Mental Health Conditions and Suicide


         Mental Health Conditions and Suicide

                For far too long, we have been placing our minds on the back burner.  Scientific studies have sped along, figuring out causes and cures for many “physical ” illnesses and diseases.  This is a wonderful thing.  We now have sound treatments for heart disease, kidney disease, cancer, and many other physical conditions.  However, we have left the one organ out that controls all of the other organs.  This is the brain.  I’m not speaking about treating brain tumors and other “physical” conditions.  I’m speaking of something far more elusive; the mind.

            Much has been talked about in the realm of situational and environmental causes for mind, better known as, mental illnesses. However, not much light has been shed onto the biological factors and genetic causes for these conditions.  In this blog site, we will explore the ‘science behind’ mental health conditions and suicide.  

            The question is not why we are looking into these conditions.  It’s why has it taken us so long to do so?

Just Imagine

What if our minds were treated with the same respect as our bodies? Like the “War on Cancer” 50 years ago, just imagine if we would have had a “War on Mental Health Conditions and Suicide” …..

War on Cancer, 1971

“This year marks the 50th anniversary of the December 1971 signing of the National Cancer Act, which led to the establishment of the National Cancer Program and significantly expanded the authorities and responsibilities of the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

Federal funding for cancer research has led to significant advances in cancer prevention, detection, diagnosis, treatment, and quality of life for patients, leading to a record 16.9 million survivors of cancer alive in the United States today.”

Now, read this again and each time you see the word “Cancer“, replace it with the words “Mental Health Conditions and Suicide”. Cancer research is undoubtedly important. So is research for conditions of our minds – our brains. If we had treated our mental well-being with the same respect as cancer, just imagine the different world we would be living in today.

Those in Positions of Influence

Now, more than ever, we are hearing from people of influence about their mental health struggles. Actors, musicians, athletes, comedians, writers, and on and on. They are standing up for reducing the stigma attached to mental health diseases and suicide. They are sharing their own personal stories. They are founding their own organizations. This is a big step in the right direction, and I applaud them for their bravery.

But … there is a major discussion being left out, an ‘elephant in the room’ so to speak. The missing part? How do we get to the root of the problem so that we can actually ‘prevent’ these conditions (diseases) from causing so much suffering in the first place? How can we treat them or, better yet, stop them before they have the opportunity to advance to dangerous levels?

The answer to this question? Scientific research into our most important organ, the brain. We must find the genetic and biological causes for these diseases at a cellular level. Researchers are already finding specific genes linked to various brain disorders. However, much for research must be done in order to further these studies and to find ‘effective’ treatments and cures. In order to accomplish this, we need far more funding for research. Only in this way, can we really end the suffering.

Don’t get me wrong. We need to continue with the important conversations about safe spaces, stigma free zones, and encouragement for more and more people at risk to seek help. These are important steps in helping people to know that they are not alone and that they should not be ashamed. It will open the eyes of others to be more compassionate instead of being judgmental. And, hopefully, it will encourage our communities to take action in the area of mental health research.

Think about the medical advancements we’ve made over the years for those patients living with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, etc. Why aren’t we doing the same for people living with brain diseases? Lack of understanding, shame, and stigma all play a part. We need to continue our fight to end shame and stigma, and we need to advocate for more research to aid in our understanding of the brain.

Our group has an urgent plea for everyone, especially those in positions of influence. Please speak out about the tremendous need for research and the lack of funding for this research.

One more thing. Think of the difference one person of influence is making in the fight to end Parkinson’s disease; Michael J Fox. Who will be our Michael J Fox?

Those Who Have Lost Loved Ones

The following is a post from a member of the Alliance of Hope online support group; a worldwide group of suicide loss survivors. This message is one of the many messages received every day. The number of suicide victims has grown to approximately 48,000 lives per year in the US. There are over 20,000 registered loss survivors who are members of the Alliance of Hope. Far more loss survivors are struggling, and do not reach out to any type of support group due to the stigma that is attached to suicide. Please read carefully, as her voice speaks loudly for so many. We must push for people to listen and push for action.

