May is National Mental Health Month, and in recognition we at iSpecimen thought it important to shed light onto the importance of personalized medicine in mental health. More prevalent than many know, and often harder to detect as most mental conditions cannot be “seen”, mental illness affects 50% of the U.S. population – and that is only directly. Add the family members and friends who experience the hardships of their loved ones, and that number becomes much higher.

The infographic above provides important statistics about mental health conditions, their associated costs, and some difficulties with regard to diagnosis and treatment. Personalized medicine – a model that focuses on treating each patient individually, based on their own specific make-up – often genetic – has shown great promise in the medical field. In the area of oncology in particular, great strides have been made in identifying how cancer affects people differently, and how their body compositions may prime them to be more receptive or immune to treatments.

As we take time to spread awareness this month on mental health and its widespread impact, we highlight some recent headway that has been made in bringing personalized medicine to the mental health field. Mental illness, just like physical disease, does not always present in the same way and can be difficult to diagnose. Further, therapies that work for one person may not work for another. Case in point – SSRI anti-depressants are actually ineffective for about 38% of the population. Regarding misdiagnosis, patients with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are actually incorrectly diagnosed about 69% of the time upon initial examination. Personalized medicine holds promise in helping identify biomarkers for earlier and more accurate diagnosis, as well as for tailoring treatments to patients who may respond better to one over another.

While mental illness continues to be pervasive, it is clear that it is just as ripe as physical illness for a targeted, individualized approach to understanding it. The research achievements we’ve called out are only some of the recent breakthroughs that have been made, and we are hopeful that discovery will continue in how to diagnose, address, and treat the many mental illnesses that affect so many among us.