Press Releases

NAMI Emphasizes Critical Need for Increased Brain Research for Severe Mental Illnesses

Advocates To Speak Out During Brain Awareness Week, March 13-16, 2000

Mar 07 2000

Arlington, VA - NAMI, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, is pleased to serve as a national partner of the fifth annual Brain Awareness Week, March 13-19, 2000. During Brain Awareness Week, a project of the Dana Alliance for Brain Research, the Alliance will release "Update 2000: Brain Research in the new Millennium," its annual report. This year the report highlights advances in stem cell research, brain imaging, pain, and severe mental illnesses.

Since its inception in 1979, NAMI has advocated for increased research funding for severe mental illnesses. During that period of time, scientific understanding of the workings of the brain has grown dramatically. During Brain Awareness Week, NAMI focuses on the contributions of brain research to the fight against the most serious mental illnesses.

"Our strongest weapon in the fight against mental illness is science," said Laurie Flynn, NAMI executive director. "Brain research yields provocative insights into the miraculous workings of the human brain. Every new brain discovery moves us one step closer to sound medical answers to living with severe mental illnesses."

Unfortunately, the pace of that discovery is not what it should be. Severe mental illness research is significantly underfunded in relation to its economic and public health impact. According to the World Bank and World Health Organization, severe mental illnesses comprise four of the top ten causes of disability worldwide. Depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder account for an estimated 20 percent of the world's total disability resulting from all diseases and injuries. Yet for every U.S. taxpayer dollar spent on medical research, less than one cent is allocated to schizophrenia, one of the most disabling mental illnesses.

Looked at in another way, for every dollar severe mental illnesses cost our society in direct and indirect costs, less than one-quarter of one cent is spent on severe mental illness research. "The funding of research on severe mental illness must reflect both the scientific promise of better treatments and the tremendous personal and emotional costs of these illnesses," says Flynn.

NAMI's research agenda reaches "from Discovery to Recovery" and includes:

  • Improved funding for basic neuroscience and applied research
  • Improved funding for treatment and services research
  • Strengthened protection of participants in research
  • Improved accountability of both research and services systems
  • Increased use of evidence-based treatments and better translation of research into improved treatments