In and Out2024-04-22

Nothing makes us so lonely as our secrets.

Paul Tournier

In medicine, who benefits from knowledge of (hidden) risks of medical disorders? With progress in biological testing, imaging, quantitative data gathering, and AI analyses, it Pain, and even stress, ADHD, and addictions, are perceived as externally driven, and there is no stigma in talking about them and seeking help. Other mental health issues (like anxiety, depression, psychosis, suicidality) are still perceived as internal weaknesses, there is stigma in talking about them, and seeking help. Only when individuals are out of the closet in terms of mental health, after being in an ER or hospitalized for an episode, do they start talking about it and seeking proper long-term help, especially if they continue not to do well and the clinical episode was very disruptive, and very public.

While it is a big step forward to use precision psychiatry approaches to help better assessment and treatment of those who have declared mental health issues, for prevention we need to be able to reach the vast majority of people who are still in the closet about their mental health issues and risks.

What is the solution? First, we need to reduce stigma, culturally and with more objective, biological tests, demystifying these disorders and making them similar to diabetes, hypertension, and so on. Second, we need to increase hope that people can be treated easily and affordably, that they can be matched to the right medications (and nutraceuticals) early on rather than with trial and error. In this way, there is less fear of judgement, the unknown, and of disruption to one’s life if one acknowledges and seeks help for mental health. The silver lining is that the younger generations, those under age 25, are much more open, have less concern about confidentiality and stigma, and should thus be much more reachable. Not only for treatment, but also for prevention of full- blown episodes, particularly suicidality, which has been increasing in this age group. We are doing our bit to help at MindX Sciences.