A wonderful 13-year-old named Franny kicked off the Child Mind Institute’s third annual Child Advocacy Award Dinner last night, telling a hushed crowd of 900 guests about the anxiety that had, a year earlier, effectively shut down her life. She wasn’t going to school. She could barely leave her apartment.
“Terror is the best word I could find to describe my feelings most of the time—sometimes terror so powerful you feel like your heart is just dropping out of your body. And I was scared of what was in my own head—thoughts I knew weren’t normal, thoughts of harming myself or ending my life.”
Franny talked about finding help at the Child Mind Institute, starting the eighth grade at a new school and restarting her life. It was lovely to see her dazzling smile. And to hear her message to other kids:
“If there’s one thing I want to say to someone who is feeling as bad as I was feeling a year ago, it’s this: You can be helped. It’s so possible. You’re not not not not alone. Getting better is not a solo thing.”
For me Franny’s words—”Getting better is not a solo thing”—expressed the theme of the evening, which focused on the Child Mind Institute’s work not only helping children who are struggling now, but helping children in the future by pushing a transformative new paradigm for research into brain development. To do this work it takes not only brilliant clinicians, but researchers of many disciplines—neurobiologists and computer scientists and engineers, for starters—and supporters willing to invest generously in the work that has the most promise for improving diagnosis and treatment. Our Child Advocacy Award winner, Michael Fascitelli, sounded that theme in accepting the award last night.
“There’s nothing more important than our kids. We all have many great causes that we support, but this one has the most direct impact on the future.”
And Dr. Nora Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse whose pioneering work showed that drug addiction is a disease of the brain, got to the core of the Child Mind Institute’s mission as she accepted the 2013 Distinguished Scientist Award:
“Thirty years ago, when I was a young psychiatrist seeing adult patients, we realized that these disorders first manifested in childhood and adolescence; now we have the tools for early intervention that can change the course of a life for the better, and that is what is happening here.”
The evening was festive as well as fruitful, as Dr. Harold Koplewicz put it this morning, we have 6.4 million reasons to thank everyone who came and contributed and helped make the event a success.