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Suicide Expert Dr. Kay Jamison to Speak at Davidson College

Kay Jamison
Dr. Kay Jamison

October 5, 2000
Contact: Bill Giduz 704/894-2244 or bigiduz@davidson.edu

Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison, a leading authority on bipolar depression and youth suicide, will present the Davidson College's David J. Blalock Memorial Lecture in Psychology on Thursday, October 19. The free public lecture begins at 8:30 p.m. in Love Auditorium of Chambers Building. Dr. Jamison will read from her latest book Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide, and speak about her research into the causes and prevention of suicide.

Dr. Jamison teaches at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, where she is a colleague of Dr. Boyd Gillespie, a member of the Davidson's Class of 1990. The lecture is sponsored by members of that class in memory of a classmate lost to suicide.

Dr. Jamison "came out" as a person suffering from bipolar disorder with her first book, An Unquiet Mind, which appeared in 1995 and chronicled her own struggles with achieving emotional stability.

She has also co-authored a standard medical text on bipolar illness and written numerous scientific papers about mood disorders, psychotherapy, psychopharmacology, and suicide. She has received many national and international scientific awards for her work, including the Research Award from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

An emotional child and adolescent, Jamison suffered her first severe attack of the disease at 17. A decade later, shortly after she joined the faculty at UCLA, her mood swings had developed into full-blown psychosis. In An Unquiet Mind, Dr. Jamison tells of the joy of the manic highs, which gave her an omnipotent feeling of cosmic connectedness, and the terrifying depressions, when she wanted only to die.

Though she responded to lithium, Dr. Jamison, like many patients, became addicted to the highs and resisted taking it. It was only after the disease had destroyed her first marriage and very nearly her life that she accepted the "rather bittersweet exchange of a comfortable and settled present existence for a troubled but intensely lived past."

In Night Falls Fast Dr. Jamison addresses the many ramifications of suicide with this passage. "Suicide is a death like no other, and those who are left behind to struggle with it must confront a pain like no other. They are left with the shock and the unending "what ifs." They are left with anger and guilt and, now and again, a terrible sense of relief..."

DeWitt Crosby, a psychologist in Davidson's Student Health Center, said, "The many students to whom I have recommended this book have found it to be very helpful and hopeful as they begin their own journey to achieve stability in their lives."

The college's Counseling Center, a co-sponsor of Dr. Jamison's talk, will incorporate her lecture as part of awareness activities during its Depression Screening Week. The lecture is also being offerred as an option to first year students to meet part of their requirements for Davidson's mandatory "P.E. 101" course, which covers health, first aid, and safety issues.

For more information on the lecture, call 894-2451.

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