Monday, December 17th, 2012
Please click here to read an extraordinary first-person account of what it is like for a parent to try to manage a child who suffers from a poorly understood and extreme type of mental illness.
Now, after reading this, consider these observations, drawn from decades of experience as a researcher in the mental health field:
- We still have much to learn about the causes of mental illness, in children as well as adults
- Our need for more knowledge requires a dedicated national commitment to escalate our funding for mental health research – especially in the face of the devastating cutbacks that the field has been experiencing for some time now
- Although we have many talented clinicians in this country, we lack the substantial economic and practical support systems to try to bring what we do know about treatments to many kids who are in desperate need of it
- The current debates we have in the field about how to properly diagnose and treat mental illness (and there are many) would be potentially resolved if we could, as a nation, generate sufficient support for research on mental illness
The last few years have been especially unkind to mental health research. Research grants – those of my colleagues and my own – have been cut drastically, substantially limiting what we can accomplish. As a grant reviewer for the National Institutes of Health, I’ve witnessed funding levels drop at a ridiculous pace – to the point that many researchers have to spend the majority of their time trying to raise money to do science, rather than actually doing the science. And as we all wonder about the fiscal cliff, keep in mind that we are facing even more severe reductions in our funding that could easily paralyze research and treatment. And I haven’t even scratched the surface of how little resources are out there to provide the type of intensive intervention to troubled youth to try to prevent the kinds of tragedies we keep witnessing.
As these tragedies continue to occur at a dizzying and distressing pace , it’s time for serious legislative efforts to rapidly provide a suitable infrastructure to prioritize research and treatment aimed at mental health. What can you do? A starting place is to get in touch with your representatives in the United States Congress. They control the purse strings. Let them know that we are at a point where we cannot process more tragedies, and that it’s time to really do something meaningful about it. It’s called funding.
For more information and resources on dealing with the tragedy, visit the following on Parents.com: