Chief Medical Officer Urges Prioritization of Mental Health Research

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Dr. Jeffrey Borenstein, a board certified psychiatrist, host of the public television series, Healthy Minds and Editor-in-Chief of Psychiatric News
Jeffrey Borenstein, M.D.

Jeffrey Borenstein, M.D., has recently joined the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation as Chief Medical Officer. In the following note, he addresses the renewed discussions around mental health in the wake of recent tragedies and presents a strong case for accelerated support of research.

Season’s greetings on behalf of the Foundation. Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with the people of Newtown and others impacted by the recent tragedy. The national conversation about how to avoid similar tragedies has included a discussion about mental health. I believe that in addition to improving access to care and reducing stigma, the key to success is more research into the causes and treatments of mental illness.

Despite the importance of brain research, we face many obstacles. The budget of the National Institute of Mental Health is under pressure due to federal budget constraints; pharmaceutical companies have significantly reduced their neuroscience and psychiatric research efforts; academic research programs are also under financial pressure to reduce their activities. Only 8% of private giving to charity is for health causes and institutions (Giving USA, 2011); a fraction of that is for mental health causes and even less is for brain research.

But together, we can overcome the obstacles facing mental health research. With the generous support of our donors, the Foundation has funded more than 4,000 grants totaling more than $300 million over 25 years. Our grants to Young Investigators not only fund important studies, but also serve as a springboard for the best and brightest scientists to become brain researchers.

As a new member of the Foundation family, I am honored to be a part of this important endeavor. This past week, I participated as the Board of Directors approved 15 NARSAD Distinguished Investigator Grants . These grants are among the most competitive in biomedical science related to the brain and to receive one is a great honor. When I spoke with Dr. Jack Barchas, Scientific Council Member and Chair of the Distinguished Investigator Grants Selection Process, his excitement about the Awards was both palpable and infectious. In response to a request for proposals for the grants, the Foundation received 225 applications. Dr. Barchas said, “The portfolio of grants is exciting and impressive in its depth and in the possibilities it presents for important and transformative discoveries. We could easily justify funding a far greater number.” The Foundation is determined not only to maintain the level of funding provided for research, but to increase the funding so that no worthwhile research or researcher goes unfunded.

Until recently, medical science believed that “old” brains could not grow new cells; research has shown that this is untrue. In this era of flourishing neuroscience, we are closer than ever to understanding the brain and how to treat, and even prevent and cure, its illnesses. I have had the opportunity to speak with a number of our donors—their generosity and passion to relieve suffering by funding research is an inspiration. I look forward to meeting many more of our donors and others interested in the Foundation in 2013. With your help, the quest for answers can accelerate discovery and deliver hope—hope for healthy, productive and happy lives.

Double Your Gift Today!
In honor of the 25th anniversary of our grants program, two of our donors have volunteered to match all new or increased* contributions received by December 31st up to $2.5 million.
 

Article comments

Out of tragedy should come resolve to make a difference. Mental illness remains so misunderstood and underfunded, even as it is the cause of so much suffering. I appreciate that you are highlighting this very worthy focus of research. Please keep seeking public forums to make this point.

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Please note that researchers cannot give specific recommendations or advice about treatment; diagnosis and treatment are complex and highly individualized processes that require comprehensive face-to- face assessment. Please visit our "Ask an Expert" section to see a list of Q & A with NARSAD Grantees.
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