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Elyn Saks will use MacArthur Grant for more advocacy for those suffering from mental illness

Posted Sep 22 2009 10:11pm

From article: Artist Mark Bradford, USC’s Elyn Saks win MacArthur grants, By Thomas H. Maugh II, Los Angeles Times, September 22, 2009.

Elyn Saks USC law professor Elyn Saks is among the 24 winners of this year’s “genius” grants from the MacArthur Foundation.

Her own battle with schizophrenia has informed her advocacy for those suffering from mental illness.

She kept it hidden while excelling in her academic studies, receiving a philosophy degree from Oxford University and a law degree from Yale University before joining the faculty at USC.

She is also an adjunct professor of psychiatry at UC San Diego, where she does research about society’s rejection of the mentally ill and how high-functioning schizophrenics cope.

Saks came out of the mental health closet with her 2007 memoir, “ The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness.”

The book described the night terrors she had suffered throughout her life, her earlier beliefs that she had mentally caused the deaths of thousands of people, and the often-inhumane treatment she had received at mental health facilities.

Saks said in an interview Monday that she would use at least some of the prize money to extend her memoir by interviewing other people with schizophrenia who are doing well.

“When I’m traveling, people always say, ‘You’re unique.’ Well, I’m really not,” she said. “I would just like to tell other people’s stories as well to further give people hope and understanding. . . . Some of their stories are just so inspirational.”

The awards have been given for nearly three decades by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation “to celebrate and support exceptional men and women of all ages and in all fields who dream, explore, take risks, invent, and build in new and unexpected ways in the interest of shaping a better future for us all.”


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