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August 2, 2005

Highlights from SZ/BP Education Day

On Saturday morning, Drs. Ira Glick, Terence Ketter, and Po Wong gave enlightening talks on schizophrenia and bipolar disorder to a packed Fairchild Auditorium on the Stanford University campus. Dr. Glick expressed surprise and gratitude that so many of the community had a clear interest in these disorders. He seemed pleased with the success of the first annual schizophrenia and bipolar education day, which has been in the works for about a year.

The day began with a continental breakfast and a welcome address from Dr. Glick, who said that the objective of this event was to "increase public awareness [of these disorders], and awareness of the resources that can help."

The statistics on psychiatric disorders that he cited from a recent National Comorbidity Survey (published in the archives of general psychiatry)underscored why this day was so important:

--mental disorders begin early, and are lifelong
--mental disorders are severe: 25% are defined as serious, and 40% are defined as moderate (of all the diagnoses currently in the United states)
--mental disorders are not being treated: the comorbidity survey estimated that 60% of serious/moderate psychiatric disorders are recieving no treatment at all.

With national statistics such as these, we can hope that more major universities will be moved to sponser mental illness educaction days in their own communities, to raise awareness of the risk factors, the emergent symptoms, the importance of early diagnosis and treatment, and the prospects of recovery.

The rest of the agenda, which lasted until noon, proceeded thusly:

--Dr. Ketter lectured on the differential diagnosis of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, speaking about the challenges of approaching severe psychiatric disorders as separate entities (categorically) or as overlapping syndromes (dimensionally). He presented both the commonalities and the differences between schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, as well some clues that can help distinguish between the two. To read a summary of Dr. Ketter's lecture, please click here.

--Dr. Wong presented new treatments in bipolar disorder; he suggested that bipolar treatment is heading away from treating the acute symptoms of manic and depressive episodes, and towards a more comprehensive mood stabilization strategy. He cited several ongoing research studies that are looking into new directions for bipolar treatment. To read a summary of Dr. Wong's lecture, please click here.

--At this point, the conference attendees split up into three breakout sessions. This author attended the question and answer session on bipolar disorder, hosted by Dr. Ketter. He fielded a variety of questions, dealing with everything from lithium toxicity to substance abuse to sleep and sleep deprivation. There were so many questions that the session ran thirty minutes over its allotted time, and there were still several hands in the air when Dr. Ketter finally had to end the discussion. To read a summary of the Bipolar Q and A session, please click here.

We hope to have audio .mp3 files of the lectures available on our site soon, as well as images of some of the data slides used in the doctors' presentations.

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