NEW YORK, AUG. 26 -- -- The directors of two psychiatric teams studying a genetic link to mental illness were awarded $50,000 today by a mental health organization founded by Jack Hinckley, whose son shot President Reagan.
The recipients of the first research awards from the American Mental Health Fund were Janice Egeland, professor of psychiatry at the University of Miami, and Dr. Miron Baron, associate professor of psychiatry at the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York.
Egeland directed a study of the Amish community in Pennsylvania that indicated manic depression was linked to a specific gene. Baron directed a study of five large families in Israel that suggested some cases may be due to another defective gene.
"It is clear from this body of new findings that genetically based diagnostic procedures will have a profound impact on the field of psychiatry," the elder Hinckley said in a statement. "The ability to identify those at risk through such investigations has far-reaching implications for the prevention and treatment of these disorders.
"There is clearly a critical need for research funds to unlock the mysteries of mental illness and for public enlightenment to erase the stigma of mental distress," his statement said.
Hinckley, a wealthy oilman, founded the fund in 1983 to provide public education on mental illness and to help support psychiatric research. The organization raised $578,900 last year.
Hinckley's son, John Jr., now 32, shot and wounded Reagan in Washington on March 30, 1981. He was tried on charges of trying to assassinate the president and acquitted by reason of insanity on June 21, 1982, after a trial that sparked a call for reform of the insanity defense.
John Hinckley Jr. has been confined since June 1982 to a maximum-security ward at St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington.