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May is Mental Health Month

The statistics may surprise you: According to the National Institutes of Health, one in four adults in the United States suffers from a mental illness—and one in 17 from a serious, debilitating one. Suicide is now the cause of death of more Americans than car crashes.

Prevention efforts can work, but only if we overcome the stigma of mental illness, which could be possible if we know more about the causes. To better understand mental illness, Johns Hopkins researchers are busy advancing the basic understanding of conditions such as schizophrenia, depression and bipolar disorder.

Mental illness in young people

Mental illness can strike even the very young, and researchers are studying various aspects of mental illness in kids and teens.

Fewer than half of children treated for anxiety achieve long-term relief, new research suggests. A scary number, for sure, but there is hope. A new program at Johns Hopkins, designed in collaboration with the University of Maryland and funded by state and federal sources, offers pediatricians a consultative safety net, resources and encouragement when their young patients develop mental illness.

Schizophrenia Research

Scientists have long known that schizophrenia is hereditary. The illness occurs in 1 percent of the general population, but it occurs in 10 percent of people who have a parent or sibling with the disorder.

Experimental Cancer Drug Reverses Schizophrenia in Adolescent Mice
New research found that an experimental anticancer compound appears to have reversed behaviors associated with schizophrenia and restored some lost brain cell function in adolescent mice with a rodent version of the devastating mental illness.

Nosing around a Diagnosis       
What does the nose know? Israeli scientists found a way to use nasal samples collected at Johns Hopkins to screen people at high risk of schizophrenia well before their symptoms appear. One day, iIdeally, an early therapy could keep such patients from ever knowing the disorder’s worst symptoms.

Overcoming Stigma

Some estimates indicate that nearly two-thirds of all people with a diagnosable mental illness do not seek treatment, especially people from diverse communities. Lack of knowledge, fear of disclosure, rejection of friends and discrimination are a few reasons why people with mental illness don’t seek help.

When Stigma Hurts Medical Care
To protect patient privacy, most hospitals keep psychiatric records separate from other medical records. But new research shows that when hospitals that consolidate all patient medical information—including psychiatric files—patients are 40 percent less likely to be readmitted within 30 days of discharge.

Stigma-Fighting Is Part of the Mix
Now in its 14th year, the Adolescent Depression Awareness Program (ADAP) at Johns Hopkins aims to improve knowledge about depression. The program enables someone to enter treatment before the point of being suicidal. And in raising awareness in students, teachers and families, ADAP also fights stigma, both purposely and incidentally.

More Than a Million Blows to Discrimination
When Kay Redfield Jamison published her memoir about living with bipolar disorder, she was hoping that sharing her story would help more people understand the condition and extinguish some of the stigma that comes with mental illness. Now, almost 20 years later, her book continues to shed light on this formerly taboo topic.

Staying Healthy

More and more research is being conducted that provides evidence that mental health is very much linked to overall health. It is important to take good care of yourself mentally and physically in order to stay healthy.

Don't Worry, Be Healthy
The power of positive thinking may be stronger than we once believed. Recent research suggests that a sense of well-being might save you from a heart attack, so make a point to stay cheerful and relaxed!

Meditation for Anxiety and Depression?
Johns Hopkins research suggests meditation may help relieve anxiety and depression. Mindfulness meditation, the type that showed the most promise, is typically practiced for 30 to 40 minutes a day. It emphasizes acceptance of feelings and thoughts without judgment and relaxation of body and mind.

Survey Shows Spine Surgeons Need to Screen More Patients for Anxiety and Depression
Depression and anxiety can factor into how well a patient recovers from surgery. Make sure to consult with your surgeon if you have any mental health conditions, concerns or questions prior to surgery.

For more information about child mental health, please visit the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

For more information about schizophrenia treatment and research, please visit The Schizophrenia Center.

To watch Kay Redfield Jamison, Ph.D. talks about stigma and discrimination against patients with depression and bipolar disorder, please visit our YouTube channel