Mental Health Awareness Month

  • In a survey released on July 24, 2000 listing the NIH Research Expenditure by Disease, 1999-the statistics were shocking: HIV struck only 800,000 individuals yet the FY NIH research totaled $1,792,700,000. As regards schizophrenia, 2,632,396 people were diagnosed with this illness yet only $196,515,000 was allotted to NIH funding. That's $74.65 per person living with schizophrenia. Now: do you think things have changed in 10 years?

    At the time of the AIDS walk I routinely get rankled that people fight against a disease caused almost entirely by lifestyle choices yet nobody rallies in defense of mental health dollars with such gusto among the general public. Where are the clever logos pinned up in banks for schizophrenia donations when their customers give a dollar at the teller? Sadly banks and cash register donations champion other causes.

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    I chose to start this SharePost this way because in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month I want to make everyone reading this blog entry aware of the facts: Schizophrenia is highly treatable for most people who exhibit symptoms of this medical condition yet if research into causes and cures is lacking it will be a long time before the playing field is leveled and everyone has the equal opportunity to recover.

    What we do know:

    • Early intervention and early use of new medications lead to better medical outcomes for the individual

    • The earlier someone with schizophrenia is diagnosed and stabilized on treatment, the better the long-term prognosis for their illness

    As early as February 26, 2004 a schizophrenia outcomes study proved this point. According to Thomas McGlashan, M.D., professor of psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine, "Detecting and treating schizophrenia rapidly, following the onset of a first psychotic episode, improves the patients' response to treatment."

    He noted the length of time between the onset of psychosis and detection and treatment could go from several weeks to several years. Why does this matter? There is some evidence that the untreated psychotic state itself may increase the risk of a poor outcome.

    McGlashan warned: "It looks like the longer the period of time before treatment, the worse off the patients are not only when they come into treatment, but how they respond to treatment."

    For details about this, read my Harvard Mental Health Letter SharePost on early schizophrenia intervention.

    Those of you living firsthand with this devastating illness most likely don't need to hear this especially if you have limitations presented to you because of late treatment. My intent in covering this theory yet again refers to the word Awareness in Mental Health Awareness Month. Every day people stumble onto the SchizophreniaConnection Web site by doing Google searches.


    I've been the community leader and expert blogger here for four years and in that time I've been privy to numerous stories of hell and heartache as well as hope. My goal is to give hope to everyone by making community members and casual readers aware that if you think something is wrong to seek help immediately.

  • If you had a heart attack you would go straight to the hospital. If you had cancer you would not refuse the chemotherapy that could attack the cancerous cells. So I'm globally urging those of you reading the Connection who ask questions like "Do I have schizophrenia? Am I nuts? Does my boyfriend or girlfriend have schizophrenia?" to seek professional help if you or your loved ones exhibit any of the schizophrenia early warning signs.

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    I will end this SharePost by referring you to two non-profits that can help:

    The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is the largest grassroots organization of its kind devoted to improving the lives of people diagnosed with mental illnesses and their families. It advocates for more research and a better system of mental health care nationwide in the U.S. NAMI offers educational courses like Family-to-Family for family members whose loved ones have MIs and Peer-to-Peer for those of us diagnosed with mental illnesses.

    Contact NAMI at: (800) 950-NAMI (6264).

    Mental Health America (MHA) is the nation's largest and oldest community-based network dedicated to helping all Americans live mentally healthier lives: advocating for changes in policy; educating the public and providing critical information; and delivering urgently needed programs and services.

    Contact MHA at (800) 969-6642.


    If you or a loved one is in crisis or needs immediate help please call (800) 273-TALK (8255).

    I want only to provide useful information and give you hope that recovery is possible.

    There is a saying that "if it walks like a duck and acts like a duck, it's a duck." The same can be said for schizophrenia. A qualified psychiatrist can confirm or rule out this diagnosis to give you peace of mind or treatment options if necessary.

    You can find a good doctor by buying a one-day subscription to the CastleConnolly directory of America's top doctors.

    Now: I hope you feel better already.

    My next SharePost will talk about breaking news in the field and after that I'll resume the focus on therapy.

Published On: May 15, 2010