“Back in the day, there was bipartisan support for meeting mental health challenges,” Tipper Gore* said in a conversation with Jeffrey Borenstein, M.D, President and CEO of Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, at the BBRF May New York City luncheon event, Breaking the Silence About Mental Illness. She told the attendees the common ground ‘worked,’ in that it eventually helped lead to the passage of the Wellstone bill which brought mental health parity to the workplace. “Sitting members on both side of the highest legislature of the land acknowledged there were mental health issues in families,” said Gore.
Today, Gore directs attention on mental health issues affecting middle school and high school students via her work with Tennessee Voices for Children (“there are 56,000 underserved children in Tennessee alone,” she said), and the Tyler Clementi Foundation, which focuses on anti-bullying and suicide prevention. She spoke of an alarming rise in the suicide rate among these younger people and a very concerning spike seen in girls. She expressed concern about a shortage of care: “We need more boots on the ground to have a greater impact.”
Gore also said that getting properly diagnosed and receiving the appropriate treatment when she herself suffered from depression provided “real relief,” pointing to the critical nature of BBRF’s efforts.
Dr. Borenstein said BBRF is the leading foundation for grants to scientists to effectively treat brain behavior disorders; since 1987, $394 million has been awarded to more than 4,700 researchers around the world, leading to $4 billion in additional funding.
BBRF funds “out of the box ideas for innovative research” which has led to important new treatments including the rapid acting antidepressant esketamine to treat refractory (treatment resistant) depression, and brexanolone for post-partum depression. “Every dollar donated goes to scientific research and 100% of the research is invested into grants,” he stated.
Gore’s participation in the day’s event was deeply appreciated by everyone at BBRF. “It was an honor and a privilege to have someone of her stature and with her passion help us,” said Chappaqua’s Lauren Duran, the BBRF Vice President for Communications Marketing & Public Relations.
*As Second Lady, Gore served as Mental Health Policy Advisor to the President, Her goals were to diminish the stigma surrounding mental illness and to bring awareness to the need for affordable mental health care. In 1999, Gore hosted the first White House Conference on Mental Health. That same year, she launched the National Mental Health Awareness Campaign (NMHAC) to encourage Americans to seek treatment for mental illness. Gore has frequently spoken about her own experience with depression and treatment following the near-fatal injury of her son Albert.