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August 25, 2011 Volume 2, Issue 31
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Excerpt from APA Annual Meeting Speech: May 2011
by John M. Oldham, M.D., M.S.
A few years ago, when I was in South Carolina, I was amazed to get an email from "Mr. R.," a man I had provided care to when I was a resident at Columbia University. He said I probably didn't remember him, but that he had often wanted to contact me during the almost 35 years since we last saw each other. He wanted to tell me he had done okay in life, which he thought would surprise me. Mr. R. remembered me as arrogant, pessimistic about his future, and not very helpful. I was stunned, since he was one of the patients we can all recall from our training years, who had made a profound impression and was indelibly fixed in my memory.

A student at the time and son of an Orthodox Jewish father, Mr. R. was in love with a woman from a different faith. His father had told him, “If you marry her, it will be the death of me.” Mr. R. was in anguish about the situation, but his love prevailed and he married his sweetheart. His father did not attend the event, and unfortunately, died of a heart attack the day of the wedding. I first met Mr. R. shortly thereafter, when he was hospitalized in an acute psychotic state.

What I remember from those days was my concern for Mr. R. After all, I was also a student at the time. I didn't know enough yet to appreciate the power of human resilience and recovery potential within us all. What Mr. R. saw as coldness or arrogance was, in hindsight, a defensive formality for hiding my anxiety and uncertainty about how to help him. At the time, I had trouble seeing the person behind the psychosis, though he was there watching and wanting to connect with me.

After mulling it over for a while, I decided to reply. I told Mr. R. how glad I was to hear from him, to learn how positively things turned out. I said that in the context of being young and inexperienced—even though I had been very concerned about him—I hadn't been sure I knew how to help him, and had clearly kept my distance much more than I'd realized. I apologized for having been so unavailable to him and wished him well. He responded a few days later expressing how pleased he was about my reply, and said “not to worry,” that “all was forgiven.” I haven't heard from him since.

Why do I tell you this story? It was certainly a humbling experience for me, but I think it conveys an important message for everyone, reminding us of the power of hope, the potential for recovery, and that we must never lose sight of the whole person who—for the time being—is not only our patient, but our partner in the treatment enterprise.

John M. Oldham is President of the American Psychiatric Association (APA).

STAR Center News
To continue their support of recovery-oriented cultural competency, self-help, and consumer empowerment, the Support, Technical Assistance and Resources (STAR) Center has updated their Web site, www.consumerstar.org, with the following resources and information:


Audio recordings of STAR Center teleconferences now include two recent trainings conducted in honor of National Minority Mental Health Month (July):

Integration of Recovery and Peer Support Models in Latino Communities

Free Cultural Competency Toolkit and Training

Self-Help Resources

New self-help links added to the site include

Recovery Resources

Self-Help Affirming Quotes

Integrated Wellness Blog

The STAR Center is funded by SAMHSA/CMHS. Please visit www.samhsa.gov for helpful information and resources on mental health and recovery.

ASAM Says Addiction Is a Chronic Brain Disorder
Addiction is a chronic brain disorder that should be treated like any other chronic disease, according to a new definition from the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM). In a public policy statement, ASAM emphasized that neurological mechanisms are the key drivers of addiction. The statement describes addiction as a primary disease and not the result of other emotional or psychiatric problems. It goes on to say that addiction takes over the brain's reward system and stifles areas of executive functioning, such as impulse control. Genetic factors account for half of the probability that a patient will develop an addiction. To read the full article, please visit http://www.medpagetoday.com/Psychiatry/Addictions/28070.

Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care Launches New Web Site
Please join the Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care in celebrating the launch of their new Web site, which can be accessed at http://www.mentalhealthexcellence.org or http://www.femhc.org.

The Foundation's mission is to promote better mental health outcomes by identifying, developing, and publicly sharing knowledge about mental health care that helps people recover and live well. They foster improvements in mental health care by sponsoring research and development of programs designed to help people thrive—physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually.

The RTP Resource Center Wants to Hear From
Recovery-Oriented Practitioners!
We invite practitioners to submit personal stories that describe how they became involved in recovery-oriented work, and how it has changed the way they practice.
The RTP Resource Center Wants to Hear From You, Too!
We invite you to submit personal stories that describe recovery experiences. To submit stories or other recovery resources, please contact Stephanie Bernstein, MSW, at 877.584.8535,
or email recoverytopractice@dsgonline.com.

We welcome your views, comments, suggestions, and inquiries.
For more information on this topic or any other recovery topics,
please contact the RTP Resource Center at
877.584.8535, or email recoverytopractice@dsgonline.com.

The views, opinions, and content of this Weekly Highlight are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or policies of SAMHSA or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.