RESEARCH WEEKLY: May Research Roundup

Research Roundup is a monthly public service of the Office of Research and Public Affairs. Each edition describes a striking new data point about severe mental illness and summarizes recently published research reports or developments.

DATAPOINT of the month

96% reduction in NIMH support of drug treatment trials for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder 

While the National Institute of Mental Health’s (NIMH) budget increased by 35% since 2015, its support of drug treatment trials for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder decreased by 96%, according to a new report by Treatment Advocacy Center Founder Dr. E. Fuller Torrey. Between 2006 and 2010, the NIMH funded 48 trials of new drugs to treat severe mental illness, but now is only funding two. “Given the fact that the last new psychiatric drug for psychosis was clozapine, which was approved 30 years ago, the time is long past due when the NIMH should undertake an aggressive search for better drugs,” Torrey states.

RESEARCH of the month  

Increased cases of psychosis predicted due to COVID-19

New cases of psychosis may increase because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new research . The study authors conducted a meta-analysis, combining the results of fourteen published studies on past viral epidemics and pandemics, including SARS, Ebola, MERS, 2009-2010 H1N1 and other coronaviruses. Seven of these papers found new cases of psychosis linked to patients being infected with a virus. Another two found new cases of psychosis linked to those not infected by a virus but living in an area where the virus was prevalent in the community.

Other studies found individuals with psychosis had more problems adhering to protective measures for epidemics, like wearing a mask. Additionally, two studies found that psychiatric services were impacted by the presence of a virus outbreak. Admissions to the hospital for psychosis, length of hospitalization and outpatient appointment attendance all decreased. 

Approximately one-fifth of individuals in jail screened positive for serious mental illness

A survey of eight county jails across Michigan found that 20% of individuals screened positive for a serious mental illness at the time of their booking. Similarly, jail staff identified 22% of individuals as needing mental health services. The total number of unique individuals flagged as having a mental health concern was 32%, identified by either the mental health screening at booking or by jail staff.

Some of the jails studied had wide disparities between the individuals identified as having a mental health concern and those who were referred for jail mental health services. Overall, one-third of inmates referred for treatment did not end up receiving it, primarily due to lack of treatment resources in the jails. 

Counties also had major differences in their ability to identify and treat mental illness in jails, implying that individuals with serious mental illness in jail face a wide range of possibilities regarding mental health treatment, depending purely on where they are arrested.

Neighborhoods with less residential stability result in fewer outpatient mental health service uses

The level of stability within neighborhoods is significantly associated with fewer visits to mental health services, according to new research . Neighborhood residential mobility, a factor in stability, was defined as residents who moved homes in the past year combined with the number of renters in a neighborhood. Additionally, male gender, old age, unemployment and low education were also associated with fewer mental health service visits. 

This study highlights how it is important for clinicians to recognize a patient’s social circumstances when scheduling follow-up appointments and checking in. Furthermore, knowing that disadvantaged people are more likely to live in neighborhoods with high mobility, the study adds to the body of research showing mental health service disparities by income, education and other factors.

Kelli South
Research Assistant
Treatment Advocacy Center
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Research Weekly is a summary published as a public service of the Treatment Advocacy Center and does not necessarily reflect the findings or positions of the organization or its staff. Full access to research summarized may require a fee or paid subscription to the publications.  

The Treatment Advocacy Center does not solicit or accept funds from pharmaceutical companies.