded by our founder, Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, the Treatment Advocacy Center has put together a comprehensive analysis of the five-year strategic plan, highlighting how it would fail those with severe mental illness. We identify sixteen concrete examples of research initiatives the NIMH should be pursuing today, initiatives that could help people with serious mental illness recover and live better lives.

Yesterday, the Treatment Advocacy Center submitted our public comment to the NIMH. However, we urge you to submit your own here. Use our comments, but also share your story of how the decisions of NIMH affect you and your loved ones. These stories are vital to help NIMH understand why their proposed priorities are misplaced.

Here are some points to consider:

  • The report fails to reflect the urgency of our national mental health crisis: As Dr. Torrey summarized, “Overall, I would say that this report is promising for people who plan to be affected with a serious mental illness in 2050 or beyond, but for anyone who is currently affected, the report offers no hope. I personally find this unacceptable and inexcusable.”
  • Where are the people who are experiencing the consequences of our failed mental health system? Except for one paragraph on the increasing national suicide rate, there is no indication whatsoever that mental health services for individuals with serious mental illnesses are an increasing public disaster. There is no mention of homelessness, criminalization of mental illness, the fact that emergency rooms are overrun with people with mental illness, or the burden of the failures of the mental health system on law enforcement.
  • Continued misplaced and unbalanced priorities: The strategic plan is strongly weighted towards basic brain science, with a continued strong emphasis on genetic research. It ignores the fact that the genetic research to date has been remarkably unproductive and likely to continue to be so, as described in a paper by Dr. Torrey and Dr. Robert Yolken published in Psychiatry Research in August.

You can submit feedback online via the NIMH request for information page, or mail your comments to: NIMH Strategic Planning Team
6001 Executive Boulevard, Room 6200, MSC 9663
Bethesda, MD 20892-9663

From the National Institute of Mental Health Strategic Plan- here are the four priority areas.

The National Institute of Mental Health
The National Institute of Mental Health
The National Institute of Mental Health
The National Institute of Mental Health

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