Mental disorders bring untold pain to millions of people and their families, and exert a huge financial burden to society. Without adequate treatments, people with mental illness may suffer symptoms most people could not imagine—crippling anxiety, hallucinations and delusions, or depression that can be so severe suicide seems like a better alternative. We know that these are brain disorders, but they receive much less research funding than other illnesses.
We are "brothers" from different generations—Robin Cunningham and Hakon Heimer. We started this petition from our shared desire to see effective, safe treatments for everyone with mental illness.
Robin: I have had schizophrenia since I was 14 years old. With effective medication and cognitive therapy, I have been able to have a full life, with a family and a career, first at the highest corporate levels and later as an entrepreneur. But it hasn’t been easy—the drugs have really unpleasant side effects, and I’ve had to switch medications over the years several times because they stopped working, interacted with other medicines, or were taken off the market.
Hakon: My younger brother began hearing voices when he was 16, and shortly after was diagnosed with schizophrenia. After 10 years of hospitalizations, he found a drug that gave him relief from voices and other symptoms like delusions. But unlike Robin, he has symptoms that are even more debilitating—loss of mental abilities and motivation—which are not healed by current treatments. He did not finish high school, has not held a job, and has never had real friends or romance.
We need to know more about this illness, just as we need to understand autism and mood and anxiety disorders. Better understanding will help us find treatments that are much more effective. The mental illnesses have a burden about equal to the cancers, yet we spend only about a third of what we spend researching cancer on mental illness research. Even AIDS, which has been reduced to a manageable chronic illness thanks to effective treatments, has more funding. If we attacked mental illnesses with the same vigor and resources as AIDS, we can reduce enormous suffering.
Please join us as we call on the President and Congress of the United States to ensure that mental illnesses get the research attention they deserve. With adequate resources, scientists will be able to find better treatments and maybe even cures for mental illness.