Largest Genetic Map of Psychiatric Disorders So Far

Approximately 20% of the world population is affected by some type of psychiatric disease that can alter intellectual ability, behavior, emotions, and social relations. (Update on most current statistics according to NIMH)

Stop and just think about that for a minute.  20%, one fifth of our world’s population, is affected by a a mental health disorder.  Even if you are not the one out of every five, odds are you either have a family member or close friend who is that one out of five. So, 1 in every 5 at your office function, church dinner, or neighborhood block party.  The scenarios go on and on. You get the picture. 

In this blog, I’m going to share an article on the largest genetic map of psychiatric disorders we have so far.  I encourage you to read the article, in its entirety.  The link is at the end of this blog.  Summing up:

In the largest international study published so far on the genetics of psychiatric disorders, which has been promoted by the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium, researchers analyzed the genetic base shared by eight psychiatric disorders:

  • anorexia nervosa, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, schizophrenia, autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, and Tourette Syndrome

The study further defines three groups from within these eight disorders that are highly genetically related to each other. They are:

  • Compulsive Behaviors                   (anorexia nervosa, obsessive-compulsive disorder)
  • Mood and Psychotic Disorders      (bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, schizophrenia
  • Early-Onset Neurodevelopmental Disorders   (autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, Tourette Syndrome)

“This study, consisting of 230,000 patients and 500,000 controls, does not put emphasis on the genes shared by members of a particular group.  Rather, on the genes shared by the highest number of disorders”, notes Bru Cormand, professor at the Department of Genetics, Microbiology and Statistics and head of the Neurogenetics Research Group at the UB.  “That is, those factors that would somehow give way to a ‘sensitive’ brain, more likely to suffer from a psychiatric disorder. And the fact that this could be one or another disorder would depend on specific genetic factors, not forgetting about the environmental factors”.

Many psychiatric disorders show co-morbidities, they tend to co-occur, sometimes in a sequential manner. Therefore, it is quite likely for a patient to show more than one disorder over their life.

The results indicated that a gene related to the development of the nervous system – DCC – is a risk factor for all eight disorders, and RBFOX1 is involved in seven out of the eight disorders.  Further findings included that ADHD and depression share 44% of those genetic risk factors that are common in the general population. Regarding schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, these figures reach 70%. According to the expert Antoni Ramos-Quiroga, “these results help people with ADHD so they can understand the disorder and also why they can suffer from depression more frequently. Furthermore, this is new scientific evidence that ADHD can persist over life, and be present in adults. We hope this helps to reduce the social stigma regarding ADHD and the other mental illnesses”.

The study further looks into the expression of risk factors in psychiatric disorders. One of the most relevant findings of the study reveals that those genes that are risk factors for more than one disorder –genes with pleiotropic effects- are usually active during the second trimester of pregnancy, coinciding with a crucial stage in the development of the nervous system.  However, it’s important to note that some genetic variations can act as risk factors in a certain disorder, but have a protective effect in other cases.

As for hereditary genetics versus environmental factors, psychiatric disorders have a multifactorial origin.  For instance, ADHD has a 75% genetic load, and the remaining 25% would be explained by environmental factors.  This data was derived from twin studies.  Other psychiatric disorders in the study could be viewed in the same way because the contribution of genetics is generally over 50%.

In the future, one of the priorities of the Consortium will be to complete the genetic landscape of mental disorders through the analysis of other genetic variations. From an epigenetic perspective –in particular the methylation of DNA- the Consortium wants to analyze the interactions between genes and environment, which could be decisive in psychiatry.

“It will be important to understand how genetic alterations are translated to the actual disorders (phenotypes), and this involves studying the function of every single gene identified in the genomic studies. Bru Cormand and Raquel Rabionet note, “The objective is to use genetics to improve and customize the diagnosis, prognosis and therapy of these pathologies which may be highly disabling for the affected people.”

Please let your voice be heard in order to increase funding for much needed genetic research. Contact your legislators. See our ‘Contact Your Legislators’ page for help in contacting your own particular representatives and senators. Thank you!

Remember to support our “Moonshot for Mental Health” initiative.

