As one of my last assignments as a social media intern in the medical school's news office, I had the privilege of attending Stanford's Mood Disorders Education Day, an annual event connecting those affected by mood disorders with the latest research.
It's a popular event: In addition to a full, registered guest list, others were waiting in the lobby of the Frances C. Arillaga Alumni Center that Saturday morning to get in. The large crowd makes sense: Mood disorders affect nearly one in five people in the United States.
I took my seat, and as the stream of people entering the main auditorium slowed to a trickle, Alan Schatzberg, MD, director of the Stanford Mood Disorders Center, took center stage to welcome attendees. This year, there were three sets of talks, each followed by a panel discussion that was open to audience questions.
The talks varied immensely in subject matter: Manpreet Singh, MD, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, discussed the diagnostic and treatment processes for children with mood disorders; Terence Ketter, MD, chief of the Bipolar Disorder Clinic, discussed the evidence for using different drugs used to treat bipolar disorder; and Rebecca Bernert, PhD, director of the Suicide Prevention Research Laboratory, discussed the link between sleep disorders and suicide. The Q&A portion really grabbed my attention: Strikingly, every speaker fielded a question from a community member regarding somebody they knew — a daughter, a son, or a brother. These talks had hit home.
As I heard the questions of those around me, I found myself thinking about those I know with mood disorders. Would there be more treatment options for them? Is there any way at all I can help? And that's when I realized that although this event serves as a critical source of information, its overarching contribution is to provide attendees with a sense of of connection and of optimism. And that, Schatzberg later told me, was one of the original goals of the event:
I think in the end what these kinds of meetings do is two things. They provide updates by very, very excellent investigators on their work and the innovative work that they're doing. But I also think that they provide hope for people: Hope that there are going to be better treatments, better tests, better ways of intervening, better understanding.
Previously: Adolescent mental health the focus of upcoming Stanford conference, Turning loss into hope for others: New website teaches about mental health, "Every life is touched by suicide": Stanford psychiatrist on the importance of prevention and "Brains are unmentionable"; A father reflects on reactions to daughter’s mental illness
Image by Darren Tunnicliff