Sharing Mental Health Information in Your Family

Sharing Mental Health History Webinar Image

Aired Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Watch Below

Do mental health conditions run in your family? It’s common for depression or bipolar disorder to exist across generations and relatives, appearing on various branches of a family tree. Research shows that many mental health conditions are inheritable. In fact, people with a family history of depression can be two to three times more likely to live with depression, compared to the general population.

A family’s mental health history can provide clues that help families and healthcare providers recognize potential mental health issues. By identifying these issues early, people can get help sooner and interventions may result in better outcomes for those affected. Sharing information about mental health conditions that run in the family can help reduce stigma and encourage family members to seek help when needed. 

On Wednesday, October 18, 2023, Bruce Cohen, MD, PhD,  discussed the role of genetics in mental health and how you can identify aspects of your family mental health history. Kenyatta Berry, genealogist and former host of PBS’ “Genealogy Roadshow,” presented on how to talk about mental health history with your family–even when it is uncomfortable. Watch the recording and use the information you learn to create a Mental Health Family Tree.

This program was supported by:

Takeda Lundbeck Alliance

Sage Therapeutics


Janssen Neuroscience

Massachusetts Department of Public Health Suicide Prevention Program



Bruce M. Cohen, M.D., Ph.D.

Bruce M. Cohen, M.D., Ph.D., is the Robertson-Steele Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and the President and Psychiatrist in Chief Emeritus at McLean Hospital/Mass General Brigham. Currently, as Director of the Program for Neuropsychiatric Research at McLean, Dr. Cohen leads a consortium of investigators and clinicians using laboratory, brain imaging and clinical research studies to increase understanding and develop new treatments for psychiatric disorders. At McLean, he was the co-founder of the McLean Clinical Research Center, founding Director of the McLean Brain Imaging Center, and director of the McLean Residency Training Program, before becoming President of the hospital. He has taught locally, at McLean Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as well as lecturing by invitation nationally and worldwide to academic and lay audiences on psychiatric research, education, and care. Dr. Cohen is the author of over 380 manuscripts of original research in peer-reviewed journals, and he has 5 awarded patents based on his research. He has authored one book and has chapters in 19 textbooks. He has consulted to industry and to academic and clinical centers. Dr. Cohen has been featured in local and national publications as one of the best doctors in America, and he has won local and national awards for research, teaching, and clinical care.

Kenyatta Berry Headshot

Kenyatta D. Berry

Kenyatta D. Berry is the author of The Family Tree Toolkit and a Contributor to the groundbreaking “1619 Project” published by The New York Times. She was also the genealogist for The 1619 Docuseries on Hulu. Kenyatta is an author, attorney, lecturer, professional genealogist, and television personality. She was the 2019 Honorary Chair for Preservation Week and was named a “Newsmaker” in American Libraries magazine, the American Library Association publication. Kenyatta’s vast knowledge in African American Genealogy, Enslaved Ancestral Research, and DNA have made her an invaluable resource. As demand grows for people to learn more about their lineage, Kenyatta continues to innovate, transforming the world of Genealogy by making it more accessible to the masses.

Valerie Cordero

Valerie Cordero, PhD, Moderator

Valerie Cordero PhD, Co-Executive Director, joined the FFDA staff in 2010. Before assuming her role as Co-Executive Director primarily responsible for fundraising and marketing, she held positions in programs and development. Now based in FFDA’s Nashville office, Valerie utilizes her personal knowledge of how mood disorders affect families in dialogues with donors, partners, and the general public. Valerie has lent her voice to national discussions of mood disorders and been featured on major media outlets such as Reader’s Digest, Better Homes & Gardens, and New York Magazine’s vertical The Cut. She received her BA from Spelman College and earned her Masters and PhD in Ethnomusicology from the University of California at Los Angeles.