Last night the Child Mind Institute celebrated five great people and organizations that are changing the way we think about and treat kids struggling with mental illness.
The Change Maker Awards, as we’re calling them, were the kickoff of our annual Speak Up for Kids campaign, held each May. As the host for the evening, actress and comedian Ali Wentworth, put it: “Raising our voices lets struggling young people know that it’s okay to ask for help and that help exists.”
Here are the evening’s honorees:
The Advocate Award: New York First Lady Chirlane McCray knows from personal experience what a struggle it can be to find the right help for an adolescent wrestling with mental illness. She helped her daughter Chiara get treatment for depression, anxiety and substance abuse. And now she’s trying to help the whole city get better access to care. Chirlane is leading the creation of New York City’s first “road map” to construct a more inclusive mental health system. Its recommendations will cut through bureaucracy to deliver quality care faster.
The Corporate Advocate Award: Everyone knows Bloomingdale’s, but not everyone knows the courage Bloomingdale’s has shown in the causes it supports, from AIDS prevention and treatment back in the 1980s to fighting the stigma around mental illness. Bloomingdale’s has supported the Child Mind Institute since its inception with fund-raising events and products, and has helped spread the word that it’s important to talk openly about psychiatric and learning problems so kids can get the care they need. The award was accepted by Bloomingdale’s CEO Tony Spring.
The Local Hero Award: Angela Renz is a social worker in two New York City schools who is known for moving mountains to help kids get attention for emotional and family problems. Angela is alert to the impact of trauma on kids, and she connects them to the services they need. Whether they lost a home in Hurricane Sandy or they face stress and violence on a daily basis, she is there. Angela also helps teachers at risk of burning out, getting them the support they need so they can remain a consistent force of good in her kids’ lives.
The Community Builder Award: We know that isolation is one of the most destructive and painful aspects of mental illness—something Alison Malmon learned first hand in college, when her older brother Brian took his own life. Brian had struggled with depression and psychosis, but he hid his symptoms, even from his sister. After Brian’s death, Alison founded Active Minds to help other college students get the support they need to get treatment and get better. Now in 400 colleges, Active Minds empowers students to speak openly about mental health: with each other, with their school administrations, with government officials. They run mental health first aid training and a suicide prevention campaign.
The Champion Award: Congressman Tim Murphy, a Republican from Pennsylvania, has committed his life’s work, twice, to getting help to people with mental illness. For the first half of his career, he was “Dr. Tim,” a clinical psychologist. These days, he is co-chair of the Congressional Mental Health Caucus and the most outspoken advocate for mental health care in Washington. In December, Rep. Murphy unveiled the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act to create meaningful changes in the US health care system.
George Stephanopoulos, host of ABC’s This Week and Good Morning America, gave the award to Rep. Murphy. Stephanopoulos noted that the congressman “talks loudly and with great authority about the fact that millions of Americans-many of them children-have severe mental illnesses that go untreated because their families struggle to get them access to good care. Tim Murphy won’t stop until we ALL feel better.”