Kay Redfield Jamison, Ph.D.
Patients at Hopkins Hospital who find themselves on the recovery side of a flight into mania or a free-fall into depression—especially young adults hearing they have bipolar disorder—are often given what should be called bibliotherapy. Kay Jamison’s book An Unquiet Mind, is potent for doing what pills can’t: It lets patients read for themselves how destructive not taking their medicine can be, it tells of the healing power of structure, psychotherapy and a social network. It tells them they’re not alone. And, as critical, it shows, through Jamison’s example, that the diagnosis needn’t drain all the life from life.
Jamison is perhaps this country’s most famous writer about manic-depressive illness. Her books and articles not only help patients, they have raised society’s consciousness. Her public appearances inform Americans about their millions of fellow citizens who suffer mood disorders. Her work and life chip away at the stigma of mental illness.
Jamison is a full professor of psychiatry who has researched widely on medication adherence and suicide. She’s co-authored Manic Depressive Illness: Bipolar Disorders and Recurrent Depression, the definitive book on the topic.
But within the Mood Disorders Center, Jamison is seen as a tether.She grounds its scientific studies in humanity, giving what she calls, “a broader notion of moods in the human perspective.
“I’m interested in the boundaries between normal moods and abnormal, between normal and abnormal behavior. It’s the overlap that fascinates,” she says.
And it’s in those tenuous states between a normal passion and pathology, she believes, that exuberance and creativity surface. “The tie between high accomplishment in business, science and the arts and mood disorders is far from coincidental.”
Understanding the psychology and biology behind that, she says, “could lead to therapy even better than what exists, that doesn’t ever tamper with a rich, imaginative life.”