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Healthy Minds Across America features 48 public forums on mental health research, Sept. 14

(Great Neck, NY, Sept. 2, 2008) People concerned about the toll that mental health disorders are taking on their families and communities will have a unique opportunity to hear from world-class experts on what is known to-date about the causes, symptoms and progression of such illnesses as depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, schizophrenia and autism, and learn about current and potential treatments.

In an unprecedented event called Healthy Minds Across America, 48 free public forums will take place around the United States and in Canada all on Sunday, September 14 at which some of the greatest minds and talents in neuropsychiatric research will report on the state of mental health research and how breakthroughs over the last 20 years have led to progress and hope, while uncovering new challenges.

NARSAD, the world's leading charity dedicated to mental health research, has organized the day of events, which is being held in partnership with many of North America's most prominent universities and research centers -- from multiple branches of the University of California and University of Texas to Yale, Harvard, the University of Pittsburgh, Duke and the University of Toronto, among dozens more.

"Never, to my knowledge, has there been such a concerted effort to bring the public together with the experts who hold the most knowledge about an area of human illness that accounts for more loss and devastation than any other," said Herbert Pardes, M.D., president of NARSAD's Scientific Council, who is also president and CEO of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and a former head of the National Institute of Mental Health. "Mental illness is so prevalent in our society, estimated to affect as many as one in four North Americans in any given year, with one in 10 suffering serious, chronic conditions."

Each of the Healthy Minds Across America forums will feature presentations by three or more research experts who will cover a wide range of topics and disorder areas, such as:

  • Genetics of mental illness: The role genes play in risk for depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, and what we're learning from new studies of the human genome;
  • Adolescent mental health: Identifying teens at risk for anxiety, depression and schizophrenia;
  • Autism: Possible causes of autism and personalized treatment approaches;
  • PTSD in our communities: The possibility of recovering from traumatic events;
  • Depression: Risk factors for depression across the life cycle, the safety of antidepressant medications, and new therapies such as deep brain stimulation;
  • The biological basis of addiction: The biology and brain circuitry of addiction;
  • New treatment frontiers: Potential treatments for schizophrenia, depression and bipolar disorder;
  • Improving pharmaceutical treatments: Developing more effective and safer drug treatments; and
  • Quality of life for those affected: Prospects for preventing and recovering from mental illness.

Across the board, the more than 150 experts who will speak at the Healthy Minds Across America forums represent the forefront of neuropsychiatric research. They include heads of psychiatry departments from many of the most respected medical schools and treatment facilities, as well as some early-career scientists whose research has already led to breakthroughs, and even a Nobel Prize-winning scientist, Dr. Eric Kandel of Columbia University.

Most of the speakers have received grants from NARSAD in support of their research or are members of NARSAD's Scientific Council, a group of 110 experts in the key areas of neuropsychiatric research that guides the organization's grantmaking activities. (See link below for the list of Healthy Minds Across America locations, presenters and topics.)

"More individuals and families are speaking out today than ever before about the pain and loss caused by mental illness," said Constance E. Lieber, NARSAD's president emerita, who is chairing this event. "We hope that people who are coping with mental illness, their friends and loved ones, and mental health professionals will all attend these forums to learn about the progress that's being made in understanding and treating mental illness, and why there is reason for hope for improved treatments and even cures, if research can continue to flourish."

With that concern and goal in mind, this fall NARSAD will announce the launch of a $200 million fundraising campaign which will also be called Healthy Minds Across America to increase the organization's capacity to fund innovative research on mental health disorders. Outside of the U.S. federal government, NARSAD, a nonprofit organization, is the largest source of competitive funding for mental health research.

"Government funding for mental health research has remained flat in the United States, and probably won't get better any time soon," said Dr. Pardes, who helped to found NARSAD. "But we can't wait for the government. Too many lives are at stake, and we must not lose momentum in the pace of discovery we've achieved over the past two decades."

Since 1987, when NARSAD began giving grants as the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression, it has awarded more than $238 million in research funds to more than 2,700 scientists at universities and medical centers in the U.S., Canada and 25 other countries.

In 2008 alone, NARSAD has given $19 million in grants to nearly 300 scientists conducting clinical and basic research relating to depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, childhood mental disorders, and other conditions.

The 48 Healthy Minds Across America free public forums on Sept. 14 will take place at many of the universities and medical centers where NARSAD has supported cutting-edge research for more than 20 years.


Contact: Kristen Simone
NARSAD, The Mental Health Research Association

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