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Education about Brain Disorders Benefits Us All

Editor’s Note: Emmy-award winning journalist Vicki Mabrey is the host of Healthy Minds, a new digital news program about brain health from Janssen Research & Development, LLC, a Johnson & Johnson Company.
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Recently, it was my pleasure to learn more about the brain and disorders of the brain when I interviewed Janssen’s Global Therapeutic Area Head for Neuroscience, Dr. Husseini Manji. Dr. Manji shared his knowledge with me for the new Healthy Minds video series, which is launching this week on the Johnson & Johnson You Tube channel. It will cover general brain health, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia. Working on the Healthy Minds series helped me to better understand the complexities of the brain and gain insights into diseases we hear about every day because our mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, and neighbors are suffering from them.

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Throughout the world, about 450 million people suffer from a brain disorder, and in the US about one in four adults suffer from a diagnosable mental illness. That calculates to almost 60 million people. Despite the prevalence and impact of these illnesses, nearly 60 percent of those affected do not consult medical professionals for treatment. Much of the hesitancy to seek help is a result of longstanding societal stigma and outdated perceptions.

In 2010, brain disorders were estimated to cost society $2.5 trillion dollars and that amount is projected to more than double by 2030. The key to reducing the pain and suffering of brain disorders and the burden of their costs to society is to increase public awareness that brain disorders are treatable. Significant credit must be given to mental health advocacy organizations, which have played a major role in mobilizing awareness campaigns and combating stigma, although so much more needs to be done.

The series will help viewers become better informed about brain disorders and how to get help. I think it will also get people to think about the stigma associated with these conditions. Why do we have stigma about brain disorders? Perhaps out of fear? Or because these illnesses can affect behavior and create “us” versus “them” dynamics?

It’s important for everyone to understand that mental illness is biologically based, just like diabetes or high blood pressure, and there should be no shame. As a society we need to work on the pervasiveness of stigma so perhaps one day it will not exist at all.

By furthering the dialogue around these disorders, Janssen is working to improve understanding, encourage people affected to seek treatment, and contribute to a society where brain illness is approached no differently than any other illness. I’m delighted to be able to help share information and encourage people to seek care and support. I hope that the conversations captured in the video series spark more dialogue and action for awareness, treatment and recovery.

Vicki Mabrey is a career journalist with nearly 30 years in the field of broadcast news. Seven of those years were spent as a correspondent for the ABC News award-winning program, “Nightline.” She joined ABC News in 2005 after a 13-year career with CBS News, where she worked as a correspondent for “60 Minutes II”, as well as being a network bureau reporter in both Dallas and London. She started her career as a trainee in the AFTRA Reporter Training Program at WUSA-TV in Washington, D.C., and honed her skills with nine years of local reporting at WBAL-TV in Baltimore. On the national level, Mabrey received four Emmy Awards during her career, including two for coverage of the death of Princess Diana. A native of St. Louis, Vicki graduated cum laude from Howard University in Washington, D.C. in 1977 with a B.A. in Political Science.

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