NNDC Center of Excellence Member, University of Illinois at Chicago Featured in The Chicago Gazette

UI Health Fights Mental Illness, Launches Center on Depression and Resilience

Anand Kumar, head of psychiatry at UIC, speaks at the opening of the Center on Depression and Resilience. (Photos by Josh Clark)

December 6, 2014

By Lisa R. Jenkins
The Chicago Gazette

The University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago, part of the University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences System (UI Health), recently announced an initiative to combat depression and help remove the nationwide stigma surrounding mental illnesses.

On October 21 at the College of Medicine’s Research Building’s Moss Auditorium, located at 909 S. Wolcott Avenue, the college formally launched its University of Illinois Center on Depression and Resilience (UI CDR).

Based in the college’s Department of Psychiatry, the multi-disciplinary center brings together practitioners, educators, and researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) College of Pharmacy, College of Nursing, School of Public Health, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences’ Department of Psychology, Jane Addams College of Social Work, Institute for Juvenile Research, and Veterans Program.

“We aim to reduce stigma, detect illness, provide care earlier, discover novel biomarkers, build resilience, reduce the risk of suicide, provide comprehensive and compassionate care, support families, and provide education,” said Anand Kumar, MD, Lizzie Gilman Professor and head of the Department of Psychiatry.

More than 49,000 patients, from young children and adolescents to adults and the elderly, are expected to visit the center annually.

The center aims to improve quality of life for patients and their families by bringing cutting edge, evidence-based approaches to understand, detect, monitor, and treat mood disorders.

Center officials envision breaking new ground to decrease recurrences of depression and eventually prevent it altogether. They also want to reduce depression’s related conditions such as medical problems, anxiety, and substance and alcohol misuse.

The center’s leaders also hope to identify risk biomarkers for those vulnerable to depression and suicide in order to increase health providers’ knowledge and skills to treat depression and understand what contributes to the physiology of mood disorders.

They also hope to find better interventions and treatments with fewer debilitating side effects than those currently available.

Depression is severely undertreated, due in part to the unavailability of services and the stigma that keeps people from seeking treatment. Researchers still need to clarify basic mechanisms responsible for mood disorders, yet funding for learning about those mechanisms, from both government and the private sector, has decreased severely. Discovery and clinical application have slowed from a potential timeline of years to as long as decades.

Mental health advocate Patrick Kennedy was on hand to speak about the new center’s potential for helping patients.

 At UI CDR, patients with depression and other mood disorders will partner with clinicians in an approach that integrates traditional and innovative methods including cognitive-behavioral and interpersonal therapy; medication; and complementary therapies such as yoga, meditation, exercise, nutrition, and neuro-stimulation.
“We provide world class research and clinical care in all of the areas of depression and mood disorders across all treatment modalities,” Kumar said.
More than 14.8 million American adults are affected by major depression disorder in any given year, and depression is the leading cause of disability in the United States for individuals ages 15 through 44. The World Health Organization estimates that, by 2020, depression will be the second leading cause of disability worldwide.

Depression also can result in damaged relationships; poor job productivity or loss of job; low school performance for children and adolescents; legal or financial consequences from impulsive or poor decisions; medical side effects from prolonged abuse of drugs, alcohol, or prescriptions; repetitive self-harming behaviors; and, in extreme cases, suicide.

Across the United States, as many as 35,000 to 40,000 people with depression die by suicide each year. Suicide ranks tenth among causes of death in the U.S., according to Centers for Disease Control death and mortality data.

The Center is a member of the National Network of Depression Centers, a consortium of 20 major academic medical centers that meet the standards for excellence in clinical, educational, research, and advocacy programs in mood disorders.

The university has received $30 million in federal and extramural funding in mood disorders research over the past three years.

UI Health is the only academic medical center to receive three grants from the National Institute of Mental Health to study mood disorders from the Research Domain Criteria initiative, the current state-of-the-science overarching mission of the NIMH.

Former Congressman Patrick Kennedy was on hand for the UI CDR opening. As a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, he wrote and was lead sponsor of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008.

“We need to bring everyone together to design the first blueprint of basic neuroscience to guide efforts in seeking cures for neurological disorders affecting Americans,” Kennedy said. Kennedy spoke about his own bouts with mood disorders and substance abuse and praised UI Health for its vision of a multidisciplinary approach in attacking mental illness. For information or to make an appointment, call (312) 996-7723.