Hope amid crisis: Stanford Medicine magazine explores psychiatry’s new frontiers

The new issue of Stanford Medicine magazine reports on emerging research and innovative treatments to improve mental health.

- By Patricia Hannon

Stanford Medicine magazine's first issue of 2024  focuses on innovative research and approaches to treating mental illness.
Jules Julien

If it feels like more people in your social circle are experiencing a mental health crisis than they did a few years ago, it’s likely true.

The new issue of Stanford Medicine magazine, a special report on mental health, includes this sobering statistic from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: 1 in 4 of adults in America reported in 2022 that they experienced a mental illness the previous year, a trend exacerbated by the fact that only half of them received treatment.

At Stanford Medicine, brain science researchers, leaders, clinicians and students understand the gravity of the crisis and of the part they can play in finding effective mental health solutions — and quickly — for the sakes of their patients and for the community at large.

“Society today recognizes that mental health is an integral facet of public health — and that a mental health crisis needs to be acted on with the same urgency as any other public health crisis,” Lloyd Minor, MD, dean of Stanford School of Medicine and vice president for medical affairs at Stanford University, said in a letter in the new issue, Psychiatry’s new frontiers: Hope amid crisis.

The issue explores innovative Stanford Medicine research that is advancing the understanding of mental illness and health and leading to treatments that are more effective, more personalized and more accessible.

The programs and research featured in the issue show there’s plenty of room for optimism about the future of mental health and wellness.

  • Reasons for hope: Mental health crisis solutions are emerging through innovative research, diagnostics and treatments made possible by a lessening of social stigma surrounding mental illness, better research funding and new efforts to reach those in need. 
  • Neuropsychiatry and sandwiches: Psychiatrist Karl Deisseroth’s idea of luring ambitious researchers to a series of brainstorming lunches resulted in the launch of the groundbreaking Human Neural Circuitry initiative, which is solving neuropsychiatric riddles by measuring cognitive function and gathering real-time data on human brain activity.
  • Going beyond ‘How often do you feel blue?’: New AI tools and assessments are creating unprecedented possibilities for predicting and diagnosing a person’s mental state and intervening quickly.
  • The early days of a psychedelic resurgence?: Moving past early trepidation over psychedelic drugs and its countercultural associations, psychiatrists see promise in studying how “the trip” experience of psychedelics, when conducted with a professionally trained guide, can open the way to psychiatric healing.
  • Organoid brain models yield insights into resilience: The study of brain organoids is allowing scientists to model the effect of stress and trauma on how our genes function and to better understand how we can withstand them without lasting mental health damage.
  • ‘We could be changing lives’: Leanne Williams and her collaborators at the Stanford Center for Precision Mental Health and Wellness are using brain imaging and other approaches to provide specific, individualized game plans for treating depression and anxiety.
  • Culture in care: Five therapists speak to inequities in mental health care for people in marginalized communities and ways to support them so they can overcome barriers to accessing care.  
  • Let’s talk about it: Leanne Williams believes that sharing her story of losing her partner to suicide can chip away at stigmas that keep mental health conditions locked in darkness.
  • Beyond the psychiatrist’s office: With young people experiencing high rates of mental illness and the need for care exceeding supply, Stanford Medicine professionals are working with community groups to support youth mental health. Among the programs they’re involved with are Project Safety Net and the HEARD Alliance, which focus on suicide prevention; Ayudando Latinos a Soñar, which supports well-being among the farmworker community in Half Moon Bay, California; and allcove, a network of low-cost mental health care centers geared toward people aged 12-25.
  • How moms and dads can provide mental health: Frustrated by kids having to wait months to see a therapist, two mental health professionals create a center that helps parents guide their children through psychological challenges.
  • New wave psychiatry: Safer, more targeted FDA-approved electromagnetic treatment rolls back depression in days and provides long-lasting relief for patients.
  • Toward a psychiatry of resilience: Victor Carrión describes how triumphing over stress and trauma can improve a child’s focus, self-control, social skills, sleep and well-being, making them stronger, more competent and able to make better decisions.

Beyond the section on psychiatry and mental health, the issue features:

Stanford Medicine magazine is available online at stanmed.stanford.edu as well as in print. Request a copy by sending an email to medmag@stanford.edu.

About Stanford Medicine

Stanford Medicine is an integrated academic health system comprising the Stanford School of Medicine and adult and pediatric health care delivery systems. Together, they harness the full potential of biomedicine through collaborative research, education and clinical care for patients. For more information, please visit med.stanford.edu.

2024 ISSUE 1

Psychiatry’s new frontiers