Giving a Voice to the Silence offers positive angles to the issue that faces those with mental illness. Living with Schizo-Affective Disorder and being able to share my experiences with others, is the best way I know how to pay it forward. Life can be difficult, my goal is to bring a bit of hope to a place where many feel there is none.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Blood Tests and Mental Illness

If a blood test could determine if you had a mental illness or the severity, would you take it?

It is becoming a reality; a simple blood test could diagnosis some mental illness. Researchers have found 10 genes that can be found in the blood and provide a way to assess a patient. Until now, diagnosis was dependent on the patient and doctor communicating and making a decision on the information collected. While it has worked, there has always been an issue of under diagnosis, or over diagnosis with too much or too little medication.

If a test can be used to monitor medication response and severity of the illness it is a major step in helping those who may feel depressed but find it difficult to vocalize their feelings. Having blood test results could help in “fleshing out,” the problem and providing the right treatment.

Currently, Bipolar Disorder can be determined in the bloodstream by identifying genes and boimarks. While they can help to determine severity, it is the hope that they can become a test to make the initial diagnosis. This is especially important since most Bipolar Patients see their doctor during a low point and in turn may be misdiagnosed as depressed and give anti-depressant, this can be dangerous as anti-depressants can trigger a dangerous manic episode. With the ability to monitor the patient with a blood test it can help in monitoring mood swings, especially when there is rapid cycling – something clinical criteria may not be able to catch completely.

The downside, as with most things when it comes to mental illness, is the acceptance of the testing and the need for it. Breaking the stigma is vital for the advancement in research. Even though mental illness can lead to suicide – which according to statistics is on the rise, there is resistance.

Does the resistance come because people may have to admit mental health issues? What would truly happen if we were open about mental health issues – I highly doubt life in general would change?
I actually find it quite comical that those who are most fearful of mental illness and hold true to the stigma may not even realize that the person the work with the most may have a mental illness. For the most part, you can't tell the difference between someone with and without a mental illness. So what would it hurt if a blood test was used to help those who do live with an illness?

In the end the patient knows how they feel and the doctor needs to make the choice – but a blood test can help with determining severity and find the right treatment.