From a member of the Alliance of Hope support group:

Emphasis should be placed on root causes of suicide. Monies should be going towards upgrading our mental health resources and just as we are required to have a primary care physician we should also be required to have a primary mental heath physician. If our medical doctors, insurance providers and government entities are not equipped to consider our mental health as an equal part of our overall health as physical health, then we will always be in the dark and asking why. Suicide enters all walks of life…..ALL…..not just the homeless, the poor, the traumatized, the addicted. To me those conditions are ALSO symptoms of an unhealthy or untreated or mistreated mental health history not the root causes. My husband completed suicide after a failed attempt. He found a way. I don’t believe he was an anomaly, I believe he had unresolved mental health issues, root causes that he and everyone around him from doctors, family, friends, to social entities and governmental entities, who were absolutely not equipped to recognize and treat his illness. That is why suicide is complex, that is why suicide happens, that is why we are all left thinking somehow it could have been prevented. Until this world wakes up to the realization that focusing and funding healthy mental health practices and research for all peoples, then I am afraid that suicide will continue on its dangerous path of increasing in death status. I am afraid but I also have hope.

Help to Move “Research of the Mind” Forward

“Another Call for Help”

We have an urgent request for you.  For decades, we have been experiencing a mental health crisis. This crisis is growing rapidly by the day.  While cures have been discovered for many physical health diseases, mental health conditions have been treated with a lack of respect.  What our scientific community has done is basically placed bandages onto gaping wounds, expecting them to hold.  It is finally coming to light that many mental health conditions could actually be brain diseases.  

The good news is there are many discoveries coming to the surface.  Recent discoveries have shown the possibility of various biomarkers which can potentially predict the onset of certain mental health conditions as well as suicidal behaviors.  Biomarkers would suggest a biological indicator (predisposition) for mental health conditions and suicide.  With this knowledge, it’s clear that genetics are responsible for predisposing many of us to mental health conditions.  In the same way genetics predisposes many to diabetes, genetics also predisposes many others to mental health conditions. 

Think of the advancements we’ve made in the area of diabetes and other diseases deemed as physical!   Why haven’t we done the same in the area of mental health ???  

The short answer is a lack of funding.  The sad, but true, answer is that many still believe mental health conditions aren’t as important as other conditions and diseases.

This is a shame, considering that approximately 20-25 percent of our population in the United States suffers from some form of a mental health condition, and considering that suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in our young people ages 10-34, only following accidental deaths. Many reports state that suicide is under reported because of the stigma attached to it. If this is the case, which we believe to be so, suicide numbers are far higher than reported. The fact that our funding for research is so low is inexcusable.

(It’s important to note just how underfunded we are in this area.  According to the NIH data since 2008 on funding for all conditions and diseases, mental health conditions, as well as suicidal ideation, are funded at a far lower amount than physical diseases.) 

Within the past year, a group of us from different parts of the United States have begun to advocate for change.  Our group’s primary goal is to increase funding into finding the biological factors causing mental health conditions and suicide in hopes of discovering cures.  Our group currently is comprised of medical professionals, social services, teachers, a counselor and geneticist.  We have already begun our campaign to increase funding  by contacting and meeting with members of Congress from our states.

As a result of one of our meetings with a congressman, the congressional liaison for NIMH was contacted regarding federal research funding to investigate potential genetic and epigenetic biomarkers which could provide early diagnosis of mental health conditions.  NIMH is currently investigating our questions regarding the specific dollar amounts dedicated to discovery of biomarkers for mental health conditions. They have also forwarded our questions and concerns to Congresswoman DeGette.

In another meeting with a representative, we were put into contact with a medical university currently conducting research into genetics in relation to mental health conditions.  A separate meeting with another congressman resulted in a request to the appropriations committee for further funding into research.

Our group has had, and is continuing to have, other endeavors.  These include education on mental health issues in our schools, medical communities, and social communities to reduce stigma and to target mental health concerns early on.  Two of our members have also founded their own non-profit organizations: whose mission is to accelerate research in biomarkers for early diagnosis of high risk mental health conditions (MHC) and to develop novel targeted curative therapies based on molecular causes of MHC discovered through epigenetic and genetic research, and whose mission is to serve as a compass and a megaphone for mental health support, education, and change.

So, how can you help???       

Contact your local legislators to let them know that you are advocating for more funding to go into research into the biological causes of mental health conditions and suicide.  You can email them, request a meeting with them (either in person or virtual), request a telephone meeting with them, etc.  Let us know if we can be of help! 

Our members will gladly join you in attending a meeting with any legislator, if you would feel more comfortable.  As mentioned, we have already met with members of Congress in our areas, some in person and some via zoom.  If you would like a sample letter to your legislator(s), you can find one on this blog site, under the tab “What You Can Do”.   You may find it very useful to read our other blogs as well.

Please let us know, via our email,  if you have contacted your legislators so that we are aware of who has been contacted and who has not.  We are also providing a link so you may see who your area legislators are.  

One other request.  If you would like to join our group, please let us know!!!   We meet via zoom, and would love your input and help.  Any questions?  Don’t hesitate to write.  Thank you so much! 




Schools Need a Curriculum Adjustment

It’s way past time we have serious discussions on mental health in our schools.  Although important strides have been made, they are not enough.  Our education system is not truly educating our children on mental health conditions.  Bills have been passed, and programs have been added.  These include teacher trainings on mental health, supplemental social and emotional learning for students, extra mental health specialists to support students, and in a few high schools, peer centered support groups.  It’s not enough.

You might think this sounds great and wonder why it isn’t enough.  The reason is that although these are great first steps, none of them truly educate our students on mental health conditions.  We educate our students in physical health through required PE and health classes.  Physical education is deemed important enough to have state standards and required classes beginning in kindergarten and going into high school.  Yet, mental health isn’t treated in the same way.  With the exception of only a couple of states, there are no mental health standards built into the curriculum for students K-12.  This is shameful.

There is still much stigma associated with mental health conditions and suicide.  In order to truly combat the stigma, mental health education needs to begin early in elementary school so we can target conditions and treat them more effectively before they advance to a dangerous level.  According to the American Psychiatric Association, 50% of mental illness begins by 14 years of age and 75% by age 24.  (Per Johns Hopkins Medicine, approximately 26% of people aged 18 and older live with a mental health condition in a given year.)  This means that we need to begin early, with our children.  

We realize how hard educators work. They don’t need any extra duties.  We also realize social, emotional learning  is being added to school programs.  However, what it looks like from one district to the next, one state to the next, is vague and inconsistent.  Project AWARE is a step in the right direction, but it’s not enough on its own. 

What we need is a curriculum adjustment – not only another teacher training or an add-on for students, but a standards-based curriculum adjustment. This is so our children can learn about mental health conditions, just like they learn about physical health conditions.  Mental health standards need to be part of state educational standards.  Mental health lessons need to be taught throughout the year, each year to our students.

There needs to be consistent, age appropriate, discussions on a continual basis built into the curriculum.  This can be done through whatever subject is deemed appropriate, with minimal time allotted on a weekly basis.  

In high school, there needs to be a required class to be taken each year. This class could be for a half credit to go toward graduation. In this way, students could earn their units for graduation and not affect the school’s graduation rate.

The reason for providing continuity in mental health education from kindergarten through high school is to normalize mental health, just like we do with physical health.

Discussion on self-harm and suicide, should be a part of the instruction from late elementary school on up. Of course, as in all of the curriculum, this would need to be age appropriate.

Normalizing mental health conditions and suicidal ideation would remove the stigma attached to them. Physical health conditions are normalized.  Mental health conditions should be normalized as well. 

