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 and strengthening parity, and expanding early childhood and school-based intervention services and supports. And these are just to name a few.
One would rightfully think that this sounds wonderful. I want to be very clear in saying that I agree. It is wonderful. But, it’s not enough.
None of these strides will effect change in our long-term outlook on finding better treatments and possible cures for serious mental health conditions. And because of this, we are missing out on a golden opportunity to help our future generations.
There is absolutely no mention of genetic research, when it is clear that genetics and epigenetics play a major role in serious mental health conditions. Yes, there is a mention of research in President Biden’s plan. This would be the $5 million in research on new practice models. But genetic research? Nowhere.
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 Change.org 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! https://medium.com/p/2c63d095f009
Please sign our petition: https://www.change.org/MoonshotforMentalHealth
To find your state legislators’ contact information, please click the links below. They are only an email away.