This year’s Opening Session at APA’s annual meeting in San Francisco promises to be a stimulating one, featuring a conversation between APA President Dilip Jeste, M.D., and Elyn Saks, J.D., Ph.D.
Elyn Saks, J.D., Ph.D., poses with APA President Dilip Jeste, M.D., at APA’s 2012 Institute on Psychiatric Services. Saks, the author of The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness, shared her story of recovery with attendees.
Saks is the Orrin B. Evans Professor of Law, Psychology, and Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Southern California and a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship winner. She is also the author of an award-winning best-seller The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness, an autobiographical account of her long struggle with schizophrenia. Jeste will interview Saks about issues related to recovery, stigma, resilience, the relative value of psychosocial and pharmacological interventions, and bioethics relevant to people with serious mental illness.
Saks will be familiar to APA members from her keynote speech at last year’s Institute on Psychiatric Services. Echoing the theme of the institute—“Pursuing Wellness Through Recovery and Integration”—Saks recounted a remarkable story of academic and professional success in the face of schizophrenia (Psychiatric News, November 2, 2012).
In her address, Saks recalled her ominous symptoms in childhood and adolescence, her first hospitalization while studying at Oxford University in England, her long resistance to and denial of mental illness, and her eventual acceptance of the efficacy of antipsychotic medication in combination with psychotherapy in her treatment and recovery.
“For 20 years I had struggled with this acceptance, managing to hold on to the idea that there was nothing unusual about my thoughts, that everyone’s mind contained the chaos mine did, and that others were simply better at managing it,” Saks told the audience at the institute. “I wasn’t mentally ill [I thought], I was socially maladroit. Of course, that wasn’t true. There is no way to overstate what a thunderclap this revelation was to me.… But ironically, the more I accepted that I had a mental illness, the less it defined me.”
In introducing Saks at the APA institute, Jeste emphasized that the future of psychiatry lies in embracing not just the treatment of acute symptoms but also a new focus on “positive” psychological traits of resilience, optimism, social integration, and wisdom embodied in Saks’ story.
“A Dialogue Between Drs. Dilip Jeste and Elyn Saks” will begin at 5:45 p.m. on Sunday, May 19. The discussion will conclude the Opening Session, which begins at 4:30 p.m. and will follow Jeste’s Presidential Address and other ceremonial events. The latter include the presentation of a check to the San Francisco Mental Health Center, a report from the Scientific Program Committee, and introduction of presidents and representatives of U.S. and international allied organizations. ■