Many children and adolescents are hiding the fact that they have anxiety and depression.  No one has helped them to truly understand that they are not alone.  In fact, a large number of children and teens live with these feelings.  Because they don’t know that many others suffer from anxiety and depression, they don’t reach out for help.  They are ashamed and afraid of what their classmates might have to say about them if they admit to having these feelings.  So, they stay silent.  They don’t feel normal.

We must remove the stigma.  Stigma only leads to silence.  Silence leads to despair. And despair leads to very unhappy and unproductive lives, as well as serious risk of self-harm and suicide.

Mental Health Moonshot Initiative

48,344 people died by suicide in the United States in 2018, according to the CDC.  

Of those individuals, many had a diagnosable mental health condition at the time of their death.

The daily average?  132 Americans died by suicide every day, with 119 having a diagnosable mental health condition at the time of their death.

Looking at NIH data from 2008, when they began publicizing this data, funding for mental health conditions and suicide is far lower than that of other illnesses. Comparatively speaking, we are nowhere near the funding in areas such as cancer, heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes, and many other diseases that are deemed ’physical’. This is inexcusable.

According to NIMH/NIH data gathered in 2021, Suicide was the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 34, only followed by accidental death. It is the fourth leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 35 and 44.  It is believed that suicide is under-reported due to the stigma associated with it, which means that many of the accidental deaths are undoubtedly deaths by suicide.

With this in mind, why are mental health conditions not treated as important as other conditions?  We fund research to tackle things like asthma, allergies, diabetes, etc. in early childhood.  However, for the quarter of our population suffering from a mental health condition, we do extremely little.  

I just read a post from a parent whose adult son passed away due to suicide.  She’s a member of an online support group for those who have lost loved ones to suicide.  

(Note – There are over 20,000 registered members in this support group, not to mention those non-members who visit each day as a way to search for help and support.)

Below, is a partial post from the bereaved mother discussing our current state of mental health care:

“He was just 25. When someone goes through chemo, they want to know that you have someone to help you at home. I wish it was the same for mental illness.”

Unfortunately, this is one out of thousands and thousands of mothers who are struggling with the loss of their dear child, a child they love more than anything in the world.  No matter how many children a mother has, the loss of one of her children, is the entire world. These mothers, plus fathers, sisters, brothers, spouses, and friends’ lives have been forever changed.  So many are effected by one suicide. It’s astounding, the grief and despair that loved ones have.  They are catapulted into a life of constant questioning, doubt, and guilt.  

Our question – Why does this happen when we may be able to find cures and effective treatments for mental health conditions, more accurately termed as brain diseases? Right now, our medical community is throwing darts at a dartboard to see if a medication, or a cocktail of medications, will hit the mark.  If this doesn’t work, okay, we’ll throw some more darts at the target and see if they land a little closer to the bulls eye!  This is archaic, and flat out wrong.

So, what can we do now???

We need to have a Mental Health Moonshot Initiative, just like we did with cancer research.  That’s made a huge difference for those with cancer, and it could do the same for those suffering from a mental health condition.

In addition, we need a congressional bill with a line item that is specifically to fund for research into the biological causes of mental health conditions so we can find cures and proper treatments.  So many of our loved ones have passed away by suicide due to having a brain disease (mental health condition). And many others are struggling. Remember that in one year, 43,510 people lost their lives due to diagnosable mental illness. Where was the public outcry then? Where is it now?

You can help. Please contact your legislators and be heard.  Our “Science Behind Suicide and Mental Health Conditions” group has now reached out and met with several of our legislators. We are continuing to reach out, but we need each of you to do the same.  Please help us fight for all of our loved ones.

What is the real cost of prevention?


Some economists say that prevention isn’t cost effective. However there are actually three types of prevention a nuance that most policy makers and economists miss.

