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Cure Alliance Letter to the New York Times

InselArticleIn response to the New York Times’s profile on NIMH Director Tom Insel, Cure Alliance cofounders Hakon Heimer and Robin Cunningham joined with Nobel laureate and Cure Alliance Advisor James Watson on a letter to the editor to point out that Insel’s challenge of trying to please diverse and competing constituencies would be a lot easier if he had resources necessary for the task. Here is the full letter:

To the editor:

Dr. Tom Insel’s challenging job (“Blazing Trails in Brain Science,” Science, Feb 4) would be easier if the National Institute of Mental Health were not running on a shoestring. The Institute’s 2012 budget was $1.5 billion, which seems like a lot until you consider how much mental illnesses cost us: the 2010 US Burden of Disease study shows that the burden to Americans is about equal to that of cancer.

As the nation’s economy strengthens in the next few years, we urge policymakers to bring NIMH’s budget closer to that of the National Cancer Institute ($5 billion per year). NCI-sponsored research is paying off handsomely in the form of new and better treatments. Consider, too, the impact of our investment in AIDS research. HIV infection has become a chronic manageable disorder in the U.S., with very little disability burden, a testament to the value of the $3 billion NIH spends annually in this area.

We are largely in the dark as to the causes of mental illnesses, and we have treatments that are at best only partially effective, often with significant side effects. The next great scientific enterprise should be alleviating the suffering of people with autism, mood and anxiety disorders, schizophrenia and other mental illnesses.

Robin H. Cunningham
Hakon Heimer
James D. Watson, PhD

The Times edited the letter quite a bit, but left our main point intact: research on mental illnesses is underfunded and needs more resources if we are to make the sort of progress that we have in understanding and treating cancer and AIDS.

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