Genetic test pinpoints best treatment for mental illness — but many reluctant to try it

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     Genetic testing can now help to pinpoint the best treatment for mental illness (Image courtesy of Genomind)

    Genetic testing can now help to pinpoint the best treatment for mental illness (Image courtesy of Genomind)

    People are generally enthusiastic about undergoing genetic testing to find out which medications could help treat their heart disease or diabetes.

    But when asked specifically if they would take a genetic test recommended by a doctor to help determine the best treatment plan for mental illness, respondents were less enthusiastic.

    Sixty-four percent said they would try this option, compared to nearly 70 percent who said they would try genetic testing for a broader health condition.

    That’s according to a new poll conducted by Genomind, a company specializing in testing patients to see which medications would best treat their mental illness.

    For James Crawford, finding the right medication for his depression was a grueling challenge.

    “You definitely get demoralized after a while, when therapy doesn’t seem to do anything, when psychiatric medications don’t seem to do anything,” he said. “All you really do is exist.”

    Then his psychiatrist recommended trying a genetic test offered through Genomind. The company has tested 80,000 people.

    After completing the test simple saliva test, Crawford and his psychiatrist discovered that traditional drugs used for depression weren’t effective for him, but an anti-seizure medication and a supplement were. Now, Crawford said he feels fantastic, but it’s hard to think back to the days before he found the right treatment.

    “You don’t realize how much you miss when you’re depressed. You miss out on joy when you’re depressed, you miss out on love when you’re depressed,” he said.

    It’s that often difficult process of finding the right medication, or combination of meds, that Genomind is trying to help people circumvent, said Kristina Habermann, the vice president of marketing and corporate communication.

    “This trial-and-error process can go on for months and, potentially, years. And sometimes patients never remit, they never see any resolution of their symptoms,” she said.

    So why, in Genomind’s poll of 1,000 people, did more respondents say they would try genetic testing for something like heart disease or diabetes than a mental health issue?

    The answer may be stigma, said Habermann. The company hopes to combat that by doing more studies on the test and its role in steering people toward more effective treatments.

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