  1. Primary prevention- preventing a disease or problem in the first place.
  2. Secondary prevention – has to do with preventing progression or impact of an existing disease.
  3. Tertiary prevention is softening the impact a disease may have on a person’s life.

Research is now showing that many who suffer from mental illness have a genetic predisposition to certain conditions such as bipolar, depression, anxiety and a increased risk for suicidal thoughts.

So there is some evidence from new studies that is finding isolated genes that are responsible for such conditions. What if we could find out with a simple blood test ? We could know from early on and utilize all 3 prevention types to reduce our potential risks.

Current treatment for mental health is difficult and climbing an uphill battle. Many find out they or their loved one suffers from mental illness when it’s already at a pretty advanced level. What if we could know in infancy or childhood? Think of the difference that would make. Just like if diabetes runs in your family you teach your offspring ways to minimize their risk factors.

We can do the same for mental illness.

Here are the statistics

There is one death by suicide in the US every 11 minutes (CDC)

There is one completed suicide for every estimated suicide attempt (CDC)

Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in the world for those aged 15- 24 years old.(CDC)

Suicide is the 4 th leading cause of death for adults 18-65. (CDC)

The financial toll on society is also costly. Suicide and Suicide attempts cost the nation over 70 billion per year in lifetime medical and work loss costs alone.(CDC)

The average costs of out of pocket expenses is 287 a month per person.

IN 2019 12 MILLION ADULTS AGED 18 and older reported having serious thoughts of suicide, and 3.5 million adults made suicide plans, 1.2 million adults made plans and attempted suicide, 217,000 adults made no plans and attempted suicide (NIMH)

So now let talk about not just the person suffering from mental health but everyone else around them.

“SUICIDE is like a pebble in a pond. The waves ripple outward. The reach of the pebble’s waves is much greater than the size of the pebble itself.”

Ultimately, in the way that a pond is changed because of a pebble, an entire community can be changed by a suicide. ” According to a 2016 study it is estimated that 115 people are exposed to a single suicide, with one in five reporting that this experience had a devastating impact or caused a major life disruption. “

Many people are afraid to talk about suicide because of stigma, but stigma only leads to silence. Silence about suicide DOES NOT contain the ripple effects.

Preventing mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders among young people is one of the soundest investments a society could make. Benefits include higher productivity, lower treatment costs, less suffering and premature mortality and more cohesive families and of course happier, better adjusted, more successful young people. Given the evidence that these actions can be taken to achieve these benefits, the case for action is compelling.

Cost – benefit analysis and cost effectiveness analysis are two methods used to assess whether an intervention is desirable from an economic standpoint.

” Prevention, by definition, is undertaken to avoid harmful out comes. MEB ( mental, emotional and behavioral) disorders among young people account for considerable costs to healthcare, child welfare, education, juvenile justice, and criminal justice systems, as well as enormous additional costs in terms of the suffering of individuals, families and others affected.” ( NCBI)

“These health consequences represent an enormous burden during childhood and are also correlated with significantly increased risks to health and reduced productivity in adulthood. Mental disorders lead to lost productivity and functioning not 9nly for the children, but also for the parents and caregivers.” ( NCBI)

The stress and unpredictability of having a child with a serious MEB can interfere with parents work lives, or a disruptive child in a classroom can interfere with other students learning. There may also be significant costs to the work or educational productivity of siblings.

In closing it is important to note that the significant society benefits of preventing mental, emotional and behavioral problems among young people may warrant intervention even when there is no specific cost effectiveness data available, particularly if there is evidence that an effective intervention is available.


So what are we waiting for?



Blood Tests for Depression and Bipolar Disorder

The following research was supported by the National Institutes of Health. Far more funding is needed in the areas of mental health conditions and suicide.

A new blood test can distinguish the severity of a person’s depression and their risk for developing severe depression at a later point. The test can also determine if a person is at risk for developing bipolar disorder. Researchers say the blood test can also assist in tailoring individual options for therapeutic interventions.

At this point in time, our psychiatric experts diagnose and treat mental illnesses by trial and error.  It’s like throwing meds at a person until you see which one makes the mark.  (a dart board, so to speak)

No fault to the psychiatrists. This is all they have to go on at this time.

However, a breakthrough study led by Indiana University School of Medicine researchers sheds new light onto the biological basis of mood disorders, and offers a promising blood test aimed at a medical approach to treatment.  This work builds on previous research into blood biomarkers that track suicidality as well as pain, post-traumatic stress disorder and Alzheimer’s disease.

The team’s work describes the development of a blood test, composed of RNA biomarkers, that can distinguish how severe a patient’s depression is, the risk of them developing severe depression in the future, and the risk of future bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness). The test also describes specific and tailored medication choices for patients.  This is great news.

This is a comprehensive study over a four-year period of time.  From these studies?

Blood biomarkers are emerging as important tools in identifying disorders where, in the past, we have only had subjective self-reporting or reporting from health care professionals. Those subjective reports are not reliable.  Blood tests are.

“Blood biomarkers offer real-world clinical practice advantages. The brain cannot be easily biopsied in live individuals, so we’ve worked hard over the years to identify blood biomarkers for neuropsychiatric disorders,” says Alexander B. Niculescu, MD, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry at IU School of Medicine.

Niculescu also noted that mood disorders are underlined by circadian clock genes–the genes that regulate seasonal, day-night and sleep-wake cycles.  That explains why some patients get worse with “seasonal changes, and the sleep alterations that occur in mood disorders.”

A Blood Test For Depression and Bipolar Disorder

Language and Stigma

Have you ever thought about the words used in everyday life that encourage stigma? Have you noticed how media sometimes perpetuates this? Think of some popular TV shows, especially situation comedies, and I’m sure you’ll be able to come up with a few examples. Think of phrases like, “What a psycho!”, or “She must be having one of her (eye-roll) schizo moments”, followed by a laugh track. If you really deal with psychosis or schizophrenia, would you ever want anyone to know it, or would you try to hide it? Remember, your condition is followed by a laugh track.

Or think of the misuse of terms such as OCD and anorexia. Being neat and clean is not the same thing as having a real obsessive-compulsive disorder, yet we hear phrases like “My friend is sooo OCD, I’m afraid to walk into his house. I might track in a piece of dirt!” Regarding anorexia, every thin person doesn’t live with anorexia nervosa, yet we hear such things as, “She’s so anorexic!” in reference to a genuinely slender girl with no eating disorder at all. This misuse of terms makes light of the people who are living with real conditions that effect their everyday lives.

Sometimes people reference suicide. They might say, “I was so embarrassed, I thought I would kill myself!” This is extremely insensitive to all those living with real suicidal ideation and to the families of those whose loved one has passed away due to suicide. Yet, we still hear it.

Another term that is sometimes used to describe that a person has died by suicide is ‘committed’. This outdated term that a person ‘commits’ suicide insinuates that the person has committed a crime. This is not the case, yet many still use this term. The correct terminology is ‘died by suicide’.

We now know that suicide is the outcome of a complex set of factors reflected in the neurobiology of a suicidal person. The current data shows that mental disorders are present in over 90 percent of suicides in Western society, and many of these disorders are associated with biological changes. In addition, many other factors correlated with suicidality have well-described biological aspects. These include predisposing personality traits such as aggression and impulsivity, effects of acute and chronic stress, impact of trauma, gender, substance or alcohol abuse, and age.

From this information, there is no question that the language is way overdue for a change. I know of some individuals who say, ‘died by suicide’ due to anxiety and depression. This would seem to be the case for many who have died by suicide.

Not only can correct language reduce stigma, but it has the potential to save lives. Remember what I mentioned about hiding a mental health condition? This is due to shaming and stigma. If the stigma is lifted, many will seek help who would not have otherwise. Many lives can be saved by simply changing the language we use, day in and day out.