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January 9, 2007

New South Asian (India) Film on Bipolar Disorder

Two South Asian Muslim sisters have chosen to bring the taboo subject (in India and other parts of Asia) of bipolar disorder out of the closet in their first feature film with a universal message: "Acceptance, not rejection, helps in difficult situations."

"Hiding Divya", written and directed by Rehana Mirza, produced by Rohi Mirza Pandya, and starring Madhur Jaffrey, Pooja Kumar and Deep Katdare, will debut at international film festivals this year.

Earlier in 2006, the only Muslim sister filmmakers won an award from NBC Universal for their short film "Modern Day Arranged Marriage".

In "Hiding Divya", her first feature film as both writer and director, Rehana Mirza wanted to tackle a very layered and complex story with emotional depth, yet with some quiet humour.

"Having three very strong women as protagonists is something I very rarely get to do," Mirza told IANS.

"Hiding Divya is our project from start to finish. It is our first feature and we retained creative control throughout the process. It has high production values," added producer Rohi Mirza Pandya.

Asked how did they choose this particular theme for the film, the Mirza sisters noted: "Early in Rehana's screening writing career, one of Rohi's friends approached her about the problem of mental illness in the South Asian community.

"Her mother suffered from bipolar disorder (manic depression), constantly showed erratic behaviour, and was ostracised from the community. Then in the spring of 2005, another friend's father put a gun to his head and shot himself. We realized there was an immediate need to tell this story."

The sisters believe that "Hiding Divya" is one of those films that have "the power to change the world". With it Rohi hopes "that people seek help for their illness and that the stigma of mental illness is erased".

"We also hope that the pressure and isolation of family members whose loved ones suffer from mental illness will be eased and that they can find comfort in a taboo subject being brought to light in a humanistic and embracing way," adds Rehana.

Asked in what way is South Asians' attitude to mental illness different from the Western society and other immigrant communities in the US, Rohi replied: "It's not different, it's a universal story. We just happen to be telling a South Asian story."

But Rehana would not agree. "I particularly focused on researching all races, cultures and genders and how mental illness affects family and relationships. Across the board, mental illness is a subject matter that is swept under the rug in a family.

"Within the Asian culture in particular, however, there is an element of shame that is cultural that becomes particularly magnified when dealing with mental illness in the family. Also, the Asian culture puts emphasis on marrying the entire family, not just one person, so that becomes an interesting dynamic that can play into how mental illness affects relationships in a South Asian household.

"However, while some new issues can crop up for the South Asian culture, mental illness is a universal issue that all can understand," she added.

In fact "we all share a hidden secret that needs to be acknowledged and accepted by our loved ones. Acceptance, not rejection, helps in difficult situations", said the sisters, describing it as the universal message of "Hiding Divya".

The Mirza sisters have chosen yet another talented woman of Indian origin, Meetu Chilana, a Manhattan-based singer of pop, jazz, folk and world music to render the theme song of "Divya" with music by Samrat Chakrabarty.

Chilana has also turned the theme song into a music video, "Lost", described as "a colourful exploration of self and the melodies that haunt us: a performer, performs/ an observer, observes/ both share a secret/ seek and find".

Asked why did she choose Meetu Chilana as the singer and Samrat Chakrabarty as the director for the theme song of her film, Rehana said: "Meetu has a lovely voice and combined with Samrat's compositions, it creates a fluid mix borrowing from South Asian and American styles."

She "wanted to convey a sense of isolation, loss, and sadness through the music", said Rehana. "Also, I wanted to show a different feel about mental breakdowns - a surreal moment. Samrat has been able to do an amazing job by creating a haunting theme melody that expresses a beautiful yearning and painful reminder of the past.

"Only Meetu could do such a complex and layered composition such as Samrat's justice with her wide range in vocals. For the other moments in the film, Samrat was able to create a sense of discord and uncomfortablity in the most gorgeous of ways."

See the Film Web Site: Hiding Divya

Posted by szadmin at 11:04 AM | Comments (3)

January 5, 2007

Plan for New Research on Genetics and Bipolar Disorder

The Zucker Hillside Hospital campus of The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research and a team of researchers at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) plan to collaborate on research to identify key genes in the onset of Bipolar Disorder. The studies will last 2 to 3 years, and will focus on early onset Bipolar Disorder by focusing on children diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and their parents. The research group will be headed by James Watson, PhD, a noble prize winner who co-discovered the DNA molecule.

