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A Family’s Suggestion Inspires Educational Series

March 22, 2017 Print

The quest for information, resources, and support is a nearly universal need for families dealing with mental illness. One family, whose relative was treated for borderline personality disorder (BPD) at McLean, wanted to address that need and the family suggested that McLean leverage its extraordinary expertise to help others. Many people, they explained to McLean President and Psychiatrist in Chief Scott L. Rauch, MD, yearn to better understand the illness and would welcome ongoing support and education.

Dawn E. Sugarman, PhD, and Christopher M. Palmer, MD at a computer
Dawn E. Sugarman, PhD, and Christopher M. Palmer, MD

As individuals with BPD mature, their symptoms and needs evolve, requiring a shift in the way they are supported. The family offered philanthropic support if McLean would tackle this problem.

In response, Christopher M. Palmer, MD, director of McLean’s Department of Postgraduate and Continuing Education, and Assistant Psychologist Dawn E. Sugarman, PhD, launched the BPD Patient and Family Education Initiative. The program offers on-demand, web-based educational resources to families of people with BPD. Its core component is a series of free, educational webinars featuring McLean clinicians with expertise in the field.

From the program’s inception, demand has exceeded expectations, necessitating rapid expansion to accommodate more viewers. Palmer and Sugarman also produced a dynamic website to access information, register for webinars, and find referrals.

Since then, Palmer and Sugarman have produced a webinar each month with topics designed to address the daily needs of families dealing with BPD. More than 1,500 participants have viewed live and another 17,000 have watched archived presentations. Palmer and Sugarman have received hundreds of emails from participants around the world. Viewers have registered from 47 states and 28 countries.

“We hear that this kind of resource cannot be found anywhere else. The webinars are helping families relieve the isolation of managing this illness,” said Sugarman. “These webinars are clearly filling a need,” said Palmer. “We are immensely grateful to our donors for their foresight and generosity, and we hope other families are inspired to support the program.”

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