Accepted Paper:

Destigmatization in/of psychiatry: is biomarker research the 'right tool for the job'?  


Laura Schnieder (Goethe-Universit├Ąt Frankfurt)
Jonas Rueppel (Goethe-University Frankfurt)

Paper short abstract:

The paper critically discusses the expectation, frequently expressed in the field of personalized psychiatry, that research into biomarkers leads up to a double destigmatization - of patients suffering from mental illnesses and the psychiatric discipline alike.

Paper long abstract:

Narratives of the successful application of precision (or personalized) medicine in clinical practice today mainly relate to the field of oncology. Personalized psychiatry, while sharing the objective of more precise diagnosis and "tailored" treatments, seems to struggle much harder for identifying (genomic, proteomic, neuro-imaging) biomarkers that actually translate into the clinic (or the market for this purpose).

Biomarkers are thought to finally turn mental illnesses into measurable, provable entities, entities that are rooted in the biological human body. Researchers and practitioners in the field frequently express their hope that such a biomarkerization consequently leads up to a (double) destigmatization process: The stigma weighing on patients who suffer from those illnesses, as yet assigned a rather metaphysical quality, might be lifted from their shoulders. In addition, psychiatrists articulate the expectation that finding biological interpretations for mental illnesses will not only destigmatize their patients, but also psychiatry itself - eventually becoming fully recognized as a medical discipline.

Will the biological marker put an end to social stigmatization? Based on document analysis and interviews with mental health professionals the presentation outlines the general argument and critically discusses the double destigmatization potential of biomarker research in psychiatry.

Panel C26
Precision medicine at the crossroads: meeting the micro and macro, the molecular and social in new medical strategies