Chapter 2 First Impression

There were many choices of TED Talks to watch. I decided to watch the one titled, Toward a New Understanding of Mental Illness by Thomas Insel. This one really stuck out to me because I personally struggle with mental illness and it is a very important topic to me.

In the beginning, Thomas Insel starts with what he calls the “good news.” He compares how Leukemia, Heart Disease, AIDS, and Stroke cases have significantly decreased from between 1965-1995 and 2009-2012. The most important thing that has lead to the decreased in mortality with these cases is being able to detect it early and intervene early. Insel states, “Early detection, early intervention, that’s the story of these successes.”

On the not-so-good-news side, suicide cases have not changed in the same time span. Today, there are about 38,000 suicides per year in America. This is equal to about one person committing suicide every 15 minutes. Suicide is the third most common death of people between the ages of 15-25, twice as common as homicide, and more common than traffic deaths.

Insel talks about how there is a medical factor that affects the rate of suicide: mental illness. He displays a graph that shows that roughly 30% of all disability from medical causes can be attributed to mental disorders. Now people may argue that cancer or heart disease seems more serious than mental disorders, however, they are further down the list because of the amount of disability they cause.

There are 3 reasons that Insel gives that explain why mental illnesses are more debilitating than cancer or heart disease:

  1. Common: About 1 in 5 will suffer from a mental disorder.
  2. Disabling: About 1 in 20 people will become disabled from a mental disorder.
  3. Early Onset: About 50% will have a mental disorder by age 14, and 75% will by age 24.

No matter how you think about mental illnesses or suicide, whether it’s the brain, the neurons, or the synapses, we are just beginning to truly understand the “epidemic” that is suicide.


2 thoughts on “Chapter 2 First Impression

  1. Liv,

    Mental health is an extremely important topic especially since it can be both so personal and widespread in who it affects. I liked how you juxtaposed physical illnesses to mental illnesses especially your emphasis on the side effects of mental illness. The seriousness of mental illness is not always understood so I applaud your recognition of the severity of mental illness. With psychology, there are many different approaches to treat mental illness, as we learned in chapter 1. Counseling psychologists, clinical psychologists, and psychiatrists all help to manage, treat and support those with mental illness. The main difference between these roles is that clinical psychologists focus on treating those with recognized mental illnesses whereas counseling psychologists treat clients with lifestyle based issues. Psychiatrists are like clinical psychologist but they can prescribe drugs. It is important to highlight the suicide epidemic and that there are people who are trained and willing to help those suffering.

    The statistics you included really aid in putting the suicide epidemic in perspective especially when you write, “suicide is the third most common death of people between the ages of 15-25, twice as common as homicide, and more common than traffic deaths.” It’s important also, to note that suicide can be analyzed using the psychological and socio-cultural lens, as suicide has a broad effect, not only does it effect the immediate family but the larger community and culture too.

    Often times I find that people fail to think of the brain as any other organ able to contract an illness; there’s a popular analogy used that goes, “you would take medicine and action to treat a physical illness, say diabetes. Why is taking medicine or getting medical treatment for your brain any different?” I thought about this analogy while reading your list about your comparison of heart disease and suicide. While I still think that heart disease and suicide are equally important, I understand the emphasis and awareness you are bringing to the suicide epidemic. Great job!

    – Rachel


  2. Liv,

    I think you did a really great job with summarizing this talk. I struggle with mental illness as well, so it is also a very important topic for me. The epidemic of suicide is prevalent throughout the world, as studies show. The suicide rates clearly have not been decreasing. As Rachel mentioned, there are several ways to aid in treating mental illness. There are many psychologists that have spent all of their time researching these illnesses and clinical psychologists are there to focus on treating those illnesses. Although, I am curious to see what research you would have conducted based on the statistics that were presented. I think that I would examine the epidemic on a cognitive level. I would do a random selection of patients with mental illness and interview them. I would see how many times each patient had thought of suicide in a week and try to talk about the memories that they have that could cause them to want to commit suicide. I would gather all of that data and find the best approach to therapy. I tend to lead toward talk therapy because it works for me, but every individual has something that works better for them. With therapy, assessing by individual would be best. Did you think that the speaker was trustworthy? Overall I think you did a great job with this summary. It was great to read and very detailed!


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