Outstanding Young Advocates Recognized for Key Role in Fighting the Stigma that Deters Millions from Seeking Needed Mental Health Care
mpower award winners from Pennsylvania, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Washington, DC
Contact: Eileen Sexton, (703) 837-4783 or firstname.lastname@example.org
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (June 11, 2007) - Mental Health America presented six outstanding young advocates with mpower awards for their exceptional efforts to raise awareness of mental health issues among America's youth at the Closing Night Dinner of its Annual Meeting, Bringing Wellness Home, on June 9, 2007 in Washington, D.C.
A Mental Health America youth awareness campaign, mpower is supported by hundreds of musicians nationwide and reaches teens and college-age adults at concerts, in the classroom, over the Internet and through the media to help them get informed, get help and get involved with one of most debilitating health care dilemmas facing Americans today: untreated mental illness. These six outstanding award winners strongly addressed stigma, the biggest deterrent to seeking medical care for a mental illness, as they champion mental health awareness and advocate for early treatment for mental health among their peers.
The 2007 mpower award recipients include:
Lindsay Rush, 21, New Hope, Pa.
Rush is a talented, aspiring musician and a dedicated mental health advocate. Seeing an opportunity to combine her two passions, Rush has developed a unique and powerful outreach strategy focused on raising mental health awareness. She travels around to local Pennsylvania schools to present the facts about depression, anxiety, stress and suicide; share her personal story of mental illness; and perform her music. Rush has reached thousands of youth by using her music as a platform to raise mental health awareness. This fall, Rush looks to launch an mpower tour, traveling to schools across Pennsylvania and Massachusetts to continue to educate students about mental health.
Serena Iacono, 23, Minneapolis, Minn.
Iacono is the assistant director of The Joy Project, a non-profit organization that provides information, resources and support to people with eating disorders. As assistant director, Iacono has designed and implemented innovative programs and materials focused on the reality of eating disorders and how to get help or assist a friend in need. She has also reached out to the academic and professional communities, sharing her experience with addiction, depression and an eating disorder. Through these efforts, Iacono has helped bridge the communication gap between people living with eating disorders and the professionals responsible for their treatment. Her other achievements include the development of supportive housing for people in recovery and involvement in a partnership with the CW Network to develop a public awareness campaign designed to promote the message that eating disorders can affect anyone.
Stacy Hollingsworth, 23, Old Bridge, N.J.
Hollingsworth believes in the importance of telling her story. Having lived with depression for more than 10 years, she realizes that by talking candidly about her experiences, she is able to help others and break through the stigma surrounding mental illness. Now a college student at Rutgers University, Hollingsworth is leading the way for other students with mental illnesses to come forward and seek help. She founded a student-run organization, NAMI-Rutgers, dedicated to raising mental health awareness on campuses and has been actively involved in getting students and faculty to listen up and take action. In addition to her on-campus efforts, Hollingsworth has been interviewed by The New York Times, filmed a documentary segment for mtvU's "Half of Us" campaign on college student mental health; and invited to speak at a reception for the New Jersey Governor's Council on Mental Health Stigma.
Liz Kollaja, 18, Jenks, Oklahoma
After struggling with and recovering from depression, Kollaja realized a need to be involved in efforts to raise awareness of teen mental health issues. Her personal experience and newfound motivation led her to the Mental Health Association (MHA) in Tulsa where she stepped in to coordinate the MHA's 2007 Youth Listening Conference. The conference was designed to empower youth to speak up for themselves and their peers; high school students were given the rare opportunity to present issues important to them, along with solutions, to a panel of community leaders and decision makers. To help these youth presenters have a greater impact, Kollaja developed a strategic follow-up system to help ensure that panel members would take action. The 2007 Youth Listening Conference was a great success, in large part, due to Kollaja's determination and dedication. More than 300 high school students and 70 community leaders attended the day-long event, a significant increase from the previous conference.
Andy Werlein, 21, Waukesha, Wisc.
Werlein knows that mental illnesses are real and that recovery is possible. Diagnosed with bipolar disorder as a sophomore in high school, Werlein has made it his mission to fight the stigma surrounding mental illnesses and encourage other young people to seek help. His personal story - and message of recovery - has had a positive impact on his community and has caught the attention of local and national organizations and the media. Over the past few years, Andy has been invited to speak at national and local conferences, press events, seminars, fundraisers and schools. He also has been featured in the USA Today, the Wisconsin State Journal and the Waukesha Freeman (Wisc.). With the support of his family, Werlein continues to reach out to make a difference in the lives of people affected by mental illnesses.
Alexis Chappell, 23, Washington, D.C.
Chappell is the chapters coordinator at Active Minds in Washington, D.C. She is responsible for helping students who wish to start chapters and serves as a resource for existing chapters. Chappell founded the chapter of Active Minds at American University when she was a junior, motivated - by personal experiences - to improve the lives of other youth affected by mental illnesses. As a teen, Chappell struggled with depression and an eating disorder. She also faced the trauma of losing a parent. Through her recovery, Chappell realized that she had the power to change the way people view mental illness and subsequently got involved in efforts to raise mental health awareness and reduce stigma. In addition to her work with Active Minds, Chappell has spoken at various conferences and was a student representative at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service's Campus Mental Health Dialogue. She has also interned with the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, the District of Columbia's Public Defender Service's Mental Health Division, and While You Were Sleeping magazine.Mental Health America is the country's leading nonprofit dedicated to helping all people live mentally healthier lives. With our more than 320 affiliates nationwide, we represent a growing movement of Americans who promote mental wellness for the health and well-being of the nation - everyday and in times of crisis.