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?