Mental Health Awareness Month: Highlighting the Hope and Promise of Mental Health Clinical Research

Mental Health Awareness Month: Highlighting the Hope and Promise of Mental Health Clinical Research

Mental illnesses are some of the most common medical conditions, affecting more than 57 million Americans. To put those numbers into perspective, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes:

  • 1 in 5 Americans will experience a mental illness in a given year.
  • 1 in 5 children, either currently, or at some point in their life, have had a seriously debilitating mental illness.
  • More than 50% of people will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder during their lifetime.

These statistics provide a timely reminder that mental illness is prevalent and that the need for mental health awareness and related clinical research is crucial.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Mental Health America (formerly the National Association for Mental Health) observed the first Mental Health Awareness Month in May 1949.

The mission? To provide “a timely reminder that mental health is essential and that those living with mental health issues are deserving of care, understanding, compassion, and pathways to hope, healing, recovery, and fulfillment.”

This heightened awareness on mental health and focus on healing and recovery has gone a long way toward eliminating stigma. Over the last few decades, mental illness has gone from a somewhat taboo topic to something that’s openly discussed in popular culture.

Consider that 87% of American adults now say having a mental health disorder is nothing to be ashamed of. That’s great news. But less stigma doesn’t necessarily equate to less mental illness.

The Pandemic Accelerant: COVID-19 and Its Impact on Mental Health

Some of the most surprising effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are just now coming to light.  

There’s been much coverage on the virus’s physical effects, (such as long COVID) but its impacts on psychological health are just as great.

Since 2020, rates of mental illness have increased dramatically. For example, anxiety and major depressive disorders have risen by 26% and 28% respectively, a jump attributed to various pandemic-related factors, including:

  • Stress
  • Social isolation
  • Fear of infection
  • Fear of suffering and death for oneself and for loved ones
  • Loneliness
  • Financial worries
  • Grief after bereavement

Societal factors, such as the rise of social media, the 24/7 news cycle, and increasingly polarized political discourse have helped exacerbate the situation.

Taking all these things into account, it’s no wonder so many people with poor mental health are demanding better treatments. 

Newly discovered pharmaceuticals and therapeutics can relieve some of the burden caused by serious mental illness, just as they have in many other clinical areas. And, fortunately, for those suffering, progress is already being made. 

Hope for Mental Illness: Biopharma Making Tremendous Strides

A report published by PhRMA in January 2023, highlighted 163 new medicines in development for the treatment of common mental illnesses. The pipeline covers a wide range of behavioral disorders, including:

  • 54 for depression
  • 35 for schizophrenia
  • 35 for anxiety disorders
  • 33 for substance use disorders
  • 13 for bipolar disorder

This focus on mental health drug development promises exciting new growth and the proof is in the numbers. In 2020, the global mental health disorder drugs market was valued at $36.77 billion. It’s projected to reach a market value of $58.91 billion by 2031; a nearly 40% increase over the course of a decade. 

Clinical Research and Development: Essential to Treating Mental Illness and Reducing Its Stigma

As we previously mentioned, Industry experts predict great things for the North American mental illness clinical trial market. This optimism can be attributed to several factors, including:

  • Investments in research and development
  • Favorable government support
  • Adoption of new clinical trial technologies

With so many stakeholders committed to addressing mental illness and researching and developing medicines to improve the mental health of millions, the future looks bright.

The drugs and therapeutics in development today represent the industry’s commitment to new treatment options for mental illness and the diverse populations impacted by them.

At Harbor Clinical, we regularly partner with biopharmas to bring new drugs and therapeutics to market. Contact us today at (781) 775-0342 to learn more about how our functional service provision can speed up your development lifecycle.

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