I chose to watch Thomas Insel’s TED Talk “Towards A New Understanding of Mental Illness” because I’ve been learning about mental illness in my Music Therapy classes and I find the topic very interesting. In this talk , Insel illustrates the serious effects mental illnesses have on the brain, and how they compare to other physical illnesses. He presented a lot of data on the advancements made in lowering mortality rates when it comes to physical diseases such as AIDS, Leukemia, strokes, and heart attacks, and explained that the reason death rates were going down were because of early intervention. He then compared this data to suicide rates due to mental illness, and there has been almost no progress. This is because mental illness is seen now as behavioral illness, which is treated only after behavioral symptoms are shown. Mental illnesses like PTSD, depression, OCD, and anxiety disorders are caused by the way the brain is wired, and it’s behavioral effects only are shown after a large amount of brain tissue is affected. To only give treatment after that has happened is to deny early intervention. Insel utilized a lot or research and brain scans showing the deteriorating brain tissue, and for this reason I think his information is trustworthy. He also works for the federal government trying to make advances in combating mental illness so I think he was optimistically honest.
The thing I found most interesting about this talk was the way he kept explaining treatment for mental illness by comparing it to how it would be treated if it had been a physical illness. This seems to make people understand it better, and it reminded me of something we talked about in my Music Therapy class. My professor once said to us, “you’d never tell someone to just ‘get over’ a heart attack. You’d never tell someone ‘just smile and you’ll feel better.’’ Which is true, but yet it’s still said to people with mental illnesses. Society takes physical illnesses a lot more seriously than mental ones, despite mental illness being just as deadly.
I think a way to research the effect of early intervention would be to track the progression of a disease such as Schizophrenia in groups who begin treatment for the disease at different times. There would be a group who begin treatment at age five, then other groups who begin at age ten, fifteen, twenty (when behavioral symptoms are displayed), and twenty five. This would be a long term experiment which would end with seeing how advanced the sample’s Schizophrenia becomes at age forty by doing brain scans for affected brain tissue.