Much has been written of late about the potentially transformative impact of Big Data – by which people usually mean massive amounts of clinical, genomic, demographic and transactional information that is way too large to handle with traditional information technology. Such impact seems to be centered, however, on Big IT companies helping Big Provider organizations in ways that are not visible to us, and seem to have no relevance to our lives as patients so far.
In order for mental health treatment to be front and center in our ongoing conversation about health, we need to engage those who are living with and through these conditions. While many people can maintain a quality life with treatment and support, living with a mental illness can be a painful experience and often a lonely one. The general lack of knowledge about mental illness stigmatizes the individual and deters many people from seeking treatment.
It’s about time that Americans have a conversation about the consequences of untreated mental illness and the need for better treatments and more access to care. Two events this week have raised this important issue and both need to be paid attention to.
Mental illness can be debilitating and destructive not only for patients, but also their families and friends. The statistics themselves are jarring with the National Institute of Mental Health reporting 61.5 million Americans – one in four – have some form of mental illness. With such a large portion of the American population suffering why isn’t mental health more of a public priority? And specifically, why isn’t providing broad access to and awareness of treatments prioritized more?
We need a new generation of treatments for mental disorders. With current medications for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression, many people get better, but too few get well. And for many mental disorders, such as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anorexia nervosa, and the core symptoms of autism, we lack effective medications altogether. The public health need is undeniable: neuropsychiatric disorders are the largest so