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June 1, 1994


Author Affiliations

National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, Md

JAMA. 1994;271(21):1707-1708. doi:10.1001/jama.1994.03510450079044

Last year's congressionally mandated reunion of the National Institute of Mental Health with the National Institutes of Health signaled recognition of the maturity of basic and clinical psychiatric research. This maturity is evident in the body of epidemiologic, economic, and treatment data, presented to the President's Task Force on National Health Care Reform, that convincingly dispels three key myths about mental illness:

  1. Mental illness is not definable. In fact, the diagnostic reliability for diagnoses of major mental illnesses equals that achieved for diagnoses in other areas of medicine. Multiple clinicians independently agree on the diagnosis of a major mental disorder approximately 80% of the time.1

  2. Mental illnesses are not treatable, or "everything sort of works for everything." In fact, outcome research documents that specific treatments for major mental disorders yield success rates in the 60% to 80% range. When assessed by the same criteria applied to determine "successful outcome" of

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