I highly recommend attending this FREE public event on mental health if you live anywhere near one of the lecture locations: http://narsad.donordrive.com/index....ntGroupID=6263140E-0171-8415-FE9BCA2DC16E59F9 The talk I attended had three WONDERFUL speakers -- all three were well-known researchers in the fieldsof genetics and psychiatry. The first topic was on suicide's genetic, biological and psycho/social risk factors. Did you know that from the years 1900 - 2000 in the U.S. there were MORE suicides than homicides in the U.S.? That suicide is a huge public health threat and costs the U.S. $12 billion per year? Did you know that more military personnel committed suicide as a result of the Viet Nam war than were killed in combat? Thanks to the human genome project, researchers are closing in on the genetic factors that predispose certain people with mental illness like schizophrenia, bipolar, and depression to suicide, and they are identifying better what the risk and protective factors are. Some of the risk factors are: altered serotonin metabolism, dysregulated genes in the anterior cyngulate, and an imbalance in the cortisol/metallothionen feedback system. Lithium and clozpine are the only two medications proven to selectively lower suicidal behavior independent of effect on depressive symptoms, which strongly suggests there is a genetic component to suicidal behavior. They suggested that the black box label for antidepressant use in children is really not an issue at all with the medication, but rather a genetic issue in the few patients who have had adverse reactions. In an adult study, they found genetic commonalities in the adults who reported first-time suicidal ideation while taking citalopram (the number was small relative to the group studied, however, the fact that the ones who reported that side-effect had the same genetic markers is significant). Medicine already knows that people with certain genetic profiles cannot take certain medications. Lamictal and Tegretol are two drugs that cause Stevens Johnson syndrome, but the risk is highest only in people who have a specific geno-type (typically Asian descent). The FDA apparently prohibits the use of Tegretol in Asian patients unless they've had the blood test to determine if they actually have the genes that make that drug problematic to take. For whatever bureaucratic reason, Lamictal does not have the same strings attached. The point the researchers were getting to is that the technology to provide very personalized health care is here now, and the costs to use it are dropping dramatically as time goes by. Getting these tests accepted and put into practice is the next challenging step. How many of us have been on the medication merry-go-round, trying to find the magic combo for our selves or our kids while precious time is lost to instability of the illness? Can you imagine how much time and money, how much heartache people can save if their doctor can test their blood to know what medications will be most effective for their particular disease? The diagnosis process, however, is still challenging. The old-school method believed in one gene = one diagnosis. Doctors relied on observations, and there were no biomarkers available. Today, that is changing rapidly thanks to the human genome project and our understanding of how the brain works. And for mental illness, and many other debilitating diseases, that is very good news. Did you know that mental illness is among the top five causes of disability? And constitutes 20% of all disabilities worldwide? Here's the breakdown they gave: 1. unipolar depression 2. alcohol abuse 3. schizophrenia 4. iron deficiency anemia 5. bipolar And yet mental illness is given very little attention by comparison to other diseases. I urge everyone to read more on this topic and make their concerns known to their legislators and to their community. Advocate, advocate, advocate. It's the only hope we have of effecting change.