Patient voices are crucial to removing the stigma surrounding mental illness and, when included in mental health research, can dramatically improve health outcomes particularly for underserved populations. Health experts discussed opportunities to increase patient involvement in research and barriers to care for mental health patients at a Capitol Hill briefing hosted by Research!America and the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) on Wednesday, June 13. Andrew Sperling, director, legislative and policy advocacy, National Alliance on Mental Illness, moderated the panel.
“Money is an issue, but so is lack of awareness and stigma around mental health,” said Dr. Alfiee Breland-Noble, associate professor, Department of Psychiatry, Georgetown University Medical Center. “People who tell their stories [about mental illness] are key to overcoming stigma,” she added.
Marilyn Perez-Aviles, research assistant, Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), spoke about her experience as a patient navigator in a program run by the Chicago Health Disparities Center and funded by PCORI that pairs mental health patients with those who understand their experiences. The program “really engages the community and helps build trust,” she said. Dr. Patrick Corrigan, distinguished professor of psychology, IIT called for more collaboration with patients in research.
Researchers and health care providers must improve their communication with mental health patients, noted Sonya Ballentine, a patient investigator. Dr. Elena Rios, president and CEO, National Hispanic Medical Association, encouraged researchers to develop materials that are more accessible to the public.