The phrase “clinical research” rarely brings to mind mental health diagnoses; people instead tend to think of research in cancer or rare diseases. But what about those in our community who have mental health diagnoses and are looking for treatment options? It’s no secret that mental health issues are more stigmatized than physical ailments. But is this also true in clinical research studies?
As of June 3, 2019, only 226 of the 6,109 conditions listed on clinicaltrials.gov fall under the subcategory of behaviors and mental disorders. Doing the math, that’s a little less than 4%. For an area of health in which the number of recognized conditions grows every year, we need to recognize the increasing needs of the affected population.
Mental health diagnoses can require just as much care as physical ailments. The need for further research into how best to provide this care is largely unmet in clinical research. This calls for a shift in resources to ensure that proper levels of care are being studied and developed.
What’s also important to keep in mind is patient mood stability and how that may affect a participant’s ability to complete a mental health study. Findings from a UK study suggest that screening for and addressing mood instability across the most common mental health disorders could help avoid issues (e.g., higher frequency and duration of hospital stays) during the trial.
Most mental health diagnoses come with some level of mood instability, and the study findings suggest that counseling techniques targeting mood instability can create a higher level of stability even in people who do not currently have a mental health diagnosis. And when patients’ moods are stable, they are more likely to enroll in and complete mental health studies.
Ending the stigma.
There is clearly a lack of mental health awareness. The World Health Organization reports that “one in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives.” So in a world of 7.7 billion people, that leaves 1.9 billion affected by mental health disorders.
To put that in perspective, think about your family or a small group of close friends – are there four or more members? Do you work with more than three other people? How many strangers do you pass walking down the street every day? Mental health diagnoses come in all shapes and sizes. With increased awareness comes a greater responsibility to meet the needs of those who could potentially take part in and advance clinical research.
Take a look at some of the studies we’re proud to have been a part of!