Audrey Gruss has no problem talking about her mother’s depression — even to a large audience in a ballroom at an elegant hotel in Palm Beach, where everything and everyone looks so refined and polished. She speaks candidly – not as a victim but as a daughter. It is her way of taking at swipe at the stigma that still stifles families who need help.
“Hope is a very important word. It is also my mother’s name,” Audrey told a crowd at a fund-raising luncheon at The Breaker’s Hotel last Friday. Thirty five years ago Audrey’s’ mother had a “nervous breakdown.” She went away to a hospital. The doctors told the family very little about their mother’s condition.
“That was an era when cancer was thought to be contagious,” she said. “Patients weren’t told very much.”
Over the years her mother tried medications. “At certain time she was balanced but not totally.” Five years ago, Audrey’s mother died. About the same time Audrey became interested in the work of Dr. Jaak Panksepp, an Estonian born psychologist and neuroscientist who coined the term “affective neuroscience” – the study of the neural mechanisms of emotion.
To anyone who has depression, affective neuroscience is common sense. Of course emotions are related to activity in our brains. We might not be able to tell you how emotions affect our hypothalamus, cingulate cortex and hippocampi but we know there is something going on up there and it is not good.