Nothing quite gets society riled up like a tragedy. Witness for the latest example, the death of Robin Williams. Williams had been beset for decades by the horrors of addiction and depression and succumbed to suicidal thoughts earlier this week.
Tragedy makes lots of laypeople an expert on issues on which they have zero experience. I recently had a discussion on the enlightened environment of Facebook where someone who is otherwise very bright attempted to tell me that having suicidal thoughts is not an example of mental illness? Why? Well, the logic is obvious. Because if that were the case, all mental health professionals and medical students and anyone who ever had a conversation about the topic of suicide would be mentally ill.
Uh, no. Big, big difference between thinking about taking your own life-- about how the world would be better without you on it, and how and when to possibly do it-- and talking about suicide as a mental condition. Amateurs. Sheesh.
So what am I about to do? Be an amateur! I, True Believers, am going to demonstrate to you the mortal societal sin which is the attention we as a society give to issues of addiction and depression.
And in the interest of brevity, I submit to you this table. NIH funding is but one measure of the attention we as a society give diseases, through defining the resources this one government agency throws at them, but, this factor is a fair one in measuring the seriousness of the disease as a biomedical concern. You can see the raw dollars of funding on the chart, but here are the FY11-FY15 percents of increase or (decrease) in NIH funding for some of our favorite diseases:
Drug Abuse (2.7%)
Heart Disease 2.1%
Mental Health (2.7%)
Substance Abuse (3.5%)
And these figures are not adjusted for inflation.
So maybe why there isn't a lot of progress on these diseases is because funding is being cut, or at least, that the rate of increase of funding isn't keeping up with inflation. And often, as Federal funding goes, goes funding from the state and private sectors. It's a trickle downhill. And the water is getting stagnant.
It is interesting to note that diseases which affect the elderly and children are the ones with the sharp increases in funding. Wonder why? Can someone say, lobby? The depressed and the addicted don't exactly wield a lot of political clout in Congress. Don't get me wrong, there are wonderful organizations fighting for legislation to help these populations, but by and large, people suffering from these diseases don't have the money, nor interest, to devote to advocacy on their own disease.
Local nouveau experts on the topics of addiction and depression, talk to your candidates for state and Federal office and ask them where they stand on funding for mental health and substance abuse funding. And better yet, look into the recent history on that funding.
True Believers, your indignance on this issue will not be enough to effect the change you seek! Advocate! Participate! And to quote a line a famous actor said in maybe his greatest role, Carpe diem.
Happy National Creamsicle Day!
And let's be careful out there.
#NIH #depression #suicide #hocoscience #friendsdontletfriendshashtag #hocopolitics