Mental Health Action Day is this Thursday, May 19th. In partnership with more than 1600 brands, nonprofits, government agencies and cultural leaders, Cure Brain Disease is proud to be a partner in this day, and we will encourage and empower people to take the next step for #MentalHealthAction. Go to MentalHealthActionDay.org to learn more and join our effort to shift from awareness to action on mental health.
Head to Cure Brain Disease’s ‘Helpful Links’ page to learn of ways that you can take action for yourself or a friend on Mental Health Action Day. There is no-one-size-fits-all action, but rather, this is an open source effort for all who want to use their megaphones to drive our culture of mental health from awareness to action.
Naomi Judd was one such person who stood bravely and took action. In October of 2018, she, along with physician Daniel R. Weinberger, M.D., penned an open letter addressing the suicide epidemic.
*** Please note Cure Brain Disease is sharing the following letter as it was originally written. Since 2018, when the letter was written, many individuals and organizations, including Cure Brain Disease, have shifted from the term ‘committed suicide’ to the more accurate term, ‘died by suicide’. We also wish to point out that the the use of the term ‘aggressive traits’ is most likely in reference to ‘reactive aggressive traits’ defined as an impulsive response to a perceived threat or provocation.***
The open letter said, in part:
For everyone mourning the death of someone who committed suicide, an inevitable question arises: Why did this happen? Unfortunately, we don’t have very good answers. We do know that suicidal behavior accompanies many behavioral brain disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression. Suicide is actually one of the leading causes of preventable death among these mental illnesses. Addiction is another common brain disorder in people who commit suicide …
Currently a disproportionate amount of research focuses on suicide as a sociological and psychological phenomenon, but the latest studies may give us better answers…
It is also clear from many studies that suicide runs in families and has some genetic roots. In fact, studies of twins show that 43 percent of the likelihood of committing suicide is determined by one’s genes. While it remains unclear as to which specific genes contribute to risk of suicidal behavior, family studies have consistently found that suicidal behavior is partially explained by transmission within families of impulsive and aggressive traits. Relatives of suicide completers have been found to have elevated levels of impulsive-aggressive traits and are themselves more likely to have histories of suicidal behavior.
To understand this issue better, we have to bring the study of suicide into mainstream neuroscience and treat the condition like every other brain disorder. People who commit suicide are experiencing problems with mood, impulse control and aggression, all of which involve discrete circuits in the brain that regulate these aspects of human experience, but we still don’t understand how these circuits go haywire in the brains of suicide victims.
Most likely the propensity for specific malfunctions in the relevant brain circuitry began to form early in development, perhaps even inside the womb. With other brain disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression, we have an increasingly rich landscape of research delving into the biology and genetics of these diseases, but nothing yet at this level for suicide. We do know, for example, that lithium seems to reduce the likelihood of suicide attempts, but we do not understand the biological mechanism for why this is so.
Refocusing suicide research necessitates public and private collaborations. Right now about six times as many people in the United States die by taking their own lives as do from HIV/AIDS or heart disease, but the money to study suicide is lacking. In a recent column for the New York Times, Dr. Richard Friedman highlighted this funding disparity, noting that heart disease researchers receive 29 times the amount of federal funds than suicide and suicide prevention scientists. In fact, the federal government spent more money last year to study dietary supplements than to understand why Americans decide to take their own lives.
It’s about time we do better.
Cure Brain Disease is urging you to demand more from our government. We need to pick up Naomi Judd’s torch and fight for a real end to our mental health crisis. Please stand together with us. If you wish to contact our coalition, please fill out our contact page and we will quickly get back to you. And remember to check out our helpful links page. We must all work together for a much better tomorrow!