Didi Hirsch Celebrates 75th Anniversary at Leadership Awards

Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services “Erasing The Stigma Leadership Awards” raised more than $670,000 at our annual event held April 27 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. The evening, which celebrated Didi HIrsch's 75th Anniversary of service to the community, honored music icon Judy Collins, “Touched with Fire” writer/director Paul Dalio, and actress/filmmaker Anna Akana.

Singer/Songwriter/Author/Activist Judy Collins, whose son, Clark, died by suicide in 1992 and who herself struggled with substance use and mental illness, received the 2017 Beatrice Stern Media Award for her passionate efforts to raise awareness about suicide and mental illness. Collins’ performance, which included “Both Sides Now” and “Amazing Grace,” closed the event with a standing ovation.

“General Hospital” veteran actor Maurice Benard, a 2002 honoree, presented the Leadership Award to Writer/Director/Composer Paul Dalio, who said, “I do believe that stigma is the root of most problems associated with bipolar disorder. So to me, it’s the biggest honor to have such an impactful organization give an award to the thing that I consider to be the biggest problem with bipolar.” Dalio’s film debut, “Touched With Fire,” was inspired by his own experience and explores the relationship between mental illness and creativity in a story of two young poets who fall in love while hospitalized with bipolar disorder.

Actress/Producer/Filmmaker/Writer Anna Akana, accepted the Mental Health Ambassador Award from veteran actor George Segal, who talked about his own experience with panic attacks. Honored for using her popular YouTube channel to promote awareness about mental illness and suicide, Akana accepted the award on behalf of her 13-year-old sister, Kristina, who died by suicide in 2007. “I have friends I can talk to. My sister didn’t. She didn’t have anyone she felt she could open up to…Today, there are things like Didi Hirsch’s Chat Services…If my sister had been able to chat with someone that day, I don’t know, things might have turned out differently.”

Rivers, who was honored with the Beatrice Stern Media Award in 2016, hosted this year’s event with humor and grace: “The more you talk about things, the less frightening they are. This event and what Didi Hirsch does and offers to so many people is just phenomenal!”

To demonstrate that mental illness is more pervasive than people realize, Didi Hirsch’s President/CEO, Kita S. Curry PhD asked all of the guests who have or know someone who has mental illness to stand. The entire room rose to its feet. "We're helping erase the stigma of mental illness by showing people that it's only one facet of life—like diabetes and other illnesses,” says Dr. Curry. “You can be the CEO of an organization, like I am and also suffer from serious depression.  With treatment, we can all be really successful.”