The Latest Treatments for Mental Illness Are Helping Patients Live More Fulfilling Lives

For a large portion of her adult life, Adrienne lived with debilitating feelings of uncertainty, self-doubt and insecurity. “I just thought, ‘Oh, it’s just me. It’s just how I am.’” Adrienne suffered in silence all the way up until the birth of her daughter. Then she decided to take back control of her life. Her first step was seeing a psychiatrist who uncovered a chemical imbalance in Adrienne’s brain. “It was a such a relief to be diagnosed because I had no idea I was clinically depressed,” recalls a teary-eyed Adrienne. Following the diagnosis, Adrienne worked closely with physicians to identify ways to restore her quality of life. Years later, her depression still lingers. But, thanks to a combination of lifestyle changes and the latest treatments, Adrienne feels balanced again.


Depression Infographic
Depression Infographic

Researchers Making An Impact

Fewer than half of all adults in the U.S. receive treatment for their mental illness, with racial and ethnic minorities receiving treatment at lower rates than non-Hispanic whites. African Americans and Hispanic Americans access mental health services at about half the rate of whites and Asian Americans at about a third of the rate of whites. Reasons for these discrepancies include limited access to treatment, attitudes toward seeking treatment, poor quality care, community stigma towards mental illnesses, under representation of minority health care providers, bias in the treatment setting, language barriers and inadequate health care coverage.

As Wayne, a mental illness and mood disorder researcher, explains, “This is what makes depression so dangerous. In contrast to other diseases, depression is very stigmatizing, and people often [think it's] the person’s own fault." A psychiatrist by training, Wayne oversees the development of new treatments. Over the past 25 years, he’s seen tremendous progress made in how we treat depression and other serious mood disorders.

My dream is to eventually cure this illness.

Wayne Drevets
Mental Illness & Mood Disorder Researcher
Wayne Drevets

For instance, researchers now know mechanisms in the brain regulate emotional behavior, so they developed ways to see how certain treatments impact mood and physical symptoms in an individual. Even more exciting is where research is headed. “We’d like to…develop new treatments that target the specific biological markers of the disorder. We’re also working on developing more medicines that work quickly so that patients suffering from depression and suicidal thoughts can receive quick relief, as opposed to the three weeks it would take for an older medicine to work.” Thanks to the work of Wayne and hundreds of other researchers, what’s on the way promises to be nothing short of amazing.

The Latest Innovations

Mental illness affects millions of Americans each year and extracts a heavy human toll in the U.S. But thanks to the dedication of biopharmaceutical researchers, there are now numerous advances that help alleviate patients’ burdens, improve their quality of life and transform a very difficult disease into a highly treatable and manageable condition. Currently, there are more than 140 medicines in development for mental illnesses. Among these is a once-daily oral treatment designed to rebalance brain function. Where depression deregulates a patient’s brain, this medicine offers a novel mechanism that helps patients readjust to a healthier state of being. If proven effective, it would be a huge win for the millions of patients who do not respond to standard antidepressant therapies.

Researchers are also making incredible headway with schizophrenia, a chronic and severe mental disorder that affects how a person thinks, feels and behaves. This disease in particular comes with both positive symptoms (psychotic behaviors like hallucinations not generally seen in healthy people) and negative symptoms (disruptions to normal emotions and behaviors). To combat this, researchers are testing a breakthrough medicine that works by inhibiting the biological response of both dopamine and serotonin receptors in the brain. With its first-rate pharmacological profile, it is thought that this medicine will reduce the occurrence of side effects traditionally associated with some mental health treatment options.

These new innovations—whether they stem from existing treatments reimagined or a new compound yet to be discovered—come with a lot of hope and promise for the millions who suffer from mental illness. One of these new medicines could be lifesaving for those impacted by mental illness.

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PhRMA COVID-19 Treatment Progress

America’s biopharmaceutical companies are coming together to achieve one common goal: ending COVID-19. Our shared heritage of discovery and research allows us to respond to the coronavirus swiftly, with active trials for both treatments and vaccines already underway.

Together, We’ll Defeat Depression

Mental illness is a very complex disease, but researchers are working around the clock to unearth innovative ways to treat it. With researchers’ latest findings, and the hundreds of promising clinical trials currently in development, their research becomes even smarter over time. And researchers' fight against complex diseases like mental illness extends beyond the lab; their dedication gives millions of people new reasons to hope.

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