NIH News Release
National Institute of Mental Health

Tuesday, March 20, 2001
Marilyn Weeks
or Rayford Kytle
(301) 443-4536

NIMH Hosts Science Research Forum in Pittsburgh
National and Local Experts to Address Depression's Toll on Other Illnesses
Washington, D.C. — Treatment of depression, which often accompanies other major illnesses, such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, HIV/AIDS, and Parkinson's disease, can improve health outcomes for both illnesses.

Research on the link between depression and other serious illnesses is the focus of a meeting sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). The meeting, The Unwanted Cotraveler: Depression's Toll on Other Illnesses, will be from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Monday March 26, 2001, at the Westin Convention Center in Pittsburgh: Advocates, patients, doctors, other care providers, and policy makers are invited to hear about scientific advances linking depression and other illnesses, and the role that treating depression plays in improving the course of the other disease. In addition, participants will offer ideas for shaping the Institute's research agenda, as well as informing educational and communication efforts for improving health care.

NIMH director Steven E. Hyman, M.D., who will provide an opening overview and closing comments for the meeting, said, "The important news is that depression, alone or occurring with another illness, is a treatable disorder. Not only may relief from depression help a patient adhere to complex treatment plans for other illnesses, and improve their quality of life, but researchers are tracing the biological aspects of depression that could affect these other illnesses at the physiological and cellular levels. The primary purpose of this conference is to disseminate this information to every patient who needs it, and into every doctor's office, hospital and nursing home where the suffering of depression can be alleviated."

Co-hosts for the meeting are the University of Pittsburgh and the Jewish Healthcare Foundation. David J. Kupfer, M.D., Thomas Detre, Professor and Chairman, Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, will chair the meeting. Speakers include:

Sen. Arlen Specter, (R) Pennsylvania, and Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy, (D) Rhode Island, will deliver keynote speeches at the luncheon. Rep. Kennedy will speak about his personal fight with depression.

Other speakers include Charles Curie, Deputy Secretary, Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare; Lydia Lewis, Executive Director, National Depressive and Manic-Depressive Association; and Steven A. Schroeder, M.D., President, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Researchers will speak and lead discussions on how depression alters various neurotransmitters, which are critical to the progression of Parkinson's and other neurological diseases. As another example, depression induces stress hormones that can affect the cardiovascular system and is associated with changes in platelet function that may be important in people who have heart disease. Depression's physiological effects also include the suppression of the immune system, which may adversely alter the course of cancer and HIV/AIDS. The interconnections go on, with studies linking depression and obesity and diabetes, as well as intriguing findings showing common genetic patterns in depression and diabetes.

Current treatments provide relief from depression's symptoms which include sadness, loss of interest or pleasure in activities that were once enjoyed, change in appetite or weight, difficulty sleeping or oversleeping, physical slowing or agitation, energy loss, feelings of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt, difficulty thinking or concentrating, and recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.

The conference will include plenary sessions to share NIMH scientific findings on depression and its treatment, including treatment approaches tailored to the needs of people with co-existing illnesses. Breakout sessions will provide participants an opportunity to discuss ways to diagnose and treat depression that are appropriate to each illness, and how treating depression can improve health outcome for the other illness and quality of life for patients.

For more on the meeting, including registration information and a complete agenda, visit:

NIMH is the Federal agency responsible for supporting and conducting research on mental disorders. NIMH is sponsoring a series of meetings, nationwide, to seek input from the American public about its perceptions of research needs and opportunities. This Forum has been developed in partnership with the Western State Psychiatric Institute and Clinic at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, the Jewish Healthcare Foundation, patient and professional organizations, universities, and business leaders, as well as state and local agencies. The ideas and questions generated at this meeting will inform NIMH's research priorities and outreach efforts to ensure relevance and responsiveness to America's health needs.

NIMH is one of 25 components that make up the National Institutes of Health, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. For information about NIMH and its programs, please check out our web site at, or e-mail, write or phone us.