Jan Fawcett, MD, the first medical advisor to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance and the founding Chair of the Scientific Advisory Board, passed away on Monday, May 9 at the age of 88. 

Fawcett was instrumental in bringing together DBSA’s co-founders, Rose Kurland and Marilyn Weiss, to start what would become the first DBSA support group, located in Chicago’s northern suburbs. 

Fawcett also provided funding for Kurland and Weiss to attend the American Psychiatric Association conference in the early 1980’s and educate doctors on the importance of listening to the needs of their patients. Many of those psychiatrists returned home and organized peer support groups in their own communities. 

“Dr. Fawcett’s commitment to scientific excellence and passion for helping people living with mood disorders still guide DBSA’s Scientific Advisory Board today,” Dr. Roger McIntyre, current chair of the Scientific Advisory Board, said. “His impact is deeply felt, and we are forever grateful for his contributions.” 

Fawcett last spoke at a DBSA event in 2016, when he was presented with the Legacy of Hope Award. 

“As I look back, there’s nothing that I’ve done that is more important than support this organization because of the number of people you reach,” Fawcett said of DBSA during his acceptance speech. “That translates to a decrease in pain (that is) unprecedented.” 

Outside of his support of DBSA, Fawcett was a renowned physician and expert on mental health. After attending the Yale School of Medicine, Fawcett completed his psychiatric residency at the University of California’s Langley Porter Neuropsychiatric Institute. He then graduated from two additional years of residency at the University of Rochester Strong Memorial Hospital. He went on for a two-year research fellowship at the National Institute of Mental Health. 

He has received numerous awards for his work, including the Anna Monika Award and the Dr. Jan Fawcett Humanitarian Award, created in his honor.  

His research career focused on the mechanism of action of antidepressant medications, the discovery of more effective medications for severe depression, and suicide prevention. Fawcett also served as a mental health consultant for The Oprah Winfrey show. 

Fawcett has served as the president of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. He was a contributing author for DSM-V, the official archive of all formally recognized mental health disorders and served for 25 years as co-editor of the Psychiatric Annals journal. 

“Dr. Fawcett’s legacy is a shining example of how one person can improve the lives of so many,” DBSA CEO Michael Pollock said. “Through his research and leadership, Dr. Fawcett has advanced the knowledge of mood disorders and provided hope to countless people living with depression. He will be greatly missed.” 

Read Fawcett’s full obituary here.