Saks will join world's greatest thinkers
- By Gilien Silsby
USC Law Professor Elyn Saks recently joined some of the world’s greatest thinkers at the annual TEDGlobal Conference in Edinburgh, Scotland, where she spoke about her lifelong battle with schizophrenia and acute psychosis.
A nationally recognized scholar in mental health law and the ethical dimensions of medical research, Saks’ talk was one of the first to be posted on the TEDGlobal homepage - an honor given to only a few speakers. As of early July, her talk received more than 220,000 views.
“It was a privilege to share my story at the TEDGlobal conference,” said Saks, winner of a 2009 MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant” and author of The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness
(Hyperion, 2007). “The people who attended TED were interesting and resourceful. It was wonderful to speak to this group.”
Saks, who has battled schizophrenia since she was a teenager, hoped to inspire others who may be struggling with mental illness or other challenges.
“I wanted to implode certain myths about schizophrenia, such as that people with the disorder can’t hold meaningful jobs or have close relationships,” she said. “I also wanted to give people who are struggling a sense of hope.”
Saks was featured at the TEDGlobal session, “Misbehaving Beautifully,” along with Ruby Wax, a comedian, who spent much of her comedy career battling depression; Vikram Patel, who helps bring healthcare to low-income communities; Wayne McGregor, a dancer who explores the intersection of mind and movement; and Robert Legato, who creates creative visual illusions for such movies as “Hugo” and “Titanic,” and won two Academy Awards for his work.
“Being at TED was incredibly exciting,” said Saks. “The quality of the talks and the quality of the conversation were topnotch. I was very impressed by the whole event.”
Since 1985, TEDGlobal has brought an international array of scholars, musicians, artists and innovators together annually to address a wide range of topics in science and culture. The speakers are given a maximum of 18 minutes to present their ideas in the most innovative and engaging way possible. This year’s "Radical Openness" theme explored “boundless inventiveness of the human mind.”
USC Law Dean Robert K. Rasmussen said Saks’ story is inspiring and her scholarship is exemplary. “Elyn has highest standards in everything she does. I’m sure that those who heard her speak at the TED conference were as moved and inspired as we were.”
Two years ago, Saks launched the Saks Institute for Mental Health Law, Policy, and Ethics with a portion of the $500,000 she won from the MacArthur grant. Her goal is to foster interdisciplinary and collaborative research among scholars and policymakers around issues of mental illness and mental health.
Each year, the Saks Institute explores a single issue relating to mental health and holds a conference and speaker’s series on that topic. This year, the topic is psychotropic drugs and the previous year it was mechanical restraints. Next year, the topic will be the criminalization of mental illness, with Peter Earley giving a talk on his book, “Crazy: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness,” which addresses the many dimensions of this problem.