"For complex illnesses like bipolar disorder that vary dramatically in symptoms and severity among affected individuals, especially children and adolescents, identifying genetic underpinnings is very difficult," said Anil Malhotra, MD, lead investigator for The Feinstein. "It is also critical to accelerating and confirming a bipolar diagnosis and developing more rational and effective treatments. Collaborating with Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory will help make this a reality."
"This collaboration brings together the major elements necessary to understand a complex illness such as BPD," said Dr. Watson. "The clinical and scientific expertise of the physician-scientists at The Feinstein Institute combined with CSHL's breakthrough genetics research is a perfect match. I expect this collaboration to contribute a great deal to our understanding of the genes involved in bipolar disorder and to the diagnosis and treatment of this illness."
Although Bipolar Disorder usually develops in late teens of early adulthood, many children are now being affected with early onset. Diagnosis of these children can be difficult and many times they are misdiagnosed as ADHD or oppositional defiant. Some of the early symptoms are even believed to be in the range of normal developmental behaviors, so many children go years before they are diagnosed and receiving treatment. Without treatment these children can suffer academically and socially.

Children and adolescents between 7 and 18 years old, with two living biological parents may participate in the study. DNA from blood samples will be examined from both parents and the child. MRIs and psychological assessments will also be performed. The researchers hope to enroll 1,500 participants, 500 children and 1000 parents.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, bipolar disorder that begins in childhood or early adolescence may be a different, possibly more severe, form of the illness than older adolescent- and adult-onset bipolar disorder. Using novel genetic technologies, the research team hopes to identify for the first time genes that influence the risk of developing bipolar disorder at an early age. Such knowledge could help researchers develop preventative strategies and better treatments for this disabling illness.

The CSHL research team includes Jonathan Sebat, PhD, and Sydney Gary, PhD. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD, and within the intramural research program at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, MD, are also collaborating on the study. This project is funded by a generous grant from the Stanley family.

About The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research

Located in Manhasset, NY, and part of the North Shore-Long Island Jewish (LIJ) Health System, The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research is among the top six percent of all institutions that receive funding from the National Institutes of Health. Building on its strengths in immunology and inflammation, oncology and cell biology, genomics and human genetics, and neurodegenerative and psychiatric disorders, its goal is to understand the biological processes that underlie various diseases and translate this knowledge into new tools for diagnosis and treatment. For more information, please visit

About Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

CSHL is a private, non-profit research and education institution dedicated to exploring molecular biology and genetics in order to advance the understanding and ability to diagnose and treat cancers, neurological diseases, such as BPD, and other causes of human suffering. CSHL is ranked number one by Science Watch for its impact on Molecular Biology and Genetics during the last decade and is rated 10th of 4,000 charities for fiscal responsibility by Charity Navigator. For more information please visit or email the Public Affairs office at

Posted by Michelle Roberts at 1:45 PM | Comments (4)

New Book: Advances In Treatment of Bipolar Disorder

The American Journal of Psychiatry's book forum offers a short review of Advances in Treatment of Bipolar Disorder by Daniel P. Van Kammen, M.D., Ph.D. The book is composed of the latest research and clinical findings, as well as how to work with specific stages and types of the disorder, different groups experiencing the disorder (like women or adolescents), and the most current drug information.

The book is edited by Terrence A. Ketter M.D., a professor at Stanford's School of Medicine. Its contributing authors are said to be some of the most knowledgeable and experienced researchers and clinicians on the subject of Bipolar Disorder. The book is highly recommended for any health care professional working with this population, as well as students studying to work in the field of psychology and psychiatry.

Book Contents:

Introduction. Treatment of acute mania in bipolar disorder. Treatment of acute depression in bipolar disorder. Long-term management of bipolar disorder. Treatment of rapid-cycling bipolar disorder. Treatment of children and adolescents with bipolar disorder. Special considerations for women with bipolar disorder. Index.

Price: $35-$45

Read Full Review:

Advances in Treatment of Bipolar Disorder: Review of Psychiatry, Volume 24

More Reviews and Purchase Information:

Advances In Treatment of Bipolar Disorder (American Psychiatric Publishing Inc.)

Advances In Treatment of Bipolar Disorder (Amazon)

Posted by Michelle Roberts at 12:06 PM | Comments (3)