Annual Meeting
Jamison to Talk About Both Sides of Bipolar Disorder Experience
Psychiatric News
Volume 47 Number 5 page 23c-27

In many ways, Kay Redfield Jamison, Ph.D., has become the public face of bipolar disorder. As a respected clinician and best-selling author who also happens to suffer from the serious mental illness, she can speak eloquently and practically about life on both sides of the couch.

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Kay Redfield Jamison, Ph.D., has lived “A Life in Moods.” Her lecture will address the challenges of working through a mental illness. 

Ellen Dallager

As a guest lecturer at APA’s annual meeting in May, Jamison will discuss her struggles to achieve a workable balance between the rigorous demands of her professional life and the day-to-day challenges of living with bipolar disorder. She is the Dalio Family Professor in Mood Disorders at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, where she also codirects the Mood Disorder Center.

Jamison is perhaps best known to the public as the author of the best-selling autobiography An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness, which was selected by the Boston Globe, Entertainment Weekly, and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer as one of the best books of 1995.

Her lecture at this year’s meeting will also focus on the consequences associated with the public disclosure of her mental illness.

Jamison was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1974, shortly after she began teaching at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Medicine. In the wake of a subsequent suicide attempt, she was able to come to terms with the necessity of psychotherapy and mood-stabilizing medication (in her case, lithium) in managing the illness.

When asked in a November 11, 2011, interview with the Atlantic what most people continue to misunderstand about the disorder, Jamison stressed “how potentially lethal bipolar illness is … and how treatable it is.”

Jamison spent 13 years at UCLA, where she founded and directed the university’s Affective Disorders Clinic. She moved to Johns Hopkins in 1987 and cowrote the classic textbook Manic-Depressive Illness with Frederick Goodwin, M.D., three years later.

Jamison’s first book for a lay audience was Touched With Fire: Manic Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament, which explored the lives and work of artists such as Lord Byron, Vincent van Gogh, Virginia Woolf, and Robert Schumann.

Her other books include Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide, a look at what she considers one of the world’s leading public-health issues; Exuberance: The Passion for Life, a study of the titular personality trait as embodied by famous figures such as Theodore Roosevelt; and Nothing Was the Same, her second memoir. The latter detailed Jamison’s grief over the death of her second husband, National Institute of Mental Health neuropsychiatric researcher Richard Wyatt, M.D., in 2002.

Jamison has received many honors over the years for her research and advocacy efforts, including awards from the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, Mental Health America, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, National Alliance on Mental Illness, International Society for Bipolar Disorders, and National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression.

In 1998 she received a Special Presidential Commendation from APA, followed a few years later by a Presidential Award from the Canadian Psychiatric Association. In 2009 she was named an honorary fellow by the American College of Psychiatrists. Most recently, she received a Humanitarian Award from the Society of Biological Psychiatry.

Jamison is currently working on a new book about the poet Robert Lowell. inline-graphic-1.gif

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Kay Redfield Jamison, Ph.D., has lived “A Life in Moods.” Her lecture will address the challenges of working through a mental illness. 

Ellen Dallager

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