A Look at Mental Health Research Over the Past 10 Years

Mental health is one of those topics that may seem taboo, even though it’s prevalent in our society. Bringing attention to it can reduce the stigma and perhaps enable more people to seek treatment when they need it.

In the United States, nearly half of adults will experience a mental illness during their lives, and about 20 percent—a staggering 43.8 million—are confronted with it in a given year. Anxiety disorders are the most common type of mental illness in the U.S., and although they’re highly treatable, only about 40 percent of those suffering from anxiety get treatment for it. In fact, a mere 41 percent of people who have experienced a mental disorder in the past year received professional treatment for it.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, there are two broad categories to describe mental illness: AMI and SMI. Any Mental Illness (AMI) is comprised of all mental, behavioral and emotional disorders, ranging in severity, and Serious Mental Illness (SMI) is a subset of AMI with disorders that result in serious functional impairment.

Because May is Mental Health Month, we’re examining recent research into mental illness and its progress over the past decade. We’re also looking at how public perception of mental illnesses has shifted during that time period.

First, let’s look at the difference in public perception of mental illness over the past 10+ years.

  • A 2005 trend analysis published in The British Journal of Psychiatry showed that people usually perceive individuals with mental illness as dangerous. A more recent survey though, shows more willingness to work, live and continue a relationship with someone with a mental health problem.
  • According to a 2012 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) titled “Attitudes Toward Mental Illness,” most adults surveyed agreed that treatment can help people living with mental illnesses lead normal lives.
  • A 2018 national poll released by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) reported that almost half of adults in the U.S. believe there is less stigma against those with mental illnesses compared to 10 years ago.

Take a look at a few highlights of mental health research performed in 2009.

  • A study included in a 2009 article in Psychiatric Clinics titled “A Management of Schizophrenia with Suicide Risk” reported that 38 percent of the patients surveyed made at least one suicide attempt, and almost 60 percent admitted to “substantial suicidal ideation.”
  • According to the AHRQ’s 2009 Mental Health Research Findings, researchers at the Rutgers University Center for Education and Research on Therapeutics found that 20-50 percent of people hospitalized with mood disorders return to the hospital within a year.
  • A 2009 article in Health Affairs notes that “although U.S. mental health spending has increased dramatically, mainly because of the rapid adoption of newer psychotropic medications, fewer than a quarter of people with serious mental illnesses receive appropriate care.” The authors highlighted multiple comparative effectiveness trials to illustrate the potential value of such research for improving practice and policy.

Now, compare those highlights with these mental health studies completed over the past year.

  • Scientists at 15 institutions performed genetic analysis of nearly 2,000 brains. They looked at specific genes and their regulatory networks to learn more about changes in the brain as it develops and the causes of specific mental disorders. What they found is they can assess the genetic risk of diseases, including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, up to six times more accurately than with traditional analysis of known genetic risk variants.
  • Research published in the Journal of Neuroscience revealed a mechanism in brain cells that may be utilized to reduce cognitive deficits and enhance motivation and behavioral flexibility in patients with neuropsychiatric diseases.
  • A research article published in Psychiatric Services highlighted a study in which its authors analyzed 2,674 non-adolescent suicides and 267,000 controls that are patients of healthcare systems in the Mental Health Research Network. The study found that individuals with schizophrenia had significantly higher rates of suicide compared to the general population by the largest magnitude than any other mental or physical health condition.

As these studies and research show, the field of mental health continues to evolve; and so does public perception about those who are diagnosed with mental illnesses. It’s crucial for the public to be educated about mental illness so they can not only show more compassion to those affected, but also encourage those suffering to seek treatment.

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