2020 Pardes Humanitarian Prize in Mental Health Honors Global Advocates for the Poor and Children with Psychiatric Illness

Myrna Weissman, Ph.D., for the care of disadvantaged people suffering from depression; Sir Michael Rutter CBE, for expanding our understanding of mental health in children; E. Fuller Torrey M.D., Receives Honorary Pardes Prize for research and advocacy on the biological basis of mental illness

New York, Sept. 30, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation today announced the winners of the 2020 Pardes Humanitarian Prize in Mental Health: Myrna Weissman, Ph.D, for her transformative work in the mental health care of disadvantaged persons suffering from depression, and Sir Michael Rutter, CBE, for advancing our understanding of and treatments for mental health problems in children. E. Fuller Torrey, M.D., received an Honorary Pardes Prize for promoting the biological basis of mental illness.

The 2020 Pardes Humanitarian Prize in Mental Health, which carries an honorarium of $150,000, is awarded annually to recognize individuals whose contributions have made a profound and lasting impact in advancing the understanding of mental health and improving the lives of people with mental illness. It focuses public attention on the burden mental illness places on individuals and society, and the urgent need to expand mental health services globally.

In making the announcement, Herbert Pardes, M.D., for whom the prize is named, said, “Recipients of this year’s Pardes Prize have used their scientific knowledge, understanding of human behavior and compassion to improve the lives of millions of people with mental illness, including children and people living in poverty.” Dr. Pardes, President of the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation’s Scientific Council and Executive Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, added, “Through their work, we broaden the scope of mental illness treatment around the world and the use of knowledge for the betterment of our diverse global family.”

“Dr. Weissman, Professor Rutter, and Dr. Torrey exemplify what it means to be world-class behavioral scientists and humanitarians,” said Jeffrey Borenstein, M.D., President and CEO of the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation. “We honor all three for their outstanding commitment in the pursuit to alleviate the pain and suffering of mental illness.”

2020 Pardes Prize Recipient Myrna Weissman, Ph.D.  
Dr. Weissman received a Ph.D. in epidemiology from Yale University School of Medicine in 1974. She is currently a Professor of Epidemiology in Psychiatry, Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University and Chief of the Division of Epidemiology at New York State Psychiatric Institute.

Dr. Weissman’s research career, mostly as an epidemiologist, has focused on studying depression in families, seeking ways to break the cycle of transmission across generations and to develop better understanding of the mechanisms underlying transmission. Her current research is on understanding the long-term risks of mood and anxiety disorders in individuals and transmitted to families using methods of epidemiology, genetics, and neuroimaging.

Inspired by her research, Dr. Weissman’s humanitarian effort globally and in the U.S., has been transformative in the mental health care of disadvantaged persons suffering from depression.  She developed Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT) with Gerald Klerman, M.D., and, since his death in 1992, she simplified and implemented it for health workers around the world. IPT addresses depression associated with disruption of attachments due to grief, disputes, transitions or loneliness. These problems are universal and common in persons suffering natural disasters, war and forced dislocation.

She also adapted IPT for African and Muslim countries and donated the copyright to the World Health Organization. She participated in the first clinical trial of psychotherapy in sub-Saharan Africa, and modified IPT for the study (JAMA, 2003). She actively contributes to Strong Minds, a humanitarian effort, providing IPT to over 70,000 depressed, impoverished women in Uganda and Zambia. This effort has won a number of major international awards. She also participates in an NIH funded implementation project, PRIDE-SSA, which will improve mental health services in Mozambique.

2020 Pardes Prize Recipient Professor Sir Michael Rutter, CBE
Professor Sir Michael Rutter was trained in general medicine, neurology and pediatrics before specializing in psychiatry. He was appointed the first consultant of child psychiatry in the UK and has been head of the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry, London, and Honorary Director of the Medical Research Council Child Psychiatry Unit.

His studies of autism, depression, antisocial behavior, reading difficulties, deprived children, overactive children, school effectiveness, and children whose psychiatric problems have a clear organic component has resulted in many publications. One of the most influential was Maternal Depression Reassessed, in which he argued that it was the norm for children to form multiple attachments rather than a selective attachment to just one person.

Professor Rutter is recognized as contributing to the establishment of child psychiatry as a medical and biopsychosocial specialty with a strong scientific base. In 1994, he established the Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Unit at the Institute of Psychiatry. The goal of the center is to bridge the gap between ‘nature’ (genetics) and ‘nuture’ (environment) as they interact in the development of complex human behavior, such as depression and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in children.

Professor Rutter was knighted in 1992 and is an honorary member of the British Academy, a Fellow of the Royal Society, and a founding Fellow of the Academia Europea and the Academy of Medical Sciences. The Michael Rutter Centre for Children and Adolescents at the Maudsley Hospital, London, was named for him.

2020 Honorary Pardes Humanitarian Prize Recipient, E. Fuller Torrey, M.D. 
Dr. Torrey has made extraordinary contributions to people with mental illness, both in his research, which has had a profound impact on advancing the understanding of mental illness, and also by his advocacy for the rights of people with mental illness. He is currently Associate Director, The Stanley Medical Research Institute, investigating the causes and treatment of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, including ongoing collaborative research on infectious agents as a cause of these diseases.

In the 1970s Dr. Torrey introduced what was then a radically new and revolutionary approach, an infective/inflammatory etiology and pathophysiology of mental illness. Over the years, this hypothesis has led to the testing of many new treatments of mental illness. Dr. Torrey’s early work on inflammation and infection in mental illness has been transformative, as hundreds of researchers and hundreds of millions of grant dollars are now devoted to research in this field. Anti-inflammatory and antibiotic drugs are being studied as potential treatments.

His other major contribution is in education and advocacy. For 40 years he has been responsible for hundreds of public lectures, radio and TV shows, National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) and Treatment Advocacy Center reports, editorials, op-eds, and letters to the editor. He has written five books, all intended to educate the public about the biological basis of serious mental illness.

About the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation 
The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation awards research grants to develop improved treatments, cures, and methods of prevention for mental illness. These illnesses include addiction, ADHD, anxiety, autism, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, depression, eating disorders, OCD, PTSD, and schizophrenia, as well as research on suicide prevention. Since 1987, the Foundation has awarded more than $418 million to fund more than 5,000 leading scientists around the world, which has led to over $4 billion in additional funding. 100% of every dollar donated for research is invested in research grants. BBRF operating expenses are covered by separate foundation grants. BBRF is the producer of the Emmy® nominated public television series Healthy Minds with Dr. Jeffrey Borenstein, which aims to remove the stigma of mental illness and demonstrate that with help, there is hope.


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