988 Crisis Response System

Our blog site is a place where we usually share information on genetic research in the area of serious mental health conditions and advocate for increased funding to expand this research so that our future generations might not have to face a mental health crisis ever again. We also talk about much needed mandates for mental health education in our schools. These are still our primary goals.

At this time, I have another urgent plea. This is to write to your legislators and ask that they increase funding for the 988 crisis line which is to go into effect July 16, 2022. There are not enough people at this time to man the phones, so please reach out if you feel that you can help. Also, funding is inadequate to support all of the staff at the call centers at this time. So please let your legislators know you want them to vote for an increase in funding.

To find out more about how you can help, please contact your local AFSP, NAMI or Mental Health America chapters. Help is desperately needed!

As always, please share our Moonshot for Mental Health!

President Biden’s Strategy to Address Mental Health Crisis

It is very encouraging to see President Biden making our mental health crisis a top priority.  It is certainly a bold move on his part. It includes major funding in mental health training, launching the 988 mental health crisis line, expanding parity, and increasing early childhood and school-based intervention services and supports.  And these are just to name a few.  It seems very clear that our nation’s leaders realize that we must do more.

However, our coalition would like mention one area that was left out. There is no mention of genetic research in President Biden’s strategy despite studies showing that genetics plays a major role in certain serious mental health conditions. In order to find curative therapies, we must invest in genetic research.

So, let’s just look at where we are today.  Currently, federal funding of mental health clinical research is insufficient to allow for major advances in the diagnosis, treatment, and reduction in deaths due to mental health conditions in the United States.  The National Institutes of Mental Health  requested $1.54 billion in research funding for Fiscal Year 2022.  In 2018, The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s, National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) data found that 19.1 percent of adults ages 18 and older had any mental illness in the past year (47.6 million) and 4.6 percent (11.4 million) of adults had “serious mental illness”.   This funding equals about $32 for each adult with a mental health condition in the United States in the past year.

U.S. federal medical research funding is important for early-stage clinical research, according to a 2015 Special Communication from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Network.   Medical research in the United States totaled $117B in 2012, 58% of which was funded by private industry.

To put this in perspective, the United States federal government has been funding Cancer Research since the enactment of the National Cancer Act of 1937 , and it has continued to increase funding over several decades.  The latest funding increase, through the 21st Century Cures Act, signed into law in December 2016, was dubbed a “Cancer Moonshot” that added an additional $1.8B over a seven-year period for cancer research.  Federal funding for the National Cancer Institute in 2019 totaled $6.1B, to treat an estimated  5.1 million people who were diagnosed with cancer from January 2013 to January 2017 according to the U.S.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.   That research funding is equal to $1,196 per person diagnosed with cancer over a five year period. The research funded has made a difference in the lives of those cancer patients.  According to the American Cancer Society:

“The death rate from cancer in the US declined by 29% from 1991 to 2017, including a 2.2% drop from 2016 to 2017, the largest single-year drop ever recorded.”

Now, let’s compare funding for cancer research to that of mental health conditions. Heads up. The results are dismal, to say the least. According to the National Institute of Mental Illness, in 2020, there were an estimated 52.9 million adults (21% of all U.S. adults) aged 18 or older in the United States who reported Any Mental Illness (AMI).   This was an increase from 2018, when 19.1 percent reported AMI.  An estimated 14.2 million adults reported having Serious Mental Illness in 2020, 5.6% of all U.S. adults, also an increase from 2018.  

Clearly, more funds need to be appropriated for medical research into the causes and treatment of serious mental health conditions.  As most of our readers know,  Cure Brain Disease Coalition  has started a  Moonshot for Mental Health Petition,  Moonshot for Mental Health Petition,  to ask for additional federal funding for research into the biological, genetic, and epigenetic causes that might predispose people to mental illness.  The purpose of this basic research would be to identify biomarkers to aid in diagnosis of serious mental conditions, prognosis and prediction and to provide information leading to novel targeted treatments and curative therapies for serious mental conditions. 

The time is now for equitable distribution of medical research funding.  Thank you so much for reading this urgent message.  Hopefully, our country can come together to end our mental health crisis once and for all.  Please let Congress know that we must have a Moonshot for Mental Health!

Please sign our petition:

To find your state legislators’ contact information, please click the links below. They are only an email away.