For author, blogger, raconteur, and talk-show host Dick Cavett, when the topic is depression, it’s personal. Cavett had his first bout with the illness a year after graduating from Yale College in 1958, and debilitating episodes continued to dog him during his storied reign as host of the various incarnations of The Dick Cavett Show, which first debuted on ABC in 1968.
For his work in raising awareness of depression and his efforts to eliminate the stigma associated with the disorder, the School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry gave Cavett its Mental Health Research Advocacy Award in 2009. On March 9 of this year, Cavett joined department faculty at the Yale Club of New York City as a special guest for a presentation of some of the department’s latest research on depression and bipolar disorder.
John H. Krystal, M.D., department chair and Robert L. McNeil Jr., Professor of Translational Research, introduced talks by Hilary Blumberg, M.D., associate professor of psychiatry and diagnostic radiology, and Ronald S. Duman, Ph.D., Elizabeth House and Jameson Mears Professor of Psychiatry. Blumberg presented brain-imaging studies elucidating the development of bipolar disorder, while Duman discussed the role of neurogenesis (the birth of new nerve cells) in the brain’s hippocampus in depression, research that throws light on the very rapid antidepressant action of the drug ketamine recently demonstrated by Krystal and colleagues.
In 1975, Cavett was successfully treated with antidepressants, and he overcame his worst episode, in 1980, with electroconvulsive therapy, which he deemed “miraculous.” But existing therapies do not work for everyone, and Cavett stressed that new and better treatments are sorely needed.