I write this commentary in response to the recent comment published in National Review from Dr. E. Fuller Torrey. This response is from the National Association of County Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability Directors (NACBHDD), the National Association for Rural Mental Health (NARMH), and from me personally.
As my former colleague at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Dr. Torrey knows that we have been searching for effective interventions and solutions to the problem of serious mental illness for more than six decades. Work in this area extends from NIMH, to the other Institutes in the National Institutes of Health, to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and even to the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
I am exceptionally pleased to report that significant progress is being made:
Bringing Life: My own research shows that persons with serious mental illness are much more likely to have chronic physical illnesses than other people. Tragically, this research also shows that they die 25 years earlier than others as a result of these chronic illnesses, such as heart disease and diabetes. Wellness initiatives are an exceptionally important effort to confront this issue head-on. Persons with serious mental illness do not want to die in their early 50s; hence, they have embraced wellness efforts with great enthusiasm. National Wellness Week is intended to promote broad national efforts to confront these life threatening diseases. Current national initiatives under the Affordable Care Act to integrate mental health, substance use, and primary care services are another dimension of this ongoing work.
It also is very important to point out that such wellness initiatives are not restricted to the mental health field or to SAMHSA. The US Department of Health and Human Services and CDC endorse and promote wellness efforts. Further, many corporations have undertaken wellness initiatives for their employees and family members. Finally, many individuals engage in wellness activities every day, including running, yoga, and other exercises.
Bringing Recovery: As Dr. Torrey knows, we did not use the word "recovery" in the mental health field until almost the year 2000. Now, people with schizophrenia and other types of serious mental illness understand that they can engage in an ongoing process of recovery to regain a full life in the community. This is new, very new, and it is exceptionally important. In part, it results from our new understanding that the majority of mental illnesses are due to personal trauma rather than brain disease. SAMHSA has played a very significant role in developing the tools of trauma informed care and recovery. In my own work with the counties, I see the positive effects of this work every day among those with serious mental illness who have been able to regain their lives as productive citizens in the community.