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Sallie Mink: Psychiatry’s Clear Voice

News from the Johns Hopkins Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Sallie Mink

"I tell anyone who'll listen about the healing power of skilled therapists,"
says Mink.

Children or adolescents also participate in a phone interview regarding behavior and daily functioning. They, too, fill out questionnaires on the parent-child relationship and on personality. When participation is finished, children are given a $15 gift certificate to a book store. Marco Grados, M.D., M.P.H., is principal investigator. Call 443-287-2291 or e-mail

Shortly after her talk on depression at a local high school, Sallie Mink got a call from a woman in distress: “My son handed me one of your brochures this morning. He said he’s kept a knife under his pillow for two months, waiting to see if things got any worse. I don’t know why. I don’t know what to do. We’re good parents.”

Mink, a psychiatric nurse by training, called on hard-won insights—ones that’ve come since the mid-1970s when she arrived at Hopkins—to shape her reply. “People were convinced that most mental illness was rooted in poor parenting,” Mink says. And that enhances the stigma of having a mind disorder, one, she adds, “that’s still sharp today.”

Now, as Psychiatry’s nurse coordinator charged with education, Mink fights all that. She matched mother and son with a clinician specializing in teens’ mood disorders. But she also worked to reduce the mother’s anxiety. “We’re reassuring, but honestly so, to the families as well as patients. Anxiety is married to depression, and sometimes,” she says, “it’s all people can do to call us. When they do, they sure don’t want voice mail.”

In teaching local civic, faith or school groups or in acting, in her words, “as a go-to person” for prospective patients, Mink also de-stigmatizes. “I emphazise the genetic basis of depression,” she says. “I remind people that it’s an illness, not a result of weak character. People don’t always believe me at first. You have to keep at it.”

Mink’s start as a psychiatric nurse in the then-Phipps Clinic evolved into community outreach, with 20 years with the Depression and Related Affective Disorders Association, a regional patient awareness group founded by psychiatrist Ray DePaulo. She’s planned and run DRADA’s hugely popular yearly symposium, an event she still organizes, though now it’s under the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, where she works today. Mink’s overtures to high schools, begun years ago with equally passionate Psychiatry faculty, have blossomed into ADAP, a depression awareness program for teens, now on the verge of going nationwide.

For information: 443-287-3480.

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