Posts Tagged ‘mental illness’

Supporting BRAIN: Research for Cures

A promising start In April 2013, President Obama announced the BRAIN Initiative, an effort intended to take brain research to the next level and advance understanding of perhaps the most important and least understood object in biomedical science today—the human brain. The initial announcement was made with great fanfare, though relatively little funding was promised at that point to support the initiative. Since then, however, many government agencies and private foundations and institutions have dedicated funding and resources to this important effort to understand the brain and its disorders better. Hundreds of funded grants have already begun to produce results, for example, improved ways of turning neurons on and off in experimental animals and a design for a brain-scanning helmet, allowing PET scans of people while they are active. The need to push forward So far, the BRAIN Initiative has had strong bipartisan support on Capitol Hill. Each year since its inception, […]

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How Close Are We to Cures?

A good question We recently received the following email: hi there, i was wondering how close we are to cures for mental illnesses like ocd, depression and schizophrenia. I wish there were a simple answer to this question – something like “Really close!” or “We’ll have cures next year.” But the truth is more complex, and probably comes in several parts. We are closer to cures than we were before In part one of the answer, we could compare our search for cures to where we were in 1887, when Emil Kraepelin identified schizophrenia and bipolar disorder as separate and distinct disorders (though he gave them different names than the ones we use today), and in a sense founded the modern study of mental illnesses. Kraepelin believed that there was a biological brain basis to mental illnesses, though he couldn’t possibly know what it was, given that the field of neuroscience […]

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Reflections on Mental Health Month

May was Mental Health Month here in the U.S. Some call it Mental Health Awareness Month, but we like Mental Health Month, because we want the focus to be squarely on mental health and mental illness, not just awareness. Awareness about mental health is important, of course, and so is decreasing the stigma of mental illnesses. But ultimately, both of those goals fall short of relieving the symptoms of the millions of people that live with mental illnesses without effective treatment, or with effective treatments that carry bad side-effects. Over the past month, Cure Alliance for Mental Illness ran a social media campaign sharing images with words that expressed our desire for cures for mental illnesses—we called it Hope4Cures and it started some important discussions. About the word “cure,” one person wrote to us on Facebook, “I just don’t like that terminology in regards to mental illness and mental health. […]

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Exploring the Final Frontier: Brain Awareness Week

The human brain is responsible for amazing things – from space travel to skyscrapers, from epic poems to cures for a host of formerly deadly diseases. What it hasn’t done so well at, so far, is understanding itself. Actually, it is only by comparison to our knowledge about other things—how our hearts work, or how life formed on our planet—that our understanding of the brain falls a bit short. Though there’s a lot we still don’t understand, we have learned quite a bit about our brains, especially over the last 100 years, thanks to the hard work of pioneering scientists who developed new tools to explore below the microscopic level. Today is the first day of Brain Awareness Week (BAW) 2015, celebrating their work, and the ongoing work that continues to increase our understanding of our brain—the incredibly complex organ that defines us has humans. This is the 20th BAW, […]

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21st Century Cures

Improving the cycle from discovery to treatment A bipartisan group of House representatives, led by Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Representative Diana DeGette (D-CO), has released draft language for a sweeping health-related bill, the 21st Century Cures Act,  designed to speed up the process from research discoveries to real treatments and cures for people who need them. You can read the almost 400-page draft online, or the 6-page summary and discussion, which is a lot easier to get through! The proposed document is the result of months of discussion between legislators and constituents—including patients, physicians, researchers, hospitals, insurance companies, biotech and pharmaceutical companies, and others. Another round of feedback is in process. The current draft includes 5 sections, entitled: Putting patients first by incorporating their perspectives into the regulatory process and addressing unmet medical needs Building the foundation for 21st century medicine, including helping young scientists […]

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Too Good To Be True? Debate about the Latest Schizophrenia Research

Treating mental illnesses like schizophrenia or autism, where symptoms range widely, would be much easier if doctors had diagnostic tests—tests that could tell them if two people who have overlapping but also different symptoms have the same disorder, or tests that could tell them which medications will work best for which person. Recently, a study claiming that schizophrenia can be subdivided into at least eight genetic subtypes has garnered a lot of media attention. It’s easy to see why: if schizophrenia can be distilled into subtypes, each underpinned by different genetics, we might be closer to understanding the disorder and developing more personalized treatments. However, the study, published online in the American Journal of Psychiatry on September 15, has been roundly criticized by others in the psychiatric genetics community, who fault the researchers for publically promoting results that others view as preliminary and in need of scrutiny and more study. If […]

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At the NAMI Annual Convention

Cure Alliance is just back from the annual convention of the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Washington, DC. We had a booth in the exhibits area, where a steady stream of people stopped by to learn about what we are doing, and to sign our petition calling for more research on mental illness. Perhaps some of you visited us there! It was an energizing trip, not least because of the impassioned advocates at the meeting–we got to see Patrick Kennedy, Creigh Deeds, Demi Lovato, and NAMI President Mary Gilberti fire up the crowds on NAMI’s National Day of Action, before NAMI members made their visits to Capitol Hill to convince their legislators to pay attention to the burden of mental illness. We also saw Tom Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), give the Research Plenary on Saturday morning (see the video). He is eloquent and […]

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Focusing on Mental Illness during Mental Health Awareness Month

May is Mental Health Month, or Mental Health Awareness Month. President Harry Truman first declared Mental Health Awareness Month in 1949, when mental health was much less talked-about. It’s safe to say we’ve come a long way since then in our attitudes toward mental health, in what we know about it, and in our treatments for mental health problems. Mental Health America, which leads Mental Health Month each year in May, has chosen “Mind Your Health” as this year’s theme, focusing on the importance of mental health in overall health, including “tips and tools for taking positive actions to protect mental health and promote whole health.”  Indeed, there is no health without mental health (as the MHA motto says), and it’s important for every one of us to remember that we can take steps to keep mentally healthy. But what about mental illness? Is awareness of mental health the same […]

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Cure Alliance Hits the Big Apple for Brain Week

by Hakon Heimer New York City is the epicenter of Brain Awareness Week, sponsored by the Dana Alliance on Brain Initiatives, a yearly celebration of the 3-pound organ that runs the show. I made the trek to the Big Apple to join Cure Alliance for Mental Illness cofounder Robin Cunningham and local volunteer Elliott Koch for some of the BraiNY events at the invitation of organizer Heather McKellar of the New York University Neuroscience Institute. At the March 12 NYU Brain Fair, an incredible range of people from elementary school kids to senior citizens came by to see real brain slices, participate in educational games and attend lectures on brain health. Particularly popular were lectures on Staying Sharp and Enhancing Memory: Fact or Fiction? Elliott and I spent the afternoon talking with people about the need for more research into mental illness and collecting signatures for our petition to the […]

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Goodbye, and Thank You, to Scotti DiDonato

By Hakon Heimer   “Can you tell me why you aren’t joining the Mental Health Association of RI, whose mission you seem to have chosen for yours, rather than beginning a new organization?” That was my introduction to Scotti DiDonato, who died January 17, at the age of 80. She wrote me a challenging email on the weekend we launched Cure Alliance for Mental Illness with a party at PeaceLove Studios, and followed it up with a bracing interrogation over coffee a few weeks later. It was the start of an all-too-brief friendship. I explained that we were creating a dedicated national voice for research on mental illness, specifically targeted on the Federal public health research budget. I also said that MHA and NAMI had more than their hands full helping people with services, housing, insurance and other immediate needs. Scotti immediately said, Okay, what do you need? … How […]

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