May is Mental Health Month and last week the International Bipolar Foundation (IBPF) hosted former U.S. Representative Patrick Kennedy for a Scientific Think Tank held in Del Mar, Calif. Kennedy served 16 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he sponsored the Mental Health Parity & Addiction Equity Act of 2008, a piece of legislation that provides access to mental health treatment for millions of Americans who were previously denied care. More recently, he co-founded the One Mind for Research campaign, an effort to bring together all stakeholders to accelerate basic research, translational science, and care delivery for brain disease.
At the event, Kennedy talked about the Mental Health Parity Act, his own struggles with addiction and bipolar II, and the need for more brain research. He was also honored with the 2012 IBPF Advocacy Award.
Dr. John C. Reed, Sanford-Burnham’s CEO and co-chair of IBPF’s Scientific Advisory Board, moderated the session. Dr. Evan Snyder, director of Sanford-Burnham’s stem cell program and research center, spoke about how his team and others are applying stem cell technologies to better understand and treat bipolar disorder.
“The purpose of the Think Tank was to bring the heads of national and local mental health organizations, scientists, pharma, and policy makers together to collectively brainstorm on three key issues—enabling the era of personalized medicine, enabling therapeutic advances, and educating the public about brain disease,” said Muffy Walker, IBPF president.
Bipolar disorder, sometimes called manic-depressive disorder, is characterized by changes in mood, energy, and activity levels that are severe enough to affect a person’s daily life. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 2.6 percent of the U.S. adult population is affected by bipolar disorder.