RESEARCH WEEKLY: Mental Health Awareness Month, Remission is Possible in Serious Mental Illness

May was coined Mental Health Awareness Month in 1949 by Mental Health America, a national organization dedicated to addressing the needs of individuals with any mental illness and improving the mental health of all Americans.

Picked up by other organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness and the National Council for Behavioral Health, Mental Health Month has become a clearinghouse for promoting anything mental health-related, including mass media campaigns to fight against the stigma of mental illness, and exercise and fitness programs that support a healthy lifestyle.

This year, the Office of Research and Public Affairs at the Treatment Advocacy Center is going to use Mental Health Month to bring awareness to research into the impacts of the most severe of psychiatric diseases, which are often ignored by these national media campaigns.

Remission and recovery for people with serious mental illness

Recovery and remission is possible for individuals with serious mental illness, despite the common misconception that they are progressive, chronically debilitating diseases. Like any chronic illness, schizophrenia and severe bipolar disorder are episodic diseases with waxing and waning symptomology. Individuals with schizophrenia, for example, may experience periods of severe positive and negative symptoms in combination with periods of symptom remission when adhering to proper treatment.

New research published this month in Psychiatric Services from Temple University’s Mark Salzer, PhD, and others, suggests that up to one-third of individuals with serious mental illness are in a period of remission at any given time. The authors argue that estimates of remission from serious mental illness are important to use as benchmarks when evaluating health policies.

Salzer and his co-authors utilized the Truven Health Analytics household survey, a community sample of more than 40,000 individuals. Although this type of survey has significant limitations due to the inability to capture individuals who lack housing or those who are institutionalized in hospitals or jails, the results are illuminating in regards to prevalence and remission of serious mental illness in the United States.

– Treatment Advocacy Center

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