Mental Illness Across the Ages

Despite some recent improvements, the chance that children or adults in America will get care for their mental illnesses is still critically low.


Nelson Freimer

While around 42 million adults in the US have a mental illness each year, “less than 40 percent of all adults who have mental illness got any treatment at all last year,” said psychiatrist Nelson Freimer during a panel discussion on mental illness across the lifespan at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Washington, DC, on Wednesday. Freimer, director of the UCLA Center for Neurobehavioral Genetics, also warns of “an epidemic of depression” among people just entering adulthood now, more than in previous generations.

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Mental Health Disorders in Prison: Neuroethical and Societal Issues

Guest post by Barbara Sahakian, FMedSci, DSc, a professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of Cambridge, and president of the International Neuroethics Society.

INS LogoMore than half of all prison and jail inmates have a mental health problem.[i] In addition, according to a 2010 report released by the Treatment Advocacy Center and the National Sheriffs’ Association,[ii] more mentally ill persons are in jails and prisons than in hospitals, and many of those remain untreated. Those in prison have a higher risk of substance abuse, and suicide rates are four to five times higher than within the general population.[iii] Deaths are also increased upon release, with the most common reasons being drug overdose, cardiovascular disease, homicide, and suicide.[iv]

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Children’s Mental Health Awareness: OCD

Sunday, May 3rd to Saturday, May 9th is “Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week,” a national effort to raise awareness about the mental health needs of America’s youth. With obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) affecting an estimated 2.2 million American adults, the condition first surfaces during childhood or early adolescence. To learn more about OCD, we spoke with expert Judy Rapoport, M.D., who is chief of the child psychiatry branch at the National Institute of Mental Health and a Dana Alliance member.

It’s not uncommon to hear someone casually say they “have OCD” because they like to keep things organized in a certain way or follow some sort of ritual every day. What is the real distinction between someone who is particular and someone who is diagnosed with OCD?

rapoport headshotPeople diagnosed with OCD have habits or thoughts that significantly interfere with their functioning. For example, one patient may spend so much time, carrying out some other ritual that they are unable to go to work. Others are so preoccupied that they have an illness or that they have hurt someone that they can think or talk about little else. This is an important question, however, because there is a “dimension” of OCD, and there are some people whose habits are on the borderline of a disorder but they, and those around them, can manage with them. Continue reading

The Mysteries of Creativity

Guest post by science writer Carl Sherman

The relationship between creativity and mental illness has fascinated thinkers from the ancient Greeks onward. Van Gogh, Dostoevsky, Jackson Pollock, Hemingway, Tchaikovsky, and Schumann are among the artists, writers, and composers whose great achievements are said to have coexisted with significant psychopathology.

This apparent paradox is particularly striking in untrained “outsider artists” like Willem van Genk, who created estimable work despite a lifelong struggle with schizophrenia and autism. An exhibition devoted to van Genk was the occasion for a discussion, “Unraveling the Mysteries of Creativity: Connections to Genetics, Mental Health, and the Brain,” at the American Folk Art Museum in New York City last Thursday evening.

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Alliance Member Pasko Rakic Honored by Child Mind Institute

Last week, long-time Dana Alliance member Pasko Rakic, M.D., Ph.D., was honored as the 2014 Child Mind Institute Distinguished Scientist at the organization’s annual On the Shoulders of Giants symposium. Held at Hunter University’s Roosevelt House (Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt called it home for many years), the symposium gave us the opportunity to hear from Rakic, as well as from one of his protégée’s, Nenad Sestan, M.D., Ph.D., and his colleague Matthew State, M.D., Ph.D.Rakic photo

Rakic began his scientific career in Belgrade, where he studied neurosurgery with plans to be a clinician. During his training he became fascinated with brain mapping and how different areas of the brain affected different body functions. This fascination lured him into research—and additional years of school—as he went for and completed his doctorate.

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