Insights on depression: Psychiatry award honors researcher for findings

Dr. Stuart Yudofsky

Dr. Stuart Yudofsky

Next week, Dr. Helen Mayberg will receive the Fifth Annual Joan and Stanford Alexander Award at Baylor College of Medicine. The April 17 event, in which she will receive the award and present grand rounds, is free and open to the public.

The award was established in honor of Dr. Stuart Yudofsky, professor and chair of the Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Baylor College of Medicine, who was also its first recipient in 2009.

In the Q-&-A below, Dr. Yudofsky outlines the background, goal, and importance of the annual award, details about Dr. Helen Mayberg’s research, and more.

What is the Joan and Stanford Alexander Award in Psychiatry?

To recognize and honor, annually, an academic psychiatrist or psychologist who, through his or her research accomplishment, has made significant contributions to:

  • The understanding and respectful, effective treatment of people with severe and persistent psychiatric and neuropsychiatric illnesses
  • The understanding of how to help people with mental illnesses live lives that are as uplifting, productive and fulfilling as possible

Can you tell us more about Dr. Helen Mayberg and her work? 

Dr. Mayberg is professor in psychiatry, neurology and radiology at Emory University. She heads a multidisciplinary depression research program dedicated to the study of brain circuits in depression and the effects of various antidepressant treatments measured using a variety of functional and structural imaging tools.

Image findings provided the foundation for the development and testing of deep brain stimulation, a novel intervention for patients with treatment resistant depression.

What types of speakers have come in the past?

Why is it important to have these speakers come to BCM?

It is important to have these speakers to:

  • Facilitate better understanding of how to help people with mental illnesses live lives that are as uplifting, productive and fulfilling as possible
  • Advance the education of the more than 50 residents in the Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
  • Provide interesting and informative continuing education opportunities for the approximately 175 faculty members in the Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
  • Provide individuals with mental illnesses, family members and advocates of people with mental illnesses, as well as BCM faculty, medical students, residents, psychology interns and fellows an opportunity to advance their knowledge of mental illnesses

Can you tell us about the stigma behind mental health?

The stigma associated with mental illness is the chief obstacle to effective treatment of persons with mental disorders. Our culture still sees mental illness as a weakness or defect of individual character. The goal of the Joan and Stanford Alexander Award is to raise awareness of mental health and to help stamp out stigma.

According to the National Alliance for the mentally ill, stigma leads to:

  • Inadequate insurance coverage for mental health services
  • Fear, mistrust and violence against people living with mental illness and their families
  • Family and friends turning their backs on people with mental illness
  • Prejudice and discrimination
  • People who have mental illness not seeking professional health

While 1 in 5 Americans live with a mental disorder, estimates indicate that nearly two-thirds of all people with a diagnosable mental illness do not seek treatment.

Who are Joan and Stanford Alexander?

Joan and Stanford Alexander are extraordinarily generous Houston philanthropists, who have supported a broad range of deserving charitable causes. Their vision and support of mental health is exemplary.

They are pioneer advocates for providing parity in the reimbursements for psychiatric care for the mentally ill and work to fight the destructive effects of stigma on those who suffer from mental illness.

Find out more details about attending the event on Wednesday, April 17 in the news release. Dr. Helen Mayberg’s lecture is titled “Rethinking Depression and its Treatment: Insights from Studies of Deep Brain Stimulation.”

-By Dipali Pathak

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