Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services' 20th Anniversary Erasing the Stigma Leadership Awards Raises Over $500,000



Los Angeles, CA (April 29, 2016) – Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services honored Melissa Rivers, Fashion Police producer and co-host, Maya Forbes, writer/director of the movie, Infinitely Polar Bear, and Michael Botticelli, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy at its 20th Anniversary Erasing the Stigma Leadership Awards on Thursday, April 28, at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

The event, which topped Didi Hirsch’s fundraising goal of $500,000, helps underwrite the nonprofit’s activities as a leading provider of community mental health and substance use services in Los Angeles County. Didi Hirsch is also home to the nation’s first Suicide Prevention Center, a national leader in providing training, research and services to people contemplating suicide, concerned loved ones and those who have attempted or are grieving a loss.

Ronda Rousey, a former honoree, presented the Leadership Award to writer/director Maya Forbes, who said she made a film about her family’s experience with her father’s bipolar disorder because it was what she would have liked to see as a child. “I would have liked to have known I was not the only one with this kind of family and my feelings were normal and didn’t make me a bad person…In my experience loneliness is a very big issue for mentally ill people. And my father always did worse when he was in a lonely place. Nothing creates loneliness like silence and hiding. That is why it’s so important for all of us to erase the stigma and make it safe to talk about the dark and the scary and the highs and the lows. Shame is toxic and that is what my father knew.

Rousey's mother, AnnMaria De Mars saluted her daughter during the evening for using her experience in overcoming challenges to help others: “She struggled with a speech disorder, her father’s death and bulimia. When she started to gain some fame, she used that to draw attention to eating disorders, running a clinic, “Don’t Throw Up, Throw Down” to raise money for Didi Hirsch...Whenever I get discouraged and ready to quit, I take inspiration from Ronda.”

Accepting the Beatrice Stern Media Award from Beatrice Stern’s granddaughter, Andrea Stern, Melissa Rivers said: “When my father killed himself, it was 1987 and suicide was still one of those words that everybody whispered…I don’t know if it was because of the anger that a suicide survivor feels or the fact that I was still a teenager and angry and defiant, but my defiance gave me my voice…And to find out that you guys are now starting something for people who attempted suicide and not letting them be ashamed about it is remarkable…We have to talk about mental health. We have to talk about suicide. We have to be there for the survivors. I stand here as a proud suicide survivor who wants all mental health to come out of the shadows. Look how far we’ve come, at least for me, since 1987, that we can fill a ballroom and openly discuss it!”

Unable to attend the event, Michael Botticelli made a videotape with his acceptance remarks: “As the Director of National Drug Control Policy, I see the effect stigma has on people nearly every day and as a person in long term recovery, I have personally experienced this stigma. I’ve been in recovery for 27 years but my recovery story is not unique. There are millions of Americans in long term recovery who are leading meaningful and productive lives because they were able to access treatment. And a big part of expanding access to treatment is ending the stigma…I am truly honored to receive this award.”

Other celebrated supporters of the organization included Emmy Award-nominated actress and emcee, Eva LaRue; Grammy Award-nominated pop vocalist K.T. Tunstall, who was the evening's special performer; Jillian Rose Reed, star of MTV's hit show Awkward, Charley Koontz, star of CSI: Cyber, and MMA fighter Travis Browne.

Celebrating the evening’s success, Didi Hirsch’s President/CEO, Dr. Kita S. Curry PhD, stated: “We’ve come a long way in 20 years erasing the stigma and silence around mental illness, but we still have work ahead. When someone has a heart condition or other serious illness, it’s common for family and friends to bring food and flowers. But people struggling with mental illness often don’t get the same compassion or support.”

Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services has been a leading provider of community mental health and substance use services since 1942. Dedicated to serving communities where stigma or poverty limits access, Didi Hirsch helps more than 90,000 children and adults each year from 11 locations and 100 schools throughout Los Angeles and Orange counties. It is also home to Didi Hirsch’s Suicide Prevention Center—a national leader in training, research and services and one of three recently selected for the national Disaster Distress Helpline. www.didihirsch.org.

Media Contact:
Rona Menashe Executive Vice President, Guttman Associates 310-246-4600 Rona@Guttmanpr.comD