First International Mental Health Awareness Organization Meets

From a Press release issued by IAAN (an organization sponsored by Bristol Meyers): March 11'1997

Leaders from global mental illness advocacy groups will meet in Venice, Italy, on March 14-15, to map the future of a new International Advocacy Association Network (IAAN). The inaugural event, "The First International Meeting of Advocacy Associations for the Mentally Ill," brings together the first international alliance of mental illness advocacy associations focused on anxiety and depressive illnesses and their comorbidity (the simultaneous occurrence of multiple psychiatric disorders).

The IAAN meeting is a venue to unite world mental illness advocates and to structure the IAAN as a global education resource for individuals, families and caregivers dealing with depression and anxiety. The meeting program includes discussion sessions among advocacy associations and a workshop on comorbidity of anxiety and depression. Venice was selected for this gathering because it is historically known as the crossroads of different cultures.

The meeting will focus on anxiety and depression because of their prevalence in the general worldwide population, their devastating effects on the individual and the global community when not recognized and the strong potential for treatment when diagnosed. A report issued by the World Bank estimates that depression currently ranks fifth in illness burden among women and seventh among men in the developing countries surveyed, and the global impact of mental illness is growing rapidly. The World Health Organization predicts that by 2020 mental illness will be the most debilitating affliction in the developing world, greater than cancer and cardiovascular disease.

An important function of the meeting is to present a consumer survey questionnaire to advocacy group members for distribution among their memberships. The IAAN survey, which is made possible by an educational grant from the Bristol-Myers Squibb Company (NYSE: BMY), will gather information about the awareness, attitudes and experience of advocacy group members worldwide in the treatment and management of mental illness. IAAN will use tools like this survey to foster communications among its member groups and facilitate the worldwide advancement of depression and anxiety awareness and treatment.

IAAN is co-chaired by Mary Guardino, executive director of Freedom From Fear, a U.S.-based mental illness advocacy group, and Paolo Lucio Morselli, M.D., vice president of IDEA, an Italian depression and anxiety research institute. The Network also is supported by the World Federation for Mental Health and the Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, makers of the antidepressant Serzone(R) (nefazodone HCl) and the anxiolytic BuSpar(R) (buspirone HCl).

"The mission of this organization is unprecedented. The IAAN will be managed by a steering committee of international advocacy group leaders and advised by a scientific board of international medical opinion leaders," says Dr. Morselli. "Through this alliance, we have a strong voice that we can use to raise the worldwide level of mental illness awareness and educate many important publics."

"IAAN provides an opportunity to help advocacy associations around the world dispel stigmas associated with mental illness, create an awareness of treatment options for consumers and to further research in key areas such as depression and anxiety," says Ms. Guardino.

IAAN will continue to grow through a series of meetings held throughout the year in member countries. The organization is committed to building an international network of advocacy group members with mutual goals and interests in order to help people suffering from mental illnesses.

CONTACT: Gail E. Sokolowski of Bristol-Myers Squibb, 609-252-4213, or email,

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