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Didi Hirsch holds virtual Erasing the Stigma Awards

CULVER CITY — People magazine, suicide prevention advocate Talinda Bennington, and Emmy-award-winning news anchor Christine Devine are being honored at the 24th annual Erasing the Stigma Awards program by Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services. 

A virtual event, it is available for viewing online at www.erasingthestigma.org. The video kicks off Didi Hirsch’s Mental Health Services’ Erasing the Stigma Campaign, which will extend throughout May, Mental Health Awareness Month, to raise funds and awareness for Didi Hirsch, a nonprofit that has been serving the community for more than 75 years.

From 10 centers and more than 120 schools in Los Angeles and Orange counties, Didi Hirsch provided mental health, substance use and suicide prevention services to nearly 160,000 children and adults nationwide in 2019. 

Didi Hirsch’s Suicide Prevention Center is the nation’s first and the most comprehensive. Its services include crisis care, support groups, therapy and training, as well as the development of innovative, research-validated programs.

A key partner of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and one of three agencies designated as a national disaster distress helpline, Didi Hirsch’s crisis lines answered more than 130,000 calls, chats and texts last year. Calls regarding the coronavirus have increased from 21 in February to 1,800 in March, with 3,000 calls expected in April. 

Coronavirus callers’ top concerns are anxiety/stress and health issues, but financial concerns also weigh on them, and suicide was mentioned by 20%. For clients and staff safety, the agency provided as many clinical and administrative staff as possible with the resources needed to work remotely. It continues to see crisis clients in person at three community-based clinics, and its three residential treatment programs continue full operations.

“In a pandemic, mental health, substance use and suicide prevention services are considered essential health care,” said Kita S. Curry, Didi Hirsch’s president and CEO. “Our staff are the unsung heroes of this national crisis.

“In a time when we all are vulnerable, I’m grateful to our 2020 Erasing the Stigma honorees for sharing their stories so anyone who is struggling can feel comfortable reaching out for help.”

As part of its Erasing the Stigma Campaign, Didi Hirsch also launched its Stigma Handwashing Challenge on social media at #ErasingTheStigma and #StoppingTheSpread to highlight the importance of erasing stigma as people struggle with mental health challenges during the COVID-19 crisis. 

Didi Hirsch has begun to post videos of its 2020 honorees and other supporters participating in the challenge on its www.erasingthestigma.org website.

Accepting the Beatrice Stern Media Award on behalf of People magazine was Editor-in-Chief Dan Wakeford. 

“I am truly honored to accept the Didi Hirsch Erasing the Stigma award on behalf of People’s year-long mental health initiative, Let’s Talk About It,” Wakeford said. “By highlighting stories of people and celebrities who have coped with mental illness, we hope to provide resources and support for anyone in need of help, and to encourage the public to have vital conversations about their mental health.”

Talinda Bennington-Friedman, suicide prevention advocate, is being honored with the Mental Health Ambassador Award. In 2017, her husband, Chester Bennington of the band Linkin Park, died by suicide. To ensure that families are equipped to support loved ones dealing with mental health challenges, Bennington-Friedman partnered with the Campaign to Change Direction to launch 320 Changes Direction — an effort named in honor of Chester Bennington’s birthday on March 20. 

“I am so honored to be the recipient of the 2020 Mental Health Ambassador Award from Didi Hirsch,” Bennington-Friedman said. “I could not be more proud of the Didi Hirsch organization and all the opportunities, resources and support groups they provide for families in need, especially during the COVID-19 crisis.”

Christine Devine, a veteran news anchor, is being honored with the Erasing the Stigma Leadership Award. Devine has won 16 Emmys throughout her career and can be seen on Los Angeles’ KTTV’s Fox 11 News. “I’ve known this organization for 20 years and they are a valuable voice and part of the very fabric of Southern California,” Devine said. “I am so grateful at a time of crisis to know the team at Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services is there, in the community, in our community.” 

Wave Staff Report