UCLA Depression Grand Challenge hosts TEDxUCLA Salon

January 8, 2019

On January 8, 2019, the UCLA Depression Grand Challenge (DGC) in partnership with the Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital at UCLA hosted a TEDxUCLA Salon moderated by Dr. Michael Gitlin, distinguished professor of Clinical Psychiatry, and titled “Tackling Depression: Understanding, Preventing, and Treating the World’s Greatest Health Problem.” Nearly 200 guests attended the event which included a musical performance by UCLA alum and cellist, Ramin Abrams, and stories from speakers with personal connections to depression and anxiety, including what led them to work with the DGC or become involved in neuroscience research.

Nelson Freimer, DGC Executive Committee member and director of the DGC, provided an overview of the DGC, calling the initiative a “Manhattan Project for Brain Health” given the massive effort and unique collaborations it has generated at UCLA. In reflecting on the DGC’s progress to date, Freimer noted that one of the most rewarding aspects for him so far has been in providing students with free and accessible mental health resources as part of the DGC’s early Innovative Treatment Network (ITN).

DGC Executive Committee member Professor Michelle Craske, who leads the DGC’s ITN component, highlighted how newly-developed smartphone technology can monitor and diagnose depressive symptoms on a scale never previously thought possible. Remote monitoring allows treatment to be provided at crucial times. The Screening and Treatment for Anxiety and Depression (STAND) program was launched on campus as a result of this initiative. The program assesses whether students are experiencing depression or anxiety symptoms and offers immediate treatment options tailored to their needs.  

Third-year UCLA undergraduate, Clara Nguyen, a participant of the program, spoke about her experiences with depression and anxiety, emphasizing how important support networks are for building resilience.

Laurie Gordon, chair of the Stewart and Lynda Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital Board of Advisors at UCLA and member of the DGC Leadership Council, shared a moving and inspirational talk about turning pain into purpose. Gordon’s son, Max Gray, suffered with depression in silence, ultimately taking his own life at age 25 in 2013. Gordon has since become a champion for research to increase understanding about the causes of depression and new forms of treatment, establishing the Max Gray Fund for Treatment of Mood Disorders in 2014 in his memory.

“We don’t currently understand what causes depression or makes someone vulnerable to it. While only 50 percent of people suffering from depression seek treatment, only half of the treatment received is effective,” said Jonathan Flint, DGC executive committee member. According to Professor Flint, current treatment methods favor a one-size-fits-all approach toward care which doesn’t account for individual differences in genetics and other factors. What is needed are technologies that appropriately monitor depression to enable early diagnosis and treatment.

Professor of Psychiatry Jeanne Miranda spoke passionately about the importance of ensuring access to care, particularly for low-income and ethnic minority communities who are the least likely to seek help and treatment for depression.  

In addition to presentations, attendees also watched the following two TED Talks focused on depression and mental health:

How to connect with depressed friends | Bill Bernat | TEDxSnoIsleLibraries

Why I train grandmothers to treat depression | Dixon Chibanda

Presenters at the TEDxUCLA Salon:

Michelle Craske (UCLA Depression Grand Challenge Executive Committee Member)

Jonathan Flint (Depression Grand Challenge Executive Committee Member)

Nelson Freimer (Depression Grand Challenge Director)

Laurie Gordon (Chair of the Board of Advisors of the Stewart and Lynda Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital; Depression Grand Challenge Leadership Council Member)

Jeanne Miranda (Professor, Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences)

Clara Nguyen (Certified Resilience Peer Network (RPN) Member of the Depression Grand Challenge’s Screening and Treatment for Anxiety and Depression (STAND) program)


Tackling Depression TEDxUCLA Salon

Additional coverage:

Depression Grand Challenge researchers speak at TEDxUCLA event about motivations Daily Bruin, 08 January 2019

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