We have a dream
“There are considerable opportunities to make
significant strides in mental health research
in children and young people within the next
UK Department of Health and Social Care, December 2017
We know that only 5-10% of cancers result from genetics. We know so much about that 5-10% that women like Angelina Jolie take the radical decision to have a double mastectomy when they are told that they have a mutation in the BRCA1 gene. In 95% of mental illnesses we do not know if there is a genetic cause.
What if in 20 years’ time we can tell a 16 year old girl whose heart is set on science A levels, a degree in medicine and a high pressure career as a trauma surgeon that she has bi-polar disorder? She could start on appropriate treatment, learn about early warning signs of her illness, choose a less stressful career path, avoid episodes of illness, stays in hospital and attempts at suicide, where she is 17x more at risk of death than the general population.
Who knows one day we could go better than just prevention and let the young woman fulfil her dreams, illness free. Survival rates for breast cancer patients have increased from 40% to 78% since the 1970s. It’s not an impossible dream. Let’s create a miracle for mental health.
Research can produce miracles
There have been 225,000 research papers published on children’s cancer since 1970 and child mortality in children with cancer has decreased c65% since the 1970s. In contrast there have only been 45,000 research papers published on children’s mental health and The Nuffield Foundation in a 2012 report found that the incidence of “15 and 16 year olds reporting that they frequently feel anxious or depressed has doubled in the last 30 years.” Today we are still diagnosing children based on how they behave and how they feel. Is this really going to be acceptable in 100 years’ time?