Solving mental health challenges starts with us
July 8, 2017 | By Gina Drosos
Gina Drosos is president of Mason-based Assurex Health, a subsidiary of Myriad Genetics, Inc.
When I ask friends, neighbors, colleagues or even groups I speak to if they know someone struggling with a mental health condition, nearly everyone answers, “Yes!”
And that makes perfect sense. One in five people in the U.S. will experience a mental health condition sometime in their life. Depression, the most common mental disorder, will significantly affect over 16 million Americans this year – many more than the number of people living with cancer. Untreated depression is the number one cause of suicide and the second-leading cause of death among young people.
So with such high prevalence, and such critical consequences, how can there still be a stigma associated with mental illness? If mental health impacts all of us, why don’t we acknowledge our own concerns and more proactively reach out to help people who are suffering?
Fortunately, we live in a region where people are working together and committed to doing something about it.
Greater Cincinnati is home to a number of organizations whose work offers new hope to people and their families dealing with conditions like depression. Innovative approaches to treatment and new therapies are being developed right here in our research centers, treatment facilities and in our entrepreneurial community.
UC Health, Lindner Center, Cincinnati VA, Cincinnati Children’s, along with local clinicians in private practice, are leaders in using genetic testing to change the way patients with mental health disorders are being treated, getting them on the right medication faster and improving their health and lives. Mason-based Assurex Health, the organization I lead, has developed GeneSight, a breakthrough genetic test to help clinicians more quickly match the right medicines with patients based on their unique genetic profiles.
When genetic testing is used to supplement a clinician’s judgment, clinical studies show that patients with depression are twice as likely to respond to the prescribed medication. In just a few years, this technology has been used by more than 19,000 healthcare professionals across the country to help more than half a million patients. Nearly a thousand clinicians in our community use GeneSight.
Programs at the nationally recognized Lindner Center of Hope, led by Dr. Paul Keck, are at the forefront of helping to develop new pathways for treatment. The Lindner Center is contributing to the Mayo Clinic’s Individualized Medicine Biobank for Bipolar Disorder. The Biobank, which is collecting samples and clinical data from 2,000 people ages 18 to 80, is helping researchers study the connection between gene types and medicines that treat disease. The Lindner Center also is a leader in learning how people with treatment-resistant major depression can be helped by magnetic stimulation – an approach approved by the FDA.
At the Cincinnati VA Hospital, Dr. Kathleen Chard, director of the Trauma Recovery Center, and her colleagues are doing groundbreaking work with veterans suffering from PTSD and traumatic brain injury. The program includes using special therapies to help treat these disorders, which often include depression and other conditions. At least 20 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have PTSD and/or depression, according to a RAND Center for Military Health Policy Research study. The study also found that health care for a veteran with PTSD costs 3.5 times as much as for one without the disorder.
Local organizations such as the Southwest Ohio chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) conduct walks and other activities, inviting everyone in the community to join the fight for mental health. These efforts are helping people overcome the stigma of mental illness so that it can be discussed and treated just like they would any other health condition.
Working together, many in our community are ensuring that there is new hope for people with mental illness. We all need to do our part and talk about it! Reach out to someone you know and share your story or ask to hear theirs. There has never been a more promising time to talk about this common health disorder and what’s being done – so much of it right here in Cincinnati.