|Pill Induced Psychosis|
One in five Americans over age 18 suffers from a diagnosable mental illness in any given year. That's upward of 40 million potential voters. So why have we heard virtually nothing about mental health care from either candidate during this campaign?
Just to provide a little context, according to the American Cancer Society's latest numbers, about 12 million Americans are living with some form of cancer; 400,000 Americans suffer from multiple sclerosis; 1 million from Parkinson's and 1.2 million are living with HIV/AIDS. So 40 million is a significant constituency of sick people. But mental illness isn't pretty and nobody wants to bring someone suffering with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia up to the podium at a political convention.
In 1988 when I graduated summa cum laude from Yale University, I had already had a major depressive episode. But I was a decade away from being properly diagnosed as bipolar. I had no idea how profoundly the illness would eventually affect my future, how disabling it would, at certain points, prove to be. At the time, psychiatrists knew very little about the illness. Even today, research into mental illness and the development of successful treatments lag far behind that of other diseases. Dr. Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, has said that in terms of mental illness "we are about where cancer was 35 or 40 years ago." We are still diagnosing by observing symptoms rather than by way of biomarkers." According to Insel, by the time severe symptoms show up, "the illness is already in Stage IV of its development and the brain has already been deeply impacted."
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