NIMH Grantees to Receive 2013 Lasker Award

A current and a former National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) grantee recently collected the prestigious 2013 Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award for their meticulous mapping of the molecular mechanisms involved in neurotransmitter release, the process by which the brain sends and receives chemical messages.

Richard H. Scheller, Ph.D.

Richard H. Scheller, Ph.D

Thomas C. Südhof, M.D., at Stanford University School of Medicine, and Richard H. Scheller, Ph.D., at Genentech, parsed the proteins that enable one neuron to speak to another. This communication occurs across the synapse, a gap that separates the two neurons. Collectively called the “SNARE complex,” these proteins include vesicle-associated membrane protein (VAMP/synaptobrevin), synaptogamin, syntaxin, and SNAP-25. The complex allows for the preparation and release of the neurotransmitters into the synapse. Defects in this process contribute to mental disorders such as schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder, epilepsy, and many other pathological conditions.

Thomas C. Südhof, M.D.

Thomas C. Südhof, M.D.
Stanford University
School of Medicine

Dr. Südhof is a current NIMH grantee and has served on several study sections at the NIH Center for Scientific Review, in addition to the Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Neuroscience study section at NIMH. Dr. Scheller received research support from NIMH, and served on both the NIMH Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Neuroscience study section, and the National Advisory Mental Health Council. Both have received the NIMH MERIT Award.

Known as “America’s Nobels” because many recipients go on to win the Nobel Prize, the Lasker Awards are among the most respected science prizes in the world. Congratulations, Drs. Südof and Scheller!

–National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

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Cognitive Behavioral Skills Improves High Schoolers’ Health, Social Skills, Grades

A teacher-delivered intervention program promoting healthy lifestyles improved health behaviors, social skills, severe depression, and academic performance in high school adolescents, a study has found. Routine integration of such programs into health education curricula in high school settings may be an effective way to prevent high-risk teen populations from becoming overweight or obese, and could lead to improved physical health, psychosocial skills, and academic outcomes, according to the study.

….Overall, the study results suggest that combining health education with cognitive-behavioral skills-building may be an effective way to prevent and treat overweight and obesity in teens.

….The practical nature of the intervention, financially and in its ease of implementation, is a particular strength.

–National Institutes of Health (NIH)

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Mental Illness “Nearly Invisible” in Church Congregations

It should come as no surprise to us that a Baylor University study has found church congregations “blind to mental illness.” Most of the world outside the mental health community (and some inside it) is blind to the psychiatric disease. Human nature being what it is, it follows that church congregations would be, too.

But the Baylor study is a vivid illustration of just how thoroughly the blindness isolates those of us living with a severe mental illness. For example, families with mentally ill loved ones ranked depression and mental illness as their second priority issue for help from the church. Families without mentally ill loved ones ranked the issues 42nd (“Baylor study finds church congregations blind to mental illness,” Baylor University, Sept. 3; study not currently available online).

“The difference in response is staggering, especially given the picture of distress painted by the data: families with mental illness reported twice as many problems and tended to ask for assistance with more immediate or crisis needs compared to other families,” said study co-author Dr. Matthew Stanford, professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor, an expert in mental illness and the church. “The data give the impression that mental illness, while prevalent within a congregation, is also nearly invisible.”

–The Treatment Advocacy Center

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Suicide Prevention Is a Community Conversation

I’ve often said that survivors of suicide loss are part of a unique community that none of us wants to be in, few of us want to talk about, and yet by which all of us feel wholly defined. Once someone you love dies by suicide you are never, ever the same. If you’re like me, you probably feel confused and guilty. You likely feel alone, and you definitely feel the loss. But you’re not alone. More than 38,000 Americans died by suicide in 2010 — meaning that more people died by suicide than in car accidents — leaving hundreds of thousands to make sense of it all every single year. All that is to say: you, survivor of your parent/child/sister/brother/spouse/grandparent/cousin/classmate/friend’s suicide, are not alone.

….Help us honor all of the amazing people in our lives who we’ve lost to suicide by speaking up and reaching out. By sharing our loved ones’ stories, successes and struggles, we can help prevent suicide — and we can help our community heal.

by Alison Malmon, The Huffington Post

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Poverty Strains Cognitive Abilities, Opening Door for Bad Decision-Making, New Study Finds

Poverty consumes so much mental energy that people struggling to make ends meet often have little brainpower left for anything else, leaving them more susceptible to bad decisions that can perpetuate their situation, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Science.

….The results showed that people wrestling with the mental strain of poverty suffered a drop of as much as 13 points in their IQ — roughly the same found in people subjected to a night with no sleep.

….The strain of poverty can tax the cognitive abilities of anyone experiencing it — and that those abilities return when the burden of poverty disappears.

by Brady Dennis, The Washington Post

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Finding The Source Of Your Fears

A sure way to overcome your fears and anxieties is to first find the source of your fears. Knowing what is causing your anxieties can go a long way in finding the solution.
A person can find the source of his or her own fears by doing some self-evaluation and also by talking to a professional. Asking yourself questions such as: “Why am I afraid?” or “What is causing my anxiety?” will lead you to find the source of your fears. Give it some time and eventually you will find the answers you’re looking for.

Once you find the true source of your fears, the next step is to find the solutions that will solve your problem. With the help of a professional, write down a list of possible techniques and solutions that you think will manage your fear and anxieties. The next step is to apply the techniques that you uncovered. Here is a brief list of some techniques you can use to help deal with your fears.

A good way to manage your worry is to challenge your negative thinking with positive statements and realistic thinking. When encountering thoughts that make your fearful or anxious, challenge those thoughts by asking yourself questions that will maintain objectivity and common sense.

Be smart about how you deal with your fears and anxieties. Do not try to tackle everything all at once. When facing a current or upcoming task that overwhelms you with a lot of anxiety, break the task down into a series of smaller steps. Completing these smaller tasks one at a time will make the stress more manageable and increase your chance of success.
Learn to take it one day at a time. Instead of worrying about how you will get through the rest of the week or month, try to focus on today. Each day can provide us with different opportunities to learn new things and that includes learning how to deal with your problems. When the time comes, hopefully you will have learned the skills to deal with your situation.

Sometimes we encounter a scary situation that gets us all upset. When encountering these events, always remember to get all of the facts of the given situation. Gathering the facts can prevent us from relying on exaggerated and fearful assumptions. By focusing on the facts, a person can rely on what is reality and what is not.

In every anxiety-related situation you experience, begin to learn what works, what doesn’t work, and what you need to improve on in managing your fears and anxieties. For instance, you have a lot of anxiety and you decide to take a walk to help you feel better. The next time you feel anxious you can remind yourself that you got through it the last time by taking a walk. This will give you the confidence to manage your anxiety the next time around.

Many people try to get rid of their anxieties and fears without taking into consideration why they are afraid. The best way to get rid of your fears is to find those techniques that will manage the true source of your fears. If you can do this, then you should be able to overcome your fears and anxieties.

Stan Popovich is the author of “A Layman’s Guide to Managing Fear Using Psychology, Christianity and Non Resistant Methods.” For additional information go to:

Poverty Can Sap Brainpower, Research Shows

Burdens of poverty can lower IQ scores, a study finds, undercutting assumptions that people become poor because they’re lazy or lack intelligence.

Whether you’re a New Jersey mall rat or a farmer in India, being poor can sap your smarts. In fact, the mental energy required to make do with scarce resources taxes the brain so much that it can perpetuate the cycle of poverty, new research shows.

The findings, published in Friday’s edition of the journal Science, indicate that an urgent need — making rent, getting money for food — tugs at the attention so much that it can reduce the brainpower of anyone who experiences it, regardless of innate intelligence or personality. As a result, many social welfare programs set up to help the poor could backfire by adding more complexity to their lives.

By Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times

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Increase of Schizophrenia in Homeless Youth: Interview with a Youth Therapist

….I think what really got my attention most is when Tanya said she is seeing an increase of schizophrenia in homeless youth. I find this interesting because schizophrenia is organic and first signs start showing at around age 15. Schizophrenia is not brought on by trauma or drug abuse, but it is often generational. Now I am not the smartest person, but this may give some insight as to why some families self-destruct. It also, at least to me, gives hope because if we had better and more mental health services maybe, just maybe we could fix families!

Please watch and share this important video. Tanya shares a lot of insight on the psychology of youth homelessness. I think my favorite is when she says “youth homelessness should not be punished”. What are your thoughts about the information Tanya shares and youth homelessness?

–Invisible People

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Pediatric Mood Seminar at John Hopkins University: Are You Concerned About Your Child’s Irritability?

Understanding Severe Irritability, Disruptive Mood Dysregulation (DMDD) and Bipolar Disorder (BD) in Children & Youth Ages 8-17
Thursday, October 17, 2013, 7-8:30 pm

Free and open to the public

RSVP by Oct 11: 301-496-8381, TTY: 1-866-411-1010, or Email:

Presenter: Kenneth Towbin, M.D. Pediatric Psychiatry, NIMH

Severe irritability symptoms may include temper tantrums and rages

Topics Include: Common signs and severity of symptoms; How parents can help a struggling child; Treatment options; Ongoing research conducted at NIMH.

Seminar Location: Johns Hopkins University, Montgomery County Campus, A&R Building, Room 106/8/10, 9601 Medical Center Drive, Rockville, MD 20850, Enter Campus via Broschart Road

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