Professor Jones returning to Duke to discuss successful professionals with mental illness

Professor Jim Jones will speak at the Duke Forum for Law and Social Change Symposium on Feb. 20 at the Duke University School of Law in Durham, North Carolina.

This year’s symposium topic is Mental Health and the Law. Jones will present on the topic, “High Functioning: Successful Professionals with Severe Mental Illness.”

Jones will specifically talk about seven individuals, including his own experiences. His diagnoses have ranged from schizophrenia to bipolar disorder and from major depressive disorder to borderline personality disorder.

He has written and spoken extensively about successful professionals who suffer from serious psychiatric diseases. He has also been candid about his own decades-long battle including in his book, A Hidden Madness.

“We all show how stigma is unjustified given we are successful doctors, psychiatry professors and law professors. If we can do it, many others are doing so and just not going public about it due to stigma fear,” Jones said.

Some of that stigma fear comes from the licensure for medical and law professionals, a process he calls highly intrusive. Licensure questions ask applicants if they have any diagnoses and can include mental illness disorders alongside pedophilia and kleptomania, Jones said.

“To me, the most severe example of mental illness stigmas comes from the licensure process,” he said. “Conduct questions are OK, but I think diagnosis questions violate the ADA.”

His objective is to raise awareness and fight any stigmas.

“It’s a terrible problem for law and medical professionals specifically,” Jones said. “I want to teach these students that they’re not unique, that there is help. And that you can be very successful despite having a mental illness.”

He points to his good friend, Elyn Saks, a professor at the University of Southern California Gould Law School, as an example.

Saks, a Yale graduate and MacArthur Fellowship winner, lives with schizophrenia and wrote about her experiences with the illness in her book, The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness.

Jones sits on the board of The Saks Institute for Mental Health Law, Policy, and Ethics.

He earned his JD with honors from the Duke University School of Law and said he is looking forward to returning to campus for the first time in years.