For many years, help for individuals struggling with mental and emotional problems has been limited and largely inaccessible to many. Those suffering often remained silent. Many did not know how to explain what they were experiencing. They were frightened by the prospect of isolation from family and friends and by negative implications around work and social activities. The diagnosis of a mental illness came with a heavy stigma that only magnified the problem.
Fortunately, things are beginning to change. More people recognize that they are not alone in their struggles. Researchers have helped to uncover keys to understanding mental disorders. All sorts of ambassadors — from physicians and nurses to community leaders and donors — have spoken up on behalf of infants and children, the most vulnerable members of our society.
The generosity and dedication of one couple to the health and well-being of our community is a wonderful example and led to the establishment of a new endowed chair at Texas Children’s. The couple chose to remain anonymous, but they wanted to honor someone very special to them with their gift — the hospital’s President and CEO Mark A. Wallace. The Mark A. Wallace Distinguished Chair at the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute (NRI) will support mental health research. The NRI is expanding its efforts in this area, with studies on mood disorders, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorders and other mental illnesses. These conditions, most of which develop during childhood, affect 1 in 30 people.
“I am deeply honored by this special donor’s decision to name a chair after me to support basic research at the NRI,” Wallace said. “The ongoing funding provided by the endowment will enable the NRI’s faculty and research teams to pursue new ideas and collaborative efforts aimed at more effective treatments for neuropsychiatric disorders.”
Evidence suggests that these mental illnesses run in families and that genes are likely to play a role in the biologic vulnerability for many individuals. The genetic components are complex, and there is still an urgent need for additional research to understand their biological basis more fully. Early diagnosis and intervention for children is critical to reduce the severity of their symptoms and improve their quality of life.