The Adolescent Mental Health Initiative is a major, Penn-led effort to address what one expert calls the “chronic diseases of the young.” By Samuel Hughes


Before Patrick Jamieson C’97 GEd’99 Gr’03 was able to get his bipolar disorder under control, his life was unraveling. Mania and depression had transformed the rutty road of adolescence into a kind of carnival speedway, one whose surface alternated between rain-slicked blacktop and tire-engulfing mud.

“During one manic episode, I followed the turn signals of the car ahead of me for direction because I thought God was trying to lead me,” he recalls in his 2006 memoir, Mind Race: A Firsthand Account of One Teenager’s Experience with Bipolar Disorder. “But mania sparks second and third interpretations for every action. Alternatively, I thought following the car ahead of me would reveal something important and otherwise unknowable, a mystery unraveled—where that car was going.”

The depression that inevitably dragged his mania to a slogging halt was worse. His body felt like a “nearly lifeless hulk,” he writes. He found himself “weary, purposeless, submerged in a world filled with muffled echoes of my own thoughts and the whispers of others, a dark and desolate world. As my mind congeals, my speech slows. I petrify.”

Jamieson, now 33, declined—politely but firmly—to talk to the Gazette for this article. But his book is a trenchant, harrowing, ultimately uplifting portrait of his adolescent struggles with bipolar disorder, one that led to six hospitalizations and serious stress on his family. It also offers a wealth of practical information about living and coping with that disorder.

What makes his story remarkable is not just that he survived his ordeal but that he triumphed over it. Today, having earned his Ph.D. at the Graduate School of Education, he is associate director of the Adolescent Risk Communication Institute (ARCI) at the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC) at Penn. He and his wife recently celebrated the birth of their second child.

More important for this story, he is the editor of a series of books for the Adolescent Mental Health Initiative (AMHI), whose mission is to “synthesize and disseminate scientific research on the prevention and treatment of mental disorders in adolescents.” One of those books is Mind Race, which he describes as “the book I searched for and could not find” when he was finally diagnosed at age 15.

The AMHI is the brainchild of Dr. Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the APPC, former dean of the Annenberg School for Communication, and—last but certainly not least—Patrick’s mother. It has been funded, to the tune of nearly $5 million, by the Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands (whose director is … Kathleen Hall Jamieson), and has been administered by the APPC.

That it emerged from Penn is no accident. It wasn’t until the Jamiesons moved to Philadelphia, and Patrick got into Penn’s Health System, that he was properly diagnosed and treated. Furthermore, Penn is Kathleen Hall Jamieson’s intellectual home, and one of the few universities in the country with the scholarly resources and research capabilities to carry out the mission.

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