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Monday, May 3, 2010

Day 14 & 15: Erasing the Stigma

On Friday I attended the annual Erasing the Stigma fundraiser produced by Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services. I always leave this event inspired by remarkable people who have overcome great odds to make significant contributions. And I am uplifted by the folks who perform outstanding work to help erase the stigma of mental illness. It's always fascinating when the Emcee asks who in the audience knows a person suffering from mental illness and every attendee stands! The truth is we are all affected by those we love who are challenged by their illness.

This year did not disappoint. There was the young woman who shared her story about her older brother who committed suicide in his senior year of college. The experience led Alison Malmon, a college freshman at the time of her brothers suicide to launch an organization committed to young people. Active Minds encourages young adults to talk about what's going on in their lives. Active Minds is committed to talking about suicide and erasing the stigma of mental illness. If young adults are ashamed to talk about how they are feeling they won't seek help.

Last year 1,100 college students committed suicide in the United States. My son Brandon is a freshman at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. A small liberal arts university and a school not immune to suicide. A student at Willamette took his life this year. I remember feeling so sad when I heard this news. All the promise his parents had had for him and now they would have to retrieve his body and return it home with so many questions unanswered about what he was dealing with that led him to take his life. Thank goodness this young woman Alison Malmon founded an organization where maybe more students can become aware of the signs of potentially suicidal students and encourage them to seek help.

I attended the Didi Hirsch event with my beautiful 17 year old niece Olivia Bernstein who had never been to a charity fundraiser before. She is an inspiration in her own right as a Teen Line Counselor and Camp Harmony mentor. Teen Line is a program offered at Cedars Sinai Medical Center where teenagers are trained to field calls from their peers who are challenged by a host of issues ranging from conflicts with their parents, to child abuse, to their sexual identity, and yes thoughts of suicide. Thank goodness young people like Olivia give of their time to talk to other young people going through a difficult time. And a big shout out to Cheri Yousem who dedicates her time & energy and has for many years to the Didi Hirsch organization and its important mission. She co-chaired this year's event and it was inspirational.

If you know someone struggling with a mental illness please help erase the stigma by directing them to Didi Hirsch or if you know a young person who needs to talk, please direct them to Active Minds


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Thank you so much for your interest in my 49th year! I appreciate your support! -Robyn