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Annual Meeting Highlights
Converse With Patty Duke
Psychiatric News
Volume 43 Number 4 page 2-2

People of a certain age remember actress Patty Duke for her portrayal of a pair of look-alike teenaged cousins in the 1960s sitcom "The Patty Duke Show." Cousin Patty was spunky and outgoing, while cousin Cathy was refined and worldly. The dueling personalities portrayed by the same actress ironically presaged another type of duality Duke understood when she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1982.FIG1

Duke will share her experiences with mental illness at the" Conversations" event at APA's 2008 annual meeting in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, May 6, at 5:30 p.m., in Hall D of the Washington Convention Center. This event is sponsored by the American Psychiatric Foundation, APA's charitable arm.

Duke has been in the spotlight since she was a child. She was born Anna Marie Duke in Queens, N.Y. Her father was an alcoholic, and her mother had depression with bouts of violence. When Duke was 8, her mother turned her care over to her managers. She began her acting career in the early 1950s on live TV and stage. Her portrayal of the blind, deaf, and mute Helen Keller in" The Miracle Worker" launched Duke as one of America's finest young talents and won her an Oscar at the age of 16, the youngest person ever to win at the time.

Duke went on to perform in a long list of stage, movie, and TV productions, earning many awards along the way. In addition to the Oscar, she has won two Golden Globes, three Emmy Awards, and a People's Choice Award. One of her nine Emmy nominations was for her work in "The Patty Duke Show." She also served twice as president of the Screen Actors Guild.

Duke's personal life did not go as smoothly. She had experienced mental health problems long before being diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1982. Showing uncommon courage for the time, she was among the first celebrities who spoke openly about her disorder, leading the way for other well-known personalities to educate people about mental illness and thus reduce its stigma.

The next stage of her career saw her become a best-selling author and mental health advocate. Her autobiography, Call Me Anna, was published in 1987, and another book, A Brilliant Madness: Living With Manic-Depressive Illness, was published in 1992. She has twice spoken before Congress to raise funds for research. To continue her effort to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness, she started a Web site and blog in 2005 at<www.pattyduke.net> called "The Patty Duke Online Center for Mental Wellness," which has become a primary vehicle for information and support for people dealing with mental illness. Information about mental illness is also posted on her Web site at<www.officialpattyduke.com/home.htm>.

Duke's work as a mental health advocate has brought her many accolades. She was recently appointed to the National Advisory Council of the Center for Mental Health Services. In 2006 she received the Lionel Aldridge Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness and the first Rebecca's Dream Legacy of Life Award from the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. Last December she was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of North Florida for her work in advancing awareness of mental health issues.

The American Psychiatric Foundation launched the" Conversations" series six years ago so that psychiatrists could hear from people whose daily lives have been affected by mental illness.▪

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