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World Mental Health Day

World Mental Health Day (October 10) is an international day for global mental health education, awareness, and advocacy. It aims to raise awareness of mental health issues impacting people all around the world and to mobilize efforts in support of mental health.

In the United States, mental illnesses are among the most common health conditions. In a given year, approximately 1 in 5 Americans will experience a mental illness. Moreover, 1 in 25 Americans lives with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression. The COVID-19 pandemic has undeniably had a significant impact on mental health across the United States. According to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms of anxiety disorder and depressive disorder increased considerably during the summer of 2020 in comparison to that same timeframe in 2019.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a major impact on people’s mental health. Across the world, some groups have been particularly affected, including healthcare and other frontline workers, students, parents, people living alone, and those with pre-existing mental health conditions. The pandemic has also significantly disrupted regular services for individuals with mental, neurological, and substance use disorders.

The New York City Mayor’s Office of Community Mental Health has doubled down on efforts to provide a comprehensive framework for mental health support — “Mental Health for All” — to promote universal access to mental health care during COVID-19 recovery. They are particularly focused on addressing inequities in access to care faced by many New Yorkers due to their race, ethnicity, sex, insurance status, and the poverty level of the neighborhood in which they live, among other factors. In addition, multiple wellness resources, including counseling and emotional support hotlines, have been established at city, state, and federal levels to support those experiencing mental health issues, with a special focus on support through the pandemic.

In recognition of the unequal access of many individuals to mental health care, the World Federation for Mental Health, which first launched World Mental Health Day in 1992, has themed its campaign this year “Mental Health in an Unequal World”. The goal is to focus on the issues that perpetuate mental health inequality locally and globally, provide support for communities to play an active role in addressing inequality in their local areas, and to encourage researchers to share what they know about mental health inequality and to identify potential solutions.

In addition, the World Health Organization (WHO)’s campaign this year, “Mental health care for all: let’s make it a reality,” recognizes the work being done to make mental health care accessible and impactful worldwide, including WHO’s Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan, which received government endorsement at the World Health Assembly in May this year.

At the New York Genome Center (NYGC), we recognize the impact that recent local and world events may have had on our community members, including the ongoing strain of the pandemic and the toll of inequities faced by individuals based on their race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, physical ability, or faith. We encourage our community members facing mental health challenges to reach out for help and support. We also recognize the challenges faced by individuals living with serious mental illness.

The NYGC’s research program focused on understanding the genetic basis of neuropsychiatric and neurodevelopmental disease is helping to bring attention to mental health related conditions, including bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and autism spectrum disorder. One of the signature projects of the neuropsychiatric disease genomics program is the development of a patient-centric platform for Precision Psychiatry. The Genomic Medicine for Mental Health Advancement (GeMMA) initiative will be dedicated to providing patients with access to evidence-based mental health care and the integration of genetic and other biomarkers into prognosis, diagnosis, and clinical care. GeMMA’s initial target population are the historically underserved patients of the New York State mental health system who represent the full breadth and depth of diversity of New York State. The NYGC hosts regular Neuropsychiatric Disease Working Group Evening Lectures — check out our Events page for upcoming seminars.

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