The American Psychiatric Association (APA) is the main professional organization of psychiatrists and trainee psychiatrists in the United States, and the largest psychiatric organization in the world. With over 36,000 members involved in psychiatric practice, research, and academia representing the diversity of the patients for whom they care, APA encompasses members practicing in more than 100 countries. The association publishes a number of journals, as well as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). The DSM codifies psychiatric conditions and is used worldwide as a guide for diagnosing disorders.
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) adopted a new motto in 2015: “Medical leadership for mind, brain and body.”
“Our goal is to have our members become leaders in medical innovation for the benefit of their patients and the discipline of psychiatry through the 21st century and beyond,” said Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A, CEO and medical director of the APA.
For the APA, medical research is the cornerstone of that effort. The data APA obtains from its research projects informs everything the organization does, from educational programs to the myriad publications, including the DSM-5, it produces for both professional and lay audiences.
One area where medical research is particularly valuable to APA is in advocacy efforts with Congress. Recent factors, such as sequestration, have reduced the amount of funding available for basic medical research for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Fortunately, the December 2015 passage of the omnibus spending bill was a departure from that trend with a $2 billion increase in NIH funding, as well as more funds for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
“Because we have had well-researched studies with reproducible results to back up our advocacy efforts, we’ve been able to show a number of lawmakers on Capitol Hill that better health care for people with mental illness does not necessarily mean more expensive care,” said Levin. “The result of our work and the work of our allies is evident. There are now several mental health reform bills in both houses of Congress that have received broad bipartisan support.”
Medical research has also led to significant changes in the way APA members practice medicine. For example, research into brain imaging procedures has been able to predict which treatments a patient suffering from major depressive disorder will respond to, a finding that could have a major impact on patient outcomes in the near future. Similarly, the results from a 17-year study into an integrated treatment program known as Recovery After Initial Schizophrenia Episode (RAISE), for first-episode psychosis, has shown healthier outcomes and reduced cost of care.
The 14 million Americans with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, and the more than 40 million Americans with diagnosable mental disorders deserve to experience the 21st century medical breakthroughs that only well-funded medical research can deliver.
“We are committed to the continued support of medical innovation achieved through robust research initiatives, and we’re proud to be a part of Research!America,” said Levin.