(Originally published on JNJ.com)
Facing Down a Mental Health Epidemic
Worldwide, an estimated 1 billion people suffer from anxiety, 300 million people are touched by depression, 60 million suffer from bipolar affective disorder, about 21 million are affected by schizophrenia or other severe psychoses and nearly 50 million people have dementia. By 2050, the dementia figure alone is expected to grow to 152 million, representing a 204% increase.
Meanwhile, such challenges as lack of resources and trained healthcare providers, inaccurate assessment and social stigma compound the inability to address the mental health epidemic effectively.
While this urgent need is escalating, the science around mental health and brain diseases remains complex, and public and private funding for this research does not match the need nor the investment in other disease areas.
Despite advances in neuroscience and increased understanding of the brain and brain disorders, the current growing prevalence of mental illness—particularly in young people—and Alzheimer’s, as well as gaps in research and care, have the potential to create a global crisis.
But there is a solution: disruptive innovation and international, open collaboration.
Science and technology offer us unprecedented opportunities in these areas. To take advantage of them, we in academia, biotech, government, regulatory, patient groups and civic society must all work together to solve some key challenges.
First is the need for an integrated research approach combining disease risk assessment, early diagnosis and disease interception with supportive treatment interventions.
Second, we need strong public-private partnerships to spur progress in such areas as better detecting at-risk individuals, and harnessing “big data” and real-world evidence to develop more innovative approaches to clinical trial design, drug development and novel regulatory pathways in the brain.
Finally, we must continue exploring innovative financing mechanisms to trigger investment. With a global funding mechanism, we can work collaboratively—across borders and disciplines—to develop a platform and comprehensive approach to reduce the time, cost and risk of developing and evaluating treatments.
We have an enormous opportunity to harness the advances that today’s science and technology offer to bring forward game-changing innovation in mental health prevention, treatment and care.
Johnson & Johnson is committed to focusing the world’s attention on this critical need, and working together with others to revolutionize the way we think about, study and approach the development of solutions so that we can change the trajectory of mental illness around the world.