A clinical psychiatrist, she showed that suicide was often a result of mental illness, and that it could be avoided with the right treatment and public education.
Dr. Clayton studied pre-med at the University of Michigan, graduating in 1956, and enrolled in medical school at Washington University, graduating in 1960. After joining the university’s faculty, she moved to the University of Minnesota in 1980.
Her work around bipolar disorder was especially groundbreaking. Though its broad contours were well understood, it was still seen as a mystery even by many psychiatrists. And too many people still saw manic outbursts of energy in somewhat romantic terms, as a seedbed for great art and ideas.
“There was a bit of glamour attached to bipolar disorder, which was wholly inaccurate — there’s no glamour to that disease,” John Greden, a psychiatrist at the University of Michigan and the founder of the Eisenberg Family Depression Center, said in an interview.
Dr. Clayton helped show that bipolar disorder and unipolar depression were two ends of a spectrum, a view that has led to breakthroughs in the diagnosis and treatment of both conditions.