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Private supporters of UCLA’s world-renowned Semel Institute are removing the stigma attached to mental illness by hosting educational events for the public.
Approximately one in four U.S. adults suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. About 6 percent struggle with a serious mental illness. Most people have a friend or family member who falls into this category, but many are reluctant to talk about it. This persistent stigma associated with mental disorders serves as an albatross around the necks of the people who suffer from mental disorders and their loved ones. It also prevents many from seeking the help they need.
The Friends of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA is helping to remove the stigma through widely attended educational programs and discussions open to the public. The nonprofit organization educates the public about illnesses of the mind and brain while supporting Semel Institute research that advances treatments. From teen depression, eating disorders and suicide to autism spectrum disorder, traumatic brain injury, Alzheimer’s disease and post-traumatic stress disorder, topics too often shunted from public view are brought into the light.
The Semel Institute is a world-renowned multidisciplinary research institute where hundreds of clinical researchers and scientists work collaboratively to study psychiatric and neurological disorders and to develop effective new treatments. The institute has made considerable headway, transforming countless lives, but there is much work to be done. “There is still a basic prejudice about psychiatry in general and mental illness particularly,” says Peter Whybrow, M.D., director of the Semel Institute.
The Friends of the Semel Institute promotes community awareness of the institute’s research and assists in raising money to support it at a time when federal funding is becoming increasingly hard to secure. Through the Friends Scholar Grant program, awards are given annually to jump-start the research programs of one or more outstanding young scientists working to develop new treatments.
But beyond promoting the Semel Institute and its work, the group advances understanding of disorders of the mind and brain. It does so by providing a forum for interaction with leading Semel Institute researchers and clinicians in small, informal settings, and by presenting educational programs on topics of mental illness.
By blending mainstream culture and hard science, the support organization offers patients, family members and the intellectually curious public the opportunity to learn in a safe, non-threatening group environment.
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