Studying Autism, Brain Size

Children with autism appear to have larger brains than other youngsters without the disorder. Ongoing research – in which a number of UNC researchers are involved – shows that the brain enlargement seen in ASD results from an increased rate of brain growth before age 2. Read more about their findings in this month’s Archives of General Psychiatry.

UNC’s Joseph Piven, director of the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities at UNC, spoke to the Wall Street Journal about this ongoing research initiative.

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Bringing Partner Into Anorexia Treatment May Aid Recovery

The partners of people struggling with eating disorders “always want to help, but they don’t know how,” said Bulik, who is director of the University of North Carolina Eating Disorders Program in Chapel Hill and a professor in the school’s psychiatry department. “No matter what they say, they feel like it’s taken wrong,” she explained. “So finally I feel we’re leveraging the power of the partnership.”

UNC Eating Disorders Program Director Cynthia Bulik talks to HealthDay about the success of using couples therapy to treat anorexia.

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Brushes with Life: Art, Artists & Mental Illness

Brushes with Life is a creative art program for people with mental illnesses in the Chapel Hill area. This powerful outreach program is run by the UNC Center for Excellence in Community Mental Health.

Through the creation of visual art, poetry, film, and music, participants find healing and move toward recovery. By connecting with the larger community around their work, they promote a broader understanding of the human side of mental illness.

The program was chronicled in Philip Brubaker’s “Brushes with Life” documentary. Learn more about Philip and his award-winning documentary here.

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New treatment for depression now available at UNC

The UNC Department of Psychiatry is now providing treatment with NeuroStar Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) Therapy system. The Neurostar TMS Therapy system is the first and only device of its kind to be cleared for the treatment of depression by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It was approved in October 2008.

TMS Therapy is a non-systemic (does not circulate in the bloodstream throughout the body) and non-invasive (does not involve surgery) form of neuromodulation that delivers highly-focused MRI-strength magnetic pulses to stimulate nerve cells in an area of the brain that is linked to depression.  NeuroStar TMS Therapy is a 40-minute outpatient procedure that is prescribed by a psychiatrist, does not require anesthesia or sedation, and patients remain awake and alert.  The treatment is typically administered daily for 4-6 weeks.

For more information about TMS, please contact Shirley Morter, Administrative Director of UNC Mental Health Specialists at 929-7449 or

Learn more about TMS here.

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Unlisted: A Story of Schizophrenia

After years of hiding from her father, a man afflicted with paranoid schizophrenia, physician Delaney Ruston tried to reconnect and understand her dad’s world.  She documented her journey toward reconciliation with her father, Richard Ruston, a journey she now shares in in “Unlisted: A Story of Schizophrenia.”

“Unlisted” will be shown November 19 at the Varsity Theater in Chapel Hill, in an event sponsored by the Healthy Carolinians of Orange County Mental Health and Substance Abuse Committee, the UNC Center for Excellence in Community Mental Health, and a number of other agencies. The event, which is free, aims to raise awareness of mental illness.

“Unlisted: A Story of Mental Illness”
Free showing at the Varsity Theater, 123 E. Franklin Street, Chapel Hill, NC
Friday, November 19 from 7-9 pm
Donations welcome.

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Introducing a new fellowship in Community Mental Health

As mental health care continues to undergo changes in North Carolina, the Center for Excellence in Community Mental Health remains committed to improving quality of care and developing a skilled work force of community psychiatrists. In working toward those goals, the center has created a fellowship that will train psychiatrists to be local and national leaders in community mental health. “The development of this fellowship is consistent with the mental health reform effort,” says Brian Sheitman, the program director. “A key component of care is having a trained work force.”

The program provides dedicated time for administrative activities and supervised scholarly projects while exposing fellows to policy formation within the state mental health system. Fellows also have the opportunity to take an active role in administration at community mental health sites in the region, including learning about how mental health care is provided in primary care settings.

Robin Reed, a fourth-year resident also working toward a master’s degree in public health, is the program’s first fellow. “The fellowship affords opportunities for individuals to expand upon their current interests and develop new interests,” she says. For Reed (left), the program will complement the clinical training she has received during her residency. “There is an emphasis on developing administrative skills to improve care in efficient and cost-effective ways,” she says. Over the next two years, Reed will further explore her interests in health policy and population health while developing and implementing a substance abuse program at El Futuro, a Latino mental health organization in the Durham and Chapel Hill area.

Development of the fellowship has been a two-year collaborative process among Sheitman, Reed, Bebe Smith, John Gilmore, Karon Dawkins and David Rubinow. Ultimately, Sheitman hopes graduates of the program will become advocates for community mental health and will be equipped and empowered to implement reforms that will improve outcomes for patient populations. “We want to teach people that they can and should question how things are done and acquire the skills to effect change,” Sheitman says.

To learn more about this fellowship, visit UNC Psychiatry or e-mail Dr. Brian Sheitman at

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Walk for Hope

The 22nd annual Walk for Hope drew more than 3,000 participants and raised more than $500,000 for psychiatric research at the University of North Carolina.

The Walk for Hope is the country’s only annual community walk raising funds for research and treatment of mental illness. To date, The Foundation of Hope has given more than $3.1 million to fund mental health research and treatment through UNC. This seed money has leveraged an additional $100 million in National Institute of Mental Health funds.

The mission of the Foundation of Hope, established in 1984, is to promote scientific research into the causes and potential cures for mental illness in order to develop a more effective means of treatment.

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