Precision Psychiatry

Mental wellbeing is fundamental to human health.  The biomedical revolution, led by Stanford Medicine, will change the trajectory and impact of the biomedical sciences through precision health, for individuals and for populations.  Precision psychiatry is part of this revolution.              

Mental disorders are a leading cause of premature mortality and disability throughout the world.

Depression, anxiety disorders, cognitive disorders, addiction, and other conditions are common. Though treatment is remarkably effective in improving quality of life and reducing the burden of symptoms and impairment, stigma and insufficient resources are a dramatic barrier to appropriate care. Moreover, mental disorders may complicate and worsen the risks associated with other health conditions.  Depression increases the risk of cardiovascular related deaths three-fold.  Ten is the number of years that people living with serious mental illness live less than the general population, and much of this is not attributable to suicide, but to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, smoking, and other health issues.   Each year, the number of completed suicides is more than twice the number of homicides in this country.  Suicide is the second leading cause of mortality in young adults (15-34 years of age).  Mitigating such mental health statistics will require the best cutting-edge prediction, prevention, and preemption that population science can possibly provide. Stanford is uniquely positioned to spearhead this effort.

The Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences in the School of Medicine at Stanford University has launched two major initiatives to advance precision health.  In 2014, we initiated a new unit, the Division of Public Mental Health and Population Sciences, to harness the tremendous academic resources of Stanford University, encompassing computer science and biomedical data, biomedical sciences, engineering, coupled with renown schools of medicine, business and economics, law, education, statistics, social sciences and ethics, and design.  Advances in these fields hold the promise of revolutionizing the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness with greater precision – personalized for special populations and eventually individuals. 

The Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences has also launched a new Stanford Center for the Prevention of Premature Mortality, led by the Chairman of the Department, Dr. Laura Roberts. The Center will broadly embrace prediction including the study of vulnerable populations and identification of at-risk families and individuals across the life span, and preempt and prevent with interventions scaled for local neighborhoods to global communities.  All this will require the best in population science, clinical informatics, implementation science, and biomedical data science.  The Center will start with focusing on four domains, each with components for advancing science, clinical innovation, educational excellence, community engagement and commitment, and leadership and professionalism.  These domains are:

(1) suicide phenomenology, prevention and intervention

(2) the study of disorders that co-occur with mental illness

(3) grief and survivorship

(4) social and economic consequences of mental illnesses